6. Of the several orders of Bishops
Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER III. Of the Ministers of the Church. 6. Of the several orders of Bishops
II. Of the inferior order of Bishops
- Vacui, vacantes, cessantes, quiescenies*, bishops without cures. To this class belong those who, for any cause, declined the duties of their office. In times of persecution and religious commotion, especially in the fourth and fifth centuries, many men of distinction refused to be considered candidates for the office of bishop, and even when elected, declined the duties of the office. Others resigned who had been fully inducted into office; and others again, not being acknowledged by their colleagues and dioceses were subject to a compulsory resignation. Under this head may al so be ranked those bishops who, though they did not resign, absent ed themselves from their diocese for a length of time, and resided without good reason, in other places. In the fourth and fifth centuries it was not uncommon for ten or twelve bishops 1o relinquish the duties of their office, and resort to the court at Constantinople. These were deservedly accounted subordinate to their colleagues who continued in the faithful discharge of their duties.
- Titular bishops, Episcopi inpartibus injiddium, Episcopi gentium, regionarii. Bishops of this class were invested with their office, but had no stated charge or diocese. This title was first given in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, to the bishops of those provinces which had been gained by the conquests of the cross, and which had long been held under the dominion of the Saracens and Tartars. They may be compared with various juridical and political pretenders, and with the kings of Jerusalem, who retained their title after the overthrow of the kingdom. The patriarchs of Constantinople made the same claim, and resigned it with extreme reluctance.
Since the reformation, the Romish church has manifested the same deportment towards those bishoprics which they have lost. That church expressly decreed that no one should be ordained at large*, without a specific charge. And yet their titular dignitaries receive the unmeaning titles of bishops of Tarsus, Ephesus, Samaria, Aleppo, etc. Under a change of circumstances, a bishop so ordained, might enter immediately upon the discharge of the official duties of his office. Even Bingham, though zealously opposed to these nugatory and titular bishops, admits that instances of this kind sometimes, though seldom, occurred in the ancient church.
- Suffragan bishops. These were originally the same as diocesan bishops, who acted as the representatives and substitutes of their metropolitans. They were called suffragan, either because they could not be consecrated without the suffrage of the metropolitan, or because they had the right of suffrage in the synod, whilst yet distinct from other members of that body. The latter is the most probable explanation of the term.
These suffragan bishops are not the same as the chorepiscopi.
But after the cessation of these, the necessity of suffragans became much greater; and they were accordingly increased. Bishops who had no metropolitan power, first began in the tenth century to have suffragans under them. These were also styled vicar generals, vicegerents, bishops in pontijicalibus, vice Episcopi, etc.
The suffragan bishops of Germany were appointed for the ordination of inferior officers, and the consecration and benediction of churches, altars, baptismal waters, etc.
- Country bishops*, Episcopi rurales, s. villani. These, though of ancient origin, have been the subject of much dispute among the learned, and called forth a multitude of treatises and authors, ancient and modern.
These authorities are not agreed as to the etymology of the word. Some derive it from chorus, a choir of singers. Others from the appellation, occulus or cor episcopi, eye or heart of the bishop, as his archdeacon was sometimes called; and others again from the Syriac word**, which in connection with the word bishop, denotes a vicar of the bishop. But it was doubtless derived from country*, and denotes a country bishop.
The most important points in explanation of this office, may be comprised under the following remarks.
- There is not indeed satisfactory evidence that this office is authorized in Tit. 1:5, but there is very early. notice of its institution from Clemens Romanus, who says that "as they, the apostles, preached in the cities and country places*, they appointed their first converts as bishops and deacons over them that should believe, having first proved them by the spirit. " Eusebius speaks both of presbyters and bishops over the neighboring countries and cities*, distinguishing thus these chorepiscopi from the bishops of the cities. Some affirm that no churches were established in the country in the first three centuries, and accordingly, that this office was not instituted until a later period.
But the * of Eusebius are the chorepiscopi in question, nor is it fair to infer that they were first created in the fourth century, because the synods of that period more definitely prescribe the duties of their office, for they speak of the office itself as already well known.
- Those that sustained this office are expressly distinguished from presbyters both of the city and country, but are described as officiating bishops, subordinate in rank and restricted in many respects. They are styled fellow laborers* with the bishop, and, like the cardinals of later times, were reckoned seventy in number, which shows again that they, as well as the bishops, were compared with the apostles in office. The council of Nice also, c. 8, so speaks of them as to show that they held an intermediate grade between presbyters and bishops. Their duties were, to give letters of recommendation and the testimonials of the church, to take the oversight of the church in the section of country allotted to them, to appoint the readers, sub-deacons, and exorcists; and they might ordain presbyters and deacons, but not without the consent and cooperation of the city bishop. In the year 451, they voted, for the first time, as the substitutes or representatives of their bishops. Previous to this time, they had an independent vote in general council, as in the council of Nice, and in the presence of the city bishops.
- These officers were at first confined to the Eastern church. In the Western church, and especially in France, they began to be known about the fifth century. They have never been numerous in Spain and Italy. In Africa, on the contrary, they constitute a numerous body under the name of Donatists. In Germany they must have been, frequent in the seventh and eighth centuries. And in the twelfth century the arrogance, insubordination and injurious conduct of this class of ecclesiastics became a subject of general complaint in the Western church; but more especially in France. In the East the order was abolished for the same reasons by the council of Laodicea, A. D. 361. But so little respect was entertained for this decree that the order continued until the tenth century. They were first prohibited in the Western church in the ninth century , but according to some writers they continued in France until the twelfth century, and until the thirteenth in Ireland. About this time they disappeared from the page of history, and were succeeded by archdeacons, rural-deans, and vicar-generals.
- Visitors*, itinerant presbyters. They were, at first, appointed by the council of Laodicea in the room of the chorepiscopi. Their business was, to go about continually to guard the wavering, and to confirm the faithful. But it was their peculiar characteristic that they had no fixed abode. They had not the independent prerogatives of the country bishops, but were merely vicarious assistants of the bishop, like a visiting committee of the church, or the visitores ecdesiarum of the Latin church .
- Intercessors, intercessores and interventores. Officers peculiar to the African church, who are first mentioned in the fifth council of Carthage. They were temporary incumbents of a vacant bishopric, and, for the time being performed the several offices of bishop. It was their duty to take measures for the regular appointment of a bishop as speedily as possible. To prevent abuse no one was allowed to continue in office more than one year.
Bingham's Antiq. B. II. c. 14.
Ant. Dnrr. Dissert, de Suffraganeis sen Vieariis in Pontificalibus Episcoporufn Germanic. Binterim. S. 384 seq.
Honorins Agnstodon. iii). i. c. 182; Concil German, tom. iii. p. 592.
Valesius. not. in Theodoret. I. c. 26.
Paulus' Memorabilien. I. St. in Gaabs. Abhandhmg; Castell. Lex. Suriac.
Ep. 1. ad Corinth, c. 42. p. 98. ed. Colomes. von den Aposteln.
Eccles. Hist. lib. 7. c. 30.
Ltid. Thomassin. de discipl. eccl. P. I. lib. ii. c.l. chapter 8; J. H. Boehnier. Dissertat. Juris, eccl. ant. p. 310.
Concil. Neocaesar. c. 13.
Athanas. Apolog. II. Opp. tom. i. p. 802. vgl. Concil. Nic. also Binterim. S. 404.
Capit Caroli. M. lib. 7. c. 187.
Concil. Germ. tom. ii. p. 692.
Annal. Bened. lib. xxxviii. n. 24, 25.
(No tag #17 appears in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)
Gregor. M. Epist. lib. iii. ep. 2; Johann. II. ad Episc. Galliae. ep. 3. G. G. Zeltner de Theologico circuitore seu*
(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)
(** denotes Hebrew text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)