In view of the importance in which catechetical instructions were held, it is truly surprising that none were permanently designated to this office. The name of catechist indeed is of common occurrence, but they did not constitute a distinct order. These instructions were given in part by the bishops themselves, who were, by virtue of their office, the chief catechists, and had the oversight of all such exercises in which presbyters, deacons, readers, and exorcists bore a part. The deaconesses, and aged women also, acted as catechists for their sex.
There was indeed a famous catechetical school at Alexandria. But the catechists of that institution sustained the relations of a modern lecturer or professor, rather than those of a common catechist.
The name is derived from capella, which primarily means a certain kind of hood. In the fifth century it became the name of oratories, or private churches, which were built about that time in France, and afterwards became common in the West. The first instance of this form of private worship occurs in the life of Constantine, who constituted his military tent a place for religious worship in the open field. Probably the *, which according to Eusebius was erected by Constantine, was a sort of court-church. Certain it is that we read of the clerici pallata, sacelli regit, court-preachers, Under the succeeding emperors. The chief among these were called *, etc., answering to the Capellani, Regii, Archi-Capellani, Summi, Sacellani, etc. Under the monarchs of France, Germany, and England. The capellanus then was the chaplain or minister of these private or court chapels.
After the crusades multitudes of places where sacred relics were preserved were also called chapels, and the persons who had the care of these relics received also the name of chaplains, though they had no stated ministerial office, but occasionally officiated by special permission.
- Hermeneutai, Interpreters.
The duty of these was to translate from one tongue into another, where people of different languages were commingled; like the Greek and Syriac, – Latin and Punic. They had a seat also with the bishop to assist in translating the correspondence of the church into different languages – to interpret synodical records, etc.
Readers and deacons were employed as interpreters for the preacher when they were competent for the discharge of such duties, but whoever performed this service, must of necessity be regarded as acting the part of a religious teacher, and, in this sense, as belonging to the priesthood. The bishop's assistant translators might be chosen from among the laity, when no suitable person belonging to the clergy could be found; and though he was little else than a notary or scribe, he was honored with a place among the clergy.
E. A. Trominan, Dissert, de Hermeneutis. vet. ecclesiae Altitorf, 1747. 4.
(No tag #5 appears in Rev. Lyman Coleman's original translation.)