Keeping clear of the antithetical schemes in which modern church historiography has imprisoned the unity of the early Church, and starting from the central place occupied by the Eucharist in the life of the Church, we have looked in the sources from the first three Christian centuries for an answer to the fundamental question: what was the unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop who led it, and how did this unity influence the formation of the early Catholic Church? We have summarized the basic conclusions of our research at the end of each part of this study. We shall now attempt to place them within the more general context of historical theology.

The maintenance and formation of the Church's unity in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop had its preconditions and its developments as we have seen. It could not have been otherwise since the Church lives and moves in space and time as an historical reality. There was, however, perhaps no other historical fact so inseparably united with the unchangeable nature of the Church as was her unity in the Eucharist and in the Bishop. Hence no other fact had such a permanent and decisive effect on the Church's life in history, or gave her such fundamental and stable forms as did this unity.

Linked with the unity of the Church to the point of identity, as we have seen from the earliest historical documents, the Divine Eucharist was not slow to form the foundation on which the Catholic Church of the first three centuries was built and took shape. Through the complete identification of the eucharistic assembly with the "Church of God" which "is" or "sojourns" in a certain place, the basic principle was laid down for the formation of early Catholicism: inasmuch as the eucharistic assembly incarnates and reveals in history not a part of the one Christ but the one Lord Himself in His entirety, who takes up the "many" in Himself in perpetuity in order to make them One and bring them back through His sacrifice before the throne of the Father, what we have in the Eucharist is not a part of the Church, but the whole Church herself, the whole body of Christ. Thus, the ecclesiological fullness and "catholicity" of the Church sojourning in each place formed the first and the basic consequence of the unity of the Church in the Divine Eucharist. "Each single Church, gathered around the Bishop and culminating in his person, is not simply a part of the whole within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church; but inasmuch as she communes in the whole in the unity of the Holy Spirit, she is herself one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, i.e. the "fullness" and the "body of Christ." 1

As a direct historical consequence of this fact, the Eucharist was regarded as an act of the whole Church and not simply of certain of her orders or members. There was no such thing as an individual Eucharist in the service of private devotion or connected with only some of the members of the Church during the period we are looking at. Thus our research has shown the preservation of one eucharistic assembly only in each Church to be an indisputable historical reality of that period. There was more than one assembly, or more than one altar, only when a schism had arisen in which case the situation was no longer normal.

A fundamental and direct consequence of this ecclesiological character of the eucharistic assembly was the position and significance of the Bishop in the Church. It is known that the institution of episcopacy was interwoven with the whole formation of early Catholicism. But contrary to what recent historiography has asserted, this interweaving was not provoked by external factors; it was bound up with the position of the Bishop in the Eucharist and through this with the nature of the Church regardless of heresies or other external dangers. As our study has shown, a Eucharist without the Bishop - at least once the Apostles were no longer there - was unthinkable. On the other hand, it was also unthinkable to have a Bishop without his place in the Eucharist. Hence, as has been shown, only the Bishop was originally ordained to lead the Eucharist and offer it in the name of the "whole Church" as the "president" of the eucharistic assembly. Only after the fourth century did the Bishop become primarily the "administrator" transferring to the Presbyter the ministry of the Eucharist and slowly and gradually becoming detached from that ministry often indeed to such a degree that he regarded the offering of the Eucharist as a secondary task. But during the historically crucial period of the first three centuries when the foundations of catholicism were laid, the Bishop was first and foremost the "priest," as being the only person who could offer the Eucharist by right of his ordination, while he was assisted in the affairs of church administration by the synedrion or council of Presbyters who received a special charisma for this through their ordination. Being the leader of the one single eucharistic assembly and offering the Eucharist in its name, the Bishop was seated "in the place of God," and his throne was the living icon on earth of the heavenly throne of God given that the Eucharist on earth was nothing other than a true replica of the worship of God in heaven. The Bishop offered to God through his hands the body of the Eucharist, in which the Church in that place was united, thus becoming the very body of Christ. All the members and "orders" of the Church consequently passed through him in the highest expression of their relationship with God in the Eucharist. The salvation of the members of the Church consequently passed through his hands. Now we see why anyone who does not go through the Bishop in his relationship to God is "worshipping the devil" (Ignatius). Hence, also the axiom formulated by Cyprian, that the Church is in the Bishop and that "where the Bishop is, there is the Church." 2 This axiom, which had such a decisive effect on the formation of the early Catholic Church, was not the result of some legalistic view of the Church as Protestant historians have maintained. It was not the product of Rome with its legalistic spirit, in such a way that the "catholicization" of the Church and her "romanization" are to be identified historically, as both Roman Catholic and Protestant historians in recent times have accepted with one accord. This axiom was a direct and natural consequence of the mystical view of the Church as the body of Christ manifested historically in the Eucharist, and of the position of the Bishop in the eucharistic assembly. Since the Church was the body of Christ and because the eucharistic synaxis was this body, for this reason the head of this assembly automatically became the visible head of the Church in that place. In consequence, the Bishop's position in the Eucharist alone is the primary, complete and ecclesiological justification for the authority which the Canons ascribe to him.

But just as in each Church there was but one Eucharist "which was under the leadership of the Bishop," so there could not be but "one Bishop" in each Church. The ruling of the First Ecumenical Council in its 18th Canon, where it decrees "that there shall not be two Bishops in the same city," has both its historical and its ecclesiological roots in the unity in the Eucharist and the Bishop during the first three centuries. More than one Bishop in the same place meant more than one Eucharist, and in consequence more than one Church in that place. This was the basis historically for the principle of geographical boundaries to each Church. If it became unthinkable for a Church to exist without clearly defined geographical boundaries, if the name of each Bishop was attached inseparably and from earliest times to the name of a particular geographical area, this was not simply a matter of good organization but of ecclesiological principle. And if there was ecclesiological content to this canonical arrangement, historically at least we cannot see what this is to be attributed to if not the unbreakable connection of the eucharistic assembly in each place and the Bishop who led it with the very Church of God which was in that place.

It is to precisely the same reasons that the canonical principle of the absolute essential equality of all Bishops should be attributed historically. We do not know whether modern ideals of democracy are able to explain this principle satisfactorily. We do, however, know that such ideals would not be sufficient to explain such a basic canonical principle if the latter were not grounded in ecclesiological presuppositions. These ecclesiological presuppositions consist, as we have seen, in the fact that each of the Bishops, as head of his own eucharistic assembly, was the leader of a complete Church which needed no complement: "While the bond of concord exists and the mystery of the Catholic Church still remains undivided, each Bishop organizes his actions and his administration for himself, as he thinks best, being accountable to the Lord alone." 3  These words of Cyprian's, which undoubtedly expressed the consciousness of the Church in the period we are studying here, provide full clarification of the canonical and ecclesiological underpinning to the absolute equality of Bishops and to their whole position in the Church.

This relation of the Bishop to his Church and to the Lord did of course presuppose another equally basic principle of the early Church's organization: the connection of each of the Bishops with a particular Church. If in the early Church there was no such thing as a Bishop without his own Church, this should not be regarded as a fact devoid of ecclesiological import. For a Bishop who does not form the center of unity of a particular Church or who is dependent on another Bishop would be a defective Bishop. Hence, the prohibition of ordinations in absolute goes back historically to the principle of the fullness of each Church.

Two questions arise, however. The first is this: if each Church and each Bishop was regarded by the early Church not as a part of a whole but as the whole itself, does this not mean that we have not one Church in the world, but several?

This question is indeed a serious one, but it is modem man's question. It has been said here repeatedly that only in modern times has the relationship of locality to universality been understood as an opposition. To pose this question in the form of a dilemma of having to choose between the local and the universal Church in the Church of the first three centuries is to betray historical methodology. The relation of the local to the universal Church was not a dilemma for that period. Neither Protestant provincialism nor Roman Catholic universalism is justified by the sources of that period. On the contrary, what seems paradoxical to modern man was for the early Church entirely natural: each Church was the full body of Christ, "the whole Church" as St Paul puts it, while all these full Churches together formed nothing other than one Church only in the whole world. This paradox was possible because the way the Church was seen at that period was primarily and principally mystical and sacramental. Because the Church was nothing other than Christ Himself, united in whom the "many" were saved, there could not but be only one Church in the world with Him as her head. But since on the other hand, this one Christ and His one body were not abstract concepts but a tangible reality manifested in place and time in a mystical way, most especially in the mystery of the Eucharist, that body could be sought only where these mystical and sacramental prerequisites were fulfilled. That, for the early Church, was precisely the one Eucharist in each place "which was under the leadership of the Bishop." Thus, because of the mystical and sacramental identity of each Church with one and the same body, the multiplicity of Churches led naturally to the recognition of one sole Church in the world. For this reason, each local Church did not constitute a reality different from "the Catholic Church throughout the world" in such a way as to be regarded as a part of her, but was completely identified with her. Thus, as the Church throughout the world was "one, holy, catholic and apostolic," so each Church was in essence and not by way of metaphor "one, holy, catholic and apostolic." Thus, we are not looking at two kinds of Church, the local and the Church throughout the world, but one Church, one Christ and His one body, sacramentally manifested in its fullness in that place where the faithful are united in the breaking of the one bread under the leadership of their Bishop. In a view of the Church such as this, the dilemma between universal and local Church clearly has no place.

If the relation of the one Church throughout the world to the episcopal Churches in different places was of this kind -as we have called it here, a relationship of the mystical identity of full circles and not a unity formed by adding together incomplete parts - how was the unity of the one Church throughout the world manifested in practice? It should be stressed at this point that although early Christianity inherited from Judaism the consciousness of being a people scattered to the ends of earth, it rejected any center for the visible expression of its worldwide unity such as for instance the Temple in Jerusalem was for the Jews. Have we given serious thought to why this did not happen in the history of the Church? If it was due to external causes (persecutions etc.), then why, once these causes were removed and the "Christian world" had been brought into being by Constantine, did the Church not think to build a "universal" church in parallel with the Bishops' cathedral churches in various places in which the Eucharist could be celebrated from time to time as an expression of the one body of the Church throughout all the world? If something of die kind had happened, this would have meant destroying the integrity of each Church in which case we should indeed have had a unity of parts. But as there was not in practice one universal Eucharist, so there was not one universal Bishop in the early Church because the two were bound up together. Therefore, on the universal level we do not have a fixed and permanent center for the expression of ecclesial unity in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop, and it is in this that Roman Catholic ecclesiology since the First Vatican Council has deviated from the early Church. Instead of a permanent center of unity, a foundation was provided by the principle of the mutual recognition of each of the local Churches: the "common union" of the Churches as Eusebius characteristically calls it with reference to the second century. This recognition was essential, and was manifested through the "concession" of the Eucharist to Bishops visiting another Church, and the admission to communion of believers travelling from place to place on the basis of episcopal letters of recommendation. Disruption of this mutual recognition for whatever reason led to schism on the universal level, and occasioned the convocation of synods the purpose of which was to restore "communion." This was how the institution of local councils originally appeared, and these prepared the way historically for the appearance of the Ecumenical Council through which "the Bishops who are at the ends of the earth" affirmed that they "are in the mind of Christ" and that all the Churches under them, identified with each other, had but one head which is Jesus Christ.

The second question arising out of the relationship we have demonstrated between Eucharist, Bishop and Church is this: if the one Eucharist under the Bishop formed the manifestation in space of the whole body of Christ, how then are the many parish Eucharists under the same Bishop to be understood? Do we not have through these a proliferation of Churches within the same Church? As we have seen, this formed the great problem in history of the emergence of parishes. Our research here has established that as long as there still survived in the early Church the consciousness that the unity of the very Church of God was manifested through the one Eucharist under the leadership of the Bishop, the parishes that appeared for reasons of practical need were not regarded as self-contained eucharistic units within the diocese, but were dependent on the one episcopocentric Eucharist as its organic offshoots. Thus, whether through the fermentum or through other means, the living presence of the Bishop in the parishes' Eucharist did not cease to be regarded as indispensable. In consequence, the one, episcopocentric Eucharist was not essentially broken up by the appearance of the parishes. What actually happened may be described as a spatial distribution of the synthronon of the Presbyterium in order to serve needs. In other words, each of the thrones of the synthronon, without becoming a separate center of eucharistic unity - for in no parish did the presbyter ever sit on a eucharistic throne, the synthronon characteristically being found exclusively in cathedrals in the early Church - was as it were spatially detached from the one cathedral church while the Bishop's throne remained the only center of the Eucharist in each Church.

With the parishes, then, what appeared was not in essence a proliferation of Eucharists, but a mere extension of the one episcopocentric Eucharist into different parts of the diocese in such a way that the originally unified synthronon was not abolished or parcelled out into several self-contained eucharistic centers within one and the same Church. This fundamental fact compels the historian of the early Church to make a comparison which goes to the heart of the unity of the Church: while the spread of Christianity in rural areas and in the world generally gave rise to new complete Churches, the appearance of parishes simply led to the extension of the one Eucharist under the Bishop within the geographical boundaries of the diocese without creating new centers of eucharistic unity. Obviously, it could not have been otherwise, insofar as the consciousness still survived that in the "one Eucharist which is under the leadership of the Bishop" was incarnate the very Church of God sojourning in a particular place.

If we want to present church unity schematically as it took shape on the basis of unity in the Eucharist and in the Bishop, we could compare the episcopal dioceses throughout the world to full circles identified with each other in such a way that their centers (Bishops) meet in one head ("in the mind of Jesus Christ") and the parishes to radii within each of these circles. In this way, the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" does not form a unity of parts added together, but an organic unity of complete Churches, identified with one another, in such a way as to form one body under one head.

Such was the unity of the Church of the first three centuries in the Divine Eucharist and the Bishop and its effect on the formation of the basic characteristics of the early Catholic Church.

In the wake of these conclusions which have been reached without reference to any of the modern theories about the unity of the Church, we are now able to place in the light of the Church of the first three centuries certain basic theories from among these which are closely bound up both with the subject of this study and with the whole theology of unity in our day.

First of all, if the conclusions of this study of the first three centuries are accepted, then the importance of the theory of eucharistic ecclesiology automatically comes to the fore. 4  As the study of the sources here has shown, it is not in fact possible to speak of the Church and her unity without referring first of all to the Divine Eucharist. "The Divine Eucharist is the center of Christians' unity with Christ in the body of the Church. For through it the Church reveals herself par excellence as the body of Christ and communion of the Holy Spirit"; 5  and this, as we have seen, was the unchanging consciousness of the Church of the first three centuries. It is in consequence a positive element of "eucharistic ecclesiology" that prominence is given to the Eucharist in ecclesiology, a prominence which has not been sufficiently emphasized by our theology in the past.

Another positive element in "eucharistic ecclesiology" is its acceptance of the catholicity and ecclesiological fullness of each local Church. 6  As we have seen from examining the sources, this is true of all the texts of the first three centuries, and hence we always find in them "Catholic Churches" in the plural. This means that each local Church enjoys self-sufficiency of grace and salvation which is the purpose of the Church. This position reflects the basic understanding of the Orthodox Church that "in the Divine Eucharist is contained the whole body of Christ," 7  humans' salvation being achieved precisely "through their incorporation into the body of Christ.'" 8

Apart from these positive elements, however, the theory of eucharistic ecclesiology as taken to its ultimate conclusions by the above-mentioned theologians can lead to unacceptable and dangerous positions. Thus, while the view of the Eucharist as the element incarnating and expressing the Church par excellence is correct, the view that this is the sole sine qua non condition for the notion of the Church and her unity could not be accepted so unreservedly. From the purely methodological standpoint, it has already been noted 9  that there is a danger of one-sidedness if unity in the Eucharist is not characterized as a part only of the wider subject of the Church's unity. But also from the standpoint of the substantive evidence of the sources examined here, it has been underlined that in order to express the concept of the Church and her unity, in addition to the Eucharist other essential elements are required, such as right faith without which "even the Eucharist is an impossibility." 10  It is consequently a negative element in the extreme positions of eucharistic ecclesiology that through them dogmatic differences tend to become unimportant in the unity of the Church, on account of the axiom that every Church, inasmuch as she celebrates the Eucharist, "does not cease to remain in herself the Church of God, albeit isolated" and cut off from the others. 11  There was, rightly, a strong reaction against this position. 12  For as the present study has shown, to have the notion of the "Catholic Church", the Eucharist is not sufficient, but orthodoxy is also required; while the consciousness of the Church of the first three centuries, as expressed through Cyprian, was unable to recognize eucharistic fullness in a schismatic Church, even if she celebrated the Eucharist. 13  Of course, as was stressed at the appropriate place, this position of Cyprian's was not accepted in the West where Augustine's conception of schism ultimately prevailed. But the first three centuries, to which this study is confined, do not permit any conclusion other than this position of Cyprian's.

Judged from this viewpoint, any attempt at "intercommunion" between Churches divided by heresy or schism is unthinkable according to the sources of the period examined here. Communion in the Eucharist presupposes full unity in all the basics, such as love and faith ("let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess.,."), because eucharistic unity constitutes the culmination and full expression of the unity of the Church. In consequence, it is not this or that particular difference between the divided Churches which makes it impossible for them to commune in the Eucharist but the division per se. Eucharistic communion makes sense only in a fully united Church, and hence the term "intercommunion" has rightly been criticized as inept. 14  The precipitate tendency towards "intercommunion" in the modern ecumenical movement is due, theologically, to the absence of the ecclesiological view of the Eucharist emphasized here, and psychologically, to the tendency to accept schism as a natural fact endemic to the Church organism; 15  any feeling of sorrow or repentance for which is superfluous. By contrast, for those who look at the Eucharist through the prism of ecclesiology, the avoidance of communion with the heterodox, far from having any sense of self-satisfaction or arrogance, expresses a continuing experience of the tragedy of schism as expressed in the most existential way through the refusal of eucharistic communion.

Emphasized to the extreme, however, the axiom "where the Eucharist is, there is the Church" similarly destroys in the final analysis any notion of canonical unity in the Church leading in essence to the antithesis introduced by R. Sohm between Religion and Law. It is perhaps not fortuitous that N. Afanassieff, who was chiefly responsible for introducing the so-called "eucharistic ecclesiology," stresses that only love and not canons of law and rights can have a place in the unity of the Church, inasmuch as "in the pattern of eucharistic ecclesiology... power based on right does not exist... universal ecclesiology and eucharistic ecclesiology have different conceptions on the question of church government: the first conceives this government as a matter of law and rights, and the second regards it as founded on grace." 16  Such an absolute view of the eucharistic character of the Church to the exclusion of canonical preconditions leads Fr A. Schmemann, too, to the view that we have ecclesiological fullness even in the parish, inasmuch as the Eucharist is celebrated there, 17  which conflicts with the conclusions of this study in which the eucharistic element is interwoven with the canonical, which is to say, the Eucharist with the Bishop. As we have seen, the integrity of the Eucharist and the integrity of the priesthood are joined together so inseparably that they are not thought of by the early Church as two different subjects. And we are rightly reminded in contemporary theological discussions that "the theology of priesthood and that of the Eucharist are identical and inseparable." 18  Besides, the extensive study of the historical literature in Part Three of the present work (on the emergence of the parish) make the conclusion unavoidable that the parish can on no account be regarded as a complete Church even though the Eucharist is celebrated in it.

Accepting the extreme position of the axiom "where the Eucharist is, there is the Church" will equally lead to a denial of the unity of the "one Catholic Church throughout the world" which, as we have seen, emerges from this work. The ecclesiological fullness of each "Catholic Church" in a place is not unrelated to or independent of her unity with the rest of the "Catholic Churches." As stressed above, any Church which is cut off ceases to be a "Catholic Church." This means that whereas we have many "Catholic Churches" in the world, we have only one body because "Christ is not divided." In consequence and in essence, the Divine Eucharist is one and so is the Church "even though the tabernacles of the gatherings are in various places" (Council of Antioch, 325). Hence, a Church which is not united with the rest of the Catholic Churches, i.e. with the one body of Christ in all the world, cannot continue to be the Church of God.

Identified as she is with the One whole Christ, each "Catholic Church," in communion with the other Churches like her, is not a part of a whole; but nor can it be said that she can live cut off from the others. For her wholeness and fullness are not her exclusive and private possession. It is the one Christ who Himself, however, lives and is incarnate identically in the other Churches too. In order for each Church to be the body of Christ, then, she cannot but be identified with the other Churches constituting with them one sole Church in the whole world. This is precisely what is implied by the thesis of this work according to which the unity of the Church throughout the world is a unity in identity. It is the identity of the Churches with the one Christ and with each other which means that no local Church can be a "Catholic Church" if she is cut off from the rest.

The view of the unity of the "one Catholic Church throughout the world" in modern theology, even modern Orthodox theology, as a unity of parts is certainly not compatible with the conclusions of our work. In consequence, it is not right to combat whatever errors there might be in "eucharistic ecclesiology" by borrowing schemes alien to the sources of the first three centuries such as that of "unity of parts" which was introduced under the influence of modern conceptions. No impartial student of history will be able to discover "one unified universal Church organized into one body" in the first three centuries. But while there was no such thing as a "unity of parts," the unity of the one Catholic Church throughout the world was not lacking. This unity existed and, without destroying the ecclesiological fullness of each "Catholic Church" by making her a part of a whole, it was manifested all the time, but most especially when outside conditions required it. This happened principally through the institution of the Holy Councils.

This major subject of the institution of Councils has in no way been underestimated in the present work. On the contrary, it has been clearly stated that it is so important as to be the subject of a special study since this institution has no place methodologically in the eucharistic unity to which the present study confines itself. Whenever any relation between eucharistic unity and Councils is observed in the sources, we do not fail to examine it in detail. 19  Another reason why it was not possible to incorporate the subject of Councils into the present work is that during the first three centuries which we are looking at, i.e. up to Cyprian, the institution of Councils is not yet firmly established at least in its its supreme form that of the Ecumenical Council. Only sporadic and haphazard convocations of local Councils appear, and for these - and this is the most important point for the historian - there are no sources.

From what has already been said above in connection with the so-called "eucharistic ecclesiology," it is evident that the "catholicity" of each episcopal Church cannot be understood independently of her full unity with the rest of the Churches in the one body of Christ. Cut off from the others, any such Church ceases to be "catholic." This forms the theoretical basis for the necessity of the institution of Councils. The realization of this necessity by the Church of the first three centuries led naturally to the convocation of Councils through which the "common union" was expressed (Eusebius' term for the Councils occasioned by the Paschal controversy). The institution of Councils, in consequence, arose during the first three centuries as the supreme way of verifying the "common union" of the local Churches in one body.

Of course, within the time frame of this work, that is up to Cyprian, there is no consolidation of the Council as an institution nor any theoretical description of it, and our silence on the subject is thus demanded by the sources. This, however, does not prevent the Church evolving as to her forms of administration. Hence in the fourth century, for reasons beyond the scope of this work, the institution of Councils became fixed, and besides this the Ecumenical Council now makes its appearance as the supreme manifestation of the conciliar system. Was this something revolutionary relative to the first three centuries? In other words, do the conclusions drawn in our study concerning the period up to Cyprian conflict with the establishment of the conciliar system from the fourth century onwards? The answer is negative, and here are the reasons why.

As was stressed above, 20  the Church right from the beginning lived with the consciousness of containing within herself the entire world (oikoumene). This "ecumenical" or universal spirit never left the Church during the first three centuries. As has also repeatedly been stressed, "the common union" was an ecclesiological necessity for each Church. Without this union, the catholicity of the local Church was inconceivable. Hence, the appearance of the Councils and their development during the fourth century into Ecumenical Councils, constituting "the Church's supreme collective authority, in both senses of the word," 21  was a natural consequence of the consciousness of the "common union" of the Churches which became firmly established during the first three centuries.

As was natural, this consciousness of a "common union" of the Churches in the first three centuries, forcefully expressed through the Holy Councils, brought the Bishops of the Churches too into a relationship of profound communion and unity with each other. Just as the many Eucharists formed but one Eucharist, so the many Bishops formed but "one episcopate." It would consequently be correct in principle to speak of the "collegiality" of the Bishops at least from Cyprian's time. But the notion of "collegiality," being expounded so extensively today by Roman Catholic theology 22 appears in many aspects questionable in the light of the conclusions of our study. The central point at issue in this case is the very notion of "collegiality," which presupposes the idea that the Churches in various places and their Bishops are parts of a collective 23 organism, complementing one another in a unity formed by addition. For modern exponents of the theory of "collegiality," the Bishops throughout the world constitute as a whole a "college" which is the replica and successor of the college of the Twelve. Hence, it is not difficult, but is on the contrary imperative, for this college to have a head corresponding to that of the college of the Twelve, and this is the Bishop of Rome who occupies the place of Peter. Thus, although this theory of "collegiality" stresses the importance of the Council as institution, far from diminishing the position of the Bishop of Rome, it actually gives it ecclesiological support because he is now regarded as the indispensable figure who expresses the unity of the episcopate. Whether Peter was indeed the head of the Twelve and whether the Bishop of Rome has a right to regard himself as Peter's successor are certainly debatable problems, but they do not constitute the crucial and basic question raised by the theory of collegiality of Bishops from the viewpoint of the conclusions of our study. The principal question is whether, in the consciousness of the early Church in the first three centuries, the correspondence between the college of the Twelve and that of the Bishops was such as to make each of the Bishops a successor of only a part of the college of the Twelve and all of them collectively (i.e. as a college) successors of the Twelve as a whole. The answer to this question is that, as has been shown at length here, the college of the Twelve and the "throne of Peter" which was preeminent within it formed the foundation, not of one Church, but of every episcopal Church because every Bishop was understood as being a successor to all the Apostles - and to Peter. The unity of the Bishops in consequence was not "collective" or "collegial" in the sense of bringing together by addition an apostolic succession which was divided up among the various Bishops. Every one of the Bishops sat on the throne of Peter; his Church being regarded as fully apostolic and based on the foundation of all the Apostles. Hence, it was believed that not only was it impossible for any one of these Bishops to possess priesthood or any ecclesiologically acknowledged jurisdictions more fully than any other Bishop, but that all of them united together could not form a sum of parts complementing each other, but an organic unity grounded in their full identity with each other and with the one body of Christ. This crucial point, which expresses the fullness of the episcopal rank, continues despite the appearance of the theory of the collegiality of Bishops to be the source of all essential disagreement with the whole substance of Roman Catholic ecclesiology in the light of the consciousness of the first three centuries.



1.  Metr. Dionysios of Servies and Kozani, "Encyclical for the Inauguration of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Church of Greece," in Oikodomi, Ecclesiastical and Literary Bulletin 2,1959, p.126.

2.  Cyprian, Epist. 66,8.

3.  Cyprian, Epist. 55 (52). 21.

4.  See above, p. 17f.

5.  I. Karmiris, "Body of Christ," p. 365.

6.  See analysis by A. Lanne, op. cit. p. 914, et al.

7.  I. Karmiris, "Body of Christ," p. 365f.

8.  ibid. p. 334.

9.  p. 17f.

10.  see above, p. 134.

11.  N. Afanassieff, "Una Sancta," p. 549.

12.  See above, p. 37, n. 49.

13.  p. 148f., above.

14.  See N. Nissiotis, "Worship," p. 215.

15.  See above, p. 9f.

16.  "The Church which Presides in Love," p. 107-8.

17.  "Towards a Theology of Councils, p. 179f.

18.  See Metropolitan Athenagoras of Thyateira, Theological Research on Christian Unity (in Greek), 1964, p. 82f.

19.  See p.151f.

20.  p. 150f.

21.  I. Karmiris, The Ecclesiology of the Three Hierarchs, p. 139f.

22.  See above, p. 190, n. 331.

23.  Translator's note: the same term is used in Greek for the cognate words collegial and collective. In following the author's argument here, it will be helpful to bear in mind that at the root of both these English words is the Latin conligere, "to gather together" (sc. discrete objects).



Showing the changes introduced in the late fourth century into the source from the first three centurias, in relation to the place of the Bishop and the Presbyter in the Divine Eucharist.

Epistles of Ignatius

Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus

Didascalia of the Apostles

Text from tbe beginning of 2nd century

Text from end of 4th - beginning of 5th century

Text from tbe beginning of 3rd century

Text from end of 4th - beginning of 5th century

Text from tbe beginning of 3rd century

Text from end of 4th - beginning of 5th century

The Eucharist is " one, which is under the leadership of the Bishop" , with " the Bishop sitting in the place of God and the presbyters in the place of the council of the Apostles"

(Magn. 6-7, Smyrn. 8, Philad. 4)


To the original text are added descriptions of the Presbyters as " priests" , i.e. those who offer the Eucharist: - " Let the rulers be obedient to Caesar... the deacons, to the presbyters, the high priests" (Philad. 4) - " the priests and deacons are good, but the high priest is better" (Philad. 9)


- The Bishop is ordained, inter alia, " to offer the gifts of the Holy Church" , whereas - the Presbyter, in order to " govern the people in purity of heart" (Ap. Trad. 3 and 8)


i) Ap. Const. VIII and Epitome. While the prayer for the ordination of a bishop remains the same, at the ordination of a presbyter the words are added: " that... he may also... perform the spotless sacred rites on behalf of Thy people" (Ap. Const.VHI.16.5 and Epitome 6) ii) Canons of Hippolytus: No special prayer for the ordination if a Presbyter; it refers you to that for the ordination of a Bishop, on the grounds that the only difference between Bishops and Presbyters is the right to ordain


- The Bishop "presides in the place of God Almighty" and "makes you partakers of the Holy Eucharist of God", whereas - " the Presbyters form the "council of the Bishop" (Did. 9)


i) Ap. Const. 1-VI: to the functions of the Presbyters are added: " ... to offer, baptize, bless..." , and hence it called the Presbyters "priests" (Const. III.20.2 and II.27.3). ii)

Ethiopic version of the Didascalia: " the Presbyter teaches, baptizes, blesses, censes; and offers the sacrifice" (Eth. Didasc. 17)


Cf. Justin, 1 Apol. 67

Cf. 1i) Ambrosiaster, Liber, Queso. 101.5 and Comm. In 1 Tim. 3.10) ii) Apost. Const. VIII. 16. 3-5

Cf. Syriac Didascalia (below)

Cf. I) Jerome Ep. 146.1 and ii) Chrysostom on 1 Tim.11

Cf. I) Ignatius (genuine text), above, ii) Ap.Trad. (above)

Cf. I) First Ecum.Council Can.18 ii) Councils of Ancyra Can.1 and Neocaesaria Can.s 9 and 13.





Article published in English on: 21-5-2008.

Last update: 22-5-2008.