1. The Protestant
The majority of Protestants use the Scriptural references
of “Elders”, “Bishops” and “Deacons” to support
their view that the current Orthodox ecclesiastical order is not a
continuation of the order that the Apostles left us. They say this,
because in the New Testament it is clearly apparent that although the
three terms of “Bishop, Elder and Deacon” are mentioned therein,
the concepts of “Bishop” and “Elder” are presumed
identical and not separate offices, as is the case in the Orthodox
Church. Thus, it is impossible for these people to accept succession in
the Church’s Bishops, because they consider succession to be an
What Protestant interpretation has overlooked, is
how the office of Bishop was established during the late apostolic
period, which was around the end of the first century to the beginning
of the second century A.D.
It was imperative that ecclesiastic order undergo certain
changes, as the head Apostles would eventually be departing from this
world. Someone had to continue their work, and this could not
possibly be done, while the head Apostles were still alive and in active
2. The Order of
Protestants are in general aware that “Prophets”
who were gifted with prophetic charisma are mentioned in the New
Testament. What they probably do not realize is
– apart from those prophets - the primeval Church
also had certain other “prophets” who obtained this charisma through
ordination ( the laying on of the hands ).
These comprised the Order that we refer to as “The Order of Prophets”
The Order of Prophets had immense authority in the Church
during the first two centuries. It was actually the second office in
authority, after that of the Apostles, as evidenced in the following
verses of the New Testament :
Ephesians 4/IV 10 - 1:
He gave (to us) the Apostles on one hand, and on the other,
the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers, for the instruction of
the holy flock, for ministerial labours, for the structuring of the body
of Christ (the Church).”
12/XII 28 - 30:
And there are those whom God had placed within the Church: firstly the
secondly the prophets,
thirdly the teachers, then those with powers, then those with healing
charismas, those with discernment, with administration, with various
languages. Are all people apostles ? Are all people
? Are all people teachers ? …….. For you must show zeal
towards the superior charismas”.
From these verses, it becomes obvious
prophetic charisma was the second in importance among the “superior”
charismas - after the status of “Apostle” - and it had no relevance to
the free prophetic charisma that would manifest itself occasionally;
this was a permanent charisma, just like the apostolic charisma,
that “God had placed within the Church”. This therefore is
the most ancient and important order in the Church, after the Apostles.
A basic difference between “Prophets” and “Apostles”
was that the Apostles had been directly selected by Jesus Christ, while
the Prophets were directly selected by the Holy Spirit.
This is made evident in
Acts 13/XIII 1 - 3:
were in Antioch, in the existing Church,
and teachers; (who were) Barnabas and Simeon –the one
called Niger- and Lucius the Cyrene, Manaes, the comrade of Herod the
tetrarch, and Saul. During their ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said:
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul, for the work that I am inviting
them to undertake”. Then, after fasting and praying
and placing their hands on these
(two), they were discharged”.
It was thus that Saul (Paul) and Barnabas – who
at the time belonged to the Order of Prophets
– were dispatched to evangelize in Cyprus and Asia
Minor. This was Paul’s first itinerary. Furthermore, the moment of
their “selection” took place while they were “ministering”
to the Lord. This further proves that those comprising the Order of
had the right to perform the Divine Eucharist.
Furthermore, in Acts
it is apparent
that those Prophets who were selected by the Church of Antioch had the right to ordain elders-clergymen in their local
Churches. The Prophets’ authority over their local Churches’ clergy is
therefore a fact.
We can furthermore extract another conclusion:
that the office of “Prophets” was not merely a local
office; indeed, its range of authority extended to broader territories
than that of the prophet’s Church of origin.
We can see this in another verse, in the Acts of the
Apostles. After the end of the
in 49 A.D., the Apostles and Elders who participated in the Synod of
Jerusalem selected “Judas, the one called Barsabbas, and Silas, a man
who was a prior amongst his brethren”
(Acts 15/XIV 22).
These were the two prophets who were sent to the Church of Antioch, in
order to transfer -along with Paul and Barnabas- the decisions of the
The fact that
these two “priors” belonged to the order
of Prophets, is mentioned in
as well as Silas, both of whom were
consoled and strengthened the brethren through extensive talks.”
All of the above is evidence that the Prophets routinely
inspected the Churches with authority, under the supervision of the
We can also find this information in the proto-Christian
essay, the DIDACHE - “Teachings of the Apostles” - which was written around
A.D. The historical value of this essay is huge, given that it is
one of the very few texts that has been preserved from that early
period, when the Apostles one by one were departing from this life,
leaving their successors in their stead. It is furthermore significant,
because it also verifies all the aforementioned references of the
In this essay, among other things, we find mentions of
the order of Prophets:
to perform the Eucharist
as much as they want” .
regards the Apostles and
in accordance with the dogma of the Gospel, every apostle who comes to
you should be welcomed as a Lord; he may not stay longer than one day,
or if necessary, the next day; if he stays for three days, he is a
false prophet. On his departure, the apostle may not accept
anything but bread, for until he is received elsewhere as a guest. If
he requests money, he is a false prophet. And every
who utters through the Spirit you may not offend, nor make any
distinction; for every sin may be absolved, but this sin (offending the
Spirit) will not be absolved. Not everyone who utters through the
Spirit is a
except if he has the manner of the Lord..
(Didache 11/XI 3 - 12).
who wishes the stay with you, is worthy of his sustenance….. therefore
(it is proper) to offer everything firstborn of the fruits of the
winepress and the field, and the firstborn of cattle and of sheep to
they are your high priests
“Therefore ordain unto yourselves bishops and deacons
worthy (in the sight) of the Lord; men of gentle nature and not greedy
for money; men tried and true. They shall also minister to you the
ministry of the prophets and teachers, therefore do not overlook them,
for they are your valued ones,
after the prophets
and the teachers.”
(Didache 15/XV 1-2).
In the above, we learn that the Prophets, like the
Apostles, visited the Churches and were offered hospitality by the
Christians. The Christians therefore had to be careful, because
there were also impostors who impersonated the Prophets.
We also learn that
the Prophets were a leading Order,
after the Apostles, and were bestowed with honours befitting High
Priests by the Christians. In fact, their superiority over the
Elders of the Churches is made clearly evident.
Finally, the Prophets could perform the Divine Eucharist: “And
to perform the Eucharist
as much as they want”,
without the Christians being allowed to hinder them.
Returning to the Holy Bible, let us examine several other
Timothy II 1/i 6:
would remind you to rekindle the charisma of God that is in you, through
the laying on of my hands
(upon you)”, writes the Apostle Paul to Timothy, whom he
This is made apparent, by the fact that Timothy was bestowed the
authority to likewise ordain,
and also that he was selected by the Holy Spirit and had been ordained
(Timothy 3/III 6. 4/iv 13,14).
Similar missions were also given to Titus in Dalmatia and
Crete (Titus 1/I 5), to Tychicus in Asia, (Timothy II 4/iv 12), to
Criscus In Galatia, (Timothy II. 4/iv 10), to Timothy in Macedonia,
(Philip. 2/ii 19), to Artemas in Crete, (Titus 3/iii 12) and to Erastus
in Achaia (Timothy 4/iv 20).
After the death of the Apostles, the Prophets
successors, continued the Apostles’ mission, ordaining and preaching
to all the people.
decades passed on and the Prophets grew old, they could no longer travel
about to visit their Churches and so began to settle down in Churches
of their choice. There, they ordained their own successors, who
were named “Bishops” ( Bi-shop = Epi-skopos (Greek) = Over-seer ),
an office that continues, through to this day.
To this day, this continues to be the only office that is
inherited through time, from the Apostles !
You may also
refer to the book “ECCLESIASTIC HISTORY” – A’ by Vlasios I. Feidas, page 59…, (2nd edition 1994),
from where we have drawn the above information for this study.