a casual look back at church history reveals that it only took about 70 years for the resurrection of the spiritual elite.
for the first few decades after jesus was raised from the dead, the church had no “official hierarchy”. when the apostles traveled on their missionary journeys to plant churches throughout the known world, they didn’t place themselves in high positions. they didn’t come as the ecclesiastical elite. they came as the “new” priesthood. just followers of christ commissioned with the job of passing on the message of hope.
when they left, they didn’t coronate new priests. they simply left behind elders. people with the job of shepherding and caring for the people of the new community. by the year 100 a.d., everything had changed. back to the old way of doing things.
around 100, ignatius of antioch (the elder of the church in antioch) created the “head elder”…a bishop…who was the only one who could baptize, give counsel, discipline, approve marriage, preach, and give communion. sound familiar?
according to ignatius, the bishop had ultimate power and should be obeyed absolutely. consider the following excerpts from his letters:
“All of you follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father . . . No one is to do any church business without the bishop . . . Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be . . . You yourselves must never act independently of your bishop and clergy. You should look on your bishop as a type of the Father . . . Whatever he approves, that is pleasing to God . . . ”
“Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers” (New York: Dorset Press, 1968), pp. 75-123.
so really. what do you think is happening here?