resolving disputes and directing liturgical life. Thus 'unity, achieved on other grounds and by other means, created a climate within which orthodoxy could assert itself.3 So here we consider the institutional context for the crucial debates which forged orthodoxy. Through reference to key texts, an account is offered of the process whereby there emerged the clerical orders, including the monarchical episcopate; the liturgies and credal formulations of which the clergy were the cultic leaders; together with the discipline they exercised in the community, and their conciliar authority.
The earliest known handbook for those responsible for running early churches is the Didache or 'Teaching of the twelve apostles'. Compiled about 100 ce using earlier material, some probably Jewish, it contributes to or is embodied in later church manuals like the Apostolic constitutions. It first sets out the moral teachings which all candidates for baptism should learn, then gives directions for baptism, fasting, prayer and the eucharist, regulations for the ministers of the church and the conduct of Sunday worship, and a warning about the impending judgement of God. Its early date is verified by its divergence from later practice in many respects.
In Didache ii the church leaders are teachers, apostles and prophets. The teachers are plainly those who need the manual: a new teacher is to be judged by his conformity to its contents (11.1-2). The apostles are not the twelve of the New Testament, nor the original witnesses of the resurrection (cf. 1 Cor 9:1), but travelling messengers, who receive hospitality in places they visit (11.1-6). The prophets are given most attention, whether because they play the dominant role, or cause the most trouble.4 They are not said to travel, though like other craftsmen they may arrive and settle (13.1; cf. 12.1-5). True prophets speak in the spirit and are to be obeyed. False prophets are identified chiefly by immorality or greed (11.7-12). Prophets perhaps command the eucharistic meal to be held (11.9), and lead prayers freely at it, not being bound by the fixed forms prescribed for other officiants (9-10, especially 10.7).
The offices of apostle, prophet and teacher figure at the head of a list of appointments in 1 Corinthians (12:28), a letter in which prophecy is prominent
3 Rousseau, Early Christian centuries, 88.
4 For misleading prophecies, see Matt 7:14-16; 1 John 4:1-3. For the problems of prophets, Lucian's satire, De morte Peregrini; cf. the 'orthodox' reaction to the Montanists (pt iv, ch. 17, above).
Was this article helpful?