The Greco-Roman culture that surrounded the early Christians reinforced the graded hierarchy that was slowly infiltrating the church. Greco-Roman culture was hierarchical by nature. This influence seeped into the church when new converts brought their cultural baggage into the believing community."
Human hierarchy and "official" ministry institutionalized the church of Jesus Christ. By the fourth century, these elements hardened the arteries of the once living, breathing ekklesia of God—within which ministry was functional, Spirit-led, organic, and shared by all believers.
By the fifth century, the concept of the priesthood of all believers had completely disappeared from Christian practice. Access to God was now controlled by the clergy caste. Clerical celibacy began to be enforced. Infrequent Communion became a regular habit of the so-called laity. The church building was now veiled with incense and smoke. Clergy prayers were said in secret. And the small but
Concerning the Mysteries, 9:52, 54. In the Eastern churches a prayer is offered for the Spirit to do the magic. In the Western churches, the prayer was left out, for the words themselves did the trick (Dix, Shape of the Liturgy, 240-241, 275; Josef A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite, vol. I [New York: Benziger, 1951]. 52).
Campbell, Elders, 234-235. The word priest is etymologically a contraction of "presbyter." By the close of the Old English period, the English term priest had become the current word for "presbyter" and "sacerdos" (Cross and Livingstone, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1325).
Hatch, Organization of the Early Christian Churches, 30-31.
profoundly significant screen that separated clergy from laity had been introduced.
The role of the bishop was also changing, elevating him from serving as the head of a local church to becoming the representative of everybody in a given area.' Bishops ruled over the churches just as Roman governors ruled over their provinces.74 Eventually, the bishop of Rome was given the most authority of all, and his position finally evolved into the office of the pope."
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