Fearing The Bishop
We continue with chapter 6 of Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians. The text below is from CCEL, with a couple corrections.
6:1 Καὶ ὅσον βλέπει τις σιγῶντα ἐπίσκοπον, πλειόνως αὐτὸν φοβείσθω· πάντα γάρ, ὃν πέμπει ὁ οἰκοδεσπότης εἰς ἰδίαν οἰκονομίαν, οὕτως δεῖ ἡμᾶς αὐτὸν δέχεχθαι, ὡς αὐτὸν τὸν πέμψαντα. τὸν οὖν ἐπίσκοπον δῆλον ὅτι ὡς αὐτὸν κύριον δεῖ προσβλέπειν. 6:2 αὐτὸς μὲν οὖν Ὀνήσιμος ὑπερεπαινεῖ ὑμῶν τὴν ἐν θεῷ εὐταξίαν, ὅτι πάντες κατὰ ἀλήθειαν ζῆτε καὶ ὅτι ἐν ὑμῖν οὐδεμία αἴρεσις κατοικεῖ· ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἀκούετέ τινος πλέον, ἢ περὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ λαλοῦντος ἐν ἀληθείᾳ.
6:1 And the degree to which someone sees that the bishop is silent, he should fear him more. For all overseers, whom the Lord of the house sends upon those in his own house as a manager, so also it is necessary for us to receive him as Him who sent him. Therefore it is clear that it is necessary to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself. 6:2 Therefore Onesimus himself praises you highly for you discipline in God, because you all seek according to the truth and because no faction dwells among you, but you in no way listen to someone unless speaks about Jesus Christ truthfully.
On The Translation
πάντα γάρ - What πάντα is referring to is not immediately obvious. What is a neuter plural πᾶς doing here? Contextually you would think it would refer to bishops (which is how I rendered it) but how is it doing that grammatically? I must confess that I am not at all satisfied with this.
ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἀκούετέ τινος πλέον, ἢ περὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ λαλοῦντος ἐν ἀληθείᾳ - I must admit. This one just perplexed me. After looking at an English translation it mostly made sense, but this use of ἢ threw me off, as well as the rather odd οὐδὲ...τινος πλέον. Of course, it’s not rare that Greek conjunctions throw me off. You would think they would be easy...
On the Meaning
There is little here that is not at least implicitly seen in the preceding discussion. Since the Lord appointed the bishop as overseer of his family, the family needs to treat the bishop as if he were the Lord Himself. This is why factions are not appropriate. Anyone who does not speak about Jesus Christ in truth is to be ignored. Of course what he means by this is that anyone who disagrees with the bishop is one who is to be ignored. The bishop is the standard of what is right and wrong about Jesus.
On the Implications
So we have seen a very high view of the bishopric in one the earliest Fathers. How are we to incorporate this into our own ecclesiology as 21st century Christians (if at all)? I’ve been promising a post on that, but it will have to wait for just a bit. I recently read through the Apostolic Fathers (with the exception of the Shepherd of Hermas) with a view to getting a really good idea of how the Apostolic Fathers viewed authority, including bishops, the Old Testament, the New Testament, tradition, and non-canonical writings (at least those we would consider non-canonical, since they definitely did not have a New Testament canon). I will be sharing what I found here to give you a good idea of how authority and revelation worked in the earliest church. And tomorrow we will start with the Epistle to Diognetus and his discourse on the Word.
Sorry to keep you waiting on that Baptists, Bishops, and the Bible post. I’m not avoiding it; I just need to set the stage, because I think we have something to learn from these guys. And besides, it’s my blog. I can do whatever I want!