- 1 Scripture
- 2 Tradition / Church Fathers
Matt. 10:1,40 – Jesus declares to His apostles, “he who receives you, receives Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me and the One who sent Me.” Jesus freely gives His authority to the apostles in order for them to effectively convert the world.
Matt. 16:19; 18:18 – the apostles are given Christ’s authority to make visible decisions on earth that will be ratified in heaven. God raises up humanity in Christ by exalting his chosen leaders and endowing them with the authority and grace they need to bring about the conversion of all. Without a central authority in the Church, there would be chaos (as there is in Protestantism).
Luke 9:1; 10:19 – Jesus gives the apostles authority over the natural and the supernatural (diseases, demons, serpents, and scorpions).
Luke 10:16 – Jesus tells His apostles, “he who hears you, hears Me.” When we hear the bishops’ teaching on the faith, we hear Christ Himself.
Luke 22:29 – the Father gives the kingdom to the Son, and the Son gives the kingdom to the apostles. The gift is transferred from the Father to the Son to the apostles.
Num 16:28 – the Father’s authority is transferred to Moses. Moses does not speak on his own. This is a real transfer of authority.
John 5:30 – similarly, Jesus as man does nothing of His own authority, but He acts under the authority of the Father.
John 7:16-17 – Jesus as man states that His authority is not His own, but from God. He will transfer this authority to other men.
John 8:28 – Jesus says He does nothing on His own authority. Similarly, the apostles will do nothing on their own authority. Their authority comes from God.
John 12:49 – The father’s authority is transferred to the Son. The Son does not speak on his own. This is a transfer of divine authority.
John 13:20 – Jesus says, “he who receives anyone who I send, receives Me.” He who receives the apostles, receives Christ Himself. He who rejects the apostles and their successors, rejects Christ.
John 14:10 – Jesus says the Word He speaks is not His own authority, but from the Father. The gift is from the Father to Jesus to the apostles.
John 16:14-15 – what the Father has, the Son has, and the Son gives it to the apostles. The authority is not lessened or mitigated.
John 17:18; 20:21 – as the Father sends the Son, the Son sends the apostles. The apostles have divinely appointed authority.
Acts 20:28 – the apostles are shepherds and guardians appointed by the Holy Spirit / 1 Peter 2:25 – Jesus is the Shepherd and Guardian. The apostles, by the power of the Spirit, share Christ’s ministry and authority.
Jer. 23:1-8; Ezek. 34:1-10 – the shepherds must shepherd the sheep, or they will be held accountable by God.
Eph. 2:20 – the Christian faith is built upon the foundation of the apostles. The word “foundation” proves that it does not die with apostles, but carries on through succession.
Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:9,14 – the words “household,” “Bride of the Lamb,” the “new Jerusalem” are all metaphors for the Church whose foundation is the apostles.
II. Authority is Transferred by the Sacrament of Ordination
Acts 1:15-26 – the first thing Peter does after Jesus ascends into heaven is implement apostolic succession. Matthias is ordained with full apostolic authority. Only the Catholic Church can demonstrate an unbroken apostolic lineage to the apostles in union with Peter through the sacrament of ordination and thereby claim to teach with Christ’s own authority.
Acts 1:20 – a successor of Judas is chosen. The authority of his office (his “bishopric”) is respected notwithstanding his egregious sin. The necessity to have apostolic succession in order for the Church to survive was understood by all. God never said, “I’ll give you leaders with authority for about 400 years, but after the Bible is compiled, you are all on your own.”
Acts 1:22 – literally, “one must be ordained” to be a witness with us of His resurrection. Apostolic ordination is required in order to teach with Christ’s authority.
Acts 6:6 – apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination). This authority has transferred beyond the original twelve apostles as the Church has grown.
Acts 9:17-19 – even Paul, who was directly chosen by Christ, only becomes a minister after the laying on of hands by a bishop. This is a powerful proof-text for the necessity of sacramental ordination in order to be a legitimate successor of the apostles.
Acts 13:3 – apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination). This authority must come from a Catholic bishop.
Acts 14:23 – the apostles and newly-ordained men appointed elders to have authority throughout the Church.
Acts 15:22-27 – preachers of the Word must be sent by the bishops in union with the Church. We must trace this authority to the apostles.
2 Cor. 1:21-22 – Paul writes that God has commissioned certain men and sealed them with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee.
Col 1:25 – Paul calls his position a divine “office.” An office has successors. It does not terminate at death. Or it’s not an office. See also Heb. 7:23 – an office continues with another successor after the previous office-holder’s death.
1 Tim. 3:1 – Paul uses the word “episcopoi” (bishop) which requires an office. Everyone understood that Paul’s use of episcopoi and office meant it would carry on after his death by those who would succeed him.
1 Tim. 4:14 – again, apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination).
1 Tim. 5:22 – Paul urges Timothy to be careful in laying on the hands (ordaining others). The gift of authority is a reality and cannot be used indiscriminately.
2 Tim. 1:6 – Paul again reminds Timothy the unique gift of God that he received through the laying on of hands.
2 Tim. 4:1-6 – at end of Paul’s life, Paul charges Timothy with the office of his ministry . We must trace true apostolic lineage back to a Catholic bishop.
2 Tim. 2:2 – this verse shows God’s intention is to transfer authority to successors (here, Paul to Timothy to 3rd to 4th generation). It goes beyond the death of the apostles.
Titus 1:5; Luke 10:1 – the elders of the Church are appointed and hold authority. God has His children participate in Christ’s work.
1 John 4:6 – whoever knows God listens to us (the bishops and the successors to the apostles). This is the way we discern truth and error (not just by reading the Bible and interpreting it for ourselves).
Exodus 18:25-26 – Moses appoints various heads over the people of God. We see a hierarchy, a transfer of authority and succession.
Exodus 40:15 – the physical anointing shows that God intended a perpetual priesthood with an identifiable unbroken succession.
Numbers 3:3 – the sons of Aaron were formally “anointed” priests in “ordination” to minister in the priests’ “office.”
Numbers 16:40 – shows God’s intention of unbroken succession within His kingdom on earth. Unless a priest was ordained by Aaron and his descendants, he had no authority.
Numbers 27:18-20 – shows God’s intention that, through the “laying on of hands,” one is commissioned and has authority.
Deut. 34:9 – Moses laid hands upon Joshua, and because of this, Joshua was obeyed as successor, full of the spirit of wisdom.
Sirach 45:15 – Moses ordains Aaron and anoints him with oil. There is a transfer of authority through formal ordination.
III. Jesus Wants Us to Obey Apostolic Authority
Acts 5:13 – the people acknowledged the apostles’ special authority and did not dare take it upon themselves.
Acts 15:6,24; 16:4 – the teaching authority is granted to the apostles and their successors. This teaching authority must be traced to the original apostles, or the authority is not sanctioned by Christ.
Rom. 15:16 – Paul says he is a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable. This refers to the ministerial priesthood of the ordained which is distinguishable from the universal priesthood of the laity. Notice the Gentiles are the “sacrifice” and Paul does the “offering.”
1 Cor. 5:3-5; 16:22; 1 Tim. 1:20; Gal 1:8; Matt 18:17 – these verses show the authority of the elders to excommunicate / anathemize (“deliver to satan”).
2 Cor. 2:17 – Paul says the elders are not just random peddlers of God’s word. They are actually commissioned by God. It is not self-appointed authority.
2 Cor. 3:6 – Paul says that certain men have been qualified by God to be ministers of a New Covenant. This refers to the ministerial priesthood of Christ handed down the ages through sacramental ordination.
2 Cor. 5:20 – Paul says we are “ambassadors” for Christ. This means that the apostles and their successors share an actual participation in Christ’s mission, which includes healing, forgiving sins, and confecting the sacraments.
2 Cor. 10:6 – in reference to the ordained, Paul says that they are ready to punish every disobedience. The Church has the authority excommunicate those who disobey her.
2 Cor. 10:8 – Paul acknowledges his authority over God’s people which the Lord gave to build up the Church.
1 Thess. 5:12-13 – Paul charges the members of the Church to respect those who have authority over them.
2 Thess. 3:14 – Paul says if a person does not obey what he has provided in his letter, have nothing to do with him.
1 Tim. 5:17 – Paul charges the members of the Church to honor the appointed elders (“priests”) of the Church.
Titus 2:15 – Paul charges Timothy to exhort and reprove with all authority, which he received by the laying on of hands.
Heb. 12:9 – in the context of spiritual discipline, the author says we have had earthly fathers (referring to the ordained leaders) to discipline us and we respected them.
Heb. 13:7,17 – Paul charges the members of the Church to remember and obey their leaders who have authority over their souls.
1 Peter 2:18 – Peter charges the servants to be submissive to their masters whether kind and gentle or overbearing.
1 Peter 5:5; Jude 8 – Peter and Jude charge the members of the Church to be subject to their elders.
2 Peter 2:10 – Peter warns the faithful about despising authority. He is referring to the apostolic authority granted to them by Christ.
3 John 9 – John points out that Diotrephes does not acknowledge John’s apostolic authority and declares that this is evil.
Deut. 17:10-13 – the Lord commands His faithful Israel to obey the priests that He puts in charge, and do to all that they direct and instruct. The Lord warns that those who do not obey His priests shall die.
Num. 16:1-35 – Korah incited a “protestant” rebellion against God’s chosen Moses in an effort to confuse the distinction between the ministerial and universal offices of priesthood, and Korah and his followers perished. (This effort to blind the distinctions between the priests and the laity is still pursued by dissidents today.)
Sirach 7:29-30 – with all your soul fear the Lord and honor His priests, love your Maker and do not forsake His ministers. God is not threatened by the authority He gives His children! God, as our Loving Father, invites us to participate in His plan of salvation with His Son Jesus. Without authority in the Church, there is error, chaos and confusion.
Tradition / Church Fathers
I. The Church Has Apostolic Succession
“And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture a certain place, ‘I will appoint their bishops s in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.’… Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry…For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties.” Pope Clement, Epistle to Corinthians, 42, 44 (A.D. 98).
“For what is the bishop but one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority, so far as it is possible for a man to possess it, who according to his ability has been made an imitator of the Christ off God? And what is the presbytery but a sacred assembly, the counselors and assessors of the bishop? And what are the deacons but imitators of the angelic powers, fulfilling a pure and blameless ministry unto him, as…Anencletus and Clement to Peter?” Ignatius, To the Trallians, 7 (A.D. 110).
“Hegesippus in the five books of Memoirs which have come down to us has left a most complete record of his own views. In them he states that on a journey to Rome he met a great many bishops, and that he received the same doctrine from all. It is fitting to hear what he says after making some remarks about the epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. His words are as follows: ‘And the church of Corinth continued in the true faith until Primus was bishop in Corinth. I conversed with them on my way to Rome, and abode with the Corinthians many days, during which we were mutually refreshed in the true doctrine. And when I had come to Rome I remained a there until Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And Anicetus was succeeded by Soter, and he by Eleutherus. In every succession, and in every city that is held which is preached by the law and the prophets and the Lord.'” Hegesippus, Memoirs, fragment in Eusebius Ecclesiatical History, 4:22 (A.D. 180).
“True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God].” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4:33:8 (A.D. 180).
“But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst Of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,–a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. …To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine…Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith.” Tertullian, Prescription against the Heretics, 33 (A.D. 200).
“And that you may still be more confident, that repenting thus truly there remains for you a sure hope of salvation, listen to a tale? Which is not a tale but a narrative, handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit.” Clement of Alexandria, Who is the rich man that shall be save?, 42 (A.D. 210).
“We are not to credit these men, nor go out from the first and the ecclesiastical tradition; nor to believe otherwise than as the churches of God have by succession transmitted to us.” Origen, Commentary on Matthew (post A.D. 244).
“Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: ‘I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers.” Cyprian, To the Lapsed, 1 (A.D. 250).
“Therefore the power of remitting sins was given to the apostles, and to the churches which they, sent by Christ, established, and to the bishops who succeeded to them by vicarious ordination.” Firmilian, To Cyprian, Epistle 75:16 (A.D. 256).
“It is my purpose to write an account of the successions of the holy apostles, as well as of the times which have elapsed from the days of our Saviour to our own; and to relate the many important events which are said to have occurred in the history of the Church; and to mention those who have governed and presided over the Church in the most prominent parishes, and those who in each generation have proclaimed the divine word either orally or in writing… When Nero was in the eighth year of his reign, Annianus succeeded Mark the evangelist in the administration of the parish of Alexandria…Linus …was Peter’s successor in the episcopate of the church there…Clement also, who was appointed third bishop of the church at Rome.” Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History,1:1,2:24, (A.D. 325).
“Lo! In these three successions, as in a mystery and a figure … Under the three pastors,–there were manifold shepherds” Ephraem, Nisbene Hymns, The Bishops of Nisibis (Jacob, Babu, Valgesh), 13,14 (A.D. 350).
“[W]hile before your election you lived to yourself, after it, you live for your flock. And before you had received the grace of the episcopate, no one knew you; but after you became one, the laity expect you to bring them food, namely instruction from the Scriptures … For if all were of the same mind as your present advisers, how would you have become a Christian, since there would be no bishops? Or if our successors are to inherit this state of mind, how will the Churches be able to hold together?” Athanasius, To Dracontius, Epistle 49 (A.D. 355).
“[B]elieve as we believe, we, who are, by succession from the blessed apostles, bishops; confess as we and they have confessed, the only Son of God, and thus shalt thou obtain forgiveness for thy numerous crimes.” Lucifer of Calaris, On St. Athanasius (A.D. 361).
“[W]e shall not recede from the faith … as once laid it continues even to this say, through the tradition of the fathers, according to the succession from the apostles, even to the discussion had at Nicea against the heresy which had, at that period, sprung up.” Hilary of Poitiers, History Fragment 7 (ante A.D. 367).
“[D]uring the days of that Anicetus, bishop of Rome, who succeeded Pius and his predecessors, For, in Rome, Peter and Paul were the first both apostles and bishops; then came Linus, then Cletus … However the succession of the bishops in Rome was in the following order. Peter and Paul, and Cletus, Clement…” Epiphanius, Panarion, 27:6 (A.D. 377).
“He [St. Athanasius] is led up to the throne of Saint Mark, to succeed him in piety, no less than in office; in the latter indeed at a great distance from him, in the former, which is the genuine right of succession, following him closely. For unity in doctrine deserves unity in office; and a rival teacher sets up a rival throne; the one is a successor in reality, the other but in name. For it is not the intruder, but he whose rights are intruded upon, who is the successor, not the lawbreaker, but the lawfully appointed, not the man of contrary opinions, but the man of the same faith; if this is not what we mean by successor, he succeeds in the same sense as disease to health, darkness to light, storm to calm, and frenzy to sound sense.” Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 21:8 (A.D. 380).
“For they [Novatians] have not the succession of Peter, who hold not the chair of Peter, which they rend by wicked schism; and this, too, they do, wickedly denying that sins can be forgiven even in the Church, whereas it was said to Peter: ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.'” Ambrose, Concerning Repentance, 7:33 (A.D. 384).
“It has been ordained by the apostles and their successors, that nothing be read in the Catholic Church, except the law, and the prophets, and the Gospels.” Philastrius of Brescia, On Heresies (ante A.D. 387).
“If the lineal succession of bishops is to be considered with how much more benefit to the Church do we reckon from Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it!’ For to Peter succeeded Linus, Clement…Damsus, Sircius, Anastasius. In this order of succession no Donatist bishop is too be found.” Augustine, To Generosus, Epistle 53:2 (A.D. 400).
“Let a bishop be ordained by three or two bishops; but if any one be ordained by one bishop, let him be deprived, both himself and he that ordained him. But if there be a necessity that he have only one to ordain him, because more bishops cannot come together, as in time of persecution, or for such like causes, let him bring the suffrage of permission from more bishops.” Apostolic Constitutions, 8:27 (A.D. 400).
“For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: ‘Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it !’ The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these: — Clement, Anacletus, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Iginus, Anicetus, Pius, Soter, Eleutherius, Victor, Zephirinus, Calixtus, Urbanus, Pontianus, Antherus, Fabianus, Cornelius, Lucius, Stephanus, Xystus, Dionysius, Felix, Eutychianus, Gaius, Marcellinus, Marcellus, Eusebius, Miltiades, Sylvester, Marcus, Julius, Liberius, Damasus, and Siricius, whose successor is the present Bishop Anastasius. In this order of succession no Donatist bishop is found. But, reversing the natural course of things, the Donatists sent to Rome from Africa an ordained bishop, who, putting himself at the head of a few Africans in the great metropolis, gave some notoriety to the name of “mountain men,” or Cutzupits, by which they were known.” Augustine, To Generosus, Epistle 53:2 (A.D. 400).
“‘To the fellow-Bishops and Deacons.” What is this? Were there several Bishops of one city? Certainly not; but he called the Presbyters so. For then they still interchanged the titles, and the Bishop was called a Deacon. For this cause in writing to Timothy, he said, “Fulfill thy ministry,’ when he was a Bishop. For that he was a Bishop appears by his saying to him, ‘Lay hands hastily on no man.’ (1 Tim. v. 22.) And again, ‘Which was given thee with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery.’ (1 Tim. iv. 14.) Yet Presbyters would not have laid hands on a Bishop. And again, in writing to Titus, he says, ‘For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest appoint elders in every city, as I gave thee charge. If any man is blameless, the husband of one wife’ (Tit. i. 5, 6); which he says of the Bishop. And after saying this, he adds immediately, ‘For the Bishop must be blameless, as God’s steward, not self willed:’ (Tit. i. 7.)” John Chrysostom, Homilies on Phillipians, 1:1 (A.D. 404).
“And to Timothy he says: ‘Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.’… For even at Alexandria from the time of Mark the Evangelist until the episcopates of Heraclas and Dionysius the presbyters always named as bishop one of their own number chosen by themselves and set in a more exalted position, just as an army elects a general, or as deacons appoint one of themselves whom they know to be diligent and call him archdeacon. For what function excepting ordination, belongs to a bishop that does not also belong to a presbyter? It is not the case that there is one church at Rome and another in all the world beside. Gaul and Britain, Africa and Persia, India and the East worship one Christ and observe one rule of truth. If you ask for authority, the world outweighs its capital. Wherever there is a bishop, whether it be at Rome or at Engubium, whether it be at Constantinople or at Rhegium, whether it be at Alexandria or at Zoan, his dignity is one and his priesthood is one. Neither the command of wealth nor the lowliness of poverty makes him more a bishop or less a bishop. All alike are successors of the apostles.” Jerome, To Evangelus, Epistle 146:1 (ante A.D. 420).
“We must strive therefore in common to keep the faith which has come down to us to-day, through the Apostolic Succession.” Pope Celestine [regn A.D. 422-432], To the Council of Ephesus, Epistle 18 (A.D. 431).
“Examples there are without number: but to be brief, we will take one, and that, in preference to others, from the Apostolic See, so that it may be clearer than day to every one with how great energy, with how great zeal, with how great earnestness, the blessed successors of the blessed apostles have constantly defended the integrity of the religion which they have once received.” Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith 6:15 (A.D. 434).
“Moreover, with respect to a certain bishop who, as the aforesaid magnificent men have told us, is prevented by infirmity of the head from administering his office, we have written to our brother and fellow-bishop Etherius, that if he should have intervals of freedom from this infirmity, he should make petition, declaring that he is not competent to fill his own place, and requesting that another be ordained to his Church. For during the life of a bishop, whom not his own fault but sickness, withdraws from the administration of his office, the sacred canons by no means allow another to be ordained in his place. But, if he at no time recovers the exercise of a sound mind, a person should be sought adorned with good life and conversation, who may be able both to take charge of souls, and look with salutary control after the causes and interests of the same church; and he should be such as may succeed to the bishop’s place in case of his surviving him. But, if there are any to be promoted to a sacred order, or to any clerical ministry, we have ordained that the matter is to be reserved and announced to our aforesaid most reverend brother Etherius, provided it belong to his diocese, so that, enquiry having then been made, if the persons are subject to no fault which the sacred canons denounce, he himself may ordain them. Pope Gregory the Great [regn. A.D. 590-604], Epistle 6 (A.D. 602).
II. Authority is Transferred by the Sacrament of Ordination
“Since therefore I have, in the persons before mentioned, beheld the whole multitude of you in faith and love, I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end was revealed…Let nothing exist among you that may divide you ; but be ye united with your bishop, and those that preside over you, as a type and evidence of your immortality.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians, 6 (c. A.D. 110).
“For, since ye are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, ye appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, ye may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as ye indeed do, so without the bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Trallians, 2 (c. A.D. 110).
“And do ye also reverence your bishop as Christ Himself, according as the blessed apostles have enjoined you. He that is within the altar is pure, wherefore also he is obedient to the bishop and presbyters: but he that is without is one that does anything apart from the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons. Such a person is defiled in his conscience, and is worse than an infidel. For what is the bishop but one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority, so far as it is possible for a man to possess it, who according to his ability has been made an imitator of the Christ Of God? And what is the presbytery but a sacred assembly, the counselors and assessors of the bishop? And what are the deacons but imitators of the angelic powers, fulfilling a pure and blameless ministry unto him, as the holy Stephen did to the blessed James, Timothy and Linus to Paul, Anencletus and Clement to Peter? He, therefore, that will not yield obedience to such, must needs be one utterly without God, an impious man who despises Christ, and depreciates His appointments.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Trallians, 7 (c. A.D. 110).
“I must not omit an account of the conduct also of the heretics–how frivolous it is, how worldly, how merely human, without seriousness, without authority, without discipline, as suits their creed…At one time they put novices in office; at another time, men who are bound to some secular employment; at another, persons who have apostatized from us, to bind them by vainglory, since they cannot by the truth. Nowhere is promotion easier than in the camp of rebels, where the mere fact of being there is a foremost service. And so it comes to pass that today one man is their bishop, to-morrow another; to-day he is a deacon who to-morrow is a reader; to-day he is a presbyter who tomorrow is a layman. For even on laymen do they impose the functions of priesthood.” Tertullian, On Prescription Against Heretics, 41 (c. A.D. 200).
“Since, according to my opinion, the grades here in the Church, of bishops, presbyters, deacons, are imitations of the angelic glory, and of that economy which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who, following the footsteps of the apostles, have lived in perfection of righteousness according to the Gospel. For these taken up in the clouds, the apostle writes, will first minister [as deacons], then be classed in the presbyterate, by promotion in glory (for glory differs from glory) till they grow into ‘a perfect man.'” Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 13 (A.D. 202).
“And that you may be still more confident, that repenting thus truly there remains for you a sure hope of salvation, listen to a tale? Which is not a tale but a narrative, handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit. Having come to one of the cities not far off (the name of which some give), and having put the brethren to rest in other matters, at last, looking to the bishop appointed, and seeing a youth, powerful in body, comely in appearance, and ardent, said, ‘This (youth) I commit to you in all earnestness, in the presence of the Church, and with Christ as witness.’ And on his accepting and promising all, he gave the same injunction and testimony.” Clement of Alexandria, Who is the rich man that shall be saved?, 42 (A.D. 210).
“…these from the Presbyters and Deacons of the Mareotis, a home of the Catholic Church which is under the most Reverend Bishop Athanasius, we address this testimony by those whose names are underwritten:–Whereas Theognius, Maris, Macedonius, Theodorus, Ursacius, and Valens, as if sent by all the Bishops who assembled at Tyre, came into our Diocese alleging that they had received orders to investigate certain ecclesiastical affairs, among which they spoke of the breaking of a cup of the Lord, of which information was given them by Ischyras, whom they brought with them, and who says that he is a Presbyter, although he is not,-for he was ordained by the Presbyter Colluthus who pretended to the Episcopate… For neither is he a Presbyter of the Catholic Church nor does he possess a church, nor has a cup ever been broken, but the whole story is false and an invention.” Athanasius, Defence Against the Arians, 76 (A.D. 347).
“The Cathari are schismatics; but it seemed good to the ancient authorities, I mean Cyprian and our own Firmilianus, to reject all these, Cathari, Encratites, and Hydroparastatae, by one common condemnation, because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken. The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain. And therefore those who were from time to time baptized by them, were ordered, as though baptized by laymen, to come to the church to be purified by the Church’s true baptism. Nevertheless, since it has seemed to some of those of Asia that, for the sake of management of the majority, their baptism should be accepted, let it be accepted. We must, however, perceive the iniquitous action of the Encratites…” Basil, To Amphilochius, Epistle 188:1 (A.D. 347).
“I may not sit in the presence of a presbyter; he, if I sin, may deliver me to Satan, ‘for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved.’ Under the old law he who disobeyed the priests was put outside the camp and stoned by the people, or else he was beheaded and expiated his contempt with his blood. But now the disobedient person is cut down with the spiritual sword, or he is expelled from the church and torn to pieces by ravening demons. Should the entreaties of your brethren induce you to take orders, I shall rejoice that you are lifted up, and fear lest you may be cast down. You will say: ‘If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.’ I know that; but you should add what follows: such an one “must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, chaste, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach, not given to wine, no striker but patient.’ After fully explaining the qualifications of a bishop the apostle speaks of ministers of the third degree with equal care.” Jerome, To Heliodorus, Epistle 14:8 (A.D. 379).
“The bread again is at first common bread, but when the sacramental action consecrates it, it is called, and becomes, the Body of Christ. So with the sacramental oil; so with the wine: though before the benediction they are of little value, each of them, after the sanctification bestowed by the Spirit, has its several operations. The same power of the word, again, also makes the priest venerable and honourable, separated, by the new blessing bestowed upon him, from his community with the mass of men. While but yesterday he was one of the mass, one of the people, he is suddenly rendered a guide, a president, a teacher of righteousness, an instructor in hidden mysteries; and this he does without being at all changed in body or in form; but, while continuing to be in all appearance the man he was before, being, by some unseen power and grace, transformed in respect of his unseen soul to the higher condition.” Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ (ante A.D. 394).
“In like manner as if there take place an ordination of clergy in order to form a congregation of people, although the congregation of people follow not, yet there remains in the ordained persons the Sacrament of Ordination; and if, for any fault, any be removed from his office, he will not be without the Sacrament of the Lord once for all set upon him, albeit continuing unto condemnation.” Augustine, On the Good of Marriage, 24:32 (A.D. 401).
“When a priest is ordained, while the bishop is blessing [him] and holding his hands over his head, let all the priests also, who are present, hold their hands close to the hands of the bishop above his head.” Council of Chalcedon, Canon 3 (A.D. 451).
“As often as God’s mercy deigns to bring round the day of His gifts to us, there is, dearly-beloved, just and reasonable cause for rejoicing, if only our appointment to the office be referred to the praise of Him who gave it. For though this recognition of God may well be found in all His priests, yet I take it to be peculiarly binding on me, who, regarding my own utter insignificance and the greatness of the office undertaken, ought myself also to utter that exclamation of the Prophet, ‘Lord, I heard Thy speech and was afraid: I considered Thy works and was dismayed.’…And finally, now that the mystery of this Divine priesthood has descended to human agency, it runs not by the line of birth, nor is that which flesh and blood created, chosen, but without regard to the privilege of paternity and succession by inheritance, those men are received by the Church as its rulers whom the Holy Ghost prepares: so that in the people of God’s adoption, the whole body of which is priestly and royal, it is not the prerogative of earthly origin which obtains the unction, but the condescension of Divine grace which creates the bishop.” Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D. 440-461], Sermons, 3:1 (ante A.D. 461).