May 17, 2022

A bishop (from Ancient Greek ἐπίσκοπος epískopos 'overseer', 'custodian', 'protector') is the holder of an office in many churches who has the spiritual and administrative direction of a particular area, which usually includes numerous local congregations. The office of bishop and also the whole of the bishops are referred to as episcopacy.

New Testament and early Christianity

The church leader – 1 Tim 3,1-7 : Appointment of suitable bishops and elders - Tit 1:5-9: The office of bishop in an early Christian church order (2nd century) – Didache 15:1-2:

Old Church

In the New Testament, the Greek words episkopos (ἐπίσκοπος, "overseer"), presbýteros (πρεσβύτερος, "elder," the root of the word "priest"), and diákonos (διάκονος, "servant") denote ministries in the church. The early Christian communities were not led by individuals, but by a group of elders, as was common in other religious communities in antiquity. If necessary, and mostly for a limited period of time, they used an epískopos or even voted them out again. Only in the course of the first centuries and depending on the degree of organization of the respective community did the office of bishop and deacon develop alongside the council of elders as permanent institutions with defined responsibilities. During this time, the so-called "monarchical episcopacy" developed gradually and at a very different regional pace, in which the bishop alone (mónos, μόνος) was finally given leadership (archía, ἀρχία), after the council of elders had proposed him and the community had confirmed him . Because the principle applied: "Whoever presides over all must be elected by all." According to current Catholic teaching, however, the monarchical episcopacy already existed in the middle of the first century, and Simon Peter was the first bishop of Rome. A monepiscopate was first documented in the second century in the writings of Ignatius of Antioch, but it was not until late antiquity that the presbyters were systematically excluded from the leadership of the community and a clear hierarchy was created. In the late 2nd and 3rd centuries, on the other hand, the bishop was mostly just the leader of a local congregation, which sometimes had fewer than 20 people, preached and led the celebration of the Eucharist. He was assisted by a board of elders and deacons. These official functions, with different names, are still present in most churches today. After the end of the apostolic age of the church, bishops became more and more established at the end of the second century, who oversaw several congregations. In such cases, presbyters, as representatives of the bishop, led the celebration of the Eucharist in the local congregations, the deacons were the bishop's collaborators at the inter-congregational level. The area of ​​such a bishop has been called a diocese (from Greek διοίκησις dioíkēsis 'administrative [district]') since the 4th century and usually included a town and the surrounding villages; the city was the episcopal seat. The Church thus took over the administrative structure of the late Roman Empire in which there were also dioceses: the ecclesiastical hierarchy (bishopric, diocese and patriarchate) partly corresponded exactly to the secular hierarchy of provinces or civitas, diocese and praetorian prefecture, even in the demarcation of the districts. She preserved them beyond the end of Roman rule. When northern and central Germany and other northern and eastern European areas beyond the Roman borders were Christianized there were no cities, so the new dioceses there became quite large rural districts. Even today the dioceses here vi