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'''''Presbyter''''' is, in the [[Bible]], a synonym for ''[[bishop]]'' (''episkopos''), referring to a leader in local Church congregations. In modern usage, it is distinct from ''bishop'' and synonymous with '''''priest'''''. Its literal meaning in Greek (''presbyteros'') is "elder."
== History ==
The earliest organization of the [[Christian]] churches in Palestine was similar to that of [[Judaism|Jewish]] [[synagogue]]s, who were governed by a council of elders (''presbyteroi''). In [[Acts of the Apostles|Acts]] 11:30 and 15:22, we see this collegiate system of government in Jerusalem, and in Acts 14:23, the [[Apostle Paul]] ordains elders in the churches he founded. Initially, these '''presbyters''' were apparently identical with the '''overseers''' (''episkopoi'', i.e., [[bishop]]s), as such passages as Acts 20:17 and [[Book of Titus|Titus]] 1:5,7 indicate, and the terms were interchangeable.
Shortly after the [[New Testament]] period, with the death of the [[Apostles]], there was a differentiation in the usage of the synonymous terms, giving rise to the appearance of two distinct offices, '''[[bishop]]''' and '''presbyter'''. The bishop was understood mainly as the president of the council of presbyters, and so the bishop came to be distinguished both in honor and in prerogative from the presbyters, who were seen as deriving their authority by means of delegation from the bishop. The distinction between presbyter and bishop is made fairly soon after the Apostolic period, as is seen in the 2nd century writings of St. [[Ignatius of Antioch]], who uses the terms consistently and clearly to refer to two different offices (along with ''[[deacon]]'').
Initially, each local congregation in the Church had its own bishop. Eventually, as the Church grew, individual congregations no longer were served directly by a bishop. The bishop in a large city would appoint a presbyter to pastor the flock in each congregation, acting as his delegate.
== Modern usage ==
The [[Orthodox Church]] often refers to presbyters in English as ''priests'' (''priest'' is etymologically derived from the Greek ''presbyteros'' via the Latin ''presbyter''). This usage is seen by some Protestant Christians as stripping the [[laity]] of its rightful priestly status, while those who use the term defend its usage by saying that, while they do believe in the ''priesthood'' of all believers, they do not believe in the ''eldership'' of all believers.
Presbyters are often referred to as ''Father'' (Fr.), though that is not an official title. Rather, it is a term of affection used by Christians for their [[ordination|ordained]] elders. In this context, a priest's first name is generally used after the word ''Father''.
Priests are often styled as ''the Reverend'' (Rev.) and therefore referred to as ''the Reverend Father'' (Rev. Fr.). Higher in bestowed honor and responsibility, [[Archpriest]]s and [[Protopresbyter]]s are styled as ''the Very Reverend'' (V. Rev.), while [[Archimandrite]]s can be styled as ''the Very Reverend'' (V. Rev.) or as ''the Right Reverend'' (Rt. Rev.). It is also appropriate and traditional to refer to a clergyman as "the Priest ''Name''" or "Archpriest ''Name''". This latter practice is especially prominent in Churches with Slavic roots, such as the [[Church of Russia]] or the [[Orthodox Church in America]].
[[Monastic]]s who are ordained to the priesthood are known as ''priest-monks'' or ''hieromonks''.
== Sources ==
*Liddell & Scott, ''An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon'', pp. 301, 668
*''The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary'', p. 2297
*''The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed.)'', p. 1322
*[http://www.saintelias.com/EtiquetteKK/Greetings/Greetings_elia.html Church etiquette (Ukrainian tradition)] (including how to greet a priest or bishop)
*[http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/clergy_etiquette.aspx Clergy Etiquette]
*[[w:Priest|Priest]] on Wikipedia
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