LEADERSHIP IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
(In the following document, click on the note numbers in the text to reach the appropriate note. In the note section, click on the number of the note to reach the appropriate point in the text. Thank you. JES.)
This article takes issue with the widely accepted view that leadership in the New Testament church evolved from a loose charismatic form into a more structured form. It seeks to demonstrate this thesis firstly by drawing attention to indications that more formal authority existed at an earlier stage than is often accepted, and secondly by demonstrating that both charismatic and formal authority can co-exist. It is argued that the church of the first century adopted automatically the authority structures common in their environment, especially those of the synagogue, but allowed for the modification of these structures by the inbreaking of the charismatic Spirit. The conclusion is that the actual form of church order in the first century was largely a matter of contingent expediency, but the combining of formal order and charismatic power was an important principle.
LEADERSHIP IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The subject of how leadership was exercised in the churches of New Testament times is something of a minefield, if not at times a war zone1. Theologians and biblical critics have weighed in with greater than usual engagement, barely concealing their presuppositions and indeed prejudices2. Much of the problem has been due to the terms of the debate. Articles and books on this theme have typically been called something like 'Charism and Office'. The early debate between Sohm and Harnack has exercised a brooding influence over all discussion since, to the point where almost all contributors have accepted a polarisation between these two concepts3. However this leads to the problem of definition. Different contributors to the debate have different definitions of both 'charism' and 'office'. Brockhaus offers a sort of 'lowest common denominator' definition: 'As for office, the following would seem to be constitutive:
1. the element of duration
2. the element of recognition by the local church (an indicator for both duration and recognition would be a firm job description for the office)
3. the special position of the individual over against the congregation (authority, prestige)
4. an orderly commission (laying-on-of-hands)
5. the legal element, the legal securing of the function' 4.
If one were to work with this definition, one would have difficulty finding office-bearers in the New Testament, if only because it would be difficult to demonstrate the fifth element of the above definition. Certainly in our period the state had no interest in regulating the church and it is doubtful whether we can, at this stage, talk of canon law in any meaningful sense. There again, Dibelius and others have denied that the proistamenoi in 1 Thess. 5: 12 were office-holders, claiming their work was a 'freewill special service' or that these people are unpaid workers (freiwillige Kräfte)5. This kind of distinction ignores the fact that many churches rely on the freewill and part-time services of their members, but many of those members hold thereby a very definite position in the authority structure of the church. The denomination known as the Christian Brethren typically do no have paid full-time ministers, but their elders typically have more control over what happens in their congregation than many a bishop has over anyone. For these reasons, I prefer to talk about leadership. Leadership exists wherever anyone 'takes a lead' in community affairs; wherever any member of a community or grouping within a community has any power, authority, or influence; and whenever anyone or any group has a regular lasting role or function within the community or church.
Another factor which has somewhat skewed the debate is the influence, since the early years of the twentieth century, of the views of sociologist Max Weber. Weber distinguishes between three different types of authority: 'rational' authority which relies on the legal process and a technically skilled bureaucracy, 'traditional' authority which rests on the regularised belief in the sanctity of eternally valid traditions which themselves impart authority, and 'charismatic' authority which rests on the 'extra-ordinary' appeal to the holiness or the heroic or exemplary qualities of a person6. The scholarly consensus has largely embraced these views, suggesting that in the development of the church from the primitive post-Pentecost community through Paul to the situation reflected in the Pastoral letters we can see a development from a pure 'charismatic' community to a situation where there is the beginning of structure, to the position reflected in the Pastoral epistles where the 'charisma' is becoming 'routinised' and a structure based on 'rational' authority is developing. The process is near enough complete by the time of Ignatius, by which time the three-fold order is in place and the monarchical bishop is in control. This scenario is, however, subject to a number of criticisms:
1. The proposal of a 'pure charismatic community' actually contradicts common sense. Käsemann waxes eloquent here: 'Even the apostle is, as Paul is always emphasizing, only one charismatic among many, though he may be the most important....The Apostle's theory of order is not a static one, resting on offices, institutions, ranks, and dignitaries; in his view, authority resides only in the concrete act of ministry as it occurs'.7 No human society has ever run on those lines. In any group of people, left alone for an hour or more, a leader/leaders will emerge. The effective leadership of a group cannot wait until someone is 'inspired' to a concrete act of leadership. The group soon recognises who has the enduring charisma of leadership and recognises that. Those people are then the leaders. Käsemann's list of 'offices, institutions, ranks, and dignitaries' does appear to come from another era in Church History, but one must not thereby be blinded to the fact that even very early in the church's history there must have been someone who was in charge on a permanent basis, and whose authority was acknowledged by all. Neither should New Testament exhortations to humility blind us to the rather obvious correlative fact that there were some in the church who were in a position where they could have been tempted to arrogance. Nor should we fail to observe that when leaders are exhorted to exercise their leadership in an attitude of humble service, the obvious implication is that there are leaders
2. Weber's 'charismatic authority' was most typically exercised by an individual figure, with perhaps a group of disciples. The idea of a 'charismatic community' outside the physical presence of the charismatic founder would appear to be a distortion of Weber's theory. If we take Weber's theory seriously, the charisma is being seriously routinised even by the time of Paul.
3. Weber's theories have been steadily called into question by sociologists of more recent days, and also by biblical scholars. Interestingly, however, it is mainly Old Testament scholars that have taken this up. Weber concerned himself with the application of his theories to the history of Israel and it is scholars researching in that area who have challenged his insights. For example, Rodney Hutton writing on Charisma and Authority in Israelite society suggests that 'charismatic authority' is not entirely marginal to society but has a place within traditional and even rational society. He suggests that the charismatic has a role in recalling a society to its value systems and symbolic universe, and that rational and traditional authorities (in the ancient world at any rate) made provision for the charismatic voice to be heard. The prophets' voice would not have been heard if the social conventions of the time had not obliged the king to listen to the prophet and not to kill him. The king himself needed the prophet to legitimatize him by pronouncing an oracle at his enthronement. Priests gave oracles in the context of worship, and some prophets were on the temple staff. Maybe even the charismatic figures in Judges were only able to achieve their notable feats because the social conventions of the time made room for them8. This suggests that there has probably never been a 'pure charismatic' society, but that all healthy societies are the result of charismatic and rational/traditional authorities living together in a symbiotic relationship.
4. The New Testament texts show evidence of the existence of more formal authority than the scholarly consensus would allow. And to this we turn
1. Indications of formal authority
The scholarly consensus, as we have seen, sees the Pauline church as the apogée of the New Testament church. Paul's letters are the oldest New Testament documents we have9, and so surely there we will find the most primitive concept of what it meant to be church. Actually, this is not necessarily so. The Gospels and Acts may have been written later, but could well have preserved traditional elements older than Paul. However, there is little recognition of this fact in our field of debate, so let us begin with Paul.
Even beginning with Paul, however, we find traces of lasting ministry. It may be hidden away, but it is there - particularly in the little phrases which begin and end letters and in the closing greetings. Paul writing to the Thessalonians speaks of 'those who work hard among you and are over you and admonish you". Here Paul seems very clearly to be referring to some believers who are 'more equal than others' and who appear to have a continuing ministry of leadership. There is much debate on the meaning of this phrase (especially the central element) in the commentaries. The question is whether proistamenous means 'those who are over you' or 'those who look after you'. 1 Tim. 3: 4-5,12; 5: 17 seem to reflect the former meaning, and Titus 3: 8,14 the latter. However, some of these instances seem to be ambiguous. B. Reicke in his article in TDNT on proisthmi has demonstrated that the word was commonly used in an ambiguous manner in profane Greek usage. On this basis, Brockhaus10 has argued persuasively that both meanings must be in view, so that the word implies 'a caring authority or an authoritative care' (eine fürsorgende Autorität oder eine autoritative Fürsorge). This makes sense. Those in leadership in the ancient world were perceived to have a duty of care to those they led. Even the king was seen as a father to his people, and a father in the ancient world combined a very real authority with a caring role. How much more would this be expected of those who took the lead in the Christian church! Admittedly it must be questionable, in view of the fact that this letter must have been written to the Thessalonian church within a matter of months of its founding, whether there had been sufficient time for the church to have developed a fixed order of ministry. We see no highly developed form of church order here, but it is difficult to conceive of 'caring authority or authoritative care' as a series of ad hoc actions immediately inspired by the Holy Spirit. It would appear, on the contrary, that the fledgling community had found its leaders, or maybe Paul had appointed them. The practical difference would be minimal because he would presumably appoint those among the converted who appeared to be the natural leaders (though he might have said they were the ones who had the necessary charism), and that their leadership was more than temporary. The word proistamenos in Rom. 12: 8 is to be interpreted in the same way, coming as it does between the ministries of giving and almsgiving in Paul's list in that chapter.
Another reference to leadership in the undisputed letters of Paul is the reference to the household of Stephanas. In 1 Cor. 16, Paul says:
'Now, brothers and sisters, you know that members of the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; I urge you to put yourselves at the service of such people, and of everyone who works and toils with them'.
'First converts' represents the word aparxh ('first fruits') which undoubtedly means that they were among the first converts from the province of Achaia, even if a few other believers may have been converted a few weeks earlier11. Paul urges the Corinthian Christians to put themselves at the service of these people, and this for more than a limited period of time. Paul had raised many issues with the church at Corinth. They were divided on many things, and needed setting right. Paul could not always be around, so he is telling the Corinthians that Stephanas' household are the kind of people who are on the right lines and that it is their lead they should follow. These people have worked hard and showed that they care for the believers in Corinth and have also demonstrated they have the gift of leadership. Dunn12 argues that these people had appointed themselves, and were not appointed by Paul. That may have been true initially, but 1 Cor. 16: 16 constitutes their apostolic appointment: 'I urge you to put yourselves at the service of such people'. We should not be misled by the absence of later forms of official appointment into thinking that official appointment never happened. It may well have happened in different ways13. Certainly, these people showed their giftedness first and this was recognised by the church afterwards, but this is the way leaders were commonly appointed in the early church. This does not mean their authority was any less real.
It may be in this context that we should understand the references to antilhmpseis (helping) and kubernhseis (administration) in 1 Cor. 12: 28. Kubernhseis implies the role of a 'steersman' on a ship. He leads, guides, but also has to take care of those on board. Plato uses this image of a statesman (Politeia VI, see W. Beyer, art kubernhsis TDNT), so the combination of authority and care are present in this word. Antilhmpseis refers to gifts of practical service which will be discussed further below, but which certainly include helping the needy. Maybe these are the Corinthian equivalents of the 'bishops and deacons' in Philippians: people who administered the community, guiding it away from rocks and shallows, and who were prepared to do practical acts of service and care for the needy. Maybe not the full-blown offices which would share the names of 'bishop' and 'deacon' in the second century, but the early forms of such office.
The overarching (human) authority in the Pauline correspondence is, of course, Paul himself. The fact that his authority is questioned in 2 Corinthians should not lead us to underestimate how great his power was in actuality. No-one questions the authority of someone who has no authority. It is only when someone has a position of some power that anyone would wish to challenge them - maybe someone wants that power for themselves, or maybe the authority figure is using their power in a way that cuts across another person's vision or their perceived rights. The fact that Paul's authority is questioned in 1 Corinthians should not blind us to the fact that somebody bothered to report to him and ask his view of the matter. Had Paul's view not counted for something, no-one would have bothered him: had his view not largely prevailed we would probably not be reading his letters today. Paul may flatter his readers occasionally. He may at times have shown great humility in exercising his leadership. If one wished to be cynical, one could say it was all good management style. But the reader is not left in any doubt that when Paul says: 'I think that I have the Spirit of God, too' (1 Cor. 7: 40) that there is to be no further questioning, at least not in the sphere of his influence. He appears to consider the churches he founded to be his sphere of authority (1 Cor. 9: 2), but that does not stop him writing letters to churches he had not founded (e.g. Rome), even though he expresses himself more tentatively in that letter. Perhaps the main reason we hear so little of authority figures in the Pauline correspondence is that they all pale into (near) insignificance alongside the gigantic charismatic presence of Paul himself
There are further hints of positions of authority in the listing of apostles, prophets, and teachers as first, second, and third in 1 Cor. 12: 28. The naming of factions in the Corinthian church after known apostles such as Peter and Paul, the arguments about Paul's apostleship in 1 Cor. 9 and the tension between Paul and the 'super apostles' of 2 Corinthians show how important this category of persons were in the church. Questions may well be asked about a person's eligibility to claim to be an apostle, but there was no doubt that if a person's claim were valid, their influence and authority was considerable. There are indications in Gal. 2: 9 and 1 Cor. 9: 2 that there were territorial limits on an apostles authority, but the existence of a 'Peter' party at Corinth suggests he (or his co-workers) visited there and Paul writes a letter to Rome (which was not of his founding), so it would appear these territorial limits were more of an ideal than an actuality. It could be that they are no more than Pauline wishful thinking!
James and the elders at Jerusalem also cast a long shadow over the New Testament church picture. The evidence for this comes not only from Acts, but also from the first two chapters of Galatians, and the Pauline project of the collection for the Jerusalem churches suggests something like the synagogoue contributions to Jerusalem. Certainly a concern is being expressed to bind the Gentile mission to the Jerusalem church in a way which leads one to suppose the latter was held in greater honour, if not in charge.
'Prophets' appear to have a regular role in Christian worship, probably in terms of pastoral preaching14, and teachers had the task of teaching and interpreting the Scriptures (i.e the Jewish Scriptures), handing on and interpreting the Jesus tradition with the help of such oral tradition and such documents as they had to hand, and also the reading of and exposition of correspondence from Paul and any other authoritative figures they had in their possession15.
Finally, there is mention in Acts and the Pastoral Letters of 'elders'. This appears to be a development of the synagogue form of government16 and to have been present from the start, though often appearing under other names, in line with a noted Jewish tendency to vary titles. The Jewish council of elders under James probably represented more than one church, perhaps the churches of Judea, in the same way that Jewish synagogues in Jerusalem and Alexandria organised a Council of Elders which had authority over all the synagogues in their area. It would appear the early Judaean assemblies appointed their own elders from within, Acts records Paul as appointing elders in the churches founded on his first missionary journey (Acts 14: 23). This accords with the picture of the first converts taking on the leadership in 1 Corinthians. Most probably Paul was only confirming the ministry of the leadership that had already emerged in the Galatian churches, as he did not appoint the elders immediately, but on his second visit in most places. In the Pastoral Letters, elders are appointed in response to prophetic oracle (1 Tim. 1: 18), just as Acts records of Saul and Barnabas, but such oracles are likely to be a reflection of recognised gifts and probably followed much discussion in the community. 2 Tim. 1: 6 suggests hands were laid on elders at their appointment which is again analogous to the way Saul and Barnabas were appointed17.
2. A Charismatic Community
However, all this has to be set against a body of evidence that the church in the New Testament was a charismatic community. Many of the gifts mentioned in Romans and 1 Corinthians do not seem to be such as would require a lasting ministry and would not entail any position of authority or even honour (e.g. Encouraging, contributing, miracles, healing, tongue-speaking). Most of the charismata are designated by names of gifts (e.g 'miraculous powers) or by participles (as in Rom. 12: 8), suggesting that these refer to functions which could be exercised by any member, not by special office-holders. This latter point may be a result of reading a later issue back into the New Testament, but the point is well made that the church in 1 Corinthians and Romans does appear to be a place where everyone can contribute their gifts, where there is no strict ranking of members, and where the Spirit distributes gifts to everyone as he (i.e. the Spirit) wills, for the upbuilding of the body. However we do need to enquire further into the nature of these charisms.
The Jewish Scriptures contain many references to charismatic behaviour. Usually it is called 'prophesying'. This can mean no more than ecstatic behaviour, as when Saul is discovered 'prophesying' (1 Sam.10: 10) and when the 70 elders 'prophesied' in the time of Moses (Num. 11: 25). But there is one fascinating reference in Exod. 35: 30-31, where Moses tells the people: 'See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts'. All the technical terms associated with prophets are there - 'chosen', 'filled with the Spirit'. One would expect the man was to be an ecstatic or a prophet or a holy man of some kind: but he is a craftsman. In the Jewish tradition there was no firm distinction made between 'natural' gifts and 'supernatural' gifts. These were not categories they dealt with. All gifts, even the most unspectacular, are given by God and are the result of the working of God's Spirit.
In terms of Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians, Paul is addressing a situation where the Corinthian Christians prized two gifts above the others: prophecy and glossolalia - but especially glossolalia. These two gifts they characterised as 'spiritual gifts' (twn pneumatikwn) and it was concerning these that they were enquiring of Paul. In ch. 14 he responds by putting his own weight behind prophecy and downplaying (but not forbidding) glossolalia, but in ch. 12 he seeks to put the whole question in a broader context. He replaces the term beloved by the Corinthians pneumatikwn with his own charismatwn, though he will take up the church's usage again in ch. 14 when he comes to answer their question directly. But in ch. 12, Paul not only alters their terminology, but he includes 'gifts' the church would probably not have recognised as such (possibly the 'word of wisdom' and the 'word of knowledge' - though no-one really knows what Paul meant by these terms - and certainly antilhmpseis=helps and kubernhseis=administration) precisely to redefine their idea of 'spiritual gifts'. They are not 'spiritual': they are just 'gifts'. They are not necessarily of an ecstatic nature: they can be very practical and rational. Paul's two lists in 1 Cor. 12 are very different - deliberately so, because Paul wishes to emphasise the diversity and abundance of the gifts God gives - and his list in Rom. 12 is almost completely different again (only prophecy is common to all three, which is a measure of how highly Paul rated that gift). It is likely that the lists reflect the range of gifts in evidence at the two churches, and that the first list in 1 Cor. 12 reflects the situation in Corinth at the time of Paul's writing more closely, whereas the second list is more the position to which he desires to move the church (NB it is not his ideal. Otherwise his list in Romans would not be so different18). The implication is that all the gifts in the lists are charisms - even the practical ones, the administrative ones, the unspectacular ones. And that means that those gifts that presuppose a lasting ministry, like helping and administration, and 'caring authority (proistamenos) are also charisms. The list is therefore a mixture of some one-off 'event' gifts and some long-term ministries. Some of these things are more obviously Spirit-inspired: others could be mistaken for natural talents. But for Paul, as for the Jewish tradition he grew out of, all these things are gifts of God. In fact it may not be stretching things too far to say Paul would understand what we call 'natural talents' to be God's gifts, certainly if they were used in the work of his kingdom. These 'gifts' may have been given at birth, but they are no less gifts from God.
However, it does appear that, while Paul in writing to the Corinthians made no distinction between 'charismatic' or 'pneumatic' gifts on the one hand and 'ordinary' gifts on the other hand, that such a distinction was operative in the church at large. Paul forbids women to speak in church (1 Cor. 14: 34), which presumably refers to the conversation that follows the exposition of Scripture, following the practice of the synagogue (see below note 23. The idea that this passage is an interpolation has little to recommend it, as the textual evidence is so slight.); but he allows women to prophesy provided they are dressed modestly when they do so (1 Cor. 11: 4-5). In the former instance Paul is assuming current synagogue practice and taking over their custom without much thought (probably in order not to give any more offence than was necessary): in the latter case a 'charismatic' or 'spiritual' gift of the new order was being exercised, and one was not allowed to gainsay the Spirit of God. For Peter in the household of Cornelius it was the fact that the Gentiles spoke in tongues which proved to all the conservative Christians there that it was obviously God's will that they be baptised - even though it ran contrary to everything they had been brought up to believe. So now, if God gives a woman the gift of prophecy, who can gainsay her the right to exercise that gift? But in the more 'normal' situation of the discussion of the Scriptures, normal rules had to apply - 'the Law says....'. This is a practice taken over from Judaism.
So then, there is a tension in the New Testament between the beginnings of formal authority and the enthusiastic 'charismatic' nature of the community. How could these two factors have existed side by side in the same communities? To understand this we need to enquire into the social and religious context of the early churches
3. The context of the New Testament churches
a.) The Jewish context
In order fully to understand the early churches we need to understand where they are coming from. And any attempt to understand the earliest church must take full account of its background in Judaism. Jesus was a Jew, his earliest followers were Jews, Paul was a Jew. According to Acts, it was Paul's strategy to begin his mission in a particular place at the synagogue. This would be only natural. The synagogue was not merely a place of worship, it was a community, and a community which had a responsibility to welcome co-religionists who were visitors to the locality. Philo recounts that each sabbath day the Jews would assemble in their prayer-houses and sit in ranks according to their seniority to hear the Scriptures read and expounded, after which all joined in the discussion until late in the afternoon19. In a context such as this it would have been very easy for Paul (an educated Jew belonging to the Pharisee party) to find an opportunity to seek to spread his message that Jesus was the Messiah. Judging by the constant reference to, and assumed knowledge of the Jewish scriptures in the New Testament writings, it would appear that the early church saw itself as being in continuity with God's people Israel, even when their fellow-Jews did not perceive them as being in that continuity. Thus it would be natural to assume that the early Christians would take over much of the leadership structure of the Jewish synagogue. When Banks says there is no evidence of elders having anything other than a secular role (see n. 16) he fails to appreciate that the synagogue is not only a meeting for worship but also a legal body. Worship and business were conducted at the same meeting. If this was not so for Christian churches, that is due to the fact that the Roman authorities did not grant Christians the political rights that Jews enjoyed, with the result that worship and Christian community business was all they could be involved with. It would appear, however, that the business of the church and the worship service would often be combined.
In fact, we should not necessarily think of the synagogue as a building. Although Philo knew of 'prayer houses', there have been very few (if any) remains found of synagogue buildings in Palestine dating from our period. The 'assembly' (as we should think of it) may well have occurred in a house or other building. This assembly would have been ruled over by an official called the assembly (or community) chief (rosh ha-knesset=archisunagwgos), who worked with an official known as the assistant (hazzan=uphreths) who would make the room ready for the assembly, hand the Scriptures to the reader, and attend to the many practical duties of the assembly. Historically, the elders controlled the assembly, but they were too many in number. Their role was largely honorific. Among the number of the elders, there were a smaller group of 'notables' who largely took responsibility for appointing and overseeing the community chief and his assistant, but in very serious cases a meeting of all the elders could be called. In even more serious cases, the 'Council of Yahweh' - technically all the Jews living, but in actuality as many as could be mustered at the time in one place - could be called and consulted. But this step was usually taken to ratify or legitimate a decision which had already been taken at one of the other levels. In Jerusalem and other large centres of Jewish population, where there would be multiple assemblies, a council was formed of elders (or notables) from all the various synagogues, and the Council of the Jerusalem synagogues acted as a final court of arbitration for the assemblies elsewhere.
Burtchaell's study of this matter has shown some earlier judgements to be misconceived. For instance, in his discussion of the church in Luke, Schweizer states: 'In 11:30, elders suddenly emerge........Luke mentions them but shows no sort of interest in the origin of their ministry, let alone their appointment by the apostles'.20 But if Burtchaell is correct, one would not expect Luke (or any other New Testament writer for that matter) to show any interest in the origin of the ministry of the elders. They were taken for granted as part of the wallpaper of Jewish existence. In keeping with the practice of other sectarian groups (e.g. Qumran) the Christian sect altered the terminology used to describe its assemblies and its officials, but kept the same basic structure21. Leaders of the church in later times and modern scholars may be interested in the way the church is run, but for the earliest Christians this was just the way things were done. It was not a matter of doctrine, merely of practicality.
However, there were some departures from the older Jewish norm that were made necessary by the nature of the nascent Christian movement. Second Temple Judaism made no provision for prophetic or ecstatic ministry in its order or modus operandi. But the new movement was characterised by displays of prophecy and glossolalia which were seen as signs of God's immediate presence with the congregation. Space within the worship services was therefore allowed for these manifestations. Healings and miracles were also signs of the messianic age, so these gifts began to be displayed. Perhaps the most radical departure from Jewish order, however, is the role of apostle.
Evidence of a form of 'apostleship' in Rabbinic Judaism22 is too late to serve as a precedent for the Christian usage, and the institution is quite different. The Rabbinic shalihim are messengers of the Rabbis entrusted with clearly defined missions. They mirror more accurately the 'apostolic delegates' such as Timothy and Titus. Nowhere in Rabbinic literature do the rabbinic emissaries undertake the work of missionaries. The only precedent for this is to be found in the earthly ministry of Jesus. The apostles' task is to witness to the resurrection of Jesus and to the tradition concerning his life, work, and words23. Therefore the apostle has enormous influence. He founds the community and is the primary source of the tradition that gives it purpose. Such ministries can only occur in the first generation of a movement. The replacement of the 'living voice' of the apostle by disembodied words was already beginning in the lifetime of the apostles, by their use of correspondence and apostolic delegates24. In addition the role of the teacher is to be noted. Evidence of teachers called 'Rabbi' in Judaism is of uncertain date, but such a role necessarily had to develop post-70CE because of the need to preserve the tradition when the temple had been destroyed. The fledgling Christian community not only remembered that its master had been called a 'teacher', but had much new tradition to preserve and hand on. This was presumably the task of teachers25.
Thus a picture emerges of a community built around a form of synagogue, but with additional charismatic gifts and forms of leadership. There is evidence that prophets (1 Cor. 12: 28; 14 passim, Rom. 12: 8; Acts 13: 1-2) provided much of the admonition and preaching, while teachers (1 Cor. 12: 28; Rom. 12: 7; Gal. 6: 6)) passed on the Jesus tradition. The likelihood is that the Christian synagogue (now called a 'church'26) would have local leadership in the form of a rosh ha-knesset=archisunagwgos( who in Christian terms would be given the name episkopos, and who is probably described also by terms such as proistamenos or one possessing gifts of administration.. This person would preside over a council of elders and work with an assistant (hazzan=diakonos=antilhmpseis). If the matter were very important the whole church (= Council of Yahweh, a joint meeting of all the house-congregations) might be convened to adjudicate. The likelihood is that, at Corinth some of the people occupying these positions were among those causing Paul's problems, so he did not affirm the whole group but only those of their number he could vouch for.
The synagogues of the Diaspora also recognised the hegemony of Jerusalem in matters of law. They paid their temple tax to Jerusalem and asked them to arbitrate on difficult cases of halakah. The churches would therefore naturally have seen the Jerusalem church as having some degree of pre-eminence, because that was where Jesus died and rose again, and where the church was born. If there was a dispute about the tradition, they were called to give a ruling. This caused Paul some problems. But it would appear he also subscribed to this view. He went to Jerusalem to gain approval for his mission, and thereafter never called the authority of Jerusalem into question. He may have asserted his own authority, he may have upbraided certain representatives of the Jerusalem 'establishment' (e.g. Peter in Gal. 2) for not standing by their convictions and performing their role badly, but he nowhere denies them their role. Given that much criticism of Paul probably came from that quarter, it is likely that he would have openly thrown off their authority if he could have done. But he knew, and his churches knew, that the tradition would not allow this. So he organises the 'collection' for the churches in Judea, to replace the temple tax and to help bind the Gentile and Jewish mission in one.
This consideration has implications for our understanding of the word 'church' in the New Testament. It cannot be doubted that synagogues in Second Temple Judaism viewed themselves as part of a worldwide movement, with its headquarters in Jerusalem. Cities with a large Jewish population (such as Alexandria) formed a council of elders from all the synagogues in the city, and the council at Jerusalem was accepted as the final court of arbitration. It is therefore likely that the early Christians saw themselves as belonging to an assembly (which they called ekklhsia=church) which was not just a local congregation (though it was that), but also a worldwide body. The Greek word ekklhsia is used in the Septuagint to translate the word qahal (normally referring to the whole Council of Yahweh) and also edah, the word which is more usually translated by sunagwgos. The combination of local and extralocal significance is present in the history of the word, and it is likely this was part of the reason the early Christians chose this terminology. It is unlikely in the extreme that the churches of New Testament times could only conceive of the 'assembly' (church) as a group that is physically assembled27. Most of the instances of the word ekklhsia in the New Testament do indeed refer to the local church as it meets together. This is unsurprising, since the writer would imagine the letter/book they were writing would be read out at a gathering of the ekklhsia. Many of the instances of the term are to be found in the opening and closing formulae of letters, or in contexts where the writer wishes to refer to a specific local grouping of Christians. However, in those places where the word is used in a more theological/ideal context (e.g.1 Cor. 12) the usage is more ambiguous. Most scholars argue that because the letter is addressed to one single congregation then that congregation alone must be in view in the use of this word. That is by no means the case. In 1 Cor. 12: 28 Paul is describing the position he wants to move the Corinthian Christians towards, so it is not at all impossible that he wishes to put the Corinthian church in its place by reminding it that it is but one part of a worldwide body. And when we consider Paul's admission that he has persecuted 'the church of God' in 1 Cor. 15: 9 and Gal. 1: 13 it is only with the help of extreme rhetorical dexterity that scholars can avoid the conclusion that Paul is here describing the whole worldwide fellowship of the church. Not that one should gain the impression that we can find here anything like the universal church of later Catholic theology, but a group of assemblies who are very much aware that they belong together, who accept the teaching and ministry of people coming from other assemblies in the same fellowship, who accept the authority of the Jesus tradition and the apostles (and others also) who are the guardians of that tradition. The Pauline idea that each local community of God's people is the local manifestation of the one and indivisible church (1 Cor. 1: 1; 2 Corinthians 1: 1. Is it merely fortuitous that Paul seems only to have used this form of greeting to the Corinthian congregation, or is he trying to get home to them the fact that they belong to something much bigger?) also suggests that each congregation belongs to a much larger fellowship. This fellowship must include the 'heavenly congregation'28 but must refer to more than that.
What demonstrates this more than anything else is what the New Testament writings tell us about the way Christians and churches relate to each other. They write letters to each other, they visit each other, they send collections to Jerusalem, they eagerly listen to the teaching of visiting prophets, evangelists, and apostles. They receive documents and oral traditions concerning Jesus and the story of the church (Acts). When communities do this kind of thing they show by their actions they believe they belong to a worldwide fellowship, however they use the word 'church'.
b.) The Household context
Floyd V Filson drew attention very early on to the importance of taking account of the fact that early Christian churches met largely in the context of households29. The households concerned would usually have been fairly wealthy if they had a house big enough for a congregation (could be 10-100, but probably more usually about 30) to meet in30. They would have included not just the 'nuclear family' but also members of an extended family (son's wives and families, other dependent relatives, clients, friends, and slaves - all ruled over by the supreme authority, normally the senior male, the paterfamilias31. There are obvious references to whole households being converted to Christianity (e.g. Lydia and the Jailer at Philippi Acts 16), and many references to the 'church that meets in x's house (Rom. 16: 4, 23; 1 Cor. 16: 19; Col. 4: 15; Phlm. 2). In this case, one would expect the whole family to adopt the religion of the paterfamilias (though this did not always happen) and the church community to encompass a wide range of social classes from the lowest to the fairly wealthy. There are also notes of believers who belonged to the households of non-Christians (Rom. 16: 10-11. We assume Aristobulus and Narcissus are not Christians because Paul does not greet them personally). In a time when the churches membership was increasing, it may very well not have been possible for the whole church to meet together very frequently. References to the 'whole church' (Rom. 16: 23; 1 Cor. 14: 23) may refer to the gathering of all the house churches in one assembly - the equivalent of the gathering of the whole community of Israel in the OT32, though this is a surmise built on slender evidence.
This would, however, fit in with the thesis of Burtchaell mentioned above. He points out that in many small places synagogues would not have had their own buildings, and that the Christians when they departed certainly did not have the resources or the political support to build their own premises. They would therefore have begun to meet in homes. Burtchaell sees the Lord's Supper as being a fusion of the communal meals that were a normal part of synagogue practice (as well as being part of household and voluntary association practice in the Gentile world) and the domestic Sabbath meal33. In this context it is likely that the head of the household became the 'community chief' or rosh-haknesset =episkopos.34 The household may well also have provided for the succession of the leadership - just as James (brother of Jesus) became leader of the Jerusalem community and was succeeded by a cousin of Jesus. It is hardly likely that a slave of a Christian master would have led the community meeting in his master's house - though he or she might have been allowed to prophesy or to undertake any 'charismatic' function, and would certainly have been able to serve as deacon or assistant (=hazzan).35 This is probably what lies behind Paul's characterisation of the church as 'the household of faith' (Gal. 6: 10). The community of believers has become a household, even for those who did not belong to the household of the person in whose home they met. The picture of the church at Corinth as being democratic and charismatic needs to be tempered by the evidence that one can read almost 'between the lines' of social division and of high status members 'lording it' over those of lower rank.36
c). The Voluntary Association
Not all churches in the New Testament were based around a household, however, and as the church grew such churches would become a smaller percentage of the whole. Some people did not find the household a place where they could play a significant role and find support. Slaves and women would be particularly marginalised, except for those relatively rare households where a woman was at the head, and except for the wife of the community chief=rosh ha-knesset=archisunagwgos=episkopos who would be influential. Such people would find their niche in a club or voluntary association (koinwnia). These groups bound people together from different backgrounds. Some restricted access to certain groups (some mystery religions only admitted men), others were more open, but all were organised around a common interest, or trade, or religious cult. Women could hold office in many clubs, and officeholders were usually elected and held office only for limited periods. Among other things, clubs would organise and pay for members' funerals and provide for members who fell on hard times. A wealthy woman could act as patron to such an association. A slave could become an office holder and count for something, though some were heavily elitist.
Arguably the Jews were one of the largest of these associations around, and the Roman Empire regarded them as not much more than a religious club. Normally Rome tolerated these clubs, but occasionally some of them threatened the peace (some clubs were dedicated to the overthrow of the Roman Empire). Then Rome, or its local governor, would ban clubs from meeting. Pliny did this on the Emperor's behalf in the 2nd century, and his letter asking advice from Trajan provides us with some of the little hard information we have about Christian worship at the turn of the first Christian century37 This letter shows Pliny regarded the Christian church as a club, but not a specially harmful one. Clubs had rules, often had initiation ceremonies (like circumcision or baptism), and had officials. Club officials were often elected for limited terms, but epigraphic evidence from graves shows synagogue officers kept their positions more long term. They could be appointed by the group, even elected, but it was a surprise if the nominee of the 'notables' did not get appointed, and the office often got handed down the generations in one family. There are funerary inscriptions describing small children as 'ruler of the synagogue'. The likelihood is that the child is the heir to that title38 We cannot assume the same practice held good for the church. After all, Christianity started as a reform movement within Judaism, and it is likely that it is abuses of that sort they were seeking to reform. But all reform movements lose steam eventually, and if there were wealthy people in the early Christian church one would expect them to find the way to dominate. But for those who found the world had nothing to offer them, the early Christian church offered the fellowship of a religious club.
4. The nature of leadership in the New Testament
So then, what kind of leadership can we see in the churches of the New Testament? We can see a diversity of leadership39. We see a church which initially took over the synagogue pattern of government because it was the only model they knew, but they were not ideologically committed to that model and were more than prepared to adapt it to suit the new situations the Spirit was leading them into. The Holy Spirit made his presence felt on Pentecost morning, and suddenly a rather conservative group of reformist Jews had to make room for charismatic forms of leadership and the exercise of enthusiastic gifts. Then came the disagreement between the Aramaic-speaking believers and the Greek-speaking believers about the distribution of alms recorded in Acts 6, and the apostles (then apparently still being looked to for leadership) set up a new group of leaders for whom there was no precedent in the synagogue. Luke suggests their role was purely to do with almsgiving, but then reports that they immediately started evangelising. Also to be noted is that all seven have Greek names. It looks as though the nascent Christian community is recognising the leadership that has emerged among the Greek-speakers.
The next thing we hear is that elders have emerged, and James has a leading role. Why should this be? The apostles did not have to leave Jerusalem under the persecution of Saul. The most likely explanation is that the apostles' main role was that of preserving and handing on the tradition, and of witnessing to the resurrection. Acts 6 suggests they weren't that good at administration, so they fell back on the old synagogue system. Indeed it may always have been there. If a large number were converted on Pentecost morning, they probably could not all meet in one place, so multiple Christian 'synagogues' would be created (called 'churches'), all of which would have their own leaders. To begin with, these leaders would answer to the apostles. But as the apostles found the task too heavy, and as the church grew and the apostles had to travel more, the elders were formed into a Council (as the Jewish synagogue elders answered to the Sanhedrin) and Jesus' brother (the senior family member, who could be relied on to be true to his brother's memory) was appointed to lead it.
The major crisis came when the gospel began to be preached to those who were not regarded by most Jews as having any right to be regarded as God's people: Samaritans and Gentiles. Philip begins to preach to the Samaritans, Peter baptises the family of a godfearer, and the believers at Antioch start the Gentile mission in a big way. They send off Paul, and he begins to see large numbers of Gentiles coming to faith in Christ. Paul, with the confidence of the results of his mission in the province of Galatia behind him, begins to think of himself as an apostle and seeks confirmation of this ministry from the Jerusalem 'council of elders' while at the same time seeking to bind the Jerusalem and Antioch churches by means of a donation to help needy Christians in Jerusalem (a tactic he would use again later in another context. Gal. 2: 6-10 = Acts 11: 27-30)40. At this relatively private meeting, Paul achieves the recognition from the leading members of the Jerusalem council of elders which he interprets as confirmation of his status as an apostle, but which others may have interpreted otherwise.
However, more conservative members of the Jerusalem council were still alarmed by what they had heard of Paul and sent a delegation to Antioch and to the churches Paul had founded in Galatia. They tried to convince Gentiles in both places that they should be circumcised and insisted on the keeping of the food laws. Peter goes along with them to avoid an argument and Paul has a public disagreement with him. Paul hears of the activities of the conservative group sent to Galatia and dashes off the epistle to the Galatians (making it the earliest canonical letter from Paul) immediately. He then accompanies Barnabas to Jerusalem for the Jerusalem Council.
The Jerusalem Council is probably a convocation of the whole qahal Yahweh - i.e technically of every Christian believer. In the wilderness wanderings this meant literally 'all Israel', in later periods it probably meant as many as one could get into one place. In this case it was probably all (or very nearly all) of the Jerusalem church, with Paul and Barnabas representing the church of Antioch. To modern western ears this account sounds very odd. Why call the Council in Jerusalem when the Jerusalem church were one of the antagonists in the case? Why not have equal representation from the churches in Jerusalem and Antioch? Why do Paul and Barnabas play so small a part? But all this accords well with the custom of 'assembly' as we know it from Jewish records41. The decisions are made in advance by the the council or the leading people. There were set-piece speeches and a consensus would 'emerge' (i.e the meeting would agree with the proposal of the council). As long as the procedure was gone through, people were satisfied - at least temporarily (Burtchaell notes that in the first instance mentioned in note 41 above, the wool was definitely being pulled over the eyes of the assembly). Antioch sent only Barnabas and Paul, and were happy to let the matter be decided in Jerusalem a) because they acknowledged the Jerusalem congregation as the mother congregation and b) because the Acts 11/Gal. 2 visit had already happened. They knew they had Peter and James on their side, so they couldn't lose. They also believed they had the Holy Spirit on their side, in that the people from Jerusalem who had visited Antioch and Galatia had seen the same 'evidence' of the work of the Holy Spirit (probably speaking in tongues, miracles, and other enthusiatic manifestations) and could not deny that these people had received the same Spirit that had fallen on the apostles at Pentecost. Acts 10: 44-48; 11:15-18 (note the repetition of this. This is vital for Luke because it is the legitimation of the Gentile mission) shows this line of argument was extremely persuasive to the early Christian community. It was probably these signs that persuaded James to accept some very uncomfortable facts and publicly to back a decision his heart rebelled against. Some of his more ardent supporters still could not stomach it, but the die had been cast and their star was now on the wane.
Paul's star, however, was on the rise. He could now claim to be an apostle, though there would continue to be those who would doubt it. Paul had a particular view of apostleship. Though many would see the apostles as originally a wide group, and see the Twelve as a later construct, the Twelve do figure greatly in the Jesus tradition. Since they did not appear to take a lead for very long in the early church, it is surprising. that a later tradition should name these people, about many of whom little else is known42. It is likely that originally only these were regarded as apostles. James quickly becomes prominent, but whether he regarded as an apostle at Jerusalem is unclear. According to my reconstruction above, his position as president of the council of elders at Jerusalem gave him far more de facto power than Peter, though Peter was the authority concerning the teaching of Jesus. Paul's view is different, however. It would appear that the only thing necessary for qualification as an apostle in his eyes is a commission from the Risen Jesus (1 Cor. 9: 1.). He acknowledges that his own appearance happened somewhat later than the usual time frame, and he appears to pull up the drawbridge after himself, but he seems to acknowledge James as an apostle (though James is next last in the list to himself) and an indeterminate number of others under the heading 'all the apostles'(1 Cor. 15: 5-8)43. But it is not clear that anyone else outside his entourage and the churches of his foundation shared this view. As time went by, as Paul's reputation grew through his manifestation of charismata (1 Cor. 14: 15, 18-19), his missionary endeavours, and his letters, he was himself universally admitted to the number of the apostles, but only as an anomalous addition to the Twelve. The Jerusalem view of who qualified as an apostle44 prevailed, but Paul was added honoris causa, as it were.
Aside from seeing himself as an apostle (which he stresses in most of his letters, at least in the opening introduction), Paul also appears to have been a teacher (1 Cor. 4: 17; Col. 1: 28 alongside Acts 13: 2; 1 Tim. 2: 7; 2 Tim. 1: 11). This is understandable, as a teacher is charged with passing on the tradition and an apostle is a witness to the tradition. Therefore any apostle must be a teacher. He also claims to speak in tongues. Whether he was a prophet is more questionable. In terms of the ,Jewish Scriptures speaking in tongues could count as 'prophecy' in the sense that the 70 elders and King Saul prophesied. And Saul is included in a list of 'prophets and teachers' in Acts 13: 2. We have already seen Paul was a teacher; if all of these people performed both functions he may have been a prophet as well. But the evidence is slight
Paul's churches seem to have organised themselves on the lines of the earliest Jerusalem church - that is along the lines of the Jewish synagogue but with adaptations to take account of their particular situation and the 'charismatic' ministries present in the Christian church that were no part of Second Temple Judaism. Paul himself is the main authority. Sometimes he exercises that authority in person, sometimes by letter, and sometimes by sending an apostolic delegate. Local congregations are administered by elders, presided over by a community chief=episkopos, who is served by an assistant = diakonos. But prophets, teachers, and apostles (if one were present) had their role in services - as might tongue-speakers, though Paul tried to keep the latter in check. Teachers would also have their role in catechesis. Teachers later became a problem in the churches. It became common for heretical propogandists to set themselves up as teachers and to claim to have some secret, more authentic tradition which the mainline church was trying to suppress. So, towards the end of Paul's life, and even more into the sub-apostolic age, the guarding of the true teaching through properly appointed elders became more and more essential. This process might be regrettable, but it was essential.
One matter that should be raised is the ministry of women. Jesus' ministry is characterised by a startlingly progressive attitude to women. Jesus taught women (Luke 10: 38-42. Mary is not merely listening and contemplating, she is learning from the only rabbi that would teach her), Mary Magdalene is prominent among Jesus' followers and is mentioned in a group of women who 'provide for ' Jesus and his followers (Lk. 8: 1-3), and Mary Magdelene is also part of a group of women who stayed with Jesus at his crucifixion until the end (Mk 15: 47-16: 1 and pars.) and who were the first to see Jesus alive after his resurrection. This latter was probably an embarrassment to the early mission, so its inclusion in the record indicates it was remembered as having been what happened. These women were undoubtedly part of the 120 meeting in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came (Acts 2). Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza calls this 'the discipleship of equals' (op cit pp140-51), but it must be noted that the reason all Jesus' disciples were equal is because Jesus is the sole locus of authority. Jesus' style of leadership may be a servant style, but it is still leadership. Peter may have argued with Jesus (Mk 8: 33), but not often.
But what happened then? It would appear the nascent Christian community resorted to the model of the synagogue for their pattern of administration, a pattern which allowed very little opportunity for women to exercise office45. Women were still allowed to exercise charismatic gifts (e.g. Prophecy 1 Cor. 11: 5; Acts 21: 8; also prayer - but that may be a reference to speaking in tongues) because then the intervening of the Holy Spirit was reckoned to override human order. 1 Tim. 2: 12 forbids a woman to teach, probably because of difficulties which were being experienced with 'false teachers'. Rev. 2: 20 tells of a prophetess whom the writer calls 'Jezebel' (evidently a pseudonym) who 'by her teaching' is misleading God's servants. One suspects Jezebel was really a teacher who called herself a prophet to get round the church's unwillingness to listen to women unless they were prophesying. She probably presented a 'secret tradition', possibly of a Gnostic nature, which led members of the church at Thyatira into sexual immorality and involvement in sacrifices to idols46. The firm denunciation of women teachers in 1 Tim. 2: 12 and the need to mention the subject, both suggest women had previously been able to teach as well as to prophesy. Now, however, this was being forbidden because of the abuses of the teaching office that were occuring.
Apart from this, we have mention of Chloe (1 Cor. 1: 11, probably leader of a house church), Euodia and Syntyche (who 'struggled hard for the gospel with me' Phil. 4: 2), Junia who was 'well-known to' (or 'esteemed among') the apostles (Rom. 16: 7), Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis who 'worked hard in the Lord'(Rom. 16: 12). In the light of 1 Thess. 5: 12 this may suggest these women led assemblies, but the phrase 'worked hard' is imprecise and the additional phrase 'who are over you', which is present in 1 Thess. 5: 12, is lacking in Rom. 16: 12 and Phil. 4: 2, which makes certainty in this matter difficult. However, the situation in Phil. 4: 2 would suggest Euodia and Syntyche were influential people. Paul admonishes them in a letter which will be read out publicly, which is difficult to understand unless this quarrel were well known to the congregation and injurious to the congregation's well-being. There is also Paul's 'co-worker' Prisca (whose name always precedes her husband's (Rom. 16: 3), who appears to have had a joint ministry with her husband. The church met in their house, and she as mistress of the house must have had a great deal of influence there. Phoebe may well have been a deacon, and possibly the influential patron of the church at Cenchrae (Rom. 16:1)47. Lydia (Acts 16) may well have led the earliest house church at Philippi, and the same may have been true of Nympha (Col. 4: 15), but such examples become fewer as numbers grow and more men of high status join the movement. Luke records Peter as citing the prophecy of Joel on the day of Pentecost, with its promise that: 'even on my servants , both men and women I will pour out my Spirit in those days' (Acts 2: 18), St Paul states boldly: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' (Gal. 3: 28). This remains the bold eschatological Christian teaching, but in view of the delay of Jesus' return and the necessity of living day by day in first century society, it was necessary to tell slaves to obey their masters (and correspondingly to tell the masters to treat their slaves well) and also progressively to phase out a leadership role for women that few inside or outside the church would have understood in the first century48.
From the above it can be seen that the 'charisma' had already begun to be 'routinised' in Paul's time49. This is only to be expected. Paul was not the founder of Christianity (pace 19th century German liberals): Jesus was. And Jesus had departed the scene by now and left his followers in charge. Therefore the task is to pass on the tradition, to keep the founder's memory alive, and to spread the message. Conservatism and institutionalisation are what one should expect. But there was still room for the breaking in of the charismatic spirit. As Hutton8 argued concerning Israelite society, the 'rational' element of church government makes room for the charismatic to recall the assembly to its 'symbolic universe'. The 'rational' administrator needs the support of the charismatic (the appointment requires an oracle.1 Tim. 4: 14), allows the 'charismatic' time to operate in the services, and to exercise their ministry for the benefit of the church. The genuineness of the charismatic must be tested (I Cor. 14: 29; I Thess. 5: 21), but in no way must charismatic ministry be suppressed (1 Thess. 5: 19-20; 1 Corinthians 14: 39) because it is the sign of the activity of the Holy Spirit (see above).
Are there then any conclusions we can draw from this study? I believe the following points emerge:
1.From the earliest days there has been both charisma and order in the church. One cannot divorce the two and it is a mistake to do so. The argument concerning the distribution of food in Acts 6 is an example of what happens when the charismatic operates without concern for order. The answer was to appoint some more leaders. However, many of them were charismatics, too, so another kind of order developed: an order derived from the synagogue - James and the brothers. But the church cannot function effectively without the charismatic contribution either. It is the charismatic Spirit who impels the early community to cross one barrier after another, and so to take the gospel to the whole known world. Paul himself embodies the balance between charisma and order. He 'speaks in tongues more than them all' and sees visions, but he is also concerned for good order and encourages his readers to obey those who are over them. On the one hand, charisms must be exercised with a view to good order (1 Cor. 14), but on the other those in authority are not to quench the Spirit, but to encourage the use and development of his gifts for the building up of the body.
2. Particular forms of church order and government most definitely belong to the bene esse, not the esse of the church. Most forms of church government can find some legitimation in the practice of the New Testament church. Paul and James are good examples of personal authority, the Council of Jerusalem is an example of conciliar government. Individual churches seem to have largely run themselves, but they acknowledge they belong to a wider entity and apostles and Jerusalem are called upon to settle disputes and give rulings. But none of these elements are of the essence of the church. The synagogue structure was taken over initially not because Jesus had ordained it, nor as a result of some blinding revelation, but because it was the best practical solution to a problem of organisation. It might well have been a case of not knowing any other way to do it (so Burtchaell). And the departures from the norm happened in response to force of circumstances. The Spirit broke through and the church adapted, not easily and not without a great deal of heart-searching, but it adapted to reality. When Church order was being stressed more in the later period, this was due largely to the pressure from heretical doctrine and the death of the apostles. Again, the church adapts to circumstances. If there is anything to learn about church government from the pages of the New Testament it is to adapt to circumstances and not to allow forms of administration to stifle the work of the Spirit. Perhaps what the church of our day has to learn from the New Testament is not to ape its forms of government. In much work done on our subject, there is much evidence of hankering after a 'golden age' - an age when the church was free of the dead hand of office and rank, or an age where all people (men and women) participated on an equal level, or even an age where the Lord appointed his apostles and they all appointed and ordained bishops, elders, and deacons to follow them, and where the whole church was subject to the divinely appointed order. All these visions are anachronistic and utopian. There never was a golden age. The church of the modern day is called to seek out the order it needs to sustain the work of God in the social context in which it finds itself, and to be open to the leading and empowering of the charismatic Spirit in its mission
3. It is in this context that we must address the question of the ministry of women. Where the Holy Spirit is seen to have free sway, the gifts and ministries are distributed among men and women, and among races and social grades without discrimination. If women's ministry was later restricted, it was not because of divine (or dominical) command, but because of contingent conditions in the world around. The world of the time would not have welcomed a movement led by women, and the experience of divergent groups that followed a different policy (Gnostics, Montanists) did not inspire confidence that a change of policy was appropriate at that time. However, in different circumstances the church may make a different decision. If the church in modern days, when the world finds a restriction of the ministry to men a stumbling-block, perceives the Spirit calling and empowering women for the ordained ministry, how can it gainsay the Spirit of God?
4. The church is not only the small community that meets in one place. The first century Christians who must have seemed such a small body in comparison with the society around them, who were beset with problems and trials, and who often suffered discrimination and opposition from the legal authorities (if not downright persecution) gained great strength from the thought that they belonged to a family which had branches throughout the known world, and that they were also mysteriously joined to the great fellowship in heaven. Perhaps in a day when some parts of the church are in decline, it can draw comfort from belonging to a great fellowship that transcends place and time. This fellowship was not then an overbearing bureaucracy which enforced uniformity. Nor need it be such today. But a sense of oneness with fellow-believers throughout the world is as vital today as it was then.
LEADERSHIP IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1. Especially at the time when R. Sohm and A. Harnack were contending at the end of the 19th century.
2.One notes especially the negativity of scholars of a certain era towards Judaism and its institutions, and one wonders whether the negative attitude to Jewish Christianity seen in von Campenhausen (H. von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries, Black, London 1969) and in Käsemann (cf E. Käsemann, 'Ministry and Community in the New Testament' in his Essays on New Testament Themes SCM London 1964 p. 91f) is not also a sign of such prejudice. One also notes the pejorative use of such terms as 'late Jewish' (spätjüdisch) and 'early catholicism' (Frühkatholizismus), also Sohm's characterisation of the move towards an official structure as a 'fall into sin' (Sündenfall). Even today anti-Catholic prejudice is not as widely noticed as anti-semitism. From a feminist perspective, Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza has pointed out the androcentric nature of much of this discussion (cf . In Memory of Her SCM London 1983 pp.175-184 and passim) but also makes no attempt to hide her own prejudices.
3.See the excellent summaries of the debate in U. Brockhaus, Charisma und Amt (R. Brockhaus, Wuppertal 1972) and J.T. Burtchaell, From Synagogue to Church CUP Cambridge 1992.
4. Op. cit. p. 24 n. 106
5. ibid. pp 107-8
6. See the discussion by Burtchaell op cit pp.138-40
7. E Käsemann, op. cit. pp81-3
8. Rodney R. Hutton, Charisma and Authority in Israelite Society Fortress, Minneapolis 1994. (Back to 8a)
9. Though all dates given to New Testament documents are only provisional. Most writers agree on most issues of dating, and therefore the standard dates are often given without justification. However, the evidence is at best circumstantial, and much of it has to be deduced from the documents themselves. Many of the arguments rely on judgements concerning interpretation which, though common, are not unassailable, and many of the dates given are little better than speculation.
10. Op cit p106f. The suggestion of Susanne Heine, Women and Early Christianity, SCM London 1987 p.89 that Pheobe, called a prostatis (a word derived from the same verb) has a leadership role, points in the same direction. See also Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza, op cit pp170-1, though her designation of Phoebe as 'an official teacher and missionary' goes somewhat beyond the evidence. However, her later description of Phoebe as a patrona of a voluntary association may well be nearer the mark (idem, p.181).
11. See the discussion in ibid. pp110-112
12. J.D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle T&T Clark Edinburgh 1998 pp. 584-5
13. R. Banks, Paul's Idea of Community Paternoster Exeter 1980 p145 attempts to widen this to all who co-operate and labour, but that takes too little account of the context. There were many people working hard and labouring in Corinth (including, presumably the glossolalic enthusiasts and the leaders of the factions mentioned in 1 Cor.1) but it is specifically Stephanas, his household, and those that work with him whose leadership Paul is affirming, because he can rely on them.
14. See D. Hill, New Testament Prophecy Marshall Morgan and Scott, London 1979
15. See Burtchaell, op. cit. pp. 284ff and J.D.G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered Eerdmans Cambridge 2003 p.176f
16. Contra Banks op. cit. p.149, see Butchaell op. cit. pp. 228-33
17. Whether this constitutes ordination or not is unclear. In the Jewish tradition priests were ordained by sacrifice and anointing. The New Testament only records anointing in connection with the sick (Jas 5: 16). Evidence of rabbinic ordination which did involve the laying on of hands is post 70CE, and thus somewhat late to serve as a paradigm for Christian practice in our period (even if one dates the Pastorals late, there is little time for Christianity to pick this up from Judaism and this is a period where relationships between Jews and Christians were difficult). However, it is likely that the Messianic Jewish sect which became Christianity and the Pharasaical sect which became Rabbinic Judaism were at that time following parallel paths and it is possible both came independently to a similar development of practice. One also needs to take account of the fact that the Catholic practice of ordination appeared within a century or so of these writings and that religious communities are notoriously conservative, so it is possible that the practice reflected in the Pastorals and Acts was understood as a form of ordination.
18. In this exegesis of 1 Cor. 12 and Rom. 12, I am indebted to Brockhaus op. cit. pp. 142-202. E. Schweizer, Church Order in the New Testament SCM London 1961 p. 102=7m makes a similar point he says Paul 'includes among the gifts of grace the performance of such 'natural' ministries as the guidance of the church, or the care of other people - things it would never have entered the Corinthians' head to regard as the effect of the Spirit.' Cf also p.185f=22f. The attempt of Schweizer (above) and others (e.g. Käsemann, op. cit. p.65, more evident in the original German 'Manifestation, Konkretion und Individuation der Charis der göttlichen Macht' 'Amt und Gemeinde im NT '(1949) in Exegetische Versuche und Besinnungen 1965 pp.109-134, and Dunn, Theology p. 559 to read the full theological meaning of 'grace' into the word charisma is rightly resisted by Brockhaus op. cit. p.140. However he does note: 'naturally it cannot be gainsaid that xa\risma in Rom. 5: 15-16; 12: 6 stands in close proximity to charis; and Paul would in any case have heard the word charis in the word charisma as a result of the similar sound of the two words. However one should beware of reading the maximum theological content of charis into charisma above all when the context will not support it.' Note 69, p.140.
19. Burtchaell, op. cit. p. 212, citing Philo Mos. 2: 216, Som. 2: 127, Hyp. 7: 12-13. Much of my argument in this section is indebted to Burtchaell.
20. E. Schweizer, op cit p.71=5k. Schweizer's statement that, 'If there were already elders in Jerusalem when Paul was there - or at least, as long as he was living in Antioch - then Paul's omitting to mention them is in fact a demonstration in which he throws overboard everything that is merely conservative and retrospective, and stresses the vitality of the ever-present Spirit in the Church of the last days' is a powerful piece of sermonising which has no evidential basis.
21. Cf Burtchaell op. cit. pp 267-71
22. See K. Kertelge, art apostolos TDNT
23. Cf J.D.G. Dunn Jesus Remembered pp.178-81. Brockhaus speaks of a 'double concept' of apostleship (op. cit. pp 112-23). Here we are referring to the first of his two concepts, the 'appearance (sc resurrection appearance) apostles' rather than to the 'apostles of the churches'.
24. Even if one dates the Pastoral Letters late, the use of apostolic delegates can be evidenced in 1 Cor. 16: 10; 2 Cor. 8: 16; Phil. 2: 19 and 1 Thess. 3: 1
25. Dunn, Jesus Remembered p.176f, also Burtchaell op. cit. pp.303-306, though I do not concur with his view that the teacher's audience is necessarily the uninitiated. But they would have a role in catechesis.
26. Like other Jewish sects, they changed the nomenclature for their assembly, taking the title ekklhsia which had previously stood for 'the assembly of Yahweh', the totality of God's people in the OT. The Hebrew word qahal could equally well be translated sunagwgos in LXX, and so was seen as being a synonym. But the new name separated them as 'true believers' as opposed to the 'corrupt' mainstream, just as a similar change in nomenclature did at Qumran. See note 25
27. Cf Dunn, Theology p.542, Banks op. cit. p. 41. For the contrary view see K.N. Giles, art 'Church Order, Government' in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments IVP Downers Grove/Leicester 1997
28. Cf Banks op. cit. pp 43-51, Giles art. cit.
29. Floyd V. Filson, 'The Significance of the Early House Churches' JBL 58 (1939)pp. 105-12
30. Cf. Banks, op. cit. pp.41-2, Dunn, Theology p.542
31. Cf Clifford Hill, 'The Sociology of the New Testament', Unpublished Phd thesis, Nottingham University 1972, cited in D. Tidball, The Social Context of the New Testament Paternoster Carlisle 1997 p.79f (being a reprint of An Introduction to the Sociology of the New Testament 1983). There are some instances of women heading up households, especially foreign women and women involved in trade. A high-born widow or unmarried lady may also be head of a household. Roman society tried to avoid this situation, but it was more common in Greek culture. The wife of the paterfamilias also had a great deal of authority in the house, and if the church met in her house that meant she had authority in the church. E. Schüssler-Fiorenza, op.cit. pp.175-84
32. Cf Banks op. cit. pp 38-9
33. Burtchaell op. cit. p.285f
34. Filson, op. cit., Tidball, op. cit. p.83
35. Cf K.N. Giles, art. cit.
36. See G. Theissen, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity T&T Clark Edinburgh 1982. Also A.D. Clarke Secular and Christian Leadership in Corinth: A Socio-Historical and Exegetical Study of 1 Corinthians 1-6 Leiden Brill 1993, and J.K. Chow, Patronage and Power: A Study of Social Networks in Corinth JSNTS 75 JSOT Sheffield 1992 bear on this subject.
37. Cf J. Stevenson(ed), A New Eusebius SPCK London 1968 p.14 See also Tidball, op. cit. pp 86-8, R. Banks, op. cit. p.16f
38. Burtchaell op. cit. p.242
39. Throughout this section I shall be indebted to the works of Burtchaell and Giles cited above, though I shall differ from both of them in places.
40. The identification of the visit of Paul to Jerusalem recorded in Gal. 2 with that in Acts 11: 27-30 is controversial, but it seems to make best sense of the evidence. See the argument by Ben Witherington III The Paul Quest pp 304-331 and the literature there cited.
41. Josephus records assemblies being called to assent to the stripping of Onias of his tax-farming prerogatives by his nephew, to agree to the demolition of the Jerusalem citadel, by Herod to allay disquiet about his policy of cultivating the patronage of the sometime consul Marcus Agrippa at public expense, and by the Roman legate Petronius, to assure the Jews that he was going to ask the Emperor to rescind an order to erect his statue in the Temple. Burtchaell op cit p.213
42. Cf J.D.G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered pp.540, 859
43. Unfortunately, we probably have to omit Andronicus and Junia from the list since M.H. Burer and D.B. Wallace ('Was Junia really an apostle? A Re-examination of Rom.16:7' NTS 47 2001 pp.76-91) have fairly conclusively shown that epismos en +dative almost certainly means 'well known to'. This doesn't exclude female apostles in Paul's view, as there could be some among the 'five hundred brethren' ('brethren' could include both sexes at the time), but it is now very speculative. It is possible Paul also acknowledged Barnabas, Silas, and Apollos as apostles. It may well be objected that the tradition in 1 Cor. 15: 3-8 is pre-Pauline tradition. This would appear to be the case from verse 3 ('what I received I passed on to you'). However, it is unlikely that the appearance to Paul himself was part of that tradition (v.8), and so we probably have here a pre-Pauline tradition presented in a Pauline recension. Tradition and comment fuse into one another, but where does the tradition end and the comment begin? Does the divide come between verses 7 & 8, or between verses 6 & 7, or at the end of verse 5? Or are the tradition and interpretation fused in a way that makes it difficult (if not impossible) for the reader to distinguish them apart with any certainty?
44. Summed up in Acts 1: 21-22 by a Pauline apologist who could not deny that was the general view even though it militated against his position, because it was so indelible a part of the tradition.
45. Cf Burtchaell, op. cit. pp 244-6. These findings are disappointing, but are probably correct, especially in the light of the evidence about 'child officers' in the synagogue. See note 42. Cf also Schüssler-Fiorenza, op. cit. pp.249-50
46. Susanne Heine, op. cit.pp.124-7 contends that Gnostics were universally ascetic, and that charges of libertinism by their opponents were no more than an unsubstantiated slur. Whether the 'false teaching' in 1 Timothy is Gnostic is debatable, and one's opinion on this matter will to some extent depend on one's view of the date of the letter. The earlier one dates 1 Timothy, the less likely it is that Gnostic teaching is in view.
47. See note 10.
48. Burtchaell op. cit. pp 325-9. Though one should not underestimate the influence of wealthy female patrons.
49. Cf M.Y. McDonald, The Pauline Churches: A Socio-Historical Study of Institutionalisation in the Pauline and Deutero-Pauline Writings (SNTSMS 60 CUP Cambridge 1988 pp.51-60