Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 2205
Jerome, commenting on the letters of Paul, claims that in the early Church presbyters held the same authority as bishops, and the dioceses were governed by the councils of presbyters. Jerome, Commentary on Titus, Betlehem, ca 388.
Audiant episcopi qui habent constituendi presbyteros per urbes singulas potestatem, sub quali lege ecclesiasticae constitutionis ordo teneatur; nec putent Apostoli uerba esse, sed Christi (...).
Diligenter Apostoli uerba adtendamus dicentis: Vt constituas per ciuitates presbyteros, sicut ego tibi disposui. Qui, qualis presbyter debeat ordinari in consequentibus disserens, hoc est: Si quis est sine crimine, unius uxoris uir et cetera, postea intulit: Oportet enim episcopum sine crimine esse tamquam Dei dispensatorem. Idem est ergo presbyter qui episcopus et, antequam diaboli instinctu studia in religione fierent et diceretur in populis: Ego sum Pauli, ego Apollo, ego autem Cephae, communi presbyterorum consilio ecclesiae gubernabantur. Postquam uero unusquisque eos quos baptizauerat suos putabat esse, non Christi, in toto orbe decretum est ut unus de presbyteris electus superponeretur ceteris, ad quem omnis cura ecclesiae pertineret et schismatum semina tollerentur.
Putat aliquis non Scripturarum, sed nostram esse sententiam, episcopum et presbyterum unum esse, et aliud aetatis, aliud esse nomen officii; relegat Apostoli ad Philippenses uerba dicentis: Paulus et Timotheus, serui Christi Iesu, omnibus sanctis in Christo Iesu qui sunt Philippis cum episcopis et diaconibus; gratia uobis et pax et reliqua. Philippi una est urbs Macedoniae, et certe in una ciuitate plures, ut nunc putantur, episcopi esse non poterant; sed quia eosdem episcopos illo in tempore quos et presbyteros appellabant, propterea indifferenter de episcopis quasi de presbyteris est locutus.
Adhuc alicui hoc uideatur ambiguum, nisi altero testimonio comprobetur. In Actibus apostolorum scriptum est quod, cum uenisset Apostolus Miletum, miserit Ephesum et uocauerit presbyteros eiusdem ecclesiae, et quibus postea inter cetera sit locutus: Adtendite uobis et omni gregi, in quo uos Spiritus Sanctus posuit episcopos pascere ecclesiam Dei, quam acquisiuit per sanguinem suum. Et hic diligentius obseruate quomodo, unius ciuitatis Ephesi presbyteros uocans, postea eosdem episcopos dixerit.
Si quis uult recipere eam epistulam quae sub nomine Pauli ad Hebraeos scripta est, et ibi aequaliter inter plures ecclesiae cura diuiditur, siquidem ad plebem scribit: Parete principibus uestris et subiecti estote; ipsi enim sunt qui uigilant pro animabus uestris quasi rationem reddentes, ne suspirantes hoc faciant, siquidem hoc utile uobis est. Et Petrus, qui ex fidei firmitate nomen accepit, in epistula sua loquitur dicens: Presbyteros ergo in uobis obsecro, compresbyter et testis Christi passionum, qui et eius gloriae quae in futurum reuelanda est socius sum; pascite eum qui in uobis est gregem Domini non quasi cum necessitate, sed uoluntarie.
Haec propterea, ut ostenderemus apud ueteres eosdem fuisse presbyteros quos et episcopos; paulatim uero, ut dissensionum plantaria euellerentur, ad unum omnem sollicitudinem esse delatam. Sicut ergo presbyteri sciunt se ex ecclesiae consuetudine ei qui sibi praepositus fuerit esse subiectos, ita episcopi nouerint se magis consuetudine quam dispositionis dominicae ueritate presbyteris esse maiores et in commune debere ecclesiam regere, imitantes Moysen qui, cum haberet in potestate solus praeesse populo Israhel, septuaginta elegit cum quibus populum iudicaret. Videamus igitur qualis presbyter, siue episcopus ordinandus sit.
(ed. Bucchi 2003: 13-16)
Let the bishops who have the authority to appoint presbyters in the individual cities hear by what kind of law the ranking of ecclesiastical appointments should be maintained. Let them not think that these are the apostle's words, but Christ's (...).
Let us pay careful attention to the words of the apostle who says, "that you should appoint presbyters in every city, just as I arranged for you." He discusses what sort of presbyter ought to be ordained in what follows when he says, "If anyone is without fault, a husband of one wife," and so on. Later he added, "For a bishop must be without fault, as a steward of God." It is therefore the very same presbyter, who is a bishop, and before there existed men who are slanderers by instinct, [before] factions in the religion, and [before] it was said to the people, "I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, but I am of Cephas," the churches were governed by a common council of the presbyters. But after each one began to think that those whom he had baptized were his own and not Christ's, it was decreed for the whole world that one of the presbyters should be elected to preside over the others, to whom the entire care of the church should pertain, and the seeds of schism would be removed.
If someone thinks that this is our opinion, but not that of the Scriptures – that bishop and priest are one, and that one is the title of age, the other of his duty – let him reread the apostle's words to the Philippians when he says, "Paul and Timothy, slaves of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons, grace to you and peace," and so on. Philippi is a single city in Macedonia, and at least in one city several were not able to be bishops, as they are now thought. But because at that time they called the same men bishops whom they also called presbyters, therefore he has spoken indifferently of bishops as if of presbyters.
This may still seem doubtful to someone unless it is proven by another testimony. In the Acts of the Apostles it is written that when the apostle came to Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and summoned the presbyters of that church to whom later he said among other things, "Watch yourselves, and the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit appointed you bishops to feed the church of God, which he acquired through his own blood." And observe here very carefully how, by summoning the priests of the single city of Ephesus, later he has spoken of the same men as bishops.
If anyone wants to receive that epistle which is written in Paul's name to the Hebrews, even there care for the church is shared equally by many. For indeed he writes to the people, "Obey your leaders, and be in subjection; for they are the ones who watch over your souls, as those who will give a reckoning. Let them not do this with sighing; for indeed this is advantageous to you." And Peter, who received his name from the firmness of his faith, speaks in his own epistle and says, "As a fellow presbyter (compresbyter), then, I plead with the presbyters among you, and as a witness of Christ's sufferings, I who am a companion also of his glory that is to be revealed in the future, tend the Lord's flock that is among you, not as though by compulsion but voluntarily."
These things [have been said] in order to show that to the men of old the same men who were the presbyters were also the bishops; but gradually, as the seed beds of dissensions were eradicated, all solicitude was conferred on one man. Therefore, just as the presbyters know that by the custom of the church they are subject to the one who was previously appointed over them, so the bishops know that they, more by custom than by the truth of the Lord's arrangement, are greater than the presbyters. And they ought to rule the Church commonly, in imitation of Moses who, when he had under his authority to preside alone over the people of Israel, he chose the seventy by whom he could judge the people. Therefore let us see what sort of presbyter, or bishop, ought to be ordained.
(trans. Scheck 2010: 288-290, slightly altered by J. Szafranowski)

Place of event:

  • East
  • Bethlehem

About the source:

Author: Jerome of Stridon
Title: Commentary on Titus, Hieronymi presbyteri commentatorium in epistulam Pauli Apostoli ad Titum liber unus
Origin: Bethlehem (East)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Jerome wrote his commentary on the letters of Paul shortly after settling in Bethlehem, between ca. 386 and 388. The Commentary on Titus was written last, after Philemon, Galatians, and Ephesians. By this time Jerome was already a presbyter, having been ordained by Bishop Paulinus of Antioch in 378 or 379.
F. Bucchi ed., Hieronymi presbyteri commentatorium in epistulam Pauli Apostoli ad Titum et ad Philemonem, Corpus Christianorum: Series Latina 77C, Turnhout 2003.
St. Jerome`s Commentaries on Galatians, Titus, and Philemon, trans. Th.P. Scheck, Notre Dame 2010.


Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Ecclesiastical administration - Administering Church property
    Writing activity
    Equal prerogatives of presbyters and bishops
      Theoretical considerations - On priesthood
        Described by a title - Conpresbyter
          Education - Theological interest
          Ecclesiastical administration - Overseeing clergy and Church staff
            Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: J. Szafranowski, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER2205,