Jerome: presbyters are the same as bishops

Jerome lived from 342-420 AD, and translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate, and was one of the most famous early church scholars.

“A presbyter, therefore, is the same as a bishop, and before dissensions were introduced into religion by the instigation of the devil, and it was said among the peoples, ‘I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, and I of Cephas,’ Churches were governed by a common council of presbyters; afterwards, when everyone thought that those whom he had baptised were his own, and not Christ’s, it was decreed in the whole world that one chosen out of the presbyters should be placed over the rest, and to whom all care of the Church should belong, that the seeds of schisms might be plucked up. Whosoever thinks that there is no proof from Scripture, but that this is my opinion, that a presbyter and bishop are the same, and that one is a title of age, the other of office, let him read the words of the apostle to the Philippians, saying, ‘Paul and Timotheus, servants of Christ to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi with the bishops and deacons.’” (Jerome, Commentariorum In Epistolam Ad Titum, “Commentary on the Epistle to Titus”, PL 26:562-563)
And:
“Therefore, as we have shown, among the ancients presbyters were the same as bishops; but by degrees, that the plants of dissension might be rooted up, all responsibility was transferred to one person. Therefore, as the presbyters know that it is by the custom of the Church that they are to be subject to him who is placed over them so let the bishops know that they are above presbyters rather by custom than by Divine appointment, and ought to rule the Church in common, following the example of Moses, who, when he alone had power to preside over the people Israel, chose seventy, with the assistance of whom he might judge the people. We see therefore what kind of presbyter or bishop should be ordained.” (Jerome, Commentariorum In Epistolam Ad Titum, PL 26:563)


Dr. White cited these Jerome passages in his response to Paul F. M. Zahl, who argued for the Anglican-Episcopal -mono-episcopate church government.  (Perspectives on Church Government:  Five Views of Church Polity, Edited by Chad Owen Brand and R. Stanton Norman; Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2004, p.251-252)

This reflects New Testament teaching:

Titus 1:5-7 – clearly shows elders and bishops are the same church office.

Acts 20:17 – “called the elders”, v. 28 – the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (bishops, episkopoi) and you are to do the work of shepherding (pastoring) the church of God . . .

1 Peter 5:1-4 – Peter is fellow-elder with them – to the elders, shepherd the flock, serving as overseers / bishops / episcopoi

Acts 14:23 – the apostles appointed elders (presbyters) for each church

Philippians 1:1

Also in the earliest church history after the NT was finished:

1 Clement 42-44

Didache 15

For more, see my review of Rod Bennett’s first book, “Four Witnesses”, part 2.

Here is an excerpt from my article:

As we mentioned in Part 1 of the Review of Four Witnesses,  on page 87, Rod stops the quote of 1 Clement 44 as precisely the exact place that would show that overseers/bishops (Greek: επισκοποι – episcopoi ) is the same office as elders (Greek: πρεσβυτεροι – presbuteroi).  This is clear in the earlier New Testament writings, such as Acts 14:2320:1728Titus 1:5-7; 1 Timothy 3, 1 Peter 5:1-5Philippians 1:1.  Even other very early non-canonical writings confirm this, such as the Didache 15, and Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book IV, chapter 26, no. 5.
“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry.
Rod, used a different translation than the one above, but stopped the quote here on page 87 of his book.
You can look at the standard ccel.org translation here.

The quote continues:
“For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties.  Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that ye have removed some men of excellent behavior from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honor. “ 1 Clement 44

About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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