Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][subsumed][ocr errors][graphic][subsumed][ocr errors]

ordained by priests, and St. Athanasius is supposed to have been that archbishop. Now, as it is a wellknown fact that St. Athanasius was consecrated by bishops, that accusation is considered one of the many calumnies the Arians used to spread against him. If this interpretation be true, the Lausiac text proves nothing for the nature of the early Alexandrian episcopate. But it seems highly improbable that the Arians should have dared to assert what everyone in Egypt in the least familiar with contemporary events, must have known to be false. In fact the Lausiac text is susceptible of a more plausible interpretation, to wit, that the episcopal character of the Archbishop of Alexandria was to be traced to simple presbyters, while in other Churches the Apostolic succession had been transmitted from the very beginning through an uninterrupted line of bishops. In this case the Lausiac would be the oldest witness of the tradition transmitted by Jerome, Severus, and Eutychius. for Pcemen flourished in the first half of the fifth century (Diet. Christ. Biogr., s. v.), or even as early as the latter half of the fourth century, if Charles Gore is right in his argument that Itufinus visited that holy hermit in 375 (Journal of Theological Studies, III, 280). Moreover, that the bishops of Alexandria were originally not only elected, but also appointed, by presbyters is, indirectly at least, confirmed by another tradition for which Eutychius is authority, to wit, that, till Demetrius there was no other bishop in Egypt tlian the Bishop of Alexandria. This was denied by Sollerius (Hist. Chron. Patr. Alex., 8*= 10*) and others, but we shall see in the following section that their reasons are not conclusive (cf. Harnack, "Miss. u. Ausbreitung", 2d ed., II, 133, n. 3). The tradition that the early Bishops of Alexandria were elected and appointed by a college of presbyters, is therefore, if not certain, at least highly probable. On the other hand it seems almost certain that that custom came to an end much earlier than Eutychius, or even Jerome, would have it. Significant is the fact *hat they disagree on the terminus ad quern; still more significant that Severus of Antioch is silent on that point. Besides, several passages of the works of Origen and Clement of Alexandria can hardly be understood without supposing that the mode of episcopal election and ordination was then the same as throughout the rest of the Christian world (see Cabrol in his 'Diet, d'archeologie chrel.", s. v. Alexandrie: Election du Patriarche).

We may not dismiss the question without recalling the use which Presbyterians, since Selden, have made of that tradition to uphold their views on the early organization of the Church. It suffices to say that their theory rests, after all, on the gratuitous assumption (to put it as mildly as possible) that the presbyters who used to elect the Bishop of Alexandria, were priests as understood in the now current meaning of this word. Such is not the tradition; according to Eutychius himself, Selden's chief authority, the privilege of patriarchal election was vested not in the priests in general, but in a college of twelve priests on whom that power had been conferred by St. Mark. They were in that sense an episcopal college. Later on, when it became necessary to establish resident bishops in the provinces, the appointees may have been selected from the college of presbyters, while still retaining their former quality of members of the episcopal college. So that, little by little, the power of Patriarchal election passed into the hands of regular bishops. The transfer would have been gradual and natural; which would explain the incertitude of the witnesses of the tradition as to the time when the old pTMer of things disappeared. "Eutychius may have been influenced in his statement by the fourth Nicene "■non. As for St. Jerome, he may have meant Demetnusand Heraclae, instead of Heraclas and Dionysius, •or he may have been aware of the other tradition

handed down by Eutychius, to the effect that those two patriarchs were the first to ordain bishops since St. Mark (see below).

4. The Episcopate in tiie Provinces.Delegated Bis/tops or Itinerant Bishops.—We have said that according to an ancient tradition handed down by Eutychius, the Bishop of Alexandria was for a long time the only bishop in Egypt. Eutychius's words are as follows: "From Annianus, who was appointed Patriarch of Alexandria by Mark the Evangelist, until Demetrius, Patriarch of Alexandria (and he was the eleventh patriarch of Alexandria), there was no bishop in the province [sic—read provinces—see below] of Egypt [Arabic, A/tsrland the patriarchs his predecessors had appointed no bishop. And when Demetrius became patriarch he appointed three bishops, and he is the first Patriarch of Alexandria who set the bishops over provinces. And when he died Heraclas was made Patriarch of Alexandria, and he appointed twenty bishops" (translated from the edition of L. Cheikho, in "Corp. Script. Christ. Orient.: Script. Arabici", ser. Ill, torn. VI, I, p. 96). It has been objected against this tradition that the Emperor Hadrian, writing to Servianus on the religious conditions of Egypt (Vopiscus, "Vita Saturnini", 8), speaks of Christian bishops; but this letter is now generally considered aa a forgery of the third century (cf. Harnack, "Mission u. Ausbreitung des Christen turns ", 2d ed, II, 133, n. 3), and even if it wore genuine it would be necessary to know exactly what Hadrian meant by the word bishop; we shall see that it could be used in a sense rather different from the current meaning. A stronger objection is taken from the "Lives of the Patriarclis of Alexandria" by Severus of Ashmunein, where we read that three of the early patriarchs—Cerdo, Celadion, and Julian—were elected by bishops as well as by the people. It is far from certain, however, that the word bisiiop in these three cases has its ordinary meaning. In the case of Cerdo the text reads: "When the priests and the bishops, who were representing the patriarch in the towns, heard of his death they were grieved, and they all went to Alexandria and, having taken counsel with the orthodox people", etc. It seems evident that, these "bishops" were nothing but delegated bishops acting in virtue of a special and temporary, not an ordinary and permanent, delegation of powers as ordinary bishops (see below); for in this case delegation, being a matter of course, would not be mentioned. They were not bishops in the ordinary canonical sense of the word. In Celadion's case the text says: "The bishops who were in Alexandria in those days "—i. e., probably, who were stationed there, resided there, which certainly cannot be understood of ordinary bishops, whose residence would have been in their respective dioceses. There was room for but one such bishop in Alexandria. Still clearer is the passage concerning Julian: "A party of bishops from the synod assembled with the people of Alexandria", etc. What was that synod? Evidently not a council which happened to be in session, for in that case all certainly would have taken part in the election. Besides, if Celadion's predecessor had called a synod or council, Severus, or the author from whom he borrowed that meagre biography, would not have failed to swell it with this important event. There seems to be no other solution than to see in that synod a body of presbyters or delegated bishops who were habitually in residence in Alexandria, but some of whom, being on the mission, were not able to take part in the election. There was, therefore, under the early Bishops of Alexandria, a body of men who could be called bishops, and yet had no ordinary jurisdiction, as is evidenced, first, by the express statement in Cerdo's case and, secondly, by the fact that they usually resided in Alexandria, as stated or implied in the other two cases. Such a body of men the twelve presbyters of Eutychius must have been; so that those three passages, far from contradicting Eutychius's testimony, rather confirm it. We find, however, a more direct confirmation of Eutychius's statement in another, so far equally misinterpreted, passage of Severus. In the biography of Julian, the immediate predecessor of Demetrius, we read: "After this patriarch, the Bishop of Alexandria did not remain always there, but he used to go out secretly and organize the hierarchy [yausim kahanat, literally, " ordain clergy"], as St. Mark the Evangelist had done." The same remark is to be found in the "Chronicon Orientale" of Peter Ibn Rahib, with the variation, "No bishop always remained in Alexandria "; and the omission of the last words "as St. Mark" etc. We know that the words yausim kahanat have been so far rendered "ordinationes sacerdotum faciebant" (Renaudot, Hist. Patr. Alexandr., p. 18), "ordained priests" (Evetts, "Hist, of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria" in Graflin-Nau's "Patrologia Orientalis", I, 154). There is no doubt, however, that the word kahanat (plur. of k&hin) as a rule stands for bishops and deacons as well as for priests. That it really is so in this case is made clear from a comparison among three versions of the same episode of the life of St. Mark. The author of the second biography in Severus's work says that the Evangelist, seeing that the people of Alexandria were plotting against his life, went out from their city (secretly, adds Severus of Nesteraweh, Barges, op. cit., p. 56) and returned to the Pentapolis, where he remained two years, appointing bishops, priests, and deacons in till its provinces. The Melcnite Martyrology of Alexandria, under 25 April, says that St. Mark went from Alexandria to Barca (Pentapolis) and beautified the churches of Christ, "instituting bishops and the rest of the clergy [kahanat] of that country". (It is evident that in the mind of the author of the latter passage kahanat, on the one hand, and "bishops, priests, and deacons", on the other, are interchangeable.) Finally, in the "Chronicon Orientale", where the same episode of St. Mark's life is related, we find simply: "appointing clergy [kahanat] for them", without special mention of the bishops. And the argument will appear all the more convincing if we notice that the remark of Julian's biography must have had in view the labours of St. Mark in the Pentapolis, when he added "as St. Mark the Evangelist had.done", for neither the Oriental nor any other sources record a further instance of ordinations performed by St. Mark outside of Alexandria.

Before we dismiss this interesting passage of Julian's biography, let us call attention to another detail of it. The patriarch is styled simply the Bishop of Alexandria, which shows that the source from which the remark was borrowed must belong to a time when the expressions archbishop and patriarch had not yet come into use. It may, therefore, be considered as absolutely certain that, according to all the Oriental sources, there was from the times of St. Marl to Julian's death only one diocese in the whole territory of Egypt proper, namely, the Diocese of Alexandria, and only one bishop, the Bishop of Alexandria. That bishop was assisted by a college of presbyters. These were Dishops to all intents and purposes, excepting jurisdiction, which they had by delegation only. If Eutychius calls them presbyters, it is because he found that word in the source he was using, possibly the very same in which the author of Julian's biography found the word bishop used to designate the patriarch. In the "Lives of the Patriarchs " by Severus of Ashmunein, they are called bishops, in agreement with the current use of the time when those biographies were first written down. On so much the Oriental sources agree, and substantially they confirm the traditions preserved by St. Jerome and Severus of Antioch. They disagree as to the number of presbyters created by St. Mark; Makrizi, who probably copied Eutychius, gives the

same number (twelve) and does not speak of deacom. Severus's second biography of St. Mark, Al-Makin, and the "Chronicon Orientale" say three presbyters and seven deacons. According to Severus of Nesteraweh, St. Mark "ordained priests the sons of Anianus, who were but few, and eleven deacons". It is impossible to reconcile these data. If Eutychius's figure, as ia very likely, has no historical foundation, it might be based on Mark, iii, 14. The number three in the other sources, if fictitious, might reflect the fourth canon of Nicsea. Although we have no means of determining, even approximately, to what extent Christianity had spread over Egyptian territory during the first two centuries of our era, there is hardly any doubt that the number of communities, as well as the area over which they were scattered, very much exceeded the proportions of an ordinary diocese of the primitive Church Christianity, says Clement of Alexandria (Strom., VI, xviii, 167), has spread fcard tivot nal Kumi" *ol ri\a irfio-oi',i.e. whole houses and families have embraced the faith, which has found adherents in all classes of society. And this statement is borne out by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., VI, i), who says that in the year 202, during the Severian persecution, Christians were dragged to Alexandria, for trial 4V Alytrrov tal 6ijfJoIJ« oird<7i;s. It would seem that under ordinary circumstances there must have been a call for an ordinary resident bishop at least in each of the three great provinces of Heptanomis (Middle Egypt), Thebais (Upper Egypt), and Arsinoe (the Fayum).

But in Egypt, as elsewhere, the Church in its infancy naturally copied the political organization of the country, and Egypt, in that respect, was entirely different from the rest of the Roman Empire. Rome, or rather Augustus, in taking possession of Egypt as his personal spoil, took in almost bodily the old political organization created by the Pharaohs and developed and strengthened by the Ptolemies, simply replacing the king by a prefect in whom, as his representative, all authority, judicial and military, was vested. That organization was characterized by the total absence of municipal institutions; no organized cities, as in the rest of the Roman Empire, no magistrates elected by a senate and governing in its name. The country was divided, as of old, into nomes, each of which was administered by a strategos (formerly, nomarch) under the prefect, though occasionally two nomes were temporarily united under one strategos, or one none was divided between two strategoi. The strategos appointed all subaltern officials throughout the nome, subject to approval from the prefect, and transmitted to them his orders. In judicial matters.they could initiate proceedings, but could deliver judgment only when specially empowered as delegates by the prefect. In each village there was a council of elders who acted as intermediaries for the payment of taxes, and were held responsible to the authorities of the nome for the good order of their fellow villagers; they had, however, no authority except by way of delegation. Alexandria was no exception to that rule; it was not until the reign of Septimius Severus that the city w»s granted a senate, and even then the citizens were not permitted to elect their own magistrates. The situation was probably the same in other cities which at a still later period secured the privilege of a senate. For convenience' sake the Ptolemies had grouped the nomes of Upper Egypt into one province" governed by an epistrategos; the Romans at first did the same for the nomes of Middle Egypt (including the Arednohe nome, the modem Fayum) and the Delta, or Lower Egypt. But this and other later arrangements of the nomes into provinces>never affected the political organization of the country. The epistrategoi were the usual delegates for many of the powers nominally exercised by the prefect. They appointed the strategoi and other local officials, subject to confirmation by the prefect. In a general way they acted as intennedh

•lies for the transmission to the authorities of the nome of the orders issued by the prefect (Milne, p. 4-6). In each nome there was a metropolis which was the residence of the strut egos and, as such, the political centre of the nome. It was a religious centre as well, as it contained the chief sanctuary of the special god of the whole nome. The chief priest in charge of that sanctuary naturally ruled in religious matters over all the secondary temples scattered throughout the territory of the nome. There was in Alexandria a "HighPriest of Alexandria and all Egypt", appointed by the emperor, and probably a Roman, like the prefect upon whom he depended and whose substitute he was in religious matters. He had supreme authority over the priests and control of the temple treasures all over Egypt. In course of time, particularly under Diocletian, several changes took place in that organization; but these changes affected in no way the workings of the administration of the country, which, through a chain extending from the prefect to the last and least subaltern of the smallest village, brought every inhabitant under the control of the imperial prefect.

A more striking example of centralized power can hardly be imagined: one master, supreme in all branches of administration; between him and the people, intermediaries who transmit his orders, but never act except on his behalf, and refer to him all cases of any importance. Such, also, was the organization of the Coptic Church in the first one hundred and twenty years of its existence: one master only, one seat and source of jurisdiction, one judge—the Bishop of Alexandria. It is, therefore, this fullness of jurisdiction ratherthan the fullness of the priesthood— rienitudo sacerdolii—that is understood by the title of bishop. The presbyters who elect the Bishop of Alexandria, also have the fullness of the priesthood, but they have no jurisdiction of their own. We found them temporarily in charge in the provinces, but they were acting in behalf of the bishop; and for that reason, in the older sources, they are not called bishops. With Demetrius (188-232) a new era opens. The bishops of Alexandria, we have seen, began to leave the city secretly, and ordained bishops, priests, and deacons everywhere, as St. Mark himself had done when he went to the Pentapolis. The word secretly is suggestive of times of persecution (cf. Abraham Ecchellensis, "Eutychius vindicatus", 126; Renaudot, "Hist. PatriarcharumAlexandrinorum", I). It would seem that this new departure of Demetrius took place in the very first years of the third century, when the Severian persecution broke out. The dangers then threatening the Christian communities—which by this time had greatly increased in all parts of Egypt— may have been the chief consideration that prompted the bishop to come to the assistance of his flock by giving it permanent pastors (see, however, Harnack, "Mission , II, 137, note 2, quoting Schwartz). According to the tradition of Eutychius, Demetrius created three bishops; Heraclas (232-48), as many as twenty. The number of bishops so increased, under Dionvsius (248-65), Maximus (265-82), Theonas (282300),"Peter Martyr (300-11), Achillas (312), and Alexander (313-326), that the last of these could, in 320, muster nearly one hundred bishops against Arius (Socrates, Hist. Eccl., I, vi), from Egypt, Libya, and the Pentapolis. The Egyptian hierarchy wasthen fully organized (cf. Harnack, op. cit., II, 142), a fact which explains, and is explained by, the wholesale Christianization of Egypt during the third century. In spite, however, of that astonishing development of the hierarchy, the old institution of itinerant bishops had ?ot yet entirely disappeared. It happened often during the persecutions that bishops were incarcerated pending trial, and therefore were unable to hold ordinations. Their places were then filled by reptoSevral, or itinerant bishops ordained for that purpose, and resident in Alexandria when not actively engaged in

their sacred functions. It was for liaving presumed to usurp the functions of such wcptoSevral, that Meletius, Bishop of Lycopolis (in Upper Egypt) was censured by the Patriarch Alexander, and finally condemned and deprived of his jurisdiction by the Council of Nictea (see Hefele-Leclercq, Hist, des Conciles, Paris, 1907, I, 488-503, where all the sources are indicated). _

The existence of metropolitans (in the canonical sense of the word) in the Church of Egypt is a matter of considerable doubt (see Harnack, op. cit., II, 150, note 3, where reference is made to Schwartz,"Athanasiana", I, in " Nachricht. d. K. Gesellschaft d. Wiss. zu Gottingen", 1904, p. 180, and Liibeck, "Reichseint hoiking u. kirchliche Hierarchie", pp. 109 sq., 116 sqq.). If some bishops (which is very likely; see Hefele, "Conciliengeschichte", I, pp. 391, 392) bore that title, they could not have differed from the ordinary Egyptian bishops in their relations to the Bishop of Alexandria. It is a well-known fact that the Bishop of Alexandria was wont to ordain not only his metropolitans, as did the other patriarchs, but also their suffragans, with the sole proviso that their election should have been sanctioned by their respective metropolitans (Hefele, op. cit., I, p. 393). St. Epiphanius, writing of Meletius, whom he calls ipx<*rt<riroToj (Hoeres., Lxix, c. iii), by which he means really metropolitan (Hefele, ibid.), says: "Hie quidem caeteris /Egypti episcopis antecellens, secundum a Petro [Alexandrino] dignitatis locum obtinebat, utpote illius adjutor sed eidem tamen subjectus et ad ipsum de rebus ecclesiasticis referens" [He indeed, being preeminent over all the other bishops of Egypt, held the position next in dignity to that of Peter (of Alexandria), as being his helper, yet subject to him and dependent on him in ecclesiastical affairs]. In what concerns Meletianism St. Epiphanius is not to be implicitly trusted. In this case, however, his testimony is probably correct; his words depict just such a condition of affairs as we should naturally expect from the general analogy of the church-organization with the civil government. The existence of the epistrategoi and the nature of their relations to the prefect of Egypt might well have suggested the appointment of metropolitans with just as limited an independence of the Bishop of Alexandria as St. Epiphanius attributes to Meletius.

Present State Op The Coptic Church. The Jacobite Church has thirteen dioceses in Egypt: Cairo under the Patriarch of Alexandria, with 23 churches and 35 priests; Alexandria, with a metropolitan, liaving charge also of the Provinces of Bohaireh and Menufjyeh, 48 churches, 60 priests; the three provinces of Dakalieh, Sharkieh, and Gharbieh, 70 churches, 95 priests; Gizeh and the Fayum, 25 churches, 40 priests; Beni-Suef, 24 churches, 70 priests; Minieh, 40 churches, 90 priests; Sanabu, 32 churches, 65 priests; Manfalut, 28 churches, 55 priests; Assiut (metropolitan see), 25 churches, 66 priests; Abutig (metropolitan see), 45 churches, 105 priests; Akhmim and Girgeh (metropolitan see), 50 churches, 101 priests; Keneh, 24 churches, 48 priests; Luxor and Esneh (metropolitan see), 24 churches, 48 priests. By way of summary it may be said that the Jacobite Coptic Church has 1 patriarch, 6 metropolitans, 6 bishops, 856 priests, 449 churches, and about 600,000 souls. There are in addition, outside of Egypt, a metropolitan in Jerusalem, a bishop for Nubia and Khartum, a metropolitan and two bishops in Abyssinia. Some ten years ago the abbots qf the monasteries of Moharrak (province of Assiut), St. Anthony, St. Paul (both in the Arabian Desert), and Baramus (in the desert of Nitria) were raised to the dignity of bishops.

There are three categories of schools, (a) Church schools, under the patriaroh (conservative): 1 ecclesiastical college, 50 pupils; 6 boys' schools, 1100 pupils:

« PreviousContinue »