From Synagogue to Church
Public Services and Offices in the Earliest Christian Communities
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Number of Pages: 396
Width: 15.8 cm
Height: 23.6 cm
This important work challenges an entrenched scholarly consensus, that at the beginning it was inspired leaders - not ordained officers - who dominated the church. James Burtchaell illustrates that the traditional argument on behalf of clerical authority had read history backwards, and found the apostles to be the first bishops. In this study, Burtchaell reads history forwards, and demonstrates that first century Jews knew only one form of community organization, that of the synagogue. The three-level structure of offices in the synagogue - president, elders, and assistant - emerges, in the author's estimation, as the most plausible antecedent for the Christian offices which stand forth clearly in the second century. Burtchaell's conclusion is that ordained office is a foundational element in Christianity, but that, while the officers presided from the first, they rarely led. Thus, while Jesus' brother James presided as the ordained chief of the mother church in Jerusalem, it was Peter - Jesus' inspired veteran disciple - whose voice carried most authority. This revisionist historical account of Christian origins creatively subverts the established positions on church order, and thus opens up the arguments to new and larger conclusions.
"This is an important, very well organized, clearly argued book." Eglise et Theologie "This book is a good historical overview of the consensus which has shaped much of our thinking about leadership within churches..." EARL (John Hopkins) "...highly instructive, well documented and very well written...an important contribution to the study of the relationship of Hellenistic synagogue and Church in agenda and organization. The identification of this relationship is a valuable addition to the debate on office in the early Church." Enrique Nardoni, Theological Studies "...lucid and accessible...an original contribution to the age-old and ongoing controversy concerning leadership structures in the initial Christian communities." Priests and People "Professor Burtchaell has written an important book on the origins of ordained ministries...a pleasure to read, even at its most challenging." Gerard S. Sloyan, Worship "In this learned and significant study James Burtchaell, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, challenges the long standing and often reiterated Protestant 'consensus' positing a discontinuity between church and synagogue." E. Glenn Hinson, Church History "Burtchaell's reading of the history of the debate is...convincing...he correctly challenges the idea that ritual and structure are alien to true religion, suggesting that true religion is also found in the institutional expressions of community, even in Christianity." James C. Hanges, Critical Review