Just got catholic theologian Francis Sullivan’s book From Apostles to Bishops, and here are a few excerpts from the introduction and first chapter to wet your appetite.
“[Christian scholars both catholic and protestant] agree, rather, that the historic episcopate was the result of a development in the post-New Testament period, from the local leadership of a college of presbyters, who were sometimes also called bishops (episkopoi), to the leadership of a single bishop… Scholars differ on details, such as how soon the church of Rome was led by a single bishop, but hardly any doubt that the church of Rome was still led by a group of presbyters for at least a part of the second century.” (viii)
Distinguishing between the catholic and protestant views of the development of the episcopacy in the early church, Sullivan writes: “The ‘catholic’ view, on the contrary, will see some developments in the early Church as so evidently guided by the Holy Spirit that they can rightly be recognized as of divine institution.” (7) Sullivan rightly recognizes that the Protestant view is that outside of the New Testament whatever helpful and wise developments may occur remain nevertheless human and subject to correction or alteration in accordance with Scripture.
“Admittedly the Catholic position, that bishops are the successors of the apostles by divine institution, remains far from easy to establish. It is unfortunate, I believe, that some presentations of Catholic belief in this matter have given a very different impression… To speak of “an unbroken line of episcopal ordination from Christ through the apostles” suggests that Christ ordained the apostles as bishops, and that the apostles in turn ordained a bishop for each of the churches they founded, so that by the time the apostles died, each Christian church was being led by a bishop as successor to an apostle. There are serious problems with such a theory of the link between apostles and bishops.” (13)
All for now.