The Origin of the Presbyterate in the New Testament
David M. Gregson, Ph.D.

The prominence of the presbyterate in the New Testament, not to mention its importance in subsequent Church history, has prompted scholars to seek some account of its origin in the New Testament. An account of Church beginnings is given in the Acts of the Apostles, and there in particular one might expect to find the institution of the presbyterate. Inconveniently, Acts gives no clear description of it. As a result, over the last century, some have tried to identify the first presbyters with the Seven ordained in Acts 6, in spite of the age-old tradition that these were the first deacons. This revisionist view has taken such hold that scholars such as Aidan Nichols have felt free to affirm it without any arguments in its favor.1 In this essay, an examination of such arguments, in their typical form, will precede my attempt to show that the origin of the presbyterate is found not in Acts, but in the Gospel of Luke, generally held to be by the same author.

The Seven the First Presbyters?
Perhaps the first and most influential of those who argue that the Seven were the first presbyters was the Anglican theologian Austin Farrer.2 I take his reasons to be representative of current objections to the traditional view, that the Seven were deacons.

Objection 1. The verb diakonein is not used in Acts 6:2 as a technical term designating any specific office. The same term is applied in this context to the Apostles' ministry, the ministry of the word, as distinct from the ministry to tables, for which the Seven were ordained.

I respond, although this argument seems to have carried the day with many expositors, it is not really that strong. Whenever the diaconate was instituted, the verb diakonein was as applicable to it as it was to the offices of presbyter and Apostle. There is nothing to preclude its having that reference in Acts 6:2, viz., to the office later called diaconia.

Farrer seems to have assumed that early proponents of the traditional view had a limited knowledge of Greek. But in fact these proponents were very early indeed, when Greek was still the lingua franca of the Mediterranean world. Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200) wrote in Greek, and he (notable for his exposition of the roots of apostolic ministry) was the earliest explicit source of the tradition,3 though it was implied earlier in Ignatius4 and Hermas.5 The same tradition was reflected in the custom of limiting the number of deacons in Rome to seven,6 a custom which was later extended to all cities by the Council of Neo-Caesarea (315; Canon XV), which appealed directly to Acts.

Objection 2. There is a parallel between Acts 6 and Numbers 11. In the Numbers passage, the people complain of their hunger, and Moses appoints seventy elders (in Greek, presbyteroi) to assist him. When they are given a portion of Moses' Spirit, they prophesy. In Acts 6, the Seven are appointed to feed the Hellenists and then go out to preach.

I respond, this parallel is too loose to be convincing. There is nothing to indicate Moses' seventy elders were appointed to feed the Israelites. According to Numbers, God fed the people with a flock of quails, which the people gathered (and from which they contracted a plague) without help of the seventy.

Nor is this is the first mention of elders in Israel. Before the exodus, it was the elders to whom Moses conveyed God's promise to deliver Israel from bondage (Ex 4:29; cf. 3:16,18). The elders were summoned to prepare for the Passover (Ex 12:21). In the wilderness they witnessed the flow of water from the rock at Horeb (Ex 17:5-6). They shared a sacrificial meal with Moses and his father-in-law, and they were likely among those appointed to help Moses judge the people's affairs (Ex 18:12-26). At Sinai, it was to the elders that Moses communicated God's invitation to the covenant (Ex 19:7). And then, at the covenant ratification ceremony, seventy were selected by Moses out of a larger number of elders to accompany him, with Aaron and Aaron's sons, up the mountain itself (Ex 24:1,9). In all these texts, the role of the elders is to represent the people as their leaders (cf. Lv 4:13-21). We find no suggestion of their "waiting on tables."7

Israel, in its semi-nomadic wilderness period, seems to have been organized like traditional Arab societies. The basic unit was the family. Several related families made up a clan, and several clans made a tribe. Each clan was ruled by the heads of its families, called zeqenim or elders, who administered justice and represented their people in negotiations.8 After the settlement of Canaan, elders formed councils in every village. To the time of Christ and beyond, the elders of a community were its judges, wise men, administrators, and leaders in war. In short, they provided the leadership and stability on which the well-being of their communities depended. In the wilderness period, as we shall see, they did not hold the highest office in their respective tribes, but their responsibilities were of a higher order than those apparently conferred on the Seven in Acts 6.

Objection 3. There is another parallel with Acts 6 in Luke 10, where Christ commissions seventy (or seventy-two) disciples to go and preach to the Samaritans, in preparation for Christ’s coming. Similarly, the Apostles ordained the Seven, one of whom, Philip, preached to the Samaritans, in preparation for the coming of Peter and John.

I respond, it is not clear that Christ sent the Seventy to the Samaritans. They were already passing, or had passed through Samaria (Lk 9:51-62), on their way to Judaea, from where, after a time, they would go on to Perea.9 Moreover, there is nothing said about Philip being sent to Samaria by the Apostles. He may well have fled there from the persecution in Jerusalem that followed the stoning of Stephen. Peter and John came afterward, apparently in response to Philip’s successes in Samaria, rather than according to a preconceived plan. The parallel between Acts 6 and Luke 10 also seems weak at best.

On Farrer's view, the Seventy sent out by Christ are a type of the Seven to be ordained by the Apostles, but not themselves presbyters. Why not? Farrer's answer was that theirs was only a temporary commission, or else the Seventy all defected at the Passion. Yet if there is a parallel to be found anywhere with Luke 10, it is in Luke 9, where the Twelve are commissioned. And there is nothing to indicate a more temporary character in the commission of the Seventy than there is in the commission of the Twelve. That Luke regarded the mission of the Seventy as ongoing seems clear from his record of the words of Christ on the Seventy’s return. “Behold, I have given (dedoka, perfect tense) you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.” (10:19)

The words that follow seem to negate Farrer's other suggestion as well, that the Seventy defected at the Passion. “Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” While this need not imply eternal election, it would seem strange, when our Lord was so clear on his future betrayal by one of the Twelve, that he would have spoken so warmly of the prospects of the Seventy if they were all finally to abandon him.

There is not the slightest evidence this ever happened, either in Scripture or Tradition. All the traditions bearing on the Seventy identify them with leading figures in the early Church, including Luke. These identifications may not be accurate, but they show that the Seventy were not held in disrepute. Far from it, in the Byzantine liturgical calendar, January 4th is set aside to honor the Seventy as a group, while each of those believed to have belonged to the Seventy is honored on a day of his own.

Scripture itself testifies that a sufficient number of the faithful remained after the Passion to include the Seventy. There were a hundred and twenty persons present at the ordination of Matthias, who is traditionally identified as one of the Seventy (Ac 1:15). And according to Paul, Christ appeared after his resurrection to more than 500 of the brethren at once (1 Co 15:6).

Objection 4.  Luke would not record the institution of a body, viz., the diaconate, of which nothing further is said in Acts, nor would he fail to record the institution of a body, viz., the presbyterate, about which so much is said.

I respond, regarding the first point, the Seven seem not to have acted as a body at all comparable to the presbyterate. If the mission of Philip is any indication, they functioned more or less independently of one another.10 And if they continued to function that way, it is not surprising we hear nothing more about the diaconate as such. This is not to say that none of the notables mentioned in Acts were deacons. Apart from the Seven, no one in Acts is individually identified as to his office, except only the Apostles, and that because they were the primary authority. The elders are identified as a group, because they acted as a group, as for example in the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15.

As to the second point, Acts 6 is the only possible Lucan record of the institution of the presbyterate only if we leave the Gospel of Luke out of account. But it is clear from Acts 1:1 that the author expected his gospel to have been read first. And that is where we may find the record we are looking for.

The Seventy and the Twelve

Of the four evangelists, only Luke records the appointment of the Seventy. That alone should give it weight in his history. But its weight increases when we see that he has given it twice the space he gave to his prior account of the commissioning of the Twelve.

Moreover, he has placed this text "at one of the high points of his gospel"—between the Lord's counsels to the Twelve (9:46-62) and the "hymn of jubilation" (10:21-24).11 If these two texts, Luke 9: 1-6 & 10 and Luke 10:1-12 & 17-20, were compared on their own merits, we might suppose the ministry of the Seventy was of equal importance to the ministry of the Twelve.

Obviously, that was not the case. The rest of Luke (not to mention the other gospels) and the book of Acts credit the Twelve Apostles with a unique authority as Christ’s representatives.  No one held a comparable position with the exception of Paul, on his testimony, himself an Apostle directly commissioned by Christ.12 And yet the centrality that Luke gives the Seventy requires some explanation. It invites us to consider what their ministry was, and whether there is any reference to its continuation in Acts.

If we compare the commissioning of the Twelve with that of the Seventy, we find these parallels:

Lk 9:1 - the Twelve are given power to cast out demons, and to heal the sick;13
Lk 10:9 & 17 - the Seventy are given power to heal the sick and demons are subject to them.

Lk 9:2 - the Twelve are commissioned to preach the kingdom;
Lk 10:9 - the Seventy are commissioned to announce the kingdom.

Lk 9:3 - the Twelve are to take nothing for the journey (no staff, bag, bread, money, or a second tunic);
Lk 10:4 - the Seventy are to take no purse, bag, or sandals.

Lk 9:4 - the Twelve are to accept one lodging in each town;
Lk 10:7 - the Seventy are not to move from house to house.

Lk 9:5 - the Twelve are to shake off the dust of any town that does not receive them;
Lk 10:11 - the Seventy are to shake off the dust of any town that does not receive them.

The only instruction distinguishing the mission of the Seventy from that of the Twelve is that they are to greet no one on the way, which suggests an urgency to their mission, probably because the Lord's time was growing short. They are also told to eat what is offered them, since a laborer is worthy of his hire (10:7-8), but this probably means no more than what they were told in common with the Twelve, that they were to take no money or supplies (10:4; 9:3). Some have seen here an echo of the pronouncement that all foods are clean (Mk 7:19), inferring that the Seventy were being sent to the Gentiles. But Christ's immediate destination was Judaea. Even if they were being sent on to Peraea, where the population was mixed, a mission to the Gentiles would seem inconsistent with Acts 10, which reports that Peter needed a special revelation before he would preach to the Roman Cornelius. Moreover, the Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15), where the question of whether Gentiles should become Jews before becoming Christians was resolved in the negative, would have seemed unnecessary if the Seventy had already been sent to the Gentiles by Christ Himself.14

What, then, was the nature of the ministry assigned to the Seventy? It is intimated in the number. As noted above, seventy is the number given in Exodus 24 and Numbers 11 for those selected from among the elders to assist Moses as leaders and representatives of the Israelites. That the correspondence between this number and the number commissioned by Christ is not merely coincidental is supported by early tradition, as found especially in the eastern Church. In the Clementine Recognitions (3rd cent.) we read that Christ chose twelve apostles, and then seventy-two disciples, that by so imitating Moses, he might be recognized as the prophet Moses foretold (1.40; cf. Dt 18:15). In the Apostolic Constitutions (4th cent.) the prayer for the ordination of a presbyter invokes the Holy Spirit as the Spirit who filled the (seventy) elders chosen by Moses (8.3.16). And Jerome, a doctor of the western Church, in his Letter to Fabiola (no. 78, mans. 6), refers the origin of the presbyterate to the Seventy appointed by Christ. If this tradition is better attested in eastern than in western sources, it may be due to the fact  that the Seventy-two were held in higher reverence in countries to the east of Israel, particularly in Syria, where the founding of their churches was attributed not to the Twelve Apostles, but to the Seventy-two.15

But what are we to make of this variation between seventy and seventy-two? Textual support is about equal for both numbers in Luke 10:1 & 17. Does this weaken the connection between the ministry there spoken of and the elders appointed by Moses? It probably strengthens it, since it matches an ambiguity in Numbers 11. In addition to the seventy gathered at the tabernacle with Moses, to receive the Spirit for their office, there were two others, Eldad and Medad, who received the Spirit also, though they remained in the camp (Nb 11:24-30). According to the Midrash or rabbinic commentary on Numbers, Bamidbar Rabba (15), six were chosen from every tribe by lots placed in an urn. Seventy of the lots had zaqen written on them, and two were blank. The blank lots were drawn by Eldad and Medad. Thus seventy-two were called, but only seventy chosen. Yet the two not chosen also received the Spirit from Moses. And this ambivalence between the two numbers may explain the textual variants in Luke on the number appointed by Christ.

But there is another explanation commonly offered for the number seventy, as it applies to this ministry. Seventy is the traditional number of the Gentiles, derived from the number of nations listed in Genesis 10 as descended from Noah's three sons. The Septuagint lists seventy-two nations, which is supposed to account for the textual variants between seventy and seventy-two in Luke 10. This explanation is offered in support of the notion that the number signifies a mission to the Gentiles. But as indicated above, there was nothing in their commission that would suggest as much. The mission to the Gentiles would be committed later to the Twelve, at the very end of Christ’s ministry (Lk 24:47-48; Ac 1:8; cf. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15). Perhaps the great commission included the Seventy as well, but then there would be nothing distinctive in their mission to the Gentiles to give their number that symbolic significance. So we are left with the evident allusion of the number seventy, or seventy-two, to the presbyters of Moses’ time.

Mosaic Israel as a Type of the Church

To get a clearer picture of the cultural and religious context in which the Seventy were appointed, it will be helpful to remember that Christ is presented in the New Testament as the new Moses. In Luke-Acts God's promise that he would raise up a prophet like Moses (Dt 18:15), is referred to explicitly as fulfilled in Christ (Ac 3:22-26; 7:37), and clear parallels are intimated. Christ fasted 40 days and nights in the wilderness, as Moses did (Lk 4:1-2; Ex 34:28). Christ gave the new law, as Moses gave the old (Lk 6:20-49; 16:16; Ex 20-23).16 Christ instituted the Eucharist in a Passover celebration ascribed to Moses (Lk 22:8,15; Ex 12:1-28). Christ would pour out his blood to seal the New Covenant, as Moses poured out the blood of oxen to seal the Old (Lk 22:20; Ex 24:8). And it is Israel at the time of Moses that is presented as the type of the Church (Ac 7:38; cf. 1 Co 10:1-11).17 This Mosaic perspective on Christ and the Church gives insight into the original meaning of the ministries instituted by Christ as described in Luke-Acts, the apostolate as well as the presbyterate.

The Twelve Apostles were early regarded as Patriarchs of the new Israel (cf. Rv 21:13-14). Of course, this would relate them to the sons of Jacob, Patriarchs of the old Israel. According to Luke, the Apostles were also promised that, in the kingdom of Christ, they would “sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Lk 22:30; cf. Mt 19:28). But the sons of Jacob, as progenitors of the original Twelve Tribes, could not be said to have ruled over them.  This raises the question of whether there was a ruling body in Israel at the time of Moses to which the Apostolate in the Church might more closely correspond. And in fact there was.

There is a significant group of twelve men mentioned several times in Numbers, which apparently are the twelve alluded to in the Clementine Recognitions as cited above. Twelve princes, one from each of the Twelve Tribes, are named as assisting Moses in the first census (Nb 1:5-16). These same twelve are ratified as princes by God in the arrangement of their tribes in camp around the tabernacle (Nb 2). The same twelve represent their tribes in bringing the offerings for the dedication of the tabernacle (Nb 7). Twelve princes, though not with the same names, are sent on an ill-fated exploration of Canaan (Nb 13:4-15). Twelve princes again represent their tribes, in wake of the controversy with Korah (Nb 17). And twelve princes, with yet different names, assign portions of the land of Canaan to their tribes (Nb 34:16-29).18

A prince, or nasî',19 was the ruler of his tribe during Israel's wilderness period and in their settlement of Canaan. According to Martin Noth,20 a nasî' represented his tribe at the formal assembling of the Twelve Tribes as an amphictyony, or religious confederation. The same title was given to Midianite leaders (Nb 25:18; Jos 13:21), and also to the leaders of the twelve tribes of the Ishmaelites (Gn 17:20; 25:16). A tribe was called a shebet or matteh, synonymous terms which meant a commander's staff and a royal sceptre. Thus, according to Roland DeVaux, a tribe included all who obeyed the same nasî'. That the elders were subject to the princes appears in Deuteronomy 5:23 and 29:10. DeVaux surmises that the leader of a tribe in Mosaic Israel was comparable to an Arab sheik.21

This more than suggests that, if the Twelve Apostles were appointed Patriarchs of the new Israel, it was not only as their progenitors (in the new birth), but as their princes, especially in light of the promise that the Apostles would rule over the “twelve tribes of Israel.” The Church, of course, never retained the old tribal divisions, and so the number twelve here probably connotes the office of the Apostles, as heirs to those holding a similar position in the twelve tribes under Moses. This consideration sheds light on the Apostles’ concern to restore their number to twelve by ordaining Matthias to fill the vacancy left by Judas (Ac1:15-26). Apart from the number twelve, their office in the new Israel would lose its antitypical significance.

If then we are correct in supposing that Christ, the Church, and the Apostles, are the New Testament antitypes respectively of Moses, Mosaic Israel, and the princes of the twelve tribes, the natural conclusion is that the Seventy, the only other ministry recorded as directly instituted by Christ, were intended to be the antitype of the seventy elders appointed by Moses.

The Seventy as a New Sanhedrin

The probability that the Seventy were the first Christian presbyters is enhanced by the following consideration. The seventy elders appointed by Moses were selected from among the elders of the various tribes, and appointed to form a ruling council over all Israel. In Christ's day, the supreme council for all Judaism was the Great Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. The number of those sitting on this council was seventy, over whom the high priest presided as nasî'.22 These seventy were called zeqenim, or in Greek, presbyteroi.23 The seventy elders of the Sanhedrin were regarded as the successors of the seventy appointed by Moses. They were “ordained” to their office by the laying on of hands with prayer, after the pattern of Joshua (Nb 27:18; Dt 34:9). Thus we have a significant example in the time of Christ of a ruling council of seventy, called "elders," basing their number on the precedent of Moses' ruling council of seventy.24

Was the number of those commissioned by Christ in Luke 10 based on the same precedent? We would expect so, if we were to find the Seventy exercising a ruling function in the Church. In the gospel, we are told only that they went out to teach, but in Acts, while there is no direct reference to “the Seventy,” we do find a body of elders/presbyters functioning like a sanhedrin.

In Acts 15 a council was called at Jerusalem to decide the question of whether Gentiles had to become Jews before becoming Christians. Present at the council were both apostles and presbyters. As we would expect, Peter spoke first, but then the most prominent part was taken by James.25 It was he who summed up their findings and promulgated the decision. In view of his earlier obscurity, how do we account for his prominence here?

According to tradition,26 James "the Just" was the first bishop of Jerusalem. Yet this alone would not account for the leading role he assumed in the presence of Peter and the other Apostles, unless he was following a precedent they recognized. The precedent seems to have been the role of the high priest as presiding in the Sanhedrin. According to Dom Gregory Dix, “At Jerusalem James the Just, whom Judaeo-Christian tradition saw ... as a Christian high-priest, presided over a sanhedrin of Christian zeqenim, exercising a real jurisdiction over the Christians of Palestine ...”27 If the council at which James presided was regarded as a new sanhedrin, after the Great Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, then the number of its zeqenim should reflect the traditional identification with the seventy elders of Moses.

Would this number include the Apostles? Probably not, since that would imply James' ordinary jurisdiction over the Twelve. The Apostles were present at this council probably to lend their authority to a decision binding on all churches (Ac 16:4).28 But for regular meetings of the Christian sanhedrin, the presence of the apostles does not seem to have been necessary. On another occasion, when James received Paul's report on his third missionary journey, and "all the elders were present" (Ac 21:18), the Apostles are not mentioned. Yet the proceedings of this body again resembled those of the Great Sanhedrin, which again suggests the number seventy, exclusive of the Apostles.

Who then would have made up the Christian sanhedrin at its inception, if not the Seventy appointed by Christ? And if they, or a significant number of them, constituted the earliest Christian sanhedrin, they would have given the office its character, so that any new members would be appointed to the same office as the Seventy.

As the evidence in Acts indicates, the Christian sanhedrin at Jerusalem had a unique authority, comparable to that of the Great Sanhedrin of the Jews. And yet, just as every Jewish community had its own sanhedrin, (though not requiring a membership of seventy,) so it seems did every Christian church. Presbyters were ordained for all the churches (Ac 14:23), to form ruling councils (I Th 5:12; Rm 12:8; Hb 13:17), whose function was to teach (Eph 4:11; 1 Tm 5:17) and have oversight of their congregations (I Pt 5:2). If the church in Jerusalem, as is generally held, provided the model for church order throughout the Christian diaspora, then the office to which presbyters were ordained in every church was the same as that held by presbyters in the sanhedrin of the mother church.29 Thus, if the Seventy ordained by Christ were the prototypes of the presbyters of Jerusalem, and the presbyters of Jerusalem were the exemplars for presbyters throughout the Church, then the origin of the Christian presbyterate is to be found in Luke 10, not in Acts 6.

Presbyterate and the Priesthood

In concluding, I should briefly address an obvious question. Given the eventual identification of the presbyterate with the priesthood,30 could Luke 10 be taken as an account of the origin of the Christian priesthood?

Among the Jews of Christ’s day, there was no equivalence of the presbyterate with the priesthood. They were distinct offices. Among the early Israelites, as in surrounding nations, the priesthood was originally patriarchal, priestly functions being performed by a father for his family (Noah, Gn. 8:20; Abraham, 22:13), a sheik for his tribe (Jethro, Ex 2:16), and a king for his people (Melchizedek, Gn 14:18). But in the Law of Moses, the priesthood was restricted to the line of Aaron (Nb 16; 18:7; 2 Chr 26:18), which did not, except in the Hasmonean period (2nd and 1st cent. BC), produce civil rulers. It was in Christ, who was not of Aaron’s line, that the ruling and priestly offices were permanently reunited. This was intimated in His “having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hb 6:20-7:2), who was both king and priest. But the conclusion that He conferred His priesthood on the Seventy in appointing them presbyters would be premature.

Theologically, the Christian priesthood was rooted in celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and the Eucharist was not instituted until the night before Christ died. So the first on whom the priesthood was conferred were the Twelve, who were present at the Last Supper (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1337). Hence, if the first presbyters were appointed by Christ Himself, they were not, at that time, ordained to the priesthood. Their ordination as priests would have been at the hands of the Apostles, perhaps after the martyrdom of St. Stephen, when the Church at Jerusalem came under persecution, and all the leadership (short of the Apostles themselves) were scattered (Ac 8:1). With them went the Church, and wherever the Church was planted, the Eucharist was celebrated.

The patriarchal precedent, restored in Christ, would have reestablished the connection between ruling and priestly offices. Thus, it would have predetermined what candidates would be suitable for ordination, viz., those to whom pastoral authority was committed. Lacking the presence of an Apostle, or an “apostolic man” (a bishop), that commission would have gone to the presbyters. There is no evidence from the early Church of anyone presiding at the Eucharist, and so being regarded as a priest, who had less than presbyteral authority.
__________________________________________________________________________

NOTES

1 Aidan Nichols, Holy Order (Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1990), pp. 18-20.

2 Austin Farrer, "The Ministry in the New Testament," Apostolic Ministry, ed. K. E. Kirk (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957), pp. 133-142.

3 Adversus Haereses 3.12.10; 4.15.1; cf. 3.3.1-3.

4 Letter to the Trallians 3.

5 Pastor 3.9.26.

6 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.43.

7 Even if, on some version of the documentary hypothesis, we date any or all of these texts later than Numbers 11, such considerations would, of course, not have played any part in Luke's (or the writer of the Gospel’s) thinking.

8 Martin Noth, The History of Israel (New York: Harper and Row, 1960), pp. 108-9.

9 Even with its mixed population, Peraea was regarded as a Jewish province on a par with Judaea and Galilee. (Mishna, Baba Bathra 3.2)

10 This precedent seems reflected in the later Church, where deacons were not ordained to a collegial office. While the ordination of a presbyter required the laying on of hands not only of the bishop, but also of the presbytery, the bishop alone laid hands on an ordinand to the diaconate. Cf. Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 9.

11 Piet Fransen, "Orders and Ordination," Encyclopedia of Theology, ed. Karl Rahner (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), p. 1125. Farrer himself recognizes the importance Luke gives to the appointment of the Seventy, but he avoids the conclusion that this appointment was permanent. Apostolic Ministry, p. 136-7.

12 Galatians 1:1,13-17; cf. Acts 9, 22, 26. Another possible exception is James the Just, first bishop of Jerusalem, though he is identified by some as James the Less, who was himself one of the Twelve.

13 In Matthew's account (10:8), the Twelve were given power also to raise the dead, though the fact that, prior to Pentecost, nothing is said of their using this power seems to suggest it was not given until then. Luke recounts two instances of its use, by Peter and Paul, in Acts (9:36-42; 20:7-12), but says nothing of it in his gospel.

14 Other instructions given to the Seventy, but not to the Twelve, are given to the Twelve in other gospels. The Seventy are to go in pairs (10:1), probably to establish their credibility on the basis of Deuteronomy 17:6 (cf. Mk 6:70). They are told the harvest is great and the laborers few (10:2; cf. Mt 9:37). They are sent as lambs among wolves (10:3; cf. Mt 10:16). They are to invoke peace on any house they enter, with the provision that their peace return to them if the occupants prove unworthy (10:6; cf. Mt 10:13). And they are assured that "Whoever hears you hears me" (10:16; cf. Mt 10:40; Jn 13:20). All these similarities, of course, imply a similarity in mission, at least as the writers understood it.

15 Cf. the Syriac Teaching of the Apostles, according to which Addeus, one of the Seventy-two, brought the priesthood and founded churches in Edessa and through Mesopotamia and Arabia.

16 The parallel is tighter in Matthew’s account, where the new law is delivered from a mount, suggestive of Mount Sinai (Mt 5-7).

17 On the Mosaic pattern of Luke-Acts, see Luke Timothy Johnson, Sacra Pagina Series, vol. 3: The Gospel of Luke (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991), pp. 18-20; 169-170.

18 They are referred to also, without reference to their number, in Dt 5:23 and 29:10, and probably in Ex 16:22 and Lv 4:22. Cf. Farrer, Apostolic Ministry, p. 135.

19 The word means "one who is lifted up," usually translated in LXX as archon. C. U. Wolf, "Prince," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962).

20 The History of Israel, p.98

21 Roland De Vaux, Ancient Israel (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961), p. 8; cf. The Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Brown, Fitzmyer & Murphy (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1968) p.89.

22 The high priest adopted the title nasî' from the time of Simon Maccabeus, which is also the approximate time from which we have the earliest record of the Great Sanhedrin.

23 These seventy included not only lay elders, but also the chief priests and elders of high priestly families, as well as scribes, mostly of the Pharisees.

24 There are other examples mentioned by Josephus, as seventy elders appointed in Galilee to prepare for the Jewish uprising, and a tribunal of seventy among the Zealots (Josephus, Wars of the Jews 2.20.5; 4.5.4).

25 This was not James, the son of Zebedee, who had already been beheaded by Herod Agrippa (Ac 12:1-2). Whether he was James the Less, one of the Twelve, or, if there is a distinction, James the "brother of the Lord," his prominence in Acts, in Galatians (1:19; 2:9,12), and as the author of the Epistle of James, is not accounted for in the gospels.

26 Clement of Alexandria, as reported by Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 2.1).

27 Gregory Dix, "Ministry in the Early Church," The Apostolic Ministry, p. 236. If James was acting as nasî' to a Christian equivalent of the Great Sanhedrin, that would account for his being regarded as a Christian high priest by the Jews. It is not likely they would have recognized his priestly role in presiding at the Eucharist.

28 Their presence on this occasion may have given a double meaning to the proceedings, as reflecting not only the current Sanhedrin, with the seventy zeqenim presided over by James as the nasî', but also harking back to the collaboration between the seventy zeqenim and twelve nasî' of Moses' time.

29 Note Ignatius' use of synedrion as practically interchangeable with presbyterion (Magnesians 6 &13; Trallians 3 & 7; Philadelphians 8 & 4, 7).

30 The identification is implicit by the end of the 1st century in Clement of Rome, Ad Cor. 40, and explicit by the 3rd century in Cyprian, Ep 61.


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