The following paper was presented by me at the Second Annual Student Religious Studies Conference put on by the Midwest Region of the Society of Biblical Literature at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. It was written in November 2007 for a classical studies course at Tulane University taught by Dr. Lawrence Lahey titled “Ancient Christianity.” The course introduced students to the history of the Ancient Christian movement within the Roman Empire. It illustrated the historical developments through the emergence of the canon of the New Testament writings from the second through the fourth centuries.
The paper views the phenomenon of Christianity through a historical lens — specifically the resulting organization that formed around this rapidly developing movement. The paper argues that the “three-fold ministry” of bishops, priests, and deacons was a later development only springing up from an earlier and more primitive “two-fold” ministry comprised solely of priests and deacons (and before even that, an even earlier loose organization centered around charismatics). Of particular interest to some readers may be the parts of the paper relating to the origin of the papacy.
Essentially, this paper tracks the shift of Christianity from inspired religious cult and persecuted movement to the powerful bureaucracy seen in the post-classical era.