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bishop:see orders, holyorders, holy
[Lat. ordo,=rank], in Christianity, the traditional degrees of the clergy, conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Order. The episcopacy, priesthood or presbyterate, and diaconate were in general use in Christian churches in the 2d cent.
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in the Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican churches the highest order of clergyman, head of a territorial unit of ecclesiastic administration (eparchy, diocese). Christian literary documents of the early second century (the Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch) attest to their managing the property of the early Christian communities. By the late second century the bishops had already concentrated spiritual and juridical authority in their hands and had also possessed themselves of the right to dispose of the community’s property; gradually a monarchical episcopate developed. In the fourth century there began to emerge among the bishops a hierarchical division into patriarchs, metropolitans (some of these bearing the title of archbishop), and bishops proper. The title of bishop has been preserved in some Protestant churches in addition to the Anglican, but in them a bishop is not a clergyman but a person exercising what are for the most part purely administrative functions.