Walter Lowrie on Early Church Bishops


In Walter Lowrie’s “interpretation” of Rudolph Sohm, a very convincing case is made that the “bishop” in the early church was a local church, a congregational, minister whose primary job was to preside over the Eucharist, which was a communal feast.  He writes:

Both Gentile and Jewish usage required a president at the feast, and this was particularly the case with regard to Passover, from which the Eucharistic feast was derived.  In the Eucharist there were two functions especially that fell to the part of the president: namely, the breaking of the bread, and the thanksgiving prayer.

~The Church and Its Organization in Primitive and Catholic Times, p 268

He adds that this bishop was selected on the basis of a personal leadership charismata.  The office was necessary for order, and there was naturally a leader who best fulfilled the office.  In the absence of such a person…

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2 comments on “Walter Lowrie on Early Church Bishops

  1. John Bugay says:

    Awesome. This work is available to read for free, here:

  2. John* says:


    Thanks for this. Much valuable Food for thought.

    Can I go behind and before Ignatius right to the very beginnings . . . .

    (mostly from;
    but adapted therefrom, added-to, and checked against other sources.

    Organization of the Jerusalem Messianic Nazarene Kahal

    It soon became apparent, at least by 34-35 CE, that the Jerusalem Church needed an organization to deal with the conflicts such as with the Greek adherents to the faith and how to provide for the Greek widows, as well as how to deal with the gentiles who wished to be admitted into the church. The models used for the organization of the Nazarene Kahal were apparent: the Essene structure, Jesus ministerial organization (Luke 10:1), the Mosaic model (Numbers 11:16-17) and the Sanhedrin.

    There were elected 70 representatives called Elders, with an initial cabinet of fifteen, which included a Council of twelve with three Leaders. The Sanhedrin and the Essenes had a similar structure in which:

    1 the High Priest was called the Nasi, and titular Head of the Bet Din.
    2 his Deputy High Priest was called the Sagan, and the
    3 Chief Office of the Religious Court was called the Ab Bet-Din.

    This was the adapted model of Jesus’ ministry, with the “outer 70″, and in which the three leaders, Peter, James, son of Zebedee, and his brother, John were part of the Twelve.

    In the Nazarene Congregation, the “pillars” as Paul called them, were Peter, James (Jacob) the brother of Jesus, and John.

    [This Jacob was brother-by-law to Yeshua, and not by blood as he was present to witness Miriam’s (Mary’s) betrothal to Yosef (Joseph) of Nazareth.
    His mother was Salome, Joseph’s first wife. -see more below]

    The political structure of the newly organized Nazarene Kahal based on the above three:

    1 Apostle James (Jacob) the Just became the High Priest (Nasi), who is presented in Acts of the Apostles as a “wise interpreter of scriptures who presides over the Council and gives his rulings” (Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p 146)
    2 The Apostle John became the Deputy (Sagan) as from his priestly background he could deal with doctrine and congregational organization issues and
    3 The Apostle Peter became the Chief Officer of the Religious Court (Ab Bet-Din), or the general supervisor of the Diaconate and thus material pastoral director (“feed my sheep”), the chief propagandist or evangelist (fame at Pentecost).

    The Appointment of Yaakov haTzaddik as Nasi:

    (A) The Gospel of Thomas:
    (12) The disciples said to Jesus: We know that thou wilt go from us. Who is he who shall be great over us? Jesus said to them: In the place to which you come, you shall go to James the Just for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.
    (B) Pseudo_Clementine Recognitions: (1,43)
    (C) Epiphanius: Contra Haeresis 78.7.7
    “The first to whom the Lord entrusted His throne on earth”


    The Importance of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene

    When we read the Gospel of Mary Magdalene alongside Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, plus the Clementine Recognitions and Church Tradition – assembled in a smooth, Jewish narrative, we see – both directly and indirectly – the following people as “Authorities” in the New Covenant Kahal (in this degree of importance):

    1 Yosef of Arimathea – the hereditary Biblical de-jure, but not de-facto “King of the Jews” after Yeshua’s ascension.
    In the background as an eminence-grise. The “Leader” of the Cabinet of 15.

    2 Mary Theotokos (Mother of God) – the all-honoured mother of Yeshua
    In the background as an eminence-grise – chief way-pointer to Yeshua. Part of the Cabinet of 15

    3 Mary Magdalene – the spiritual, liturgical and sacramental leader in the Kahal – the “Apostle to the Apostles”.
    Deputy-Leader of the Cabinet of 15; The Leader of “the 12″ – above the 12.
    The chief Wisdom-Teacher and Contemplative Leader for the Kahal. the Associate-Sagan of the Kahal.
    She was also the senior exemplar of the Shekinah-Prophetic Tradition
    In Celtic terms, she was the chief spirit-keeper and tale-weaver, and facilitator of “clear-sight” (or the “second-sight”), the one who entrusted Yeshua’s Wisdom-teachings to future generations by being encoded in certain ancient stories (Oral Traditions and Parables).

    4 James haTzaddik – the Nasi of the Kahal – installed as such at Yeshua’s request by Yosef of Arimathea.
    The Titular Leader of the Jerusalem Bet Din – exercising delegated authority from Yosef of Arimathea.

    5 John the Evangelist (husband of Mary Magdalene) – the Sagan of the Kahal.
    Deacon Prochorus – his chief assistant and scribe.

    6 Peter – the Ab Bet-Din of the Kahal.
    Who in 1 Peter 3:1-7 and in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene had problems with Mary Magdalene’s Leadership.
    The leader of the Deacons (except Prochorus).

    7 Levi Matthew – the Deputy Nasi and Gospel-Writer and chief foil for Peter, and defender of Mary Magdalene.

    8 John Mark – the Deputy Ab Bet-Din and Gospel-Writer and chief “supervisor” for Peter.


    and finally, but never included in any of the above:

    # Saul (Paul of Tarsus) – the perennial outsider – who failed to usurp Yakov haTzaddik as Nasi of the Kahal and sideline the rest.
    Before his Damascus Road experience – attempted to murder Yakov; prime suspect in the 62CE murder of Yakov.
    Went on to form his own separate Church with an alternative leadership-structure with bishops and priests.
    Takes Peter’s problems with female Leadership beyond Peter’s stance and into an error of Church Order:
    # Ephesians 5:22-24 …wives should submit to their husbands etc.
    # 1 Timothy 2:11-15 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent etc.
    # 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 …women should remain silent in the churches (and following).
    # 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man (and following).
    # Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
    # Titus 2: 4-5 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands so that no one will malign the word of God.

    > Yosef of Arimathea Royal Line (Gospel of Luke) – honorary Roman Senator: Wife – Helydab
    # Grandfather- Mattathat (Lk 3:24) who adopted Yakov (Mt 1:15,16) and renamed him Heli
    ….. This Heli (Yakov) was the father of Yosef of Nazareth.
    This Mattathat had two sons:
    # Yehoakim (Joachim) who married Hannah (Anna) – the Parent’s of Mary Theotokos
    # Yosef (snr) lived in Arimathea, and had at least five children:
    1 – Yohanna – one of Yeshua’s female disciples & financial supporter
    2 – Yosef (jnr) – honorary Roman Senator who buried Yeshua in his new tomb
    3 – Yosef Barsabbas – honorary Roman Senator – father of Linus, first “bishop” of Rome
    …… as Barnabas, one-time supervisor of Paul
    4 – Justus – honorary Roman Senator and potential replacement for Judas (Acts 1:23)
    5 – Hebron – honorary Roman Senator – married into the British Royal households
    > Yosef (jnr) – father of Aristobulus – the first Sagan of Britain.

    > Yaakov haTzaddik – brothers:
    # Yosef (Thomas Didymus) – Author of the Gospel of Thomas
    # Yehuda (Jude Didymus) – Author of the Epistle of Jude
    # Simeon – 2nd Nasi of Jerusalem

    > Yakov haTzaddik – paternal uncle – Cleopas of Emmaus.
    Cleopas’ wife – Miriam, full younger sister to Miriam Theotokos
    Cleopas’ Sons:
    # :Levi Matthew – Gospel Writer
    # Yosef,
    # Simeon
    # Yakov – the “lesser”
    # John Mark – Gospel Author. – a “youth” at the Crucifixion
    The Priestly Line – Hasmonean Priests, resident in Modin of the “course of Abijah” (Lk 1:5)
    We take up the line with Hezekiah (aka Berachiah) – sons:
    1 – Zachariah – married Elizabeth – only son: Yochanan (John) the Baptist
    2 – Yehuda – son = Menachem the Essene,
    ……. Menachem’s two sons, one daughter:
    ………….1 Zavdai (Zebedee) – Married Salome – full sister to Mary Theotokos
    ………………2 Sons (of thunder – late in life) = Yaakov & Yochanan
    …………..2 Yehuda – Chief Scribe of Galilee & founder of the Zealots
    …………….Daughters : Hannah & Eucharia
    …………..3 Jonathan Annas – HP c37CE
    …………….son – Syrus – a governor of Syria, resident in Magdala
    Syrus Married Eucharia; one son, two daughters – early in the marriage
    1 – Martha
    2 – Miriam (of Magdala)
    3 – Eleazar (Lazarus) who was raised from the dead by Yeshua (Jn 11:17-44)

    This should provide a firm foundation for future study. I trust that this assists.
    As we see, the Leadership in Jerusalem had intricate Family Interconnections.


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