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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:
Constitutions of the Holy Apostles: Sec. I.—On Examining Candidates for the Episcopal Office.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Sec. I.—On Examining Candidates for the Episcopal Office.

That a Bishop Must Be Well Instructed and Experienced in the Word.

I. But concerning bishops, we have heard from our Lord, that a pastor who is to be ordained a bishop for the churches in every parish, must be unblameable, unreprovable, free from all kinds of wickedness common among men, not under fifty years of age; for such a one is in good part past youthful disorders, and the slanders of the heathen, as well as the reproaches which are sometimes cast upon many persons by some false brethren, who do not consider the word of God in the Gospel: “Whosoever speaketh an idle word shall give an account thereof to the Lord in the day of judgment.” 2582 And again: “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” 2583 Let him therefore, if it is possible, be well educated; but if he be unlettered, let him at any rate be 2584 skilful in the word, and of competent age. But if in a small parish one advanced in years is not to be found, 2585 let some younger person, who has a good report among his neighbours, and is esteemed by them worthy of the office of a bishop,—who has carried himself from his youth with meekness and regularity, like a much elder person,—after examination, and a general good report, be ordained in peace. For Solomon at twelve years of age was king of Israel, 2586 and Josiah at eight years of age reigned righteously, 2587 and in like manner Joash governed the people at seven years of age. 2588 Wherefore, although the person be young, let him be meek, gentle, and quiet. For the Lord God says by Esaias: “Upon whom will I look, but upon him who is humble and quiet, and always trembles at my words?” 2589 In like manner it is in the Gospel also: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” 2590 Let him also be merciful; for again it is said: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” 2591 Let him also be a peacemaker; for again it is said: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the sons of God.” 2592 Let him also be one of a good conscience, purified from all evil, and wickedness, and unrighteousness; for it is said again: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” 2593  

What Ought to Be the Characters of a Bishop and of the Rest of the Clergy.

II. Let him therefore be sober, prudent, decent, firm, stable, not given to wine; no striker, but gentle; not a brawler, not covetous; “not a novice, lest, being puffed up with pride, he fall into condemnation, and the snare of the devil: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased.” 2594 Such a one a bishop ought to be, who has been the “husband of one wife,” 2595 who also has herself had no other husband, “ruling well his own house.” 2596 In this manner let examination be made when he is to receive ordination, and to be placed in his bishopric, whether he be grave, faithful, decent; whether he hath a grave and faithful wife, or has formerly had such a one; whether he hath educated his children piously, and has “brought them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;” 2597 whether his domestics do fear and reverence p. 397 him, and are all obedient to him: for if those who are immediately about him for worldly concerns are seditious and disobedient, how will others not of his family, when they are under his management, become obedient to him?  

In What Things a Bishop is to Be Examined Before He is Ordained.

III. Let examination also be made whether he be unblameable as to the concerns of this life; for it is written: “Search diligently for all the faults of him who is to be ordained for the priesthood.” 2598  



Matt. xii. 36.  


Matt. xii. 37.  


The words in italics occur only in the V. mss.  


The V. mss. read: “But if in a small parish one advanced in years is not to be found whom his neighbours testify to be worthy of the office of bishop, and wise enough to be appointed to it, and if there be a young man who has carried,” etc.  


1 Kings xii. (LXX.).  


2 Kings xxii. 1.  


2 Chron. xxiv. 1; 2 Kings 11:3, 4.  


Isa. lxvi. 2.  


Matt. v. 5.  


Matt. v. 7.  


From the V. mss.; Matt. v. 9.  


Matt. v. 8.  


1 Tim. iii. 6; Luke xiv. 11.  


1 Tim. iii. 2.  


1 Tim. iii. 4.  


Eph. vi. 4.  


Lev. xxi. 17, etc.  

Next: Sec. II.—On the Character and Teaching of the Bishop

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