Christian Bishop's Wife
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Christian Bishop's Wife
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Jesus' Teaching

Bishop's WelcomeThe Christian wife of a bishop in 1 Timothy 3.11 "is to be a woman worthy of respect." Interestingly, the word "Wife" is the same word used of "Deaconess" though technically this refers to women in the Early Church who are ordained to the order of Deacons. More generally, it means that the Bishop's wife has a very real ministry of her own beside her relationship to the Bishop. "Although St. Paul mentions Deaconesses at Cenchreae, and St. John Chrysostom considered the model appropriate for both sexes, Deaconesses vanish from the church for hundreds of years until revived by Theodor Fliedner in Kaiserswerth, Germany in 1836. She founded a deaconess community among Lutherans."

Deaconess Movement

Deaconess Ferard"Episcopalians in Baltimore, Maryland, started similar work around 1855. The nineteenth-century deaconess movement involved women living in a community while carrying out traditional diaconate ministries, especially teaching and serving the poor in industrialized cities." The first deaconess "per se" in the modern era was Elizabeth Catherine Ferard of the Church of England in 1862. Women and men had an equally important role in both the Old Testament and the New Testament church. It is not gender but the person's spiritual and moral qualities that are the deciding factors for suitability for ministry.

Jesus Own Household

James, Jesus' brotherJesus' household is of great significance and pre-eminent in the Early Church. Jesus calls himself "the householder" in Matthew 10.25 and speaks in an opposite sense of the household of Beelzebub, and his demons as an evil deity from the Philistine city of Ekron. Jesus also describes himself in Matthew 10.24 as "the master" and his disciples as "servants of the household."

Half Brothers and Sisters

Jesus' Early PortraitEven though Jesus' brothers and family do not figure largely in Jesus' early earthly ministry, his brother James who is elsewhere called "Saint James the Just" comes to the fore to become a bishop (or president) of the church in Jerusalem after Saint Peter was executed. Another brother, Saint Jude, composes an epistle which is later accepted into the canon of the Bible, even though the Reformer Martin Luther didn't like it and called it "an epistle of straw!" Saint James and Saint Jude are of the line of David, and half brothers of Jesus, from their mother Mary and father Joseph. Aside from these two half brothers in Matthew 15.35, there are also Joseph or Joses, and Simon. Two half-sisters of Jesus are also mentioned in early traditions whose names were possibly Mary and Salome. Jesus was conceived in Mary his mother by the Holy Spirit, whereas his half-brothers and sisters were considered the offspring of Mary and Joseph.✞

Early Church Bishops

Bishop Arthur BrownEarly church bishops are described by the leadership characteristics required for their jobs. Those who are successful in the management of their households are considered suitable and qualified to be Early Church bishops. We note that the same word for "bishops" may also be translated as "elders" or "overseers." Similarly, a deacon in the Early Church may be appointed over a household or group of households. Saint Paul says that overseers have the care of all the churches. He writes in 1 Timothy 3.2-5, "Now the overseer (bishop) must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled. He must manage his own family (or "household") well, and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?" In some Bible versions, the word "family" is sometimes suitably substituted by the word "household."

Husband of One Wife

Bishop Victoria MatthewsThe qualifications for early bishops as for a bishop today are that they are to be, "the husband of one wife." This phrase may be a warning against immorality and bigamy for a bishop or elder but never the less stands on its own merits. It is also a clear prohibition from the Scriptures themselves against female persons. In our present society, this is another case of what is "Biblically correct" versus what is "politically correct." Saint Paul lists the moral and leadership characteristics required of a leader. He writes in 1 Timothy 3.1-13 of deacons, "A deacon must be the husband of but one wife, and must manage his children and his households well." Though Saint Paul specifically reserves the roles of bishops, deacons and priests to married males this does not mean that other leadership roles should be also male. One should also examine the qualities expected of a bishop's wife for further clarification of the female role in ministry, which is an important one.

Jesus Christ's Tomb

Jesus' Tomb OssuaryJesus Christ's tomb, his skull, and his remains were not particularly important to his family as they believed and knew that his body had been resurrected. When Emperor Constantine's mother, Helena, (246-330 AD) who was a Christian, went to the holy land to find the principle places referred to in the New Testament life of Jesus she found that many were not marked nor even known by the Christian communities. Two of these, including the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church of Eleona on the Mount of Olives had small chapels built over them. Pilgrims came to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the small shrine called "The Edicule" or the tomb of Jesus, the final resting place of the body of Jesus before the resurrection. In recent times, the marble slab placed there 1700 years ago has been uncovered to reveal "the holy bed." Scientists have analyzed the debris there and dated it as 1700 years old. They also removed minute samples of mortar which was determined to have come from 400 AD which would authenticate the time when Emperor Constantine's (272-337 AD) mother Saint Helena (c246-330 AD) built the small Edicule. This is a very special and sacred spot in Christianity. Jesus Christ's family tomb is believed by some modern scholars to have been discovered near Jerusalem. There, an ossuary or bone box similar to the one shown was found buried in a tomb with some unusual and distinguishing marks on it. If of no other significance this shows the deemed importance of all members of Jesus' family and that they should have been buried with their kindred in the same tomb.

Ossuary Markings

Human Skull RemainsContrary to our modern view, the location would not have been important to the early Christians because they believed in the resurrection of the body and therefore the bones of the family members were to be dealt with respectfully but they were not necessary to the faith any longer. When the institutional church arose and it was discovered that some of the bones of the saints and even the tombs of the saints had healing properties, the church in Rome, as well as wealthy Christians in other places, started collecting bones of the saints, pieces of the cross, nails, etc. These do not, however, figure in whether a person is a Christian or not. There is no doubt that the bones, physical remains and even the gravesites of the Apostles and early saints had healing properties. Many were healed by touching the bones or even standing at a gravesite but this genuine belief degenerated into superstition. Only those with a genuine conversion normally have access to spiritual healing.

Jesus' Blood Line

Emperor VespasianIn 70 AD, Emperor Vespasian (9A-79 AD) in an attempt to wipe out the bloodline of Jesus and hopefully the enthusiasm of his followers ordered a search for descendants of Jesus, believing the line of David to be the royal household of the Early Church. Saint James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem after Saint Peter, was killed as he may have been regarded as the "Protector" or "Prince Regent" until the imminent expected return of his brother Jesus, the Messiah.

Jerusalem Congregation Leaders

Historian EusebiusThe historian Eusebius (260-339 AD) reported that after James was killed another relative, a cousin of Jesus called Simon son of Clopas, became the leader of the Jerusalem congregation. These family members were sought after and persecuted by the authorities in an attempt to stamp out the Christian faith which had become a threat because of the sheer numbers and power of its adherents.

"Christian Bishop's Wife"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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