Volume 10 - Issue 3


By David F. Wright

A recent study of ‘Ministry and Ordination in Early Christianity against a Jewish Background’ by E. J. Kilmartin declared that ‘almost every issue related to the subject [of ordination] remains unsolved’.1 No consensus has been reached about Jewish practice in the first century, and, partly for this reason, uncertainty shrouds also what was done, and why, in the primitive Christian congregations. Most of the limited New Testament texts relevant to the question are susceptible of divergent interpretations, and second-century sources such as the Apostolic Fathers have surprisingly little to say about the manner of appointment to ecclesiastical responsibilities. It is not until Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition early in the third century that we encounter our first extended evidence on early church ordination.

This lack of historical clarity about its origins is not the main reason why ordination is a talking-point in contemporary theology. After all, the limitations of the primitive sources have long been recognized, even if the relevance of later rabbinic traditions to first-century Judaism has only latterly become subject to more stringent scrutiny. Far more influential have been the modern recovery of a more corporate understanding of the church as the people of God in Christ and the accompanying widespread disaffection with restrictive notions of ministry. In these developments the ‘Biblical Theology’ movement and the charismatic renewal have played a significant role, and the impact has been felt in the Roman Catholic Church of the Vatican II era as strongly as anywhere. If all church members have gifts (charismata) for service (ministry) within the body of Christ, why are only a select few, normally one per congregation, ‘ordained’ or in any way publicly commissioned to that service?

At the same time the laying on of hands, which has traditionally been the ritual core of ordination, has come to be more widely used. This has happened particularly in connection with the revival of interest in the Christian ministry of healing, which itself, to a considerable measure, has been promoted by the Pentecostal and charismatic upsurge, though it has not been confined to these circles. Laying on of hands is not the only tactual gesture to be enjoying something of a vogue among Christians. In this particular case, its reactivation has focused attention on its varied uses and meanings in the New Testament, with concomitant questioning of its allegedly distinctive significance in ordination.

For all these and other reasons, including the increasingly ecumenical context of ecclesiastical and theological life and, not least, the current fashionable distaste for the merely traditional, many churches have been taking a critical look at their practice of ordination. What happens in the author’s own church, the Church of Scotland, for example, may seem to those of other traditions to be fraught with intolerable inconsistency. Ordination is given not only to clergy-ministers but also for life to elders, who would be regarded in most other denominations as laity. Moreover, elders are ordained without laying on of hands. At the same time the Church commissions or sets apart rather than ordains deaconesses and full-time lay agents (lay missionaries), as well as readers who like elders are only spare-time Christian ministers (if you get my meaning). The illogicalities are compounded when you learn that the ordination service for elders is to be found not in the Ordinal and Service Book for use in Courts of the Church but in the Book of Common Order, which does not contain the order for ordination of clerical ministers, whereas the orders for the setting apart of missionaries and deaconesses are printed in neither book but ‘will be supplied on application to the Secretary of the Committee concerned’! The discipline at work here, one is sure, is not that of secrecy but of (financial) economy or (administrative) convenience.

Ordination is a difficult subject to discuss in isolation from church and ministry with their multiple ramifications. All that this brief article can hope to do is to attempt a somewhat selective survey of some areas of recent discussion.

Jewish Antecedents

Lawrence Hoffman’s recent study of ‘Jewish Ordination on the Eve of Christianity’2 argues that in rabbinic Judaism of the tannaitic period, i.e. the first two centuries, there is no evidence of a rite of ordination by laying on of hands. The use of laying on of hands in Moses’ commissioning of Joshua (Nu. 27:22–23; Dt. 34:9) with the verb sāmak, ‘to lean, lay, rest’, does not, in Hoffman’s view, establish a parallel rabbinic custom when the same verb sāmak is used. Only about half-a-dozen rabbinic texts are at issue, whereas in about 150 occurrences of semiḵāh the reference is unambiguously to laying hands on sacrifices. Hoffman concludes that in the handful of uncertain instances semiḵāh denotes not ordination but sacrificial imposition of hands.

He proceeds to claim that such evidence as is available from the post-tannaitic era suggests that prior to c.200 rabbis were appointed ‘by mouth’, ‘by naming’, explicitly not ‘with hands’. Furthermore, the normal verb of appointment is not sāmak but mānâh, ‘to assign, appoint’. The ordination of a rabbi would thus have been effected by a formulary announcement, but the dominant use of mānâh shows that ‘no specific term arose to define rabbinic appointment. Strange as it may seem to us, who single out clerical appointment from all others, ordination in Palestine was subsumed, terminologically at least, along with other civil designations. Rabbis were “ordained” in that they were appointed to specific functions as communal workers; they were part of the civil service of their day.’3

Such radical conclusions are by no means shared by all scholars. Although it is widely recognized that rabbinic ordination by laying on of hands prior to ad 70 is at best unproven, it is widely held that the example of Moses in Numbers 27:15–23 and Deuteronomy 34:9 became the basis of rabbinic practice, understood as the teacher’s handing on to his pupil the very spirit of Moses. Whereas Hoffman confined his enquiry entirely to Jewish evidence, other writers have explicitly taken cognizance of Christian sources, notably 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6, in concluding that the rabbinic rite must have antedated ad 70. That is to say, the Christian ordination of the Pastorals is close enough to the post-ad 70 model of the ordination of the Jewish teacher by semīḵāh of hands as to overcome any serious doubts about the pre-70 currency of the Jewish rite. This is broadly the opinion of Kilmartin, Eduard Lohse4 and Georg Kretschmar.5

On the other hand, Arnold Ehrhardt, in a much-noticed article, discounted the dubious evidence for Jewish semīḵāh ordination before ad 70 and argued that the Pauline rite of laying on of hands derived from the directinfluence of the Mosaic commissioning of Joshua.6 Primitive Jewish Christianity, on the other hand, adopted a different practice, appointment by solemn seating, literally installation, which is attested for the elders of the Sanhedrin.

Yet other scholars deny any significant influence upon early Christian ordination from the Old Testament or Judaism, other than perhaps from laying on hands in blessing, as in Genesis 48:14ff. According to Everett Ferguson, ‘the employment of the imposition of hands in the early church derives from the example of Jesus’, both in more obvious blessings like Mark 10:16 and in the more frequent healings which were blessings of a particular kind.7 Ferguson cites a wide range of patristic material to show that the idea of blessing or benediction continued after the apostolic era to unify diverse occasions when the imposition of hands was used. It signified the bestowal of blessing and a petition for divine favour, and not the creation of a substitute or the transfer of authority.

New Testament

Everett Ferguson’s interpretation has the obvious merit of attempting to hold together the different uses of laying on of hands in the New Testament documents. It enables him also to infer its use in the appointment of elders in Acts 14:23 from the apostles’ ‘committing them to the Lord’ with prayer and fasting, even though there is no explicit reference to it. His approach also suggests one way of making consistent sense of 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6, which are the two least controverted mentions of ordination by laying on hands in the New Testament. In his Institutes Calvin harmonized these two texts by referring them to a single occasion when Paul laid hands on Timothy to commission him to ‘the office of presbyter’ (4:3:16), for this was how he interpreted the genitive tou presbyteriou. In his commentary on 1 Timothy 4:14, however, he allows as equally acceptable the more natural sense ‘of the body of the presbyters’, ‘of the presbytery’, to which few scholars today would take exception. Should we then conflate the two verses and conclude that Paul presided in the presbytery in the ordination of Timothy? And what was the role of the prophetic utterance, through (dia) which the charisma was given to Timothy?

The question of the relation of these two Timothy texts has wider implications. If the assumed model is the rabbinical teacher’s ordination of his pupil, this fits well with the preceding mention in 1 Timothy 4:13 of Timothy’s ministry of teaching, but more suitably with Paul’s personal commissioning of him in 2 Timothy 1:6 than with the presbytery’s laying on of hands in 1 Timothy 4:14. The issue at stake is how Timothy’s ordination, particularly when ascribed to Paul’s action, is related to the church order evident elsewhere in the Pastoral Epistles. Many would see in 1 Timothy 5:22, ‘Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands’, an obvious allusion to the ordination of the presbyter-bishops (? and deacons) spoken of throughout the Pastorals. Others, however, attending to the mention of Timothy’s grandmother and mother in 2 Timothy 1:5, with explicit reference to the faith Timothy shares with them rather than to any distinctive ministry of his, treat 2 Timothy 1:6 as an initiatory (baptismal or post-baptismal) laying on of hands, somewhat akin perhaps to the incidents in Acts in which the Spirit was received through the laying on of apostolic hands. An interpretation along Ferguson’s lines, whether or not it adopts the initiatory reading of 2 Timothy 1:6, is at any rate less bothered by the similarities between such a verse and the happenings in Acts.

Scholars for whom the Pastorals are indubitably deutero-Pauline often direct attention to elements in these ordination texts which seem to cohere better with a Pauline than a deutero-Pauline context. Chief among these are the references to prophecy and twice to the charisma imparted by imposition of hands. At the same time it is pointed out that Paul’s theology of charisma in 1 Corinthians and Romans contains no allusion to a rite of designation or appointment,8 and furthermore, that the only New Testament writings to mention such ritual acts belong to the Pauline school, i.e., Acts 6:6, 13:3 and perhaps 14:23, and the Pastorals. This has led to the supposition that in non-Pauline churches commissioning by word alone may have been the norm, which could claim support from the remarkable silence in second-century sources about ordination by imposition of hands, Marcion, after all, judged the second-century churches to be suffering from Pauline malnutrition. Not even Irenaeus, with his profound concern for apostolic continuity of teaching leadership by presbyter/bishops, refers to such a use of laying on of hands.9

The tracing of lines of connection between the Pastorals and the events of Acts 6 and 13 is likely to interest evangelical students committed to the coherence of Scripture. While prophecy may provide such a link between 1 Timothy 4:14 and Acts 13, various scholars have hesitated to align the two actions too closely. The commissioning of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch has parallels with the Jewish institution of the šāliaḥ, the plenipotentiary representative of religious authority, although the evidence for the Jewish use of imposition of hands is lacking.10 The considerable differences between the ministry to which Paul and Barnabas were commissioned and the service of presbyter-bishops in the local congregation need no highlighting, but the regional role of Timothy, which is presumably in view at least in 1 Timothy 4:14, may occupy a position somewhat midway between these two poles. Evangelical missiologists have in recent years repeatedly appealed to Acts 13 in encouraging greater commitment by the congregation to mission further afield, but except in independent churches no scope exists for the use of laying on of hands in the congregation itself, whether for missionaries or ordinands.

The most obvious difference between Acts 6 and the Pastorals lies in the participation of the whole body of believers in the appointment of the Seven. The identity of the subject of ‘laid their hands on them’ in Acts 6:6 can perhaps not be decided with absolute certainty, but a natural exegesis would surely assign the action to the community as a whole. An analogy in Numbers 8:10 immediately suggests itself: ‘When you present the Levites before the Lord, the people of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites.’ T. F. Torrance has tied the two arrangements together in an article on ‘Consecration and Ordination’,11 emphasizing that both Levites and the ‘elder-deacons’ of Acts 6 received a lay ordination. Yet there are differences even on Torrance’s reading of the two incidents. The Levites’ ordination by the whole people, albeit ‘presumably through their elders’, inducted them ‘into responsible representation of the people, appointed to stand for the first-born of the people in their ministry at the Tabernacle’, to which nothing comparable is asserted of the Jerusalem Seven,12 while the apostles are explicitly excluded from the laying of hands on the Seven in order to show, in Torrance’s view, that ‘they were not being appointed as [the apostles’] deputies, but only as their assistants, i.e., Levites!’

The setting apart of the Seven may well have been a one-off emergency arrangement. The rabbinic semīḵāh rite, even if presumed to be current as early as this, provides no parallel to this offloading of some of the apostles’ responsibilities onto the Seven, and the fact that the activities of two of their number, when observed later in Acts, bear no relation to the task allotted them here, tends to confirm the temporary ad hoccharacter of their appointment. The suggestion13 that their ‘serving tables’ had a eucharistic dimension to them should be resisted.

If such a selective survey may be validly said to have an outcome, it must be to stress the uncertainties attending much of the New Testament material supposedly germane to ordination. Only one text, 1 Timothy 4:14, can with firm confidence be regarded as attesting an observance recognizable in subsequent church history as ordination to ‘the ministry’. Rabbinic semīḵāh ordination remains the most plausible antecedent to this rite, but when we look for subsequent developments, a yawning gulf is exposed between the Pastorals and the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus over a century later.14 In this work not only is a clear-cut clergy-laity distinction already operative but also a sharp differentiation obtains between bishop, of whom high-priestly language is now employed, and presbyter, and between both and deacon. The extent of the development since the first century is starkly revealed in comments appended to the prescriptions for appointing deacons:

The bishop alone shall lay on hands at the ordaining of a deacon for this reason, that he is not ordained for a priesthood but for the service of the bishop.… [The deacon] does not receive the Spirit [? spirit] which is common to [all] the presbyterate … but that which is entrusted to him under the bishop’s authority.… But upon the presbyters the [other] presbyters also lay their hands because of the similar Spirit [? spirit] [which is] common to [all] the clergy. For the presbyter has authority only for this one thing, to receive. But he has no authority to give holy orders. Wherefore he does not ordain [a man] to orders but [by laying on hands] at the ordination of a presbyter he [only] blesses while the bishop ordains.15

The intrusion of the language of priesthood strains almost to breaking point any continuity that is discernible with the New Testament, which must seem to centuries of Catholic tradition unconscionably deliberate in its avoidance of priestly categories for Christian ministers. This is no less true of manner of appointment than of ministerial function.

Congregation and Ordination

A notable absentee from the rites of ordination prescribed by Hippolytus is the congregation. It is present, and it has been involved in the election of the bishop, but that is all. So Hippolytus has no guidance to offer on what is arguably the most critical contemporary question about ordination. If, on ministry in general, we have to resolve the issue of the relationship between the special ministry of the full-time, professionally-trained, stipendiary ordained person and other ministries in the congregation or even the ministry of the whole congregation, so too we must face it at the point of ordination. Indeed, this is perhaps the most crucial pressure-point of all, for ordination has traditionally been the locus at which the ordinand has been decisively set apart from the church membership at large, in an act in which the congregation has played in the main the part of spectators. Neither has it had much to do beyond respond and receive, and that verbally rather than by any visible and tangible action and movement, nor has the ordination service provided a clear focus for the (re)ordination or (re)commissioning of the whole congregation to its ministry. That is to say, ordination has been anything but an occasion when the congregation reaffirms its own ultimate responsibility under God ‘for the work of ministry’ (Eph. 4:12), within which context alone can sound, biblically theological sense be made of what is being done to the ordinand.

It is disappointing to find the widely read Lima report Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM) so limited on this question:

Ordination is an acknowledgment by the Church of the gifts of the Spirit in the one ordained, and a commitment by both the Church and the ordinand to the new relationship. By receiving the new minister in the act of ordination, the congregation acknowledges the minister’s gifts and commits itself to be open towards these gifts.16

The import of even this minimal statement is diminished further by the uncertain reference to ‘the Church’; its first use in the quotation must encompass more than the local congregation.

One looks in vain in BEM for acknowledgment of the widespread contemporary theologoumenon that baptism constitutes the commissioning or consecration of God’s people to its royal priesthood. In baptism all Christians are ordained to the service of the gospel. (It is an emphasis that suggests fruitful speculation on the significance of that laying on of hands which was an element of primitive Christian baptism, not merely in the somewhat exceptional incidents recorded in Acts.) This theology found breathtaking expression in Luther’s early Reformation treatises:

Whatever issues from baptism may boast that it has been consecrated priest, bishop and pope, although it does not beseem everyone to exercise these offices. For, since we are all priests alike, no man may put himself forward or take upon himself, without our consent and election, to do that which we have all alike power to do. For, if a thing is common to all, no man may take it to himself without the wish and command of the community.… Therefore a priest should be nothing in Christendom but a functionary; as long as he holds his office, he has precedence of others; if he is deprived of it, he is a peasant or a citizen like the rest.… Between laymen and priests, princes and bishops, or, as they call it, between spiritual and temporal persons, the only real difference is one of office and function, and not of estate.17

Of this sacrament [of orders] the church of Christ knows nothing: it was invented by the church of the pope. It not only has no promise of grace, anywhere declared, but not a word is said about it in the whole of the New Testament.… Let every man then who has learnt that he is a Christian recognize what he is, and be certain that we are all equally priests, that is, that we have the same power in the word, and in any sacrament whatever, although it is not lawful for any one to use this power, except with the consent of the community.18

Such healthy radicalism was destined to undergo major qualification as the Lutheran protest settled into the mould of reformed churches. What did survive unscathed was a dominant emphasis on the congregational call and election of ministers. ‘The principal criterion of the validity of an ordination in the Reformation churches was whether or not the essential elements of the call had been observed.’19 Procedures of selection, examination, presentation and approbation were paramount, and the solemn setting apart could itself be described as the ‘election’ in Calvinist churches anxious to avoid the distasteful medieval implications of ‘ordination’. The Reformers also insisted that no ordination was to take place except to a specific ministerial charge. None was to be ordained without reference to an allotted congregational context. This meant in particular that ordination conferred no permanently indelible ‘character’. It was absurd to suppose that after deposition or deprivation a priest or minister could not become a mere layman.20 The overriding concern to mark a complete break with the medieval system of hierarchical priestcraft even went as far as dispensing with the laying on of hands in Geneva and, more decisively, in Scotland, although in time all Calvinist churches joined Lutherans and Anglicans in retaining this action.

The congregation’s role in ordination is always likely to be restricted where what is imparted is viewed as coming from above or from without. The dominant values to be safeguarded will be the orderly transmission of ministerial authority in continuity with the apostolic tradition, even if not articulated in so many words as ‘apostolic succession’, the expression of the church’s catholicity actualized in ordination by bishops or the ministers of the district or region, and what BEM calls ‘the otherness of God’s initiative, of which the ordained ministry is a sign’ (p. 30). Concepts like these abound in recent ecumenical reports. When reinforced by common features in training and appointment procedures, they make it almost inevitable that ordination and induction will be seen as the injection from outside of an element essential to the validation of the congregation as a church of Christ, rather than as a significant stage in the congregation’s own assumption of responsibility for its mission and service.21

One of the most stimulating recent contributors to the debate about the relation between church and ministry has been E. Schillebeeckx, whose writings in this field must appear more revolutionary than any of his essays into Christology.22 Much of what he has to say is not directly related to ordination, but we may note his general observation that all the different patterns of New Testament church order developed from below but were experienced as coming from above because the whole life of the community was of God by Christ’s gift of the Spirit.23 Schillebeeckx enunciates ‘an essentially ecclesial view of the ministry’.24 In the later Pauline writings he finds that ‘the church’s ministry was in no way detached from the community or so to speak set above it; ministry is clearly incorporated into the totality of all kinds of services which are necessary for the community’.25 Like other recent Catholic scholars,26 he argues that ‘The essence, and indeed the force of the [early church] concept of ordinatio [or cheirotonia] comprises the calling, the mandate of the sending of someone by a particular Christian community (the people and its leaders).… Ordinatio is an appointment or “incorporation” as minister to a community which calls a particular fellow-Christian and indicates him as its leader (or, above all in the earlier period, which accepts the actual charismatic emergence of one of its members and gives it official confirmation).’27 That it is the ecclesiastical mandate and not the laying on of hands that constitutes ordination is confirmed by a canon of the Council of Chalcedon which declared null and void any ordinatio not to a specific congregation. There is here a remarkable joining of hands with some of the central principles of the Reformers. In particular Schillebeeckx explodes the misconception that the emergence of ministers from within the congregation from below is incompatible with their being appointed by Christ and given by the Spirit from above.

Ordination in Ecumenical Perspective

The papal bull of 1896, Apostolicae Curae, declaring Anglican orders invalid, is still the official verdict of Rome. In 1973 the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) issued an agreed statement on ‘Ministry and Ordination’. Although it is not unpromising in its brief comments on ministry in general, it insists that the ordained ministry is ‘not an extension of the common Christian priesthood but belongs to another realm of the gifts of the Spirit’. Not surprisingly, its account of ordination to this ministry which is of another order altogether to that of other members of the church, moves almost entirely in a supra-congregational stratosphere; the only nod in the direction of the congregation is the requirement that ordination takes place in the context of the eucharist.28 It is a remarkably traditionalist statement, reflecting a complacent clericalism.

Note has already been taken of BEM, which represents the fruit of discussions among a very wide range of churchmen. Although it commends episcopacy, and hence invariable episcopal ordination, to non-episcopal churches, it betrays no hint that the latter lack an authentic apostolic ministry or require episcopal re-ordination. Its paragraphs on ordination are not couched in terms of an episcopal polity. Although it is far more cognizant than ARCIC of the new relation established between the minister and the local Christian community, it fails to reflect the Reformers’ central emphasis on what Schillebeeckx and others call ‘the ecclesiastical mandate’ as the heart of ordination. To this extent its section on ordination is insufficiently ecclesial, remaining too narrowly concerned with the divine gift of ordained ministry.

Most recently of all, an Anglican-Reformed International Commission has issued the result of four years of consultations in God’s Reign and Our Unity.29 We may pass over the report’s interest in the Reformed churches’ recovery of ‘the historic continuity of ordinations’. It cites and endorses BEM’s three pivotal paragraphs on ordination, and emphasizes in particular the focal and representative role of the minister in relation to the congregation and church as a whole. Ministers are presented as ‘leaders, examples and enablers for the priestly ministry of the whole body in virtue of the special calling and equipment given to them in ordination. The one so ordained is called to be a focus of unity for the whole body. Ordination is the act which constitutes and acknowledges this special ministry of representation and leadership within the life of the Church both locally and universally.’30 This reflects an advance on BEM which is grounded partly in the report’s holding together ordained ‘priesthood’ (one is bound to ask how much longer this usage can survive exposure to the damning silence of the New Testament) and the priesthood of the whole body of the faithful. The crucial question remains what happens at the ordination service itself. More still needs to be said, both theologically and liturgically, about the commissioning of the congregation in relation to the ordination of the individual.

It has recently been suggested that in the evolution of ordination, both action and interpretation, two constants are operative: the action assigning office or ministry changes to express the community’s understanding of that office or ministry, and the assignment ritual becomes more formal as the charismatic nature of the community yields to more formal structuring.31 What should we expect today as the community’s renewed understanding of church and ministry shifts the centre of gravity in the reverse direction, from formalized structures towards a charismatic functionalism? There are grounds for thinking that the far-reaching modern recasting of theologies of church and ministry has yet to be worked through into not only the theory but more particularly the practice of ordination. One powerful factor that may well retard such revision is the appeal of ecumenical rapprochement with Catholics and Orthodox. Yet perhaps more potent still is the force of inertia in all our traditions. In ordination the professional interests of the clergy find privileged expression. It remains to be seen how long they will be able to resist the rightful claims of the whole congregation of God’s people for a place, or better a hand, in their ordination. A recent article on Anglican practice by Michael Sansom of Ridley Hall, Cambridge,32 suggests that the laity should be involved in the laying on of hands. If the Anglicans will lead the way, who dare not follow?


Yes, the early Luther was right! Ordination must be viewed not simply in relation to the wider church extended in time or space, nor, as Michael Sansom points out, as the point of entry into a lifelong career as a member of the professional body ambiguously related to the church. Ordination is an act in which the local congregation says to a person:

You are the one we have chosen [and presumably therefore examined!] to lead us in our life of worship/discipleship/evangelism/service etc. [delete as required!] as a congregation. We gladly acknowledge the gifts God has given you for this role, we believe that God has appointed you for it and we pray in this service for the power of God’s Spirit to enable you to fulfil it. Together with representatives of the wider church [surely including local representatives of other denominations], we set you apart to this ministry of leadership among us, and in so doing we consecrate ourselves afresh to our continuing ministry as God’s people in this place.

There will follow the laying on of hands, in which some members of the congregation, including some ‘ordinary’ members, will take part. This act will be seen as both authorization (hence congregational involvement is essential) and prayer-blessing for God’s grace and power. Then must follow some ceremony with appropriate action (and why not imposition of hands representatively on some members?) in which the congregation is recommissioned as, by baptism, the priestly people of God charged with declaring the wonderful deeds of the one who calls us out of darkness into light.

Such an approach would mean that each new induction to a fresh charge must not be too different from initial ordination. There is no reason whatsoever why ordination along these lines should not be seen as an act of God as well as an act of the congregation and church. The belief that only the ordained can ordain derives ultimately not from the conviction that only thus can ordination be an act of God (although it is frequently justified in these terms today), but from the mistaken notion that you can give only what you already have—whether charisma, character or authority. A New Testament doctrine of ministry has no room for such a presumption, and ordination is the place to say so.

1 In Studia Liturgica 13 (1979), pp. 42–69, at p. 45.

2 Ibid., pp. 11–41.

3 Ibid., p. 35.

4 Die Ordination im Spätjudentum und im Neuen Testament (Göttingen and Berlin, 1951).

5 ‘Die Ordination im frühen Christentum’, Freiburger Zeits. für Philos. und Theolog. 22 (1975), pp. 35–69. A similar line is followed in the more popular recent work by Marjorie Warkentin, Ordination. A Biblical-Historical View (Grand Rapids, 1962), pp. 16–25, although she states (p. 17 n. 1) that ‘until such time as ordination in early Judaism can be dated more exactly the question must remain open’?

6 ‘Jewish and Christian Ordination’, JEH 5 (1954), pp. 125–138.

7 ‘Laying On of Hands: Its Significance in Ordination’, JTS n.s. 26 (1975), pp. 1–12, at p. 4. Cf. also his ‘Jewish and Christian Ordination’, Harv. Theol. Rev. 56 (1963), pp. 13–19.

8 The use of cheirotonētheis in 2 Cor. 8:19 is not an exception to this (cf. its use in Acts 14:23), although appointment by a ritual act cannot be excluded, any more than it can in other instances where verbs denoting election or appointment (e.g. kathistanai) are employed. It was only in ecclesiastical Greek that cheirotoneōlater became the technical term for ‘ordain’, parallel to the Latin ordinare.

9 Cf. Kilmartin, art. cit., pp. 45–50, 54, 58, 63–64.

10 Cf. Kretschmar, art. cit., pp. 56–57, with further references.

11 SJT 11 (1958), pp. 225–253, at pp. 227, 236–237.

12 Elsewhere, however, e.g. in his recent pamphlet The Eldership in the Reformed Church (Edinburgh, 1984), Torrance distinguishes the ministry of Presbyterian elders from that of clerical ministers of Word and sacraments as a responsive and representative ministry, leading the people to God in response to the ministry of Word and sacrament.

13 Cf. Torrance, in the pamphlet noted in n. 12.

14 Cf. Kretschmar, art. cit., pp. 65–66. Hippolytus’s work is accessible with least inconvenience in the translations by G. Dix, The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome, ed. H. Chadwick (London, 1968), and G. J. Cuming, Hippolytus: A Text for Students (Grove Liturgical Study, 8: Bramcote, 1976). For an index of the influence exerted by this work, especially in circles caught up in both liturgical renewal and ecumenical dialogue, cf. G. Wainwright, ‘Some Theological Aspects of Ordination’, Studia Liturgica 13 (1979), pp. 125–152.

15 Dix, pp. 15–17; cf. Cuming, p. 13, for a version differing at several points.

16 Faith and Order Paper no. 111 (Geneva, 1982), pp. 30–31.

17 Appeal to the German Nobility (1520), cited from E. G. Rupp and B. Drewery, Martin Luther (London, 1970), pp. 43–44.

18 The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520), from Rupp and Drewery, p. 50.

19 P. F. Bradshaw, ‘The Reformers and the Ordination Rites’, Studia Liturgica 13 (1979), pp. 94–107, at p. 101. Cf. Luther’s short treatise of 1523, That a Christian Assembly or Congregation Has the Right and Power to Judge All Teaching and to Call, Appoint, and Dismiss Teachers, Established and Proven by Scripture, tr. E. W. & R. C. Gritsch in Luther’s Works, ed. H. T. Lehmann, vol. 39 (Philadelphia, 1970), pp. 305–314.

20 Cf. Rupp & Drewery, p. 44, for Luther on this point.

21 Cf. the comments in my essay ‘Training the Whole Church for Ministry’, in Jock Stein (ed.), Ministers for the 1980s (Edinburgh, 1979), pp. 42–53, at pp. 47–48.

22 Ministry, A Case for Change (London, 1981), and his essay in L. Grollenberg et al., Minister? Pastor? Prophet? Grass-roots Leadership in the Churches (London, 1980).

23 Ministry, p. 5; Minister?…, p. 63.

24 Ministry, p. 39.

25 Ibid., p. 13. Cf. R. P. C. Hanson, Christian Priesthood Re-examined (Guildford, 1979), p. 23: official ministries ‘are not offices instituted independently of the rest of the church by Christ or his apostles, offices whose holders bear rule over the church by an independent line of authority deriving from Christ’.

26 Cf. Kilmartin, op. cit., pp. 61–62, referring to the work of P. van Beneden, Aux origines d’une terminologie sacramentelle: Ordo, ordinare, ordinatio dans la littérature chrétienne avant 313 (Louvain, 1974).

27 Ministry, pp. 38ff.

28 ARCIC, The Final Report (London, 1982), pp. 36–38.

29 London and Edinburgh, 1984; pp. 52–57 deal with ‘Ordination, Authority, Continuity’.

30 Ibid., p. 51.

31 P. E. Fink in A New Dictionary of Christian Theology, ed. A. Richardson and J. Bowden (London, 1983), pp. 418–420.

32 ‘The Doctrine of Ordination and the Ordained Ministry’, Churchman 96 (1982), pp. 9–22, at p. 20.

David F. Wright

David Wright is the Professor of Patristic and Reformed Christianity at New College, Edinburgh University. Amongst his specialist areas for teaching and research are infant baptism, Augustine and the Reformation.