Thursday, July 7, 2011

Please Be Seated (Laodicea - Canon 56)

Presbyters may not enter and take their seats in the bema before the entrance of the Bishop: but they must enter with the Bishop, unless he be at home sick, or absent.

This canon did not implement a processional hierarchy with elders and overseers in their places. The intent was to ensure the overseer did not walk into the meeting place unless accompanied elders as a guard.

The startling aspect of this canon is the mention of the bema.  Paul used this language with the appearance before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10) to receive what is due.  The seat in the local church would be a place authority and reserved for the man in charge.  From it judgment was pronounced.  Most likely, it is this use which would later be more commonly known in Roman Catholic circles as speaking ex cathedra.

A noteworthy designation here is that the overseer is not alone in the bema but joined by the elders.  Judgments were not granted in isolation but as a result of council.

Bema at Corinth (courtesy of Stephen Pohl)Close-up of plaque (Courtesy of Stephen Pohl)

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