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date: 24 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Tradition and scholarship have often assumed that early Christian ritual authority coincided with church office. More recent scholarship raises questions about the uniformity of ancient practices and the extent to which ritual authority was concentrated in the offices of deacon, presbyter, or bishop. This chapter assesses writings of the first and second centuries to discover what kinds of ritual authority they indicate and whether they locate ritual authority in a particular office. Drawing on ritual theory, the chapter argues that language describing baptism, eucharist, and other meal rituals points to the establishment of ritual hierarchies through the enactment of the rites. However, the early texts also leave open the identity and office of the ritual specialists. Many early Christians—male and female, of varying offices or without any office—likely assumed these ritual roles.

Keywords: authority, baptism, eucharist, hierarchy, office, ritual

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