9 On various officials in the early Church, see Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles: on ‘apostles’ (pp. 196 7), ‘bishops/overseers’ (pp. 678 9), ‘deacons’ (p. 345), ‘elders/ presbyters’ (pp. 482 3, 535), ‘prophets’ (p. 481), and ‘teachers’ (p. 496).

All in all, the New Testament, while witnessing to some organized ministry and structured leadership, yields no standard terminology for ministerial leaders and no fully clear pattern about how they functioned. To the extent that we can glimpse something about their appointment, commissioning, or ‘ordination’ (to speak somewhat anachronistically), it seems to have occurred through the ‘imposition’ of hands and an invocation of the Holy Spirit (e.g. Acts 13: 3; 14: 23; 1 Tim. 4: 14; 2 Tim. 1: 6). The threefold ministry of leadership in the Pastoral Letters (‘overseers/bishops’, ‘elders/presbyters’, and ‘deacons’) offers an early intimation of the threefold leadership (‘bishop’, ‘presbyters’, and ‘deacons’) that emerged in the second century—a ministry for which they would be ordained through invoking the Holy Spirit and imposing hands.10

10 On all this see BEM 21 5 (‘Ministry’, 7 25); G. O’Collins and D. Kendall, ‘Leadership and the Church’s Origins’, in The Bible for Theology (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1997), 101 16.

During the first centuries, as we saw, the application of ‘priest’ (hiereus in Greek and sacerdos in Latin) was not uniform. Origen attached the term to those whom Ignatius of Antioch called ‘presbyters’, whereas Cyprian of Carthage usually applied sacerdos only to bishops. Augustine, as we noted, applied sacerdos occasionally to bishops and merely now and then to ‘simple’ priests. Normally he used the term only of Christ himself. We return below to this phenomenon of ‘reticence’ in the use of the term ‘priest’ for both ordained ministers and Christ himself.