Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 4. Organization and Discipline of the Church” Loc. 13792-14769 (part 3).
§45. Development of the Episcopate. Ignatius.
Schaff has already demonstrated that the Episcopacy was well established at an early time. During the first half of the second century, Schaff finds the structure developing. He speaks of three stages, connected with the f igures of Ignatius, Irenaeus, and Cyprian (Schaff 2014, Loc. 14062).
In the time period of Ignatius, the episcopacy seems to be related to one local congregation. Ignatius consistently urges the churches to submit to their bishops (Schaff 2014, Loc. 14074). This is the person who brings unity to the congregation. Jesus works through bishops to strengthen his Church. Schaff gives numerous quotations to this effect from Ignatius. “The pecularity in this Ignatian view is that the bishop appears in it as the head and centre of a single congregation, and not as equally the representative of the whole church ;also, that...he is the vicar of Christ, and not...merely the successor of the apostles...and finally, that there are no distinctions of order among the bishops, no trace of a primacy” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 14108).
§46. Episcopacy at the time of Irenaeus and Tertullian.
By the time of Irenaeus, some 70 years later, the view of the episcopacy seems to have changed. Irenaeus sees the bishops as a continuation of the office of the apostles (Schaff 2014, Loc. 14115). He also sees some bishops as bearing more authority than others. At the same time, he tends to use “bishop’ and “elder” as synonyms. Tertullian, slightly earlier than Irenaeus, makes distinctions between elders and bishops (Schaff 2014, Loc. 14116).
§47. Cyprianic Episcopacy.
Schaff identifies the work of Cyprian, in the mid third century, as foundational to our understanding of the episcopacy at the time (Schaff 2014, Loc. “Cyprian considers the bishops as the bearers of the Holy Spirit, who passed from Christ to the apostles, from them by ordination to the bishops, propagates himself himself in an unbroken line of succession, and gives efficacy to all religious exercises” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 14130). The bishops are closely related to the elders. However, they are in a powerful and unique office.