New Release: The Original Bishops

Cover ArtThe Original Bishops provides a new starting point for studying the origins of church offices. Alistair Stewart, a leading authority on early Christianity and a meticulous scholar, provides essential groundwork for historical and theological discussions.

Stewart refutes a long-held consensus that church offices emerged from collective leadership at the end of the first century. He argues that governance by elders was unknown in the first centuries and that bishops emerged at the beginning of the church; however, they were nothing like bishops of a later period. The church offices as presently known emerged in the late second century. Stewart debunks widespread assumptions and misunderstandings, offers carefully nuanced readings of the ancient evidence, and fully interacts with pertinent secondary scholarship.


“Brilliant and breathtaking! With a commanding and encyclopedic knowledge of all the primary sources–Christian, Jewish, and pagan alike–and centuries of scholarship at his fingertips, Alistair Stewart has turned the kaleidoscope of evidence in such a way that the pieces fall into a coherent, comprehensive, and compelling picture.” – John Behr, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

The Original Bishops is a tour de force, creating a coherent yet complex narrative that, despite its frequent acknowledgment of ignorance given the scrappy nature of the evidence, is sure to be contested. Future discussion of the issues, however, will be unable to ignore this book.” – Frances Young, University of Birmingham

“Alistair Stewart has produced a major contribution to the study of church order in early Christianity that will form part of the foundation for future research.” – Allen Brent, King’s College, London

The Original Bishops is a must-read for those interested in the debate over the church order of the early centuries….Stewart’s thorough historical approach will enrich your understanding of the early church orders and inform the church’s continuing discussions on ecumenism and ecclesiology.” – Joel C. Elowsky, University Wisconsin


Alistair C. Stewart (PhD, University of Birmingham) is team vicar of Upton-cum-Chalvey, Slough, England, and visiting scholar of Sarum College in Salisbury, England. Recognized as a leading expert on early Christian liturgy and polity, he is the author or editor of a dozen books.

For more information on The Original Bishops, click here.