Definition for BISH'OP

BISH'OP, n.1 [L. episcopus; Gr. επισκοπος, of επι, over, and σκοπος, inspector, or visitor; σκοπεω, to view or inspect; whence, επισκεπτομαι, to visit or inspect; also, επισκοπεω, to view. This Greek and Latin word accompanied the introduction of Christianity into the west and north of Europe, and has been corrupted into Saxon biscop, bisceop, Sw. and Dan. biskop, D. bisschop, Ger. bischof, It. vescovo, Fr. evêque, Sp. obispo, Port. bispo, W. esgob, and Ir. easgob. In Ar. and Pers. اُسْقُفْ oskof. This title the Athenians gave to those whom they sent into the provinces subject to them, to inspect the state of affairs; and the Romans gave the title to those who were inspectors of provisions.]

  1. An overseer; a spiritual superintendent, ruler or director: applied to Christ. Ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned to the shepherd and bishop of your souls. – 1 Pet. ii.
  2. In the primitive Church, a spiritual overseer; an elder or presbyter; one who had the pastoral care of a church. The same persons are in this chapter called elders or presbyters, and overseers or bishops. – Scott. Comm. Acts xx. Till the churches were multiplied, the bishops and presbyters were the same. – Ib. Phil. i. 1.; 1 Tim. iii. 1; Titus. i. 7. Both the Greek and Latin fathers do, with one consent, declare, that bishops were called presbyters, and presbyters bishops, in apostolic times, the name being then common. – Whitby.
  3. In the Greek, Latin, and some Protestant churches, a prelate, or person consecrated for the spiritual government and direction of a diocese. In Great Britain, bishops are nominated by the king, who, upon request of the dean and chapter, for leave to elect a bishop, sends a congé d'elire or license to elect, with a letter missive, nominating the person whom he would have chosen. The election, by the chapter, must be made within twelve days, or the king has a right to appoint whom he pleases. Bishops are consecrated by an archbishop, with two assistant bishops. A bishop must be thirty years of age; and all bishops, except the bishop of Man, are peers of the realm. – Blackstone. By the canons of the Protestant Episcopal church in the United States, no diocese or state shall proceed to the election of a bishop, unless there are at least six officiating presbyters residing therein, who shall be qualified, according to the canons, to vote for a bishop; a majority of whom at least must concur in the election. But the conventions of two or more dioceses, or states, having together nine or more such presbyters, may join in the election of a bishop. A convention is composed of the clergy, and a lay delegation, consisting of one or more members from each parish. In every state, the bishop is to be chosen according to such rules as the convention of that state shall ordain. The mode of election, in most or all of the states, is by a concurrent vote of the clergy and laity, in convention, each body voting separately. Before a bishop can be consecrated, he must receive a testimonial of approbation from the General Convention of the church; or if that is not in session, from a majority of the standing committee in the several dioceses. The mode of consecrating bishops and ordaining priests and deacons, differs not essentially from the practice in England. – Bishop Brownell.

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