Good primary sources on the early Church hierarchy?

Hey everyone!

I was wondering, are there any good contemporary sources on the development of the early Church hierarchy, from about ca. 100 - 800? I know that’s a large gap to consider, but it would greatly help me.

I’ve taken a look through, and collected some Church Fathers’ writings about the roles of the specific members (deacons, bishops, etc), but I haven’t actually taken a look through them, nor have I looked through the entire list.

I’ve been invited to participate in Departmental Honors at my college, and I’ve chosen to talk about the hierarchy of the Early Church (I’m cutting it off at 800 because of Pope Leo III’s crowning of Charlemagne on Christmas Day, thus giving the Pope unprecedented political power). The paper (which is due Spring 2012, but I’d like to get a head’s start) is no less than 35 (or so) pages and no more than 60, so length won’t be a problem.

I’d just like to narrow down my sources.



Well, you absolutely have to read from Ignatius of Antioch’s letters. They date from around 110 AD and are among the most ancient expositions of the roles of the Church leaders.

You can find them here:

Scripture Catholic has tons of quotes from the early Church, as well as from the Scriptures. See the first section “The Church”, and also “Holy Orders”. God bless.

I’m not sure if this would help but you might want to check out Jimmy Aikin’s book "The Fathers Know Best.

Irenaeus (ca 170 A.D.) argues for Apostolic Succession against the Gnostics and gives names of successors in Against Heresies, book III (especially chapter 3). Clement of Rome also argues for Apostolic Succession ca. 70-90 A.D. in his Letter to the Corinthians #44. And the historical record has Clement as an associate of Paul.

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