Epistle of Saint Leo I

1 Peter 5:1-4,10-11

Dearly beloved: the ancients therefore that are among you, I beseech, who am myself also an ancient, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ: as also a partaker of that glory which is to be revealed in time to come: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking care of it, not by con-straint, but willingly, according to God: not for filthy lucre’s sake, but voluntarily: nei-ther as lording it over the clergy, but being made a pattern of the flock from the heart. And when the prince of pastors shall appear, you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory. But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will himself perfect you, and confirm you, and establish you. To Him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.


Verse 1. The ancients, therefore, that are among you, I beseech, who am myself also an ancient, &c. According to the letter, the senior, I, a fellow senior; or, the elder, I, a fellow elder. Mr. Nary, and also the French translators, commonly put, the priest, I, your fellow priest. Or even it might be, the bishops, I, your fellow bishop. The Latin word, senior, and the Greek word presbyteros, which here are in the text, if we should follow their derivation only, signify elderly men, or men advanced in years; but since by a received use, they signify and represent to us offices and dignities, either ecclesiastical or civil, either belonging to the Church or state, which in other languages are now generally known by other words, we may however be permitted to use, even in translating the holy Scriptures, those words and names by which now are represented to us those offices and dignities. It cannot be doubted but the Greek and Latin words, which we find in this verse, were applied, after the establishment of the new law of Christ, to signify such ministers of God and the Church which are now called priests and bishops: and it is for this reason that I judged it better to put the word priest, and fellow priest, (meaning priests of the higher order, commonly known by the name of bishops) than to use the words seniors, elders, or presbyters. I should not blame the Prot. translators for translating always the Greek word, presbyter, by the English word elder, nor the Rhemes translators for putting it here senior, if these words were sufficiently authorised by an ecclesiastical use and custom to signify priests or bishops; which I think can scarce be said, to say nothing that the word elders hath been used by fanatical men, who admit of no ordination of bishops or priests by divine institution, and who have affixed it to their lay elders, who are appointed and degraded as it seemeth good to their congregations. Though the Protestants of the Church of England always translate elders for presbyters in the New Testament, yet I do not find this word once used in their liturgy or common prayer book, when any directions are given to those that perform the church office, who are called priests, bishops, curates, or ministers. — And a witness of the sufferings of Christ. S. Peter being called and made the first or chief of the apostles soon after Christ began to preach, he was witness of what Christ suffered, both during the time of his preaching and of his passion. — Glory. Some think that S. Peter only means, that he was present at his transfiguration, where was shewn some resemblance of the glory which is to come in heaven. Others think, that he expresseth the firm hopes he had of enjoying the glory of heaven. Wi.

Verse 2. Feed the flock. This shews he speaks of bishops and priests, and not of elders in years only.

Verse 3. Neither as domineering over the clergy. This may not only signify over the inferior ministers, who were subject to the bishops or priests, but also over the particular flocks which fell to their share, or to their lot to take care of. See the Greek. Wi.

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