Are bishops successors to the Apostles?  Are they still successors?

Are bishops successors to the Apostles?  Are they still successors?

In a sense, yes, the bishops have inherited certain prerogatives which were apostolic. However, we must make a few definitions and distinctions: ‘apostle’ can mean the 12 (often capitalized) or the wider groups which included St. Paul, St. Barnabas, etc. Also, the term episkopos or episkopee in the New Testament is interchangeable with presbyteros – it does not mean bishop in the sense it acquired at the time of St. Ignatius. Finally, there is a difference between geographical succession (as in someone succeeding to Andrew in the Church of Patras, Greece). The 12 were not bishops of particular cities and the first bishop of any city is never an Apostle, it would be the first man ordained as bishop by an Apostle. Hence, the first bishop of Rome would be Linus, as Irenaeus makes clear.

It should also be noted that in authentically Orthodox, Patristic and Byzantine theology, Peter was always understood as the symbol of the bishop, and the other apostles of the presbyters (see Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology and The Primacy of Peter).

In short, saying that bishops are successors to the Apostles is partially true but also quite confusing and may seem to reinforce the erroneous idea that the Apostles were even bishops of any city-Church and that the Petrine succession in the Church is found in a particular Church, and not in the episcopate.
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