Here Edwin Hatch presents his idea that the historic episcopate was a late development with its origin in pagan society. These lectures provoked a conversation that lasted almost a century regarding the nature of the episcopacy. Hatch argued that Christian congregations were shaped according to patterns already present in voluntary associations of Graeco-Roman society. Within these voluntary associations, administrative officers emerged whose role was primarily financial. Hatch claimed that these episkopoi are of the same type that developed in early Christianity, in time developing into Bishops as we know them.
Edwin Hatch (1835-1889), a gifted historian of early Christianity, served as Vice Principal of St. Mary's Hall (Oxford) and Reader in Ecclesiastical History at Oxford. His Bampton Lectures, 'Organization of the Early Christian Churches', are a landmark in the study of the origins of the Christian ministry.