Clergy and Laity

Karen Jo Torjesen

in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199271566
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Clergy and Laity

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The distinction between clergy and laity in its most elemental form is a way of creating and setting apart an elite. The question about the clergy and the laity becomes a fascinating historical question about how the unity of the Church – symbolic, organizational, and political – comes to rest on the constitution of these two classes and the relationship between them. The premise of much of the earlier scholarship held that development of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the clergy/laity dyad was evolutionary, an organic unfolding of an embryonic distinction between clergy and laity into a fully elaborated polarity based on the priestly functions of the clergy and the sacrality of the liturgy. Scholarship on the institutionalization of Christianity that in an earlier era had been primarily ecclesiastical and theological is now increasingly cross-disciplinary, drawing on work in sociology, politics, economics, archaeology, gender, and religion.

Keywords: clergy; laity; Christianity; ecclesiastical hierarchy; sacrality; liturgy

Article.  7314 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity ; Religious Studies

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