“And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.”
King James Version (KJV)
20:17 Sending to Ephesus, he called the elders of the Church - These are called bishops in the 28th verse, #Acts 20:28 |(rendered overseers in our translation.) Perhaps elders and bishops were then the same; or no otherwise different than are the rector of a parish and his curates.
Ac 20:17 Called the elders of the church. No mention has been made before of their appointment, but it was Paul's custom to "ordain elders in every church" (Ac 14:23). These elders were also called "bishops" (Revised Version) in Ac 20:28. In apostolic days there was a plurality of elders in every church; these elders were "bishops", or "overseers". There was no distinct episcopal order. This is admitted even by the advocates of an episcopate. Dean Howson, of the Church of England, declares ("Acts", p. 475) that no special order of bishops was created in the lifetime of Paul, or the apostles, but he dates their origin about the close of the first or beginning of the second century. Prof. Rothe, of Heidelberg (quoted by Lightfoot on Philippians), supposes that after the martyrdom of Paul, Peter and James the necessity was felt for a general supervision, and that this gave rise to the appointment of diocesan bishops. By the admission of all scholars, the episcopal order is "post"-apostolic.