David, dear heart, you are certainly entitled to hold whatever creative
opinions on this subject that you wish.
However, the above is simply not true, historically or Scripturally, as handmaiden showed from the Book of Acts. Bishops (episkopos) were the head of the local Christian group, appointed by the Apostles (themselves the first bishops). As the Christian community grew, there would of course be multiple groups in a geographic area, so that the Bishop would eventually preside over a larger area with a larger number of groups. This is how you are using the word "Bishop." Apostolic succession means that current Bishops go back in an unbroken line to the Apostles and the men that they appointed.
"Bishops and Presbyters
In the New Testament, the terms bishop and presbyter are used interchangeably. (Most English translations render presbyter as elder. The KJV and RSV usually render bishop as bishop, although the KJV does render it as overseer once (Acts 20:28).
The NIV, however, renders it as overseer exclusively, thereby avoiding using a
word that is objectionable to most Evangelicals).This is evident from the
following passage from Titus:
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders [lit. presbyters] in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre (Titus 1:5-7).
...Our Apostles also knew through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife over the title of bishop. For this reason, therefore, since they had perfect foreknowledge, they appointed the aforementioned persons and later made further provision that if they should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.... For it will be no trivial sin on our part if we depose from the bishop's office those who have in a blameless and holy manner offered the gifts. Happy the presbyters who have gone on their way before
this, for they obtained a ripe and fruitful departure; since they need not fear
that anyone should remove them from their appointed place. (I Clement 44. For St. Clement, the office of bishop derives from the Apostles.
Elsewhere he writes, "The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ: Jesus the Christ was sent from God. Thus Christ is from God, the Apostles from Christ. In both cases, the process was orderly and derived from the will of God... They preached in country and town, and appointed their first-fruits, after testing them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who were going to believe. Thus, the concept of "Apostolic Succession," dates from the first century).
But when on our side we challenge them [that is, the Gnostics] by an appeal to that tradition which derives from the Apostles, and which is preserved in the churches by the successions of the presbyters, then they oppose tradition claiming to be wiser not only than the presbyters but even than the Apostles, and to have discovered the truth undefiled.... This tradition the church has from the Apostles, and this faith has been proclaimed to all men, and has come down to our own day through the successions of bishops
(Against Heresies III:2:2; III:3:2).
There is one writer from the second century, however, who did not employ bishop and presbyter as interchangeable terms: St. Ignatios of Antioch. In his Letters, St. Ignatios makes it clear that in a given local Church, there is one bishop, a council of presbyters, and the deacons:
All of you follow the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and the presbytery as the Apostles; respect the deacons as the ordinance of God (Smyrnaeans
It is commonly asserted by Protestant scholars that St. Ignatios' view of Church government was unusual in the early Church — even revolutionary. Indeed, the authenticity of the Ignatian Letters was hotly contested by many Protestants, based upon their a priori conviction that the episcopal form of Church government was impossible in the first decade of the second century. Today, however, there is little doubt among scholars as to the genuineness of the seven Letters in the current collection.
It cannot be denied that St. Ignatios' clearly defined use of bishop and
presbyter is highly unusual for this point in Church history. Nor can it be
denied that he places a much greater emphasis on the role of bishop than do the other authors we are considering. However, this does not mean that the actual Church structure he describes was unique to Antioch. On the contrary, an examination of the other documents under consideration will demonstrate that they evince a similar understanding of Church government. (The only exception to this is the Didache, which gives very little information about Church government. The Didache is concerned primarily with the authority of traveling apostles and teachers and takes an almost apologetic attitude toward local clergy. This is a point in favor of dating the Didache in the first century, perhaps as early as A.D. 70. It is highly unlikely that a second century
document would give such emphasis to traveling teachers).
...In Against Heresies, St. Irenaios uses the succession of bishops
in the various local Churches as an argument against the Gnostics' claims to
have special knowledge handed down secretly from the Apostles...St. Irenaios speaks of the succession of both presbyters and bishops. However,
when he gets around to actually listing the succession of bishops for a
particular Church — he uses Rome as his example — he gives a single line of
succession. That is, he describes one bishop succeeding another. There is no
suggestion of multiple successions.
… it is evident that while the terminology regarding the offices of bishop and
presbyter remained somewhat fluid in the first and second centuries, the offices
themselves were not interchangeable. Ss. Clement and Irenaios, like St. Ignatios, know of only one bishop in a church at a time."
Clark Carlton, http://ancientchristiandefender.blogspot.com/2009/09/structure-and-worship-of-early-church.html