what if the evidence does point in favor of the EO view? Then what? Then perhaps you are wrong on the other points? Are you will to accept this as a possibility?
I would be a fool and very rash if I were to assert that nothing under heaven would or could change my mind on any matter on which different opinions are held. But - continuing to approach the discussion back to front, and writing as my own pope (for so I am seen by some) - it seems to me that the evidence points away from the Orthodox position on so many matters, that if your view of bishops is essential to real Christianity, that view must be wrong.
LOL. As my priest, a proud alumnus from Southern Baptist University, says: if you come up with an interpretation that no one in the Church has come up with before and contradicts the Church's position, you are wrong.
Let's say, for sake of argumetn, that you do not see the Orthodox understanding of bishop in the NT and we don't see the Baptist understanding of overseer either. As we go forward in history, you admit the Orthodox understanding becomes undeniable from the 2nd century onward. But we don't see the Baptist understanding at all, except some gnostic groups who, given their other ideas, I don't think you want to associate with (or maybe you would: I don't know. I've seen Baptist tracts, for instance, that deny the resurrection of the Body).
Now, that a real problem for you, as you can't get to that 1st century texts except through though 2nd century (really 1st century, but we'll leave that aside for sake of argument) to 17th century bishops (I'm applying economia to the Anglicans for the sake of argument, as for this point, they at least pay lip service to what we are arguing), epitomized by the fact that the Bible John Smythe would have been basing his beliefs on when he started the Baptist movement (btw, on a side note, how do you feel about the term "Anabaptist?" It's come up on another thread) was the "Bishops' Bible." That he turned his back on translation of the Scritpure altogether as he became more radical http://books.google.com/books?id=eLzxiaGYvyIC&q=Bishops+Bible#v=onepage&q=Greek&f=false
(The theology of John Smyth: Puritan, Separatist, Baptist, Mennonite By Jason K. Lee)
doesn't solve the problem: the Bishops' Bible, the Geneva Bible favored by other Puritans/(Ana-)Baptists and the Textus Receptus Greek New Testament on which they are based all depend on manuscripts produced by the Orthoodx Church from the 11th century onward. The Orthodox Church full blown as we know her and you know her now. John Smyth did not have access to the 1st century texts: indeed, neither do we as only a few disputed papyri from the 1st century have only recently been known and no complete NT from that date. He had to depend on the word of those Orthodox Bishops who supervised the production of those manuscripts. It is not until the last century, with the discovery and editing of ancient manuscripts that you can even begin to make the claim on a 2nd century (when our definition of bishop had, according to you, become established) manuscript of the New Testament. By then, the Baptist tradition was over 300 years old, older than the Church was at the time of Constantine.
Of course, since these manuscripts are fragments, the only way you can recognize them as Scripture (as opposed to Apocrypha) is that our Bishops pointed them out as Scripture. Which, of course, is how they were available for the preceding 300 years to the Baptists, who used them without proper attribution. So whereas, as I pointed out above, because of the volumnious literature that the Baptist have put out from the end of the 16th century to the 20th century we can clearly see your Baptist administration and beliefs during that period. We just can't see them the preceeding 15 centuries, and since you couldn't even look at the 2nd century New Testament, let alone the 1st (which still eludes us, or rather you), we ask how you see them.
There are two sides to the discussion, the administrative and the sacerdotal, or hieratic. I feel that the former is a matter of indifference: if you find it best to organise your denomination (oops!) with a stratum of bishops, so what? But if bishops pass on priestly power through the laying-on of hands, distinguishing between a laity and a priesthood, and if they teach infant baptism, and prayer for and to the dead, then that is a quite different matter. As Marc1152 rightly says, We are talking about a fundamental approach to practicing Christianity .
Indeed we are. But since the New Testament was chosen to reflect our approach to practicing Christianity, rather than the other gospels being preached in the 1st and 2nd centuries, we beg a question of where you are getting your scripture from, and how you are basing your approach on it. You are rather doing what we in the states would be doing if we read the office of president into what the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is.
I really have little interest in the former aspect, and would hardly take my putative papal name from a bishop if I thought they were unavoidably and in essence a damaging feature to the church; but some of the things Orthodox bishops teach persuade me that somewhere down the years they have left parts of the faith out (or at least seriously under-emphasised them) and added new ideas which, though not damning the soul, are nonetheless erroneous.
That only begs the question, what makes you think they didn't leave anything out or put something in that at least millenium in which they are resposible for your Bible?