In English Version of NT the word occurs only in 1Ti 4:14, where it denotes the body of Christian presbyters or elders (no doubt those belonging to the church at Lystra; cf. Ac 16:1-4) who laid their hands upon Timothy before he set out on his labours as St. Paul's missionary companion. In the Gr. text, however, the word presbyterion is found in two other passages, viz. Lu 22:66 (AV 'elders,' RV 'assembly of the elders') and Ac 22:5 (AV and RV 'estate of the elders'), as an expression for the body of Jewish elders who with the 'chief priests' and the scribes composed the Sanhedrin. This twofold use of the word (like the corresponding twofold use of 'elder') affords a strong confirmation of the view, which is otherwise most probable, that the presbytery of the Christian Church finds its roots in the eldership of the Jewish ecclesia.
The presbytery was at first a purely local body (cf. the Letters of Ignatius, passim), corresponding not to the modern presbytery of the Presbyterian Churches, which is a district court composed of ministers and elders drawn from a number of separate congregations, but to the kirk-session or body of elders by which in those churches a single congregation is ruled. Originally the presbytery had no fixed president. The presbyters or elders, otherwise known as bishops (see art. Bishop), whom we meet in the NT seem officially to have all stood upon the same footing. But early in the post-Apostolic age one of the congregational presbyter-bishops rose, by what was probably a process of natural evolution (cf. '/1-Timothy/5/17'>1Ti 5:17, 'Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and in teaching'), to a position of predominance, and was now known as the 'bishop' par excellence, in distinction from the other presbyters (cf. in the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches the precedence of the minister over the elders and deacons respectively, although, properly speaking, a 'minister' is simply a diakonos or deacon). The bishop as we meet him in the Letters of Ignatius (e.g. Eph 4) is a congregational bishop, the president of a body of congregational presbyters. The monarchical bishop is a later creation.
What was involved in the laying on of the hands of the presbytery in the case of Timothy it is impossible to say with certainty. Probably it was an act corresponding to ordination to office (see Laying on of Hands), St. Paul himself being associated with the presbytery in the matter (cf. 2Ti 1:6). On the other hand, it may have been no more than a commendation of Timothy to the grace of God for strength and guidance in his new work as a missionary, analogous thus to the action of the prophets and teachers of Antioch in the case of Barnabas and Saul (Ac 13:1-3). The laying on of St. Paul's hands (2Ti 1:6) may really have been a separate incident, comparable again to the laying on of the hands of Ananias on himself (Ac 9:17)