|Bishops, Overseers, Presbyters, and Elders|
This is a study of the word bishop as it appears in 1 Timothy 3: 1, 2. In the various versions, other words are substituted for bishop. The whole chapter deals with the qualifications of bishops and deacons in the New Testament church. Only the first two qualifications are included in this study as the primary interest here is the use of the word 'bishop' and its substitutes. The renderings of twenty-three versions are listed here. Other versions use these terms and the wording of the qualifications. Explanations from thirteen versions and four other reference books follow these. Then, there is a commentary on what has been written.
|ANT||Authentic New Testament||NET||New Evangelical Translation|
|BNT||Barclay New Testament||NJB||New Jerusalem Bible|
|CENT||Common English New Testament||NSNT||Norlie's Simplified New Testament|
|CEV||Contemporary English Version||PRS||Phillips Revised Student Edition|
|CJB||Complete Jewish Bible||SGAT||An American Translation (Smith-Goodspeed)|
|CTNT||Centenary Translation of the New Testament||TCNT||The Twentieth Century New Testament|
|EVD||English Version for the Deaf||TEV||Today's English Version|
|KJV||King James Version||TJB||Jerusalem Bible (Catholic)|
|KLNT||Kleist-Lilly New Testament||TM||The Message|
|KTC||Knox Translation||WNT||Williams New Testament|
|MSNT||The Modern Speech New Testament||YLR||Young's Literal Revised Edition|
|NEB||New English Bible|
|Other Versions Used|
|CNT||Cassirer New Testament||NCV||New Century Version|
|LB||Living Bible||WAS||Worrell New Testament|
|NBV||New Berkeley Version|
|1 Timothy 3: 1, 2|
|ANT||..., 'If anyone aspires to be a supervisor he desires honourable employment.' The supervisor ought therefore to be irreproachable, husband of one wife, ... .|
|BNT||..., that to be ambitious to be the leader and guardian of the community is to set one's heart on a noble task. The superintendent of the community must therefore be a man whom no one can criticize. He must be the faithful husband of one wife.|
|CENT||..., if anyone desires the office of overseer, he desires a good work. The overseer then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, ... .|
|CEV||It is true that anyone who desires to be a church official wants to be something worthwhile. That's why officials must have a good reputation and be married only once.|
|CJB||...: anyone aspiring to be a congregation leader is seeking worthwhile work. A congregation leader must be above reproach, he must be faithful to his wife, ... .|
|CTNT||..., "If any man is seeking the office of a minister he is aspiring to do a noble task." The minister should be a man of blameless character; he should be husband of but one wife; ... .|
|EVD||...: If a person is trying hard to become an elder, that person is wanting a good work. An elder must be good enough that people cannot rightly criticize him. He must have only one wife.|
|KJV||..., If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, ... .
|KLNT||...: "If anyone is eager for the office of bishop, he desires a noble post." A bishop, then, must be blameless, married only once, ... .|
|KTC||..., When a man aspires to a bishopric, it is no mean employment that he covets. The man who is to be a bishop, then, must be one with whom no fault can be found; faithful to one wife, ... .|
|MSNT||..., "If anyone is eager to have the oversight of a church, he desires a noble work." A minister then must be a man of irreproachable character, true to his one wife, ... .|
|NEB||...: 'To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition.' Our leader, therefore, or bishop, must be above reproach, faithful to his one wife, ... .|
|NET||...: If anyone sets his heart on being a spiritual leader, he desires to do a noble work. Now, a spiritual overseer must be blameless, the husband of one wife, ... .|
|NJB||...: to want to be a presiding elder is to desire a noble task, That is why the presiding elder must have an impeccable character. Husband of one wife, ... .|
|NSNT||..., "Whoever aspires to church office seeks a noble task." The pastor should be a man of irreproachable character, and never have more than one wife.|
|PRS||... that a man who sets his heart on leadership has laudable ambition. Well, for the office of bishop a man must be of blameless reputation, he must be married to one wife only, ... .|
|SGAT||..., Whoever aspires to the office of superintendent sets his heart on a fine work. A superintendent must be a man above reproach, only once married, ... .|
|TCNT||When a man aspires to be a Presiding-Officer in the Church, he is ambitious for a noble task. The Presiding-Officer should be a man of blameless character; a faithful husband; ... .|
|TEV||...: If a man is eager to be a church leader, he desires an excellent work. A church leader must be without fault; he must have only one wife, ... .|
|TJB||...: To want to be a presiding elder is to want to do a noble work. That is why the president must have an impeccable character. He must not have been married more than once, ... .|
|TM||If anyone want to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are pre-conditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, ... .|
|WNT||...: "Whoever aspires to the office of pastor desires an excellent work." So the pastor must be a man above reproach, must have only one wife, ... .|
|YLR||...: If anyone the oversight doth long for, a right work he desireth; it behoveth, therefore, the overseer to be blameless, of one wife a husband, ... .|
|BNT||The word bishop has today an ecclesiastical sound which the word episkopos did not have in New Testament times at all. The word literally means an overseer or a superintendent; the oversight may be with a view to discipline or it may be with a view to protection. Usually in New Testament times the word bishop will give a quite wrong impression of what the episkopos was. He was the superintendent of the congregation. It has been said with truth that the word elder in the New Testament describes the church leader in his person, while the word episkopos describes him in his function.|
|CEV||Footnote: Church official: Or "bishop."
Married only once: Or "the husbands of only one wife" or "faithful in marriage."
|CNT||Footnote: Or 'pastoral leader,' or 'church leader.'|
|KTC||Footnote: It is possible that St. Paul means us to understand these qualifications
as applying, not only to episcopal office, but to that of a priest; he does not mean
presbyters in this chapter.
'Faithful to one wife' may mean, but does not necessarily mean, that in the discipline of the early Church a re-married widower was ineligible for the episcopate.
|LB||Footnote: [Pastor] -- More literally, "church leader" or "presiding elder."|
|MSNT||Minister: lit. 'one who has the oversight,' 'a bishop.' The identity of 'bishops' and 'elders' in the early church is shown by the fact that the qualifications here required from 'bishops' are substantially the same as those required from elders in Titus 1: 5-9, where indeed the word 'bishop' occurs.|
|NBV||Footnote: "Bishop" is translated from the Greek episkopos, meaning literally overseer. In the first century episkopos, bishop or overseer, and presbuteros, elder, were used interchangeably, eg. Titus 1: 5 and 7, where both words refer to the same office. After the first century the office of bishop or overseer over that of elder developed.|
|NCV||Footnote: Elder: older men who led God's people; appointed leaders in the church.|
|NEB||Footnote: [one wife]: Or married to one wife, or married only once.|
|NET||Footnote: Greek: "episkopos;" a term used to emphasize the supervision and guidance a church leader was to provide.|
|NJB||Elders: After the model of the 70 elders appointed by Moses, local Jewish communities were governed by a committee of elders (presbuteroi). This structure was taken over by Christian communities. Elders were carefully selected and their office was seen to depend on the holy Spirit. The president (episkopos) was probably chosen from among them. (Exodus 18:13; Acts 11:30; Acts 14:23; Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5-9).|
|TEV||Footnote: have only one wife, or be married only once.|
|WAS||Footnote: A bishop: an overseer or pastor of an assembly.|
Greek-English Lexicon (Thayer):
Episkopos: an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done are done rightly. ...; specifically the superintendent, head, or overseer of any Christian church; Acts 20: 28; Philippians 1: 1; 1 Timothy 3: 2; Titus 1: 7.
Halley's Bible Handbook:
Bishops and Deacons: Their qualifications (1-16). Probably intended as an ideal, not a legal enactment. "One wife" (2), probably meant to exclude, not single men, but polygamists. Paul was a single man.
Smith's Bible Dictionary:
Bishop. The word originally signified an "overseer" or spiritual superintendent. The titles bishop and elder, or presbyter, were essentially equivalent. Bishop is from the Greek, and denotes one who exercises the function of overseeing. Presbyter was derived from the office in the synagogue. Of the order in which the first elders or bishops were appointed, as of the occasion which led to the institution of the office, we have no record. The duties of the bishop-elders appear to have been as follows: 1. General superintendence over the spiritual well-being of the flock (1 Peter 5: 2). 2. The work of teaching, both publicly and privately (1 Thessalonians 5: 12; Titus 1: 9; 1 Timothy 5: 17). 3. The work of visiting the sick (James 5: 14). 4. Among other acts of charity, that of receiving strangers occupied a conspicuous place (1 Timothy 3: 2; Titus 1: 8). Peter calls Christ "the shepherd and bishop of your souls" (1 Peter 2: 25).
Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words:
Episkopos, lit. an overseer, whence English "bishop," which has precisely the same meaning, is found in Acts 20: 28; Philippians 1: 1; 1 Timothy 3: 2; Titus 1: 7; 1 Peter 2: 25. Note: Presbuteros, "an elder," is another term for the same person as bishop or overseer. See Acts 20: 17 with verse 28. The term "elder" indicates the mature spiritual experience and understanding of those so described; the term "bishop," or "overseer," indicates the character of the work undertaken. According to the divine will and appointment, as in the NT, there were to be "bishops" in every local church, Acts 14: 23; Acts 20: 17; Philippians 1: 1; Titus 1: 5; James 5: 14.
There is much general agreement; yet there are variations. While there are definite statements, there is an element of uncertainty in numerous cases.
The following words used seem to be virtually synonymous as used in this passage. These are: bishop, overseer, elder, superintendent, pastor, presbyter, leader, supervisor, minister, and spiritual leader. The first three of these terms seem to be the most commonly used ones. Generally speaking, the term bishop was used to describe the office. The term elder was used to describe the man. He was usually an older, experienced man of high moral character. The elder, or bishop, in most of the versions, was the spiritual leader of the church. A few suggest only a church leader who may or may not have been what is known today as a minister or pastor. Since the word bishop in some churches today suggests not a local leader, but a regional leader, it is apparent that those churches have changed the position and function of a bishop.
This is a position to which a man would aspire. Thus, he could choose to prepare himself for the position. However, first he must meet certain qualifications. Then, he must be appropriately appointed. It was considered good by Paul that a man should desire this position. Although some versions may hint that the man could desire the position for his own purposes, most imply that it was for the benefit of service to the community in the honor of the Yahshua.
Only two of the qualifications of a bishop are mentioned in the passage under consideration in this essay. All versions stress that he should be without reproach. This would be appropriate for a man of his position. He was chosen from the congregation after divine approval had been sought. Nothing is said about formal education. The second qualification gives different assumptions in the various versions. The main stress seems to be that he was not to be in a polygamous marital state. Since the wife is mentioned, the bishop would have to be a man. Also, he should be married, although one version stresses that the wording does not eliminate single men from holding this office. A few versions suggest that men who have been widowed or divorced could not hold this office.
Today, the various churches use these terms to name the position of the spiritual leader of a congregation. Although pastor and minister are the most common, others listed in these versions include bishop, presiding elder, and overseer. Thus, the churches which use one of these terms to name the spiritual leader are correct. Those using the terms for other church officers or using other terms for this position may not be correct.
The whole chapter refers to bishops and deacons only. Thus, these must have been the two basic offices for the ministry and care of the early Christian church. All other names used today have been added by man. Is it important what the names of the officers are? Has the church grown such that man has been authorized to create a hierarchy or new positions? Has Yahshua authorized the changes? If so, why has He done so? If not, can any church that has other positions and functions justly claim to be the church of Yahshua? Are women, unmarried men, divorced men, or widowed men, all of whom we see in the position of local spiritual leader in today's church, really legitimate in their positions? How many churches today use the same standards that Paul advocated when they choose who will serve as congregational leaders? I leave the reader to consider these questions in regard to the denomination of which he/she claims to be a member.