An old essay on eldership




Scott Jacobsen


Works Consulted

W. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. (translated by W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich from the fourth German Ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957.)

Brown, Colin. ed. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978.

Kittel, G. F. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated by G. W. Bromiley, Grand Rapids: Wm B., Eerdmans, 1964.

Loupe, G. W. H. A Patristic Greek Lexicon. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1961-68.

Moulton, J. H. and Milligan, G. The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914-30.


            The purpose of this brief outline is to supply a study guide concerning the eldership, special emphasis being placed upon the requirement for elders. It should be noted that the principle English text used in this study is the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (hereafter RSV), while certain notations are made from the King James Version (hereafter KJV).

Important Greek keywords are supplied as transliterated into English, and important phrases are given. Otherwise, the word order follows the RSV text. I Timothy 3:1-7 is the primary passage in this study.

  1. I Timothy 3:1
  2. “The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task.”
  3. Word study
  4. “office of bishop” ἐπισκοπῆς (episkopēs; DF[1]: ἐπισκοπή, ῆς ἡ episkopē, ēs, hē)

According to Bauer’s lexicon, this term is used to describe a visitation of divine power, either in a benevolent sense, or with the idea of judgement. As in this context, it is used to describe the office or position of overseer in the church.

As in secular Greek, ἐπισκοπή means a person of high authority, yet one who is a public servant. Hence the balance is maintained between servant-hood and authority. The concept of leading by serving is fundamental to the New Testament concept of leadership.

Literally, the word means “to look upon,” in the sense of overseer. The term is used to describe God’s careful oversight of His people, of men visiting the sick, or seeking out someone, and official duties.

’Eπισκοπή seems to be a descriptive term for the eldership, as Paul uses the term interchangeably in Acts 20:17 and 20:28. In verse 17 Paul calls together the “presbyterous” (πρεσβυτέρους; DF: πρεσβύτερος, α, ον; literally, “elders”) of the church at Ephesus. As he address them, however, he calls them “overseers” (episkopous) “to care for (ποιμαίνω, poimainō, literally, “shepherd”, or “pastor”) the church of God.” It may be seen from this passage that the men who were called “elders” in verse 17 are also called “overseers” (episkopous—bishops) in verse 28. In that same verse Paul tells them to “take care of” (pastor) the church of God. The three terms describe the same office.

to be continued . . .

[1] “DF” = Dictionary Form

Simeon Trust

I decided at the last minute to attend this year’s Simeon Trust workshop in Toronto. It’s not too late to sign up, if anyone is interested. Link to the info here.

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) established the trust to train and develop clergy within the Church of England. His model of preacher gatherings is much older, dating back at least to the English Puritans.

I haven’t attended since 2008, but wish that, at least informally, these kind of events would be more frequent, even monthly. Odd, that now we have so much in the way of time-savers, we have so little time to show for it.