About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Profession For Professionals
today’s church practices are traditions that have been handed
down to us from centuries past without any Biblical base. Most
local churches don’t teach church history so unless you’ve been to
The word “office” is
often associated with a particular job, as in “office of the
president”. This phrase
tends to emphasize a position in an organization and not the actual work
that is done by the one holding the position.
In Christian circles the
word “office” has been connected to the word “pastor”, as in
“office of the pastor”, emphasizing the position held within the
organization of the church. For
centuries pastoring has been understood in terms of an office, resulting
in many being office holders performing duties that have no relevance to
what Scripture teaches concerning pastors.
of the “office of a pastor” as being a profession for
professionals was formalized in the fourth century when Christianity
became the legal religion of the
Many newer Bibles
translate “episkopos” as overseer as they should because that’s
what the word means. For
example the NIV (1984 edition) reads as follows, “if
anyone sets his heart on being an overseer…”
So here’s the Bible
translating and hermeneutical lesson.
The best way to translate any word, and in this case “episkopos”,
is to translate it as it was
understood in the day and age in which it was written. You never
translate a word, or interpret a passage that was written in the first
century with a 17th century understanding as the KJV
translators did in 1Tim. 3:1. It
completely changes the original meaning. At
one point in your life you’ve probably found yourself
in an argument saying, “you’re putting words in my mouth. I never
said that”. In like
fashion the King James translators put their words into Paul’s mouth,
or in this case , into his letter.
So why did the King James
people use the word “bishop”? The
office of bishop had been
well established as a profession for professionals through Catholicism.
The Reformers did little to change this.
Men like Luther and Calvin still questioned the ability of the
“ordinary Christian” to understand Scripture on their own. So
whether realizing it or not, the King James translators made their
readers understand Paul’s words with their 17th century
understanding. These translators were inserting their interpretation of
this verse into the translating process.
This is not right.
Read 1 Tim. 3:1 from the
RSV Interlinear New Testament. This is a Greek text and under each Greek
word is the English equivalent. The
wording will seem a bit funny to you since the order of words in first
century Greek differs from ours. It
says, “if anyone oversight aspires to, a good work he desires”.
Do you see the word “office” in this English translation?
No you don’t. It’s not in the English translation because
there’s no corresponding word in the Greek text.
Paul never used the phrase “office of a bishop”. He
never wrote the word office. The
word “office” was inserted by the King James translators based on
their bias so their readers would have their understanding of this
verse. This is bad
translating, and it’s done us all a disservice. From
the one word “episkopos”, meaning “oversee” came four English
words, “office of a bishop” in the KJV.
I do realize at times you need to translate one Greek word into
multiple English words, but not in this case.
By adding the word
“office”, and by using the word “bishop” instead of overseer it
changes the meaning to what Paul wrote. This
strengthened the old Catholic concept of the “office of a bishop or
pastor” being a profession for professionals, and it’s stuck with us
ever since. This leaves us
with an archaic Catholic understanding of a pastor that’s not
Also notice the phrase
“desires a good work” in the RSV translation.
The word “work” emphasizes the actual process of
overseeing, not an office of an overseer.
The actual work of overseeing is more important than the title of
the one doing the overseeing. As a matter of fact, the whole tenor of
Scripture is more about doing and less about holding an office or having
So why is this a big
deal? Following Biblical
teaching should be important, although I’m surprised how many
Christians have little interest in the Bible. Pastoring
God’s people is not an office or a profession for professionals. It’s
being part of a caring body of elders who have been called by their Lord
and empowered by His Spirit to serve and care for His people with all
humility, and doing so according to Biblical teaching.