Discussion on The Requirements of Elders in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3

I got really interested in this and wrote up a pretty long summary of our Bible study on the topic and some of my own reading. What follows is my summary:

Two bible studies ago we agreed that the requirements in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 were indeed requirements, not just ideals, due to the context and the present indicative active form of “δεῖ” (translated “must”) : https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Timothy+3%3A2&version=NKJV http://biblehub.com/interlinear/titus/1-7.htm http://biblehub.com/interlinear/1_timothy/3-2.htm However, my perspective is that we need to reconcile the issue of Deborah being more important than an elder and of Paul not being married. Both presumably were held to a higher standard so I would say that these requirements must have been for those churches at that time. Essentially, Paul was chosen by God, so we already know that he was qualified to be a leader–but assuming some elders were not going to be miraculously chosen–Paul gives requirements for the selection of Elders that would ensure that they were decent leaders. I couldn’t reconcile the language in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 with the position that elders weren’t required to be married and have children especially in 1 Timothy where it states “4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);” Maybe there were some cultural considerations taken into account with these requirements. We agreed on this conclusion but for various different reasons.

We decided to revisit the issue this bible study and invited another group with different perspectives, one of whom joined us and in addition we had another with a similar perspective contrary to the conclusion we came to previously.

We discussed the requirements for Elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The main points of disagreement were:

1 Were these requirements conditional upon the person being married and having children? Essentially could the actual meaning be: “if they are married then they must be the husband of one wife” and “if he has children he must rule his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence”?

2 What Paul meant by “husband of one wife”

3 Did Paul mean this in a universal sense or in a local sense i.e. for the churches under his control at that time

1: The first part of the discussion was whether Paul could mean something in a conditional sense without the use of “if”. We weren’t able to find other places where Paul does this like he would have to in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 but some maintained that this was conditional since it would be absurd to think that Paul would have excluded many capable people from leadership possibly just because their wife died or they were sterile and didn’t adopt children etc . . .

The idea I brought up was that it wouldn’t have been absurd for Paul to require elders to be married and have children since it was required of the Sanhedrin (whom Paul previously worked closely with) citing Maimonides: “3 We should not appoint to a Sanhedrin a man of very old age or one who does not possess male physical attributes, for they possess the trait of cruelty, nor a man who is childless, so that the judges should be merciful.” http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1172725/jewish/Sanhedri

Also Paul was a Pharisee and Pharisees although not required to be married were greatly encouraged because of the commandment to be fruitful and multiply (getting this from David Bivin “New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus: Insights from His Jewish Context”)

“The Jews teach, a priest should be neither unmarried nor childless, lest he be unmerciful [Bengel]. So in the synagogue, “no one shall offer up prayer in public, unless he be married” [in Colbo, ch. 65; Vitringa, Synagogue and Temple].” http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_timothy/3-2.htm

However, it was also pointed out that the requirements in the oral law were something that Jesus often condemned even though we do have some decrees written in the early church like in Acts 15 (and sent out to the churches Acts 16) that are comparable to the oral law in that they weren’t directly from scripture (even though they were based on scripture) Also if we take it like this 1 Timothy 3:12 would also mean deacons had to be married.

The idea was also brought up that if we are going to take these elder requirements of marriage and children as conditional without the presence of “if” we might as well start taking other parts of the verses as having additional considerations, maybe “husband of one wife” meant that he was only the husband of one in the past even if he is now a widower, or that the he had to have children at some point. This might be a more conservative way to read it and yet still resolve the exclusion of these people without explanation that comes with these requirements.

2: Paul’s requirement of “husband of one wife” was discussed. Since the marriage covenant is annulled upon death (Romans 7) you have the possible issue of someone not being able to continue to be an elder after their wife dies (which seems a bit unfair) unless they remarry and then are they the husband of “one wife?” (I think yes because they are no longer married to their previous wife) Some commentators take this as an idiom for “faithful to his wife” http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_timothy/3-2.htm (see Barnes Notes on The Bible) I think this in context would prohibit people from serial marrying and divorcing as was common practice (maybe because polygyny had been outlawed already) I think the following verses imply serial marriage was a problem:

Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18

This would also be the case if it meant “husband of first wife” (Greek might be able to be taken as ordinal or numeral) also compare: http://studybible.info/interlinear/Exodus%2012:18 to http://studybible.info/interlinear/1%20Timothy%203:2 and Thayer’s: “5. like the Hebrew אֶחָד, εἰς is put for the ordinal πρῶτος, first (Winers Grammar, § 37, 1; Buttmann, 29 (26)): μία σαββάτων the first day of the week, Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2 (L T Tr WH μία σαββάτου);”https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1520

3: We had differing opinions on whether this was referring to a universal requirement for elders. Some evidence from the word usage may be used to connect this to elders in the old testament. Although, if you look at the usage it seems to also be a generic term for people who were in charge of things.

Numbers 31:14 in LXX seems to connect elders in Ex 18 to Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1 since it uses the same word as in the NT and says they were commanders “ of thousands and commanders of hundreds”

from: http://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G1985

Also see the same word just a different form:
http://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/G1984

I think this also connected to the “civil” authorities in the old testament (indeed their civil law was theocratic) Joel 2:16 seems to be talking about choosing elders http://studybible.info/interlinear/Joel%202:16

Ezra 3:12 talks about the elders being rulers, Ezra 5:9 talks about elders rendering a decree http://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/4245/start/90

From: http://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/4245 this word is used a lot in Acts to refer to elders.

Paul says this is a “word” (logos) and he starts out these requirements by saying “true is the word” or “This is a faithful saying” in 1 Timothy 3:1 and it seems to be used for both universal and localized teachings:

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3056&t=KJV

If Paul’s words are to be taken as universal for all πρεσβύτερος or ἐπίσκοπος we have to reconcile the fact that these words are also used in a generic sense for people in authority or in the case of πρεσβύτερος someone who is old. If it is universal for the type of eldership in Ex 18 then we still have to deal with the fact that he adds to those requirements. If we take Paul’s word as being for the type of eldership in Ex 18 and those in higher positions (like apostles) we have to reconcile the fact that Paul wasn’t married and Deborah was a woman.

There are several ways to do this. If these statements about elders were an ideal (and not as the indicative present active mood would suggest) since this must be interpreted in context of the Bible as a whole; Deborah would have been an exception in extenuating circumstances. Paul could have been an exception as well.

If these statements about elders are requirements then maybe they are local to the churches he speaks of or to the cultural context.

The issue of Junia was brought up. Junia might be a female apostle mentioned in Romans 16:7 This was the view taken by the Greek fathers including Chrysostom. However there is some debate about this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junia#Grammatical_issue:_.22prominent_among.22_or_.22well_known_to.22.3F

for instance this paper argues from the grammar for the negative position: http://www.michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/Was%20Junia%20Really%20an%20Apostle%20A%20Re%20examination%20of%20Rom%2016%207.pdf

Wallace and Burer freely admit they are in minority on this position: “The vast bulk of translations and commentators today regard this line as indicating that Andronicus and Junia were apostles, though not in the most technical sense of that word.”

Here’s some references to scholars arguing in the affirmative:

In addition to Junia one wonders if Joab’s and the people’s behavior at Abel Beth Maacah in 2 Samuel 20:16-26 indicated that the wise woman had a position of authority. In a similar way the wise woman of Tekoa is listened to by the king himself in 2 Samuel 14:4-16, was “wise woman” an official title?

Some evidence for Deborah being an exception was brought up. In some translations of the Seputagint she states that she arose after the leadership of the men failed: “The mighty men in Israel failed, they failed until Debbora arose, until she arose a mother in Israel” https://www.biblestudytools.com/judges/5-7-compare.html

However this is not the only translation of the LXX. Others simply say “the ones dwelling in Israel” http://studybible.info/interlinear/judges%205:7 and although the word for “one’s dwelling” (κατοικούντες) is in the masculine plural, to take this as just “males dwelling” does not work. Similar to how in english the masculine can also be generic e.g. “mankind” and “you guys,” this is how this form in Greek can be used. For instance when it says “But the ones dwelling in Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath became to them for tribute” it includes the female inhabitants: http://studybible.info/interlinear/Judges%201:33

Likewise: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” includes women: http://biblehub.com/text/revelation/13-8.htm

For a full list see here:

http://biblehub.com/greek/katoikountes_2730.htm

For the Septuagint check: http://en.katabiblon.com/us/search.php?mode=list&text=LXX&find=KATOIKOUNTES

To complicate things, there are other versions of the Septuagint besides the one in the Apostolic Polyglot namely Codex A and B (Alexandrinus and Vaticanus respectively) which are very different:

http://www.katapi.org.uk/katapiNSBunix/Lxx/LxxByKFmTo.php?KFm=7005001.00&KTo=7005031.00

http://studybible.info/compare/Judges%205:7

For codex B I’ve come to the same conclusion: http://biblehub.com/greek/dunatoi_1415.htm however for A I can’t figure out what φραζων means. However,it seems to just designate a spokesperson without gender since it is an “indeclinable proper noun” (doesn’t have gender) and doesn’t have a masculine context: http://studybible.info/compare/Judges%205:7
In keeping with the idea of the masculine generic it seems it is translated “spokesman” or “spokesperson”, “A spokesman was lacking in Israel; he was lacking . . .” for more information see:

http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/07-judges-nets.pdf

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015063632452;view=1up;seq=10

The significant differences between the Codices may be because the poetic and unusual Hebrew the song of Deborah uses. For instance in Codex B ἀναστῇ is in the subjunctive mood, which might be translated as “in order for her to arise” but it isn’t in the same mood in Codex A. This is just my best ideas as to what these things mean.

See the full original codices here:

http://en.katabiblon.com/us/index.php?text=LXX&book=JgsA&ch=5
http://en.katabiblon.com/us/index.php?text=LXX&book=JgsB&ch=5

It was suggested that Judges 4:9 meant that deborah did not think it proper for her to be in a leadership role. However, this may just have been for leading an army, and it may be connected to the prohibition in Deuteronomy 22:5 which has been interpreted as banning female warriors: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/deuteronomy/22.htm http://biblehub.com/commentaries/deuteronomy/22-5.htm

In addition the context is that Barak would not obey what God told him to do, so it is possible Deborah is just insulting him because of this.

Isaiah 3:12 was also brought up and it was either interpreted as implying women shouldn’t rule to being figurative or simply idiomatic in that cultural context since it also says “[Israel’s] oppressors are children” hence it may be saying Israel would be ruled over by weak or effeminate men: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/isaiah/3-12.htm

Deborah seems to have similar authority to Moses, if you compare Judges 4:5 and Exodus 18:13 the people came before her for judgement. Also both are called prophets Judges 4:4, Numbers 12:6-8. We didn’t deal with the broader context of female leadership some of which is talked about in articles such as these with very different conclusions:
https://www.opc.org/qa.html?question_id=155
http://christianthinktank.com/femalex.html

In the OPC statement they are using the Hebrew word in Ruth 1:1 (also appearing in Judges 4:4) to say Deborah was only a civil authority, they state: “It was not a position of religious authority; the priests and Levites were the preachers and worship leaders during that time.”

You can look at the word usage and it’s definition here. God is called “judge of the earth” in Gen 18:25 so I think this goes beyond a “civil” sense:
https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8199&t=KJV
Also note it is used to refer to the elders Moses set up in Exodus 18 via Deu 1:16 where the word is used. You aren’t going to find it used for elders in the new testament simply because it’s a Hebrew word.

Also Deborah gave judgements from God’s law (remember it was a theocracy) and elders and apostles do the same with regards to church governance: Matthew 18:18 Matthew 5:18-19 (the same word is used for “loose” a commandment in both, see start of list of verses here: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3089&t=KJV ) Also the same word for what deborah did in Judges 4:4 is used for the decision made by the Apostles in Acts 21:25 http://studybible.info/search-interlinear/strongs/2919/start/360 (it’s a very generic word just meaning to “judge” or “decide” so I’m not making much of this, just that we aren’t told what she did was different)

In additions to these connections between old testament and new testament authority the 12 Apostles may have been appointed to be like the 12 princes of Israel that you see in the old testament, compare: Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:30, to quote:

“God had promised David that his “house” (i.e., dynasty) would be everlasting, yet it appeared to have vanished along with the twelve tribes over which he ruled. The prophets reassured the people that this situation would not last forever. David’s family tree might appear to be cut down, but God would raise up “… a shoot from the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1). Micah prophesied that he was to be born in Bethlehem and “when she who is to give birth has borne … the rest of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel.” There would be a Davidic kingdom that would gather in the twelve tribes of Israel scattered throughout the world.

Jesus is the Messiah king, the true son of David, who after his birth in Bethlehem of the Blessed Virgin, “rebuilds the fallen tent of David” (Acts 15:16) and like a Good Shepherd gathers those who are lost back to himself. Just as King David ruled with twelve princes, Jesus chose twelve Apostles. But Christ’s kingdom is more than David’s earthly kingdom. It’s not based on heredity or tied to one geographic location; it’s based on grace. The Apostles are to teach, sanctify and govern all the people of God, regardless of their race. Like the twelve princes, the Apostles held offices which after their death were occupied by successors (bishops) who continued their ministry.

As such, the fact that there were twelve Apostles is very significant and certainly not arbitrary. They are the ones who, in the age to come, will sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30). Twelve, in the Bible, means more than a dozen.”

http://www.themichigancatholic.org/2015/11/the-holy-dozen-why-twelve-apostles-and-not-thirteen/

If Paul’s requirements were influenced by cultural considerations the fact that Ephesus and Crete were under roman rule indicates the heavily patriarchal Roman society https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pater_familias and the amount of sexual temptation https://www.press.umich.edu/2798142/economy_of_prostitution_in_the_roman_worldmight have played a role in his instructions to choose people who were male and married. Saying they had to have children may have been in keeping with some traditions of Jews at the time to make sure the elders were respected by the Jewish believers. The definition of the word in 1 Timothy 3:2 translated “blameless” is listed by Thayer’s as “properly, not apprehended, that cannot be laid hold of; hence, that cannot be reprehended, not open to censure, irreproachable” which may bring in the idea of “respected by everyone” hence some requirements may be to make them acceptable to the Jews: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G423&t=KJV also see Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_timothy/3-2.htm

Ultimately the discussion didn’t change anybody’s minds but it was quite fascinating.