Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Don't Acts 20:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:17; and Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24 say that elder have "the rule over" the church? by Frank Viola

   The words "rule" and "over" in these texts are a poor fit with the rest of the New Testament. And there's no analog for them in the Greek text. This is yet another case where certain translations have confused the modern reader by employing culturally conditioned religious terminology.
   The word "rule" in Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24 is translated from the Greek word hegeomai. It simply means to guide or go before. In this translation of Hebrews, New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce translates hegeomai into "guides." This word carries the thought of "those who guide you" rather than "those who rule over you."
   Similarly, in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, the word "over" is translated from the Greek word proistemi. It carries the idea of standing in front of, superintending, guarding, and providing care for. Robert Banks and F.F. Bruce explain that this term doesn't carry the technical force of an official designation, for it's used in the participle rather than the noun form. It's also positioned as the second in the midst of two other nonofficial participles. Bruce translates 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 as follows: "Now we ask you brothers to know those who work hard among you and care for you in the Lord and instruct you, and esteem them very highly in love because of their work."
   The same word (proistemi) appears in 1 Timothy 5:17. It, too, is incorrectly translated "rule" in the KJV and NASB. In addition, in Acts 20:28, the Greek text says that the elders are "en" (among) the flock rather than "over" them (as the KJV puts it).
   In a similar vein, Paul's statement that overseers must "rule [proistemi] their own houses well" in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 doesn't point to their ability to wield power. It rather points to their capacity to supervise, manage, and nurture others. Incidentally, managing the household didn't envision managing the nuclear family. It involved much more than that. It involved managing married and unmarried relatives as well as servants.
   In all these passages, the basic thought is that of watching rather than bossing. Superintending rather than dominating. Facilitating rather than dictating. Guiding rather than ruling.
   The Greek text conveys an image of one who stands within the flock guarding and caring for it (as a leading-servant would). It's reminiscent of a shepherd who looks out for the sheep-not one who drives them from behind or rules them from above.
   Again, the thrust of apostolic teaching consistently demonstrates that God's idea of church leadership is at odds with the conventional leadership roles that are based on top-heavy rule.

This is an excerpt from the appendix of the book Reimagining Church by Frank Viola because it is not provided in the audio book.

No comments:

Post a Comment