The “Elder” in the Old and New Testaments -- By: David A. Mappes
BSac 154:613 (Jan 97) p. 80
The “Elder” in the Old and New Testaments
[David Mappes is a staff pastor at Bethany Bible Church and professor of Bible at Southwestern College, both in Phoenix, Arizona.]
[This is article one in a four-part series, “Studies on the Role of the New Testament Elder.”]
For centuries churchmen and theologians have battled over the issue of church government in hope of supporting the kind of church order they advocate. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Baptists, for example, hold widely differing views on church government. To some degree their differences stem from the way they understand the biblical term “elder.” Therefore a study of how the term is used in the Scriptures is an important step in understanding church government.
The “Elder” in the Old Testament
The Septuagint translators chose the terms πρεσβύτερος and cognates to represent several Hebrew words in the Old Testament.1 Of these words זָן appears over 180 times.2 The other terms are בְּכוֹר (“firstborn”), גָּדֹל (“great”), יָשׁ (“aged, old”), רִאשׁוֹן (“former, first, chief”), יבָת (“aged, old, hoary head”), and כַּבִּיר (“great, mighty, much”). The verb זָן means “to be old, to become old,”3 and the noun זָקָן is “chin, beard.”4 The terms are used to describe
BSac 154:613 (Jan 97) p. 81
individuals who are advanced in age (Gen 15:15; 24:1; Josh 13:1; cf. 1 Sam 17:12), during which time the prospects of marriage (Ruth 1:12) and childbirth (Gen 18:12–13; 2 Kings 4:14) have passed. Gray hair appears (1 Sam 12:2) and there is failing of sight (Gen 27:1) and mobility (1 Kings 1:1, 15).
Hebrew society divide...
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