The Truth about Elders and Their Children: Believing or Behaving in Titus 1:6? -- By: Norris C. Grubbs

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 22:2 (Spring 2005)
Article: The Truth about Elders and Their Children: Believing or Behaving in Titus 1:6?
Author: Norris C. Grubbs


The Truth about Elders and Their Children:
Believing or Behaving in Titus 1:6?

Norris C. Grubbs

Assistant Professor of New Testament and Greek
Leavell College of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
New Orleans, Louisiana 70126

Introduction: The Problem

In the middle of Paul’s list of qualifications for overseers in Titus 1:6, the translators of the KJV along with those of the NKJV translated τέκνα ἔχων πιστά as “having faithful children.” Most modern translations have termed the phrase as “having believing children/The two major modern translations which side with the KJV on this issue are the NET and the HCSB. These two recent translations have revived the issue of how best to translate πιστά in this context. The main question is obvious. In order to be qualified to be an elder, does one need children who are Christians or faithful children? A second aspect to the question is what is meant by “faithful”? Some commentators who choose this term as the appropriate translation for mend describe “faithful” as a believer who is also dedicated. I propose that this meaning for “faithful” is a good, modern one, but was not current in Paul’s day. If “faithful” is the best translation, then the idea behind the term is something like “behaving/trustworthy.” Thus, our question is clear: What is the standard concerning elders’ children, “believing” or “behaving”?

Questions abound concerning elders in the New Testament (NT). Are elders the same as overseers? What is the social and historical background of the office of elders? Depending upon how the office is viewed, what qualifies a person to hold the office? Scholars have answered these questions in a variety of ways over the years with significant disagreement. I would like to assume some answers and try to deal with a specific question regarding qualification. I want to assume that “elder” and “overseer” are basically synonymous and refer to a church office. Paul instructs Titus concerning elders in 1:5 and then calls them overseers in 1:7. In addition, the list of qualities in Titus closely parallels that of the overseers in 1 Tim. 3:1–7 suggesting interchangeability.1 This view has been argued by a number of scholars since Lightfoot.2 Most recently, Benjamin Merkle posited this view, which has recently fallen out of favor, in his work The Elder and Overseer: One Office in<...

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