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Scripture Study

Titus 3:1-13 Qualifications for Bishops and Elders

by Barbara Collins

We have had many questions about women serving as bishops and elders.  To answer them let's begin with I. Tim. 3:1-10; 11-13.  The question is whether the church should have male leadership only or male and female leadership alongside one another.  Although the word "man" is used in 3:1, 5 for someone seeking the office of Bishop, the Greek word used is tis, a neuter word meaning male or female.  Had Paul wanted to communicate that this office was to be limited to the male gender, he would have used the word andron which specifies male only.  In the KJ on Titus 1:6, the word is also tis

Women served as elders and deacons in the early church just as the men; yet with the onset of apostasy, their ministry declined.  By the third century, women deacons were being called "deaconesses."  Although they were still being ordained, their ministry was looked upon as something less than a male deacon.  Think with me about women "likewise" (3:11).  That women are included in the list of qualifications for bishops and deacons is seen in the word "likewise" which is hosautos in the Greek.  "Likewise" joins the whole list of qualifications of bishops/elders with deacons and with women which A. V. translates as "wives."  Paul first gives the requirements for men seeking the office of bishop/elder and deacon and then gives some additional ones for women.

In his book, Who Says a Woman Can't Teach?, Charles Trombley says that "some commentators say Paul gives additional requirements for the bishops' and deacons' wives.  Since there isn't a definite article in the sentence construction, nor is the possessive case used, this suggestion must be rejected." (p. 195).  "Women," then, is the correct translation.

Women Elders

 Example: The letter of II. John is addressed to "the elect lady."  The term "elect" was used to designate the overseer (bishop/elder) of a church.  Most scholars agree that in the early church, there were no differences between episkopos (bishop) and presbuteros (presbyter or elder).  Both words describe the same function.  After completing his list of qualifications for bishop and deacons in 3:1-10, he continued by including women when he said, gunaikas hosautos or "women likewise."  Hosautos links the entire list of qualifications with one another.  It links the deacons with the bishops in v. 8 and then links them to women in v. 11.  In I. Tim. 4 and 5:17-19, Paul discussed the office of presbyter (elder).  The usual translation is "older men" and "older women," but the Greek word is the same one used for elders elsewhere. 

The word presbuteros also means "older," and simply means those males and females in the church who carry out functional positions that basically model servanthood and pastoral care and help develop less immature ones.  What kind of churches do we have?  Positional/hierarchical oriented churches or functional churches?  Eldership is something that one does.  It is not a slot that one fills.  See Trombley, Who Says a Woman Can't Teach, p. 138 ff. which covers N. T. headship.  You've probably found "The Head of the Epistles," on the website which was written by Berkeley and Alvera Mickelson and included as a separate chapter, p. 125 ff.

In the list of qualifications when you look in the first chapter of Titus, the conclusion is easily drawn that only men are referenced because of the "husband of one wife" qualification.  It's the men that need that reminder, not women.  Polygamy is practiced by men.  Have you ever heard of a woman with multiple husbands?  Also, allow me to repeat, "In the KJ on Titus 1:6, the word is also tis which doesn't exclude women from serving as elders. 

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