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Does the word ‘pastor’ appear in the New Testament – a brief word study

November 25, 2017

A conversation with a brother today prompted me to do a word study:

 

Is the word ‘Pastor’ in the New Testament?

 

 

  1. The short answer to the question

 

The short answer is, yes.

 

The longer answer is that the NT refers to the role in the plural and much more often uses the verb form, ‘to pastor’(1) The verb ποιμαίνω (poimainō) may be translated ‘to shepherd’, ‘tend’ etc. It can mean to lead or rule. ‘Pastor’ is interchangeable with the word ‘shepherd’. The word pastor is of Latin derivation whereas shepherd is from the Old English sceaphierde (sceap ‘sheep’ + hierde ‘herder’).]. It is the leaders, the overseers of the church who are called to pastor. There is no such thing as a pastor who is not an elder, nor an elder who is not called to pastor the flock. Nor is there is an elder or pastor called upon to pastor on his own.

 

So let’s start with the unambiguous case where the word ‘pastor’ is used in Ephesians 4:11 (2) Of course Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd (Jn.10:11), the Great Shepherd of the sheep Heb.13:20. He is the head of the Church and no man takes his place. Nonetheless, it is equally true that the ascended Christ has given gifts to the church. One of these is pastors/shepherds (Eph.4:11).].

 

And he (the risen Christ, v.8) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers

 

The word ‘shepherds’ (3) Ποιμένας (plural)] can just as legitimately be translated ‘pastors’.

 

More often, though, the NT speaks of the task of pastoring.

 

  1. Who is called to pastor?

 

2 a) Peter

 

In John 21:26 Jesus calls Peter to ‘tend my sheep’ (ESV). The verb ‘tend’ (4) The verb is ποιμαίνω (poimano). It can be clearly seen how the verb form is related to the noun ποιμήν (poimēn). It’s worth noting too that the word for flock is related to both ‘pastor’ and ‘to pastor’.] is to pastor or to shepherd.

 

2 b) The overseers and elders of the local church

 

Paul commands the overseers (5) Overseer comes from ἐπίσκοπος (episkopos). Overseers, elders and pastors are one office viewed from different perspectives or functions. That is, an overseer is an elder who pastors a local congregation. Acts 20:20-28 and 1 Peter 5:1-2, read carefully, establish this beyond much doubt.] at the church in Ephesus to ‘shepherd/pastor the church of God’ (Acts 20:28)

 

Peter himself exhorts the local church elders (6) ‘Elder’ comes from πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros). Interestingly in these three verses, Peter exhorts the elders to exercise oversight (I.e. function as overseers) as they pastor/shepherd and be examples to the flock 1 Peter 5:1-3. ] to pastor the flock of God that is among you.

 

3.Pastors are referred to in the plural not the singular

 

Peter’s exhortation to the elders to pastor/shepherd the flock, in 1 Peter 5:2, is directed to the elders (plural). There is no singular use of the noun ‘pastor’ or of a single person ‘to pastor’ the flock any more than overseers or elders are treated in the NT in any other way than as a plurality. I’m not drawing lots of conclusions from this brief word study, but it seems that it would be foreign to the NT to think of a ‘pastor’ as being in a class of his own. The requirements of elders in 1 Tim. 3 would seem to back this up since the Holy Spirit omitted to give the requirements of ‘pastors’ as distinct from elders. And I wouldn’t have thought the Holy Spirit overlooks what would have to be vital on the supposition that elders and pastors are in a different class from one another.

 

Notes

 

(1) The verb ποιμαίνω (poimainō) may be translated ‘to shepherd’, ‘tend’ etc. It can mean to lead or rule. ‘Pastor’ is interchangeable with the word ‘shepherd’. The word pastor is of Latin derivation whereas shepherd is from the Old English sceaphierde (sceap ‘sheep’ + hierde ‘herder’).

(2) Of course, Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd (Jn.10:11), the Great Shepherd of the sheep Heb.13:20. He is the head of the Church and no man takes his place. Nonetheless, it is equally true that the ascended Christ has given gifts to the church. One of these is pastors/shepherds (Eph.4:11).

(3) Ποιμένας (plural)

(4) The verb is ποιμαίνω (poimano). It can be clearly seen how the verb form is related to the noun ποιμήν (poimēn). It’s worth noting too that the word for flock is related to both ‘pastor’ and ‘to pastor’.

(5) Overseer comes from ἐπίσκοπος (episkopos). Overseers, elders and pastors are one office viewed from different perspectives or functions. That is, an overseer is an elder who pastors a local congregation. Acts 20:20-28 and 1 Peter 5:1-2, read carefully, establish this beyond much doubt.

(6) ‘Elder’ comes from πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros). Interestingly in these three verses, Peter exhorts the elders to exercise oversight (I.e. function as overseers) as they pastor/shepherd and be examples to the flock 1 Peter 5:1-3.

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Guidance

July 1, 2016

A man seeking guidance from the Bible opened a page at random and put his finger on Mt.27:5, ‘Judas went out and hanged himself’. This didn’t seem much help so he went to another page and read Lk.10:37: ‘Go and do thou likewise’. In desperation he turned to another page and picked out Jn.13:27, only to read, ‘That thou doest, do quickly’.

 

I have kleptomania. But when it gets bad, I take something for it.

October 22, 2015

‘I have kleptomania. But when it gets bad, I take something for it.’

Ken Dodd

The Law bids me fly, the gospel gives me wings

October 15, 2015

When once the fiery law of God
Has chas’d me to the gospel road;
Then back unto the holy law
Most kindly gospel-grace will draw.

The law most perfect still remains,
And ev’ry duty full contains:
The gospel its perfection speaks,
And therefore gives whate’er it seeks.

A rigid master was the law,
Demanding brick, denying straw;
But when with gospel-tongue it sings,
It bids me fly, and gives me wings.

Ralph Erskine, excerpt quoted by Philip Ryken (complete poem)

How Firm a Foundation

October 12, 2015

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Crime is not indivdualistic

February 7, 2015

(A) crime is not committed only against the victim but primarily against the community whose law is violated.

Telford Taylor, New York Times Magazine, quoted in Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Penguin: 1994, p.261

Likewise, a breach of love for neighbour is a breach of the law of God. Justice is not served merely by doing justice for the former without the latter.

The Banality of Evil

February 7, 2015

It would have been very comforting indeed to believe that Eichmann was a monster…. The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him … neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.

Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Penguin:1994, p.276

It is tempting to de-humanise those who do terrible crimes and create distance between them and us.

Tolerance

February 4, 2015

In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair…the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.

Dorothy Sayers

Angels to worship and lovers to tolerate

January 17, 2015

The benefits of a philosophy of neo-religious pessimism are nowhere more apparent than in relation to marriage, one of modern society’s most grief-stricken arrangements, which has been rendered unnecessarily hellish by the astonishing secular supposition that it should be entered into principally for the sake of happiness.

Christian and Jewish marriages, while not always jovial, are at least spared the second order of suffering which arises from the mistaken impression that it is somehow wrong or unjust to be malcontent. Christianity and Judaism present marriage not as a union inspired and governed by subjective enthusiasm but rather, and more modestly, as a mechanism by which individuals can assume an adult position in society and thence, with the help of a close friend, undertake to nurture and educate the next generation under divine guidance. These limited expectations tend to forestall the suspicion, so familiar to secular partners, that there might have been more intense, angelic or less fraught alternatives available elsewhere. Within the religious ideal, friction, disputes and boredom are signs not of error, but of life proceeding according to plan.

Notwithstanding their practical approach, these religions do recognize our desire to adore passionately. They know of our need to believe in others, to worship and serve them and to find in them a perfection which eludes us in ourselves. They simply insist that these objects of adoration should always be divine rather than human. Therefore they assign us eternally youthful, attractive and virtuous deities to shepherd us through life, while reminding us on a daily basis that human beings are comparatively humdrum and flawed creations worthy of forgiveness and patience, a detail which is apt to elude our notice in the heat of marital squabbling. ‘Why can’t you be more perfect?’ is the incensed question that lurks beneath a majority of secular arguments. In their effort to keep us from hurling our curdled dreams at one another, the faiths have the good sense to provide us with angels to worship and lovers to tolerate.

Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists, Hamish Hamilton, 2012, p.185-186.

De Botton is an atheist but recognises the benefits of the religious perspective working itself out in life.

Why Original Sin is a good idea

January 17, 2015

The doctrine of Original Sin encourages us to inch towards moral improvement by understanding that the faults we despise in ourselves are inevitable feautres of the species. We can therefore admit to them candidly and attempt to rectify them in the light of day…Enlightenment thinkers believed that they were doing us a favour by declaring man to be originally and naturally good. However, being repeatedly informed of our native decency can cause us to become paralysed with remorse over our failure to measure up to impossible standards of integrity. Confessions of universal sinfulness turn out to be a better starting point from which to take our first modest steps towards virtue.

Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists, Hamish Hamilton, 2012, p.82-83

De Botton, as an atheist, admits the helpfulness of Original Sin unlike some of his fellow atheists who see it as ‘repressive’, ‘pessimistic’ etc. As de Botton helpfully points out, if we are all naturally ‘good’ it hardly makes me feel better about my (inevitable) moral failings.