I realize that this post title is probably gonna turn some folks off. I mean, who wants to tackle the confusing things in life? Life is already confusing enough, so why add to the mass puzzle of chaos?
However, I have to. Studying Scripture and what it has to say about men and women in ministry is no easy subject. There’s a lot of interpretation and word study that must occur in this process. If we don’t study the confusing as well as the simple, someone will read this post and get a half-hearted idea about women in ministry. Don’t worry: God HAS called women and CONTINUES to do so—but we need to see that God’s Word tells us that, and that the writers of Scripture received that revelation—that the Gospel breaks through all barriers, including that of gender.
Now, let’s get to it: when studying what Scripture has to say about Biblical Eldership, there is an ambiguous term that seems to creep up—that is, the word “presbuteros,” which can mean either an “old” person or someone who serves as a presbyter, an elder in the church, one who teaches and preaches. To show you a quick example, take the following:
1 Timothy 5:1-2 (English Standard Version)—“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”
The words for “older” man and woman are “presbutero” and “presbuteras,” which stem from the word “presbuteros.” Here in the immediate context, it seems that they refer to “old” people, since Timothy is told to treat them like he would his “father and mother.” However, some would say that there is evidence that what seems to be “older” men and women here is really something more. What would you say if I told you that?
Not surprisingly, however, there are cases where the word “presbuteros” clearly refers to an old person. Take for example, Leviticus 19:32—
“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.”
The word here in Leviticus 19:32 for “old man” (in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) is “presbuteros” (presbuterou).
Most people believe that 1 Timothy 5 refers to old men and women. What do I believe? Well, to add to the confusion, you’ll just have to keep reading :-)