This is a study of the word bishop as it appears in 1 Timothy 3: 1, 2. In the various versions, other words are substituted for bishop. The whole chapter deals with the qualifications of bishops and deacons in the New Testament church. Only the first two qualifications are included in this study as the primary interest here is the use of the word ‘bishop’ and its substitutes. The renderings of twenty-three versions are listed here. Other versions use these terms and the wording of the qualifications. Explanations from thirteen versions and four other reference books follow these.
- ANT – Authentic New Testament
- BNT – Barclay New Testament
- CENT – Common English New Testament
- CEV – Contemporary English Version
- CJB – Complete Jewish Bible
- CTNT – Centenary Translation of the New Testament
- EVD – English Version for the Deaf
- KJV – King James Version
- KLNT – Kleist-Lilly New Testament
- KTC – Knox Translation
- MSNT – The Modern Speech New Testament
- NEB – New English Bible
- NET – New Evangelical Translation
- NJB – New Jerusalem Bible
- NSNT – Norlie’s Simplified New Testament
- PRS – Phillips Revised Student Edition
- SGAT – An American Translation (Smith-Goodspeed)
- TCNT – The Twentieth Century New Testament
- TEV – Today’s English Version
- TJB – Jerusalem Bible (Catholic)
- TM – The Message
- WNT – Williams New Testament
- YLR – Young’s Literal Revised Edition
Other Versions Used
- CNT – Cassirer New Testament
- LB – Living Bible
- NBV – New Berkeley Version
- NCV – New Century Version
- WAS – Worrell New Testament
1 Timothy 3: 1, 2
ANT – …, ‘If anyone aspires to be a supervisor he desires honourable employment.’ The supervisor ought therefore to be irreproachable, husband of one wife, … .
BNT – …, that to be ambitious to be the leader and guardian of the community is to set one’s heart on a noble task. The superintendent of the community must therefore be a man whom no one can criticize. He must be the faithful husband of one wife.
CENT – …, if anyone desires the office of overseer, he desires a good work. The overseer then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, … .
CEV – It is true that anyone who desires to be a church official wants to be something worthwhile. That’s why officials must have a good reputation and be married only once.
CJB – …: anyone aspiring to be a congregation leader is seeking worthwhile work. A congregation leader must be above reproach, he must be faithful to his wife, … .
CTNT – …, “If any man is seeking the office of a minister he is aspiring to do a noble task.” The minister should be a man of blameless character; he should be husband of but one wife; … .
EVD – …: If a person is trying hard to become an elder, that person is wanting a good work. An elder must be good enough that people cannot rightly criticize him. He must have only one wife.
KJV – …, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, … .
KLNT – …: “If anyone is eager for the office of bishop, he desires a noble post.” A bishop, then, must be blameless, married only once, … .
KTC – …, When a man aspires to a bishopric, it is no mean employment that he covets. The man who is to be a bishop, then, must be one with whom no fault can be found; faithful to one wife, … .
MSNT – …, “If anyone is eager to have the oversight of a church, he desires a noble work.” A minister then must be a man of irreproachable character, true to his one wife, … .
NEB – …: ‘To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition.’ Our leader, therefore, or bishop, must be above reproach, faithful to his one wife, … .
NET – …: If anyone sets his heart on being a spiritual leader, he desires to do a noble work. Now, a spiritual overseer must be blameless, the husband of one wife, … .
NJB – …: to want to be a presiding elder is to desire a noble task, That is why the presiding elder must have an impeccable character. Husband of one wife, … .
NSNT – …, “Whoever aspires to church office seeks a noble task.” The pastor should be a man of irreproachable character, and never have more than one wife.
PRS – … that a man who sets his heart on leadership has laudable ambition. Well, for the office of bishop a man must be of blameless reputation, he must be married to one wife only, … .
SGAT – …, Whoever aspires to the office of superintendent sets his heart on a fine work. A superintendent must be a man above reproach, only once married, … .
TCNT – When a man aspires to be a Presiding-Officer in the Church, he is ambitious for a noble task. The Presiding-Officer should be a man of blameless character; a faithful husband; … .
TEV – …: If a man is eager to be a church leader, he desires an excellent work. A church leader must be without fault; he must have only one wife, … .
TJB – …: To want to be a presiding elder is to want to do a noble work. That is why the president must have an impeccable character. He must not have been married more than once, … .
TM – If anyone want to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are pre-conditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, … .
WNT – …: “Whoever aspires to the office of pastor desires an excellent work.” So the pastor must be a man above reproach, must have only one wife, … .
YLR – …: If anyone the oversight doth long for, a right work he desireth; it behoveth, therefore, the overseer to be blameless, of one wife a husband, … .
BNT – The word bishop has today an ecclesiastical sound which the word episkopos did not have in New Testament times at all. The word literally means an overseer or a superintendent; the oversight may be with a view to discipline or it may be with a view to protection. Usually in New Testament times the word bishop will give a quite wrong impression of what the episkopos was. He was the superintendent of the congregation. It has been said with truth that the word elder in the New Testament describes the church leader in his person, while the word episkopos describes him in his function.
CEV – Footnote: Church official: Or “bishop.”
Married only once: Or “the husbands of only one wife” or “faithful in marriage.”
CNT – Footnote: Or ‘pastoral leader,’ or ‘church leader.’
KTC – Footnote: It is possible that St. Paul means us to understand these qualifications as applying, not only to episcopal office, but to that of a priest; he does not mean presbyters in this chapter.
‘Faithful to one wife’ may mean, but does not necessarily mean, that in the discipline of the early Church a re-married widower was ineligible for the episcopate.
LB – Footnote: [Pastor] – More literally, “church leader” or “presiding elder.”
MSNT – Minister: lit. ‘one who has the oversight,’ ‘a bishop.’ The identity of ‘bishops’ and ‘elders’ in the early church is shown by the fact that the qualifications here required from ‘bishops’ are substantially the same as those required from elders in Titus 1: 5-9, here indeed the word ‘bishop’ occurs.
NBV – Footnote: “Bishop” is translated from the Greek episkopos, meaning literally overseer. In the first century episkopos, bishop or overseer, and presbuteros, elder, were used interchangeably, eg. Titus 1: 5 and 7, where both words refer to the same office. After the first century the office of bishop or overseer over that of elder developed.
NCV – Footnote: Elder: older men who led God’s people; appointed leaders in the church.
NEB – Footnote: [one wife]: Or married to one wife, or married only once.
NET – Footnote: Greek: “episkopos;” a term used to emphasize the supervision and guidance a church leader was to provide.
NJB – Elders: After the model of the 70 elders appointed by Moses, local Jewish communities were governed by a committee of elders (presbuteroi). This structure was taken over by Christian communities. Elders were carefully selected and their office was seen to depend on the holy Spirit. The president (episkopos) was probably chosen from among them. (Exodus 18:13; Acts 11:30; Acts 14:23; Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5-9).
TEV – Footnote: have only one wife, or be married only once.
WAS – Footnote: A bishop: an overseer or pastor of an assembly.
Greek-English Lexicon (Thayer):
Episkopos: an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done are done rightly. …; specifically the superintendent, head, or overseer of any Christian church; Acts 20: 28; Philippians 1: 1; 1 Timothy 3: 2; Titus 1: 7.
Halley’s Bible Handbook:
Bishops and Deacons: Their qualifications (1-16). Probably intended as an ideal, not a legal enactment. “One wife” (2), probably meant to exclude, not single men, but polygamists. Paul was a single man.
Smith’s Bible Dictionary:
Bishop. The word originally signified an “overseer” or spiritual superintendent. The titles bishop and elder, or presbyter, were essentially equivalent. Bishop is from the Greek, and denotes one who exercises the function of overseeing. Presbyter was derived from the office in the synagogue. Of the order in which the first elders or bishops were appointed, as of the occasion which led to the institution of the office, we have no record. The duties of the bishop-elders appear to have been as follows: 1. General superintendence over the spiritual well-being of the flock (1 Peter 5: 2). 2. The work of teaching, both publicly and privately (1 Thessalonians 5: 12; Titus 1: 9; 1 Timothy 5: 17). 3. The work of visiting the sick (James 5: 14). 4. Among other acts of charity, that of receiving strangers occupied a conspicuous place (1 Timothy 3: 2; Titus 1: 8). Peter calls Christ “the shepherd and bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2: 25).
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words:
Episkopos, lit. an overseer, whence English “bishop,” which has precisely the same meaning, is found in Acts 20: 28; Philippians 1: 1; 1 Timothy 3: 2; Titus 1: 7; 1 Peter 2: 25. Note: Presbuteros, “an elder,” is another term for the same person as bishop or overseer. See Acts 20: 17 with verse 28. The term “elder” indicates the mature spiritual experience and understanding of those so described; the term “bishop,” or “overseer,” indicates the character of the work undertaken. According to the divine will and appointment, as in the NT, there were to be “bishops” in every local church, Acts 14: 23; Acts 20: 17; Philippians 1: 1; Titus 1: 5; James 5: 14.