“An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher” (1 Timothy 3:2).
The next leadership characteristic given to us in 1 Timothy 3:2 is “the husband of one wife.” The meaning behind this directive is fairly straightforward: a man who is under consideration for a congregational leadership position should be someone who is a “one-woman man.” However, the proper way to apply this guideline has generated a considerable amount of debate over the years.
There are four major viewpoints that reflect the various interpretations of this passage…
“The meaning of this phrase is disputed. It is frequently understood to refer to the marital status of the church leader, excluding from leadership those who are (1) unmarried, (2) polygamous, (3) divorced, or (4) remarried after being widowed.” (1)
While some (or all) of these views may be appropriate, one thing that is beyond dispute is this: the character of a church leader should reflect the qualities of loyalty, dedication, and faithfulness. This is the interpretive approach taken by several versions of this text that feature a “dynamic equivalence” approach to Biblical translation…
“They should be faithful to their spouse” (CEB).
“Now the overseer is to be… faithful to his wife” (NIV).
“He must be faithful to his wife” (NLT).
This methodology provides us with an opportunity to consider the two major approaches scholars use in translating the Scriptures for the benefit of modern-day readers…
“If we look at Bible translation in the simplest of terms, there are two basic methods. The first is called ‘formal equivalence’ (meaning word-for-word); the second is called “functional equivalence” or ‘dynamic equivalence’ (meaning thought-for thought).
In doing a formal-equivalence translation, the translator attempts to retain as much of the specific wording of the original languages (Hebrew or Greek) as possible when rendering a sentence into the language he or she is working with (in this case, English).
In doing a functional-equivalence translation, the translator tries to convey the thoughts of the original languages into the closest natural equivalent in English. This approach places a greater emphasis upon meaning and style than a word-for-word approach does when rendering a sentence in English. The goal of this kind of translation is for a passage to have the same impact upon today’s English readers that the original had upon its audience.” (2)
We’ll continue our look at a few of the other characteristics that should identify the life of a church overseer next.
(1) NET Bible notes on 1 Timothy 3:2 https://netbible.org/bible/1+Timothy+3
(2) Philip W. Comfort, Ph.D., The Origin Of The Bible, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright© 2000 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc [pg 61-62]