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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Two minute commentary on the word "pastor" in Ephesians 4:11

This is a republishing of a blog I originally did on December 4,2010.  It is unique in that, unlike any of my other blogs, it never received a page view.  Maybe it is because of the title I gave it, or that it was with the first few days after I started this blog.  This piece was written to be a one minute long radio commentary.  At the time, I recorded it and was able to say all this in clear English in two minutes.  Later, when I compiled a recording, I did five minute commentaries.  Because of the time limit I was working on, there is one statement below that comes across less nuanced than may be proper.


95—“pastor” word study

My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.
            The modern job, position, and title of the word “pastor” is far different from what Paul meant in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 11.  The Greek word “poimen” appears 18 times in the New Testament.  The other 17 times it is translated “shepherd” meaning either a) a sheep herder, or b) a reference to Jesus, that what He does for his people is like what a shepherd does for the sheep.  Neither of those meanings fit Ephesians 4:11.  Paul is speaking about gifts of ministry.  Pastor is the Latin word for shepherd; its use is a distinction in context, but not in the word itself.  The way the sentence is constructed, Paul was putting shepherd or pastor together with teacher, such as we, in English, would write shepherd hyphen teacher.  This was an experienced, faithful, obedient believer who has accepted a gift to care for and teach others in Christian love as a matter of their growing in spiritual maturity.  Such maturity is a criterion on the shepherd’s part.  Intellectual achievement was not.  Certainly no man or organization was or is today capable of giving God’s gifts.  It was not an honorific title.  It had nothing to do with getting paid. 
            Another thing that shows that pastor or shepherd does not stand alone from teacher is that, in the New Covenant days scriptures, one can find persons indicated to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers, but no person is designated to be a pastor.  How did we wind up using the term to designate the leader of a group of believers? Before the Reformation, the word “priest” was used, but the Old Testament shows that a priest is a mediator between man and God.  Jesus’ death destroyed that need.  After the Reformation, over time, the word “pastor” worked itself out over time.
            You can email me at For more info on organic worship, visit or locally at (local website).
 What would be more nuanced is the idea that pastor/shepard and teacher definitely would be a hyphenated two word phrase in English.  This, I am told by people who know this better than I, is a maybe yes, maybe no thing, although, personally, I believe it makes better sense when combined with the fact that we have no early examples of a person being called a pastor or shepherd, and we have a woman, Junia, being called an apostle in Romans 16:7.
I got all this information from Barna & Viola's Pagan Christianity, which, in turn, has the scholarly references.
1)  In the original post, I had a different email address, but that one I am no longer watching.  I have inserted the one I do regularly use for all kinds of purposes.

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