Outline and Chart on Elders and Offices

by Matt Slick

The following are some notes that I assembled for discussion on the Faith and Reason Radio show with a woman caller who claimed that women can be pastors and elders.  She was on twice, Sept. 19 and 27 of 2007.

I prefer to use outline forms when "debating" because they are simpler and more efficient.  I could convert the outline to a narrative but there really isn't any need.

Interspersed are Greek transliterations with partial declensions of nouns.  A transliteration is a literal phonetic translation of words in one language to another.  Declensions deal with the form that Greek nouns take.  In Greek, a noun can take gender (masculine, feminine, and neuter) as well as number (singular and plural).  It would be similar to the English actor, actors, actress, and actresses.  I've omitted the cases of the nouns to avoid confusion for the reader.

New Testament elders were most probably modeled after Old Testament elders.

  1. Elders in Old Testament were in authority
    1. Num. 11:16-17, "The Lord therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.  17 “Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you shall not bear it all alone."
    2. Num. 11:24, "So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord.  Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent."
  2. Elders in the Church were male
    1. Acts 14:23, "And when they had appointed elders (presbuterous--masc. plur.) for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed."
    2. Acts 20:17, "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders (presbuterous--masc. plur.) of the church."
  3. Elders in authority
    1. The elders shepherd the flock, exercise oversight, and are in charge of people.
      1. 1 Pet. 5:1-3, "Therefore, I exhort the elders (presbuterous--masc. plur.) among you, as your fellow elder (sumpresbuteros--masc. sing.) and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight (episkopountes--masc. plur.) not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock."
    2. The apostles and elders examined the doctrinal issue of circumcision in order to decide what to do. (the "laity" didn't decide)
      1. Acts 15:2, 6-7, "And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders (presbuterous--masc. plur.) concerning this issue . . . 6 And the apostles and the elders (presbuteroi--masc. plur.) came together to look into this matter.  7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe "
        1. Note: In Greek verse 7 says, "Peter stood up and said to them, men (masc. plur.) brothers (masc. plur.) you understand that . . . "
        2. The word "men" is there in the Greek when Peter refers to the brethren.
        3. This demonstrates that in this case, "brethren" is not a generic reference that includes females. This is important because the issue of authority is specifically designated to rest with those who are called the brethren, and are specifically male.
        4. The couplet of "men brothers" (andres adelphoi) in Greek occurs 14 times in the New Testament, all in the book of Acts (1:16; 2:29; 2:37; 7:2, 26; 13:15, 26, 38; 15:7, 13; 22:1; 23:1, 6; 28:17). I leave it to you to research this further if interested.
    3. Doctrinal decrees were decided on by the apostles and elders
      1. Acts 16:4, "Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees (dogmata), which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders (presbuterone--gramcord says is masc. plur.) who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe."
        1. Dogmata - Used five times in the N.T. Authoritative proclamation
          1. Luke 2:1, "Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth."
          2. Acts 16:4, "Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees, which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe."
          3. Acts 17:7, "and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”
          4. Eph. 2:15, "by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace."
          5. Col. 2:14, "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."
    4. Elders ruled and worked at preaching and teaching.
      1. 1 Tim. 5:17-19, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”  19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses."
  4. Conclusion
    1. We see a definite pattern where the authority structure rested with men, not with women.  There are numerous verses that show that elders are male, worked with the apostles in deciding doctrinal truths, and were in positions of authority.   We see no instance of this being accomplished by any women.



  1 Tim. 2 1 Tim. 3 Titus 1
Elder     5, appoint elders (masc.  plur.)
6, (tis, "some", masc. sing. nom.) man above reproach who is the husband of one wife.
Deacon   8, Men of dignity
12, Husband of one wife.
12, one woman men (andres)
Bishop   2, above reproach
2, Husband of one wife.
4, Manage his house well.
7, the overseer (ton episkopon, masc, nom. sing.) must be above reproach
Women 9-10, adorn themselves modestly
11, receive instruction with entire submission
12, woman not to teach or exercise authority over a man
  2:3-5, Older women are to teach other women, work at home, be subject to their husbands.


  Elder Deacon Bishop
Man above reproach, of dignity Titus 1:6 1 Tim. 3:8 Titus 1:7
Husband of one wife Titus 1:6 1 Tim. 3:2 1 Tim. 3:2
Manage household well   1 Tim. 3:4  

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.