36 responses to “Pastors Are Not Elders: An Egalitarian Suggestion?

  1. Pingback: Can “pastor-teachers” be women? « Expository Thoughts

  2. Bill Combs

    “Dr. Hoehner can only maintain that “pastor-teacher” is a spiritual gift and not an office if a pastor is not the same thing as an elder, since “elder” is an office in the church and not just a spiritual gift.”
    This is exactly what he does, but it is not unique to Hoehner. I have heard this same view from teachers at Dallas Seminary since the 1970s. Therefore, I don’t think there is any necessary slide toward egalitarianism, but I cannot speak definitively since I never attended Dallas (though I was taught by Dallas profs), but have only observed Dallas’s teaching from a distance. I cover some of this history on pages 33-34 of my article here:

    Click to access Combs.pdf

    Bill Combs
    Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

  3. Great Biblical, logical and simple response.

    -Thank You,


  4. Pingback: » Can Women Teach Men?

  5. Luxetveritas

    Jim, have you not committed the _logical_ fallacy (affirming the consequent) in your argument by supposing that because all elders exercise pastoral/shepherding functions, therefore all those who exercise pastoral/shepherding functions must be elders?

  6. You did a good job responding to this in brevity, thanks! There is such a battle on this issue and in our society where we are freedom-in-a-vague-way oriented, there is a tremendous desire to not have restrictions.

    Dr. Hoehner’s argument seems to be more a reaction to the strident cries of “unfair” rather than the stable voice of the Scripture. To come to a conclusion such as his is nothing more than backing into a position by avoiding the didactic passages that deal with the role of women, and making a personal conclusion equal to exegesis.

    I personally am weary of the use of Priscilla and Aquila teaching as a command to go and do likewise, or at the very least, permission to go and do likewise. David committed adultery and murder and did not lose his kingdom, but surely we cannot say the same for any of us if we were to do the same. The examples are endless on where this type of analogy takes us.

  7. Luxetveritas,

    I don’t think so, especially in light of 1 Pet 5:1-4, where Peter refers to himself as a “fellow elder” with the “elders” to whom he writes, then he commands them to “shepherd the flock of God,” then he refers to the appearance of the “Chief Shepherd.”

    The fact that there’s a “Chief Shepherd” (Jesus) over these “elders” who are to “shepherd” the flock points in the direction of these “elders” being “shepherds”, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t the burden of proof be on someone wanting to argue against this conclusion?

    For the light and truth,


  8. The title of this post seems a bit misleading since this seems to be the complimentarian stance through and through (though I would guess that was the reason for the question mark). In light of that I must say that I disagree with the stance for a few simple reasons. The first reason being that the Bible is not (contrary to popular evangelical opinion) inerrant. Inspired, yes but not perfect. In as much, not every theology presented between the covers of the Bible perfectly agrees with all the others. For instance, if we were to solely follow the book of Matthew we would still be adhering to Mosaic law (“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” – Matt. 5:17-18) but when we go to the book of Hebrews we have “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” – Hebrews 8:13.

    Sometimes we have to look beyond these writings and seek counsel with the Holy Spirit that lives within every Christian.

    Now when I look at the world around me I see many women whom are extremely gifted in the area of teaching and leadership and serve to bring edification to the body of Christ. Did God give them these gifts so that they would never be used?

    Overall you present a good argument. I just can’t say that I agree. We are brethren all the same so I will say “may the Lord bless you”. Thank you.

  9. Jim,
    I concur with you in part as I’m not convinced that pastor and elder can be separated. It’s a thin argument to base a thesis on. But I’m still not convinced by your dichotomy between public and private re: Priscilla, Aquilla and Apollos. Are you the head of your wife only in public or also in private? Does the ordering of creation (of which the prohibition in 1 Tim 2 is based on) which includes male headship extend only to the public forum. Can we be private/clauset egalitarians? Keep in mind that private instruction in the atrium of a Graceo-Roman villa was regarded as a public space at it was often visual from the outside of the villa! I shall have to read Hoehner’s paper myself but I’m unlikely to agree with him based your critique.

  10. Jim,

    I am a member of a Christian and Missionary Alliance church in Canada, and the president of the denomination (one of the largest in Canada and the fastest growing) wrote a paper that completely reinterprets and retranslates 2 Timothy 2:11-15. I do not agree with his conclusions, but I do not posess the knowledge and the tools to deal with his intricate Greek argument. I was wondering if you could take the time to read it and critique it. This would be especially helpful to our denomination’s health. Thank you. Here it is:



    P.S. I would appreciate anybody elses thoughts as well.

  11. Mike,

    Thanks for your note. The comment about the conversation between Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos being something that happened in private grows out of the BDAG entry on the word used there when Priscilla and Aquila “took Apollos aside”:

    See BDAG on proslamba/nw, 883.3: “Priscilla and Aquila take Apollos aside to teach him undisturbed;” and compare the use of the verb in Matt 16:22 and Mark 8:32.

    So I don’t think this goes in the direction of being egalitarians in private but complementarians in public. Again, Luke doesn’t tell us who did the talking. . .

    Good to hear from you!


  12. Some people are not thoroughly reading what you have written. These responses are pretty off the mark of you points.

    Taylor, in your issue concerning Matthew vs. Hebrew, you would do well to read one conservative scholar on both of those passages. It seems you just skim read those verses.

    II Timothy 3:16 – inspired & inerrant

    Wade C.
    Criswell College Student

  13. Wade, I am quite familiar with II Timothy 3:16 (I quoted it in my last college final paper in fact, which I posted on my blog if interested) and it says inspired, not inerrant. inerrancy is a rather modern idea that came about as a result of the questions raised by the Enlightenment period. It is, more or less, a reaction to our modern view of what history is. It seems that we are trying to take ancient literature and squeeze it into the form of a modern history textbook. It just doesn’t work.

    I appreciate the comment and willingness to dialog with me (even if my name is confused 😉 ) and hope we can continue with this conversation. So…have at it.

  14. I truly wish I had the skill and knowledge to write something even as simple as a blog post like you do. Once again, nice post. Simple explanation for the simple minded yet thought provoking enough to keep established scholars interested. Well done!

  15. Addendum: The aforementioned blog post I referenced in my previous comment can be found at the link below. Just in case anyone in interested.


  16. Sorry about the name thing… I like your blog, the green is real nice.

    Inerrant – I mean this of the orginal manuscripts. Do you agree? What is your difinition of inspired, and of who does it speak?

    I plan to read your paper, it may answer some of my questions…


  17. I guess I can’t say what the nature of the original manuscripts are when I don’t have them. I guess the question of inerrancy depends on the definition assigned to the term. I believe that “[a]ll Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” I don’t think that we can read it like a science text book because it was not written for that purpose. It is a difficult matter getting into the head of someone who was writing thousands of years ago. I think what is more important is what we do with the Scripture we have. Do we read it in light of our own personal preferences or do we seek after the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all matters?

  18. Ok,
    I agree on how we read it, but that is not what we are discussing.

    “God-breathed” – your doctrine of God will define the nature of the originals. For Scripture to be God breathed . . . let me back up. I interpret God-breathed to mean that the words written were/are the words of God. God used human authors to write His words. Humans were writing the words by the guidance of God, essentially God breathed the words into the human authors. I cant understand how God could have breathed it and it contain errors. If that is the case, then God is in error.

    Your thoughts?

    Wade C.

  19. I guess I would treat “God-breathed” and “inspired” as the same in this case. I’m not sure what stance I will take on this as of yet but one thought I’ve considered: Each of us, who are followers of Christ, and thus inspired by the Spirit. That doesn’t mean, though, that we are incapable of error. So I guess the question is, is how we are inspired by the Holy Spirit different from the way the Scripture writers were inspired? I don’t really know the answer but I’d like to ask the question.

  20. A good book on this issue (inspiration of the Bible) is Paul Achtemeier’s “Inspiration and Authority”. You should check it out. Also I think the 1st chapter of Jame’s Smith’s book “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism” which deals with interpretation, sheds a lot of light on the issue as well.

  21. I had heard about this paper but did not have the particulars, so this was helpful. I too find myself shaking my head. Even the labelling of the items in Eph 4 as “spiritual gifts” is suspect. This passage does nto lists ‘gifts’ in the same way that Paul does in 1 cor for example. Eph 4 refers to people, not simply gifts. Paul says Christ has given these people (even ‘offices’) to the church. The background of the OT quote there supports this as well (particularly as argued by Gary Smith [JETS article several years back] and followed by O’Brien).
    Thanks for pointing out this paper Jim!

  22. Tylor,

    I don’t think the examples you cite against inerrancy are compelling. I agree with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and I commend it to you for your consideration.

    Also, here’s a good statement from P. J. Williams on inerrancy in a review of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus–this directly addresses the original manuscript question: http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2005/12/review-of-bart-ehrman-misquoting-jesus_31.html

    and here’s another: http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2006/02/inerrancy-and-textual-criticism_28.html

    Hope this helps,


  23. Nick,

    Thanks for your note. I think that all the arguments used in the link you posted will be effectively refuted in Wayne Grudem’s book, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, as well as the book edited by Schreiner and Kostenberger called Women in the Church. Both of these are available via amazon.

    Hope this helps!


  24. I hope to get to reading that stuff soon (probably after finals are done) but I think I’d like to say this much right now. I think my initial comments were a bit too hasty and I apologize for that. I do personally believe that the Bible is completely true and reliable. This whole idea of inerrant confuses me a bit just because it is so hard to pin down a definition of what people mean by inerrant. But is the Bible true, inspired, and reliable? Yes, of course. So I think I will just leave the inerrancy debate to those more intelligent than myself.

  25. Tylor,

    Thanks for your note. I think you’ll appreciate the things written by P. J. Williams, and I also think that many scholars (i.e., teachers at Bible Colleges and Seminaries) too hastily dismiss the careful language of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

    I’m with you that the Bible is totally true and trustworthy,


  26. Debbie wimmers


    I’m reading The Missing Gospels by Derrall Bock. He refers to Erhman a couple of times. It’s interasting how warped peoples’ thinking gets when it comes to believing the Bible.

  27. I am hoping that the “warped” comment wasn’t directed at anyone here.

    Anyhow, Debbie, I haven’t read that book (have heard of it before) so I was wondering if you could explain your comment a bit more.


  28. Doc Cady

    Years ago as a student at Dallas Seminary I concluded that the pastor-teachers of Ephesians 4 were a gift rather than an office because I didn’t think I was qualified to be an elder or a deacon, and I didn’t know whether I ever would be, but I was sure the Lord had called me into the pastorate. IOW, what I was, was a gift; but I would have no authority, only a role as advisor and as an influence.

    Back then—even today—anyone I shared the distinction with thought it was a novel and fanciful interpretation (in a bad sense). Harold Hoehner says it, and some think he’s a genius! It’s obvious that some women have pastoral gifts, but I would never go so far as to violate God’s order for the church age and put women in positions of teaching or exercising authority over men. It wouldn’t surprise me if in the future (the eschaton in general, but the millennium in my beliefs) some women had positions over some men because in this life, these women were more faithful to the Lord than these men had been. But there aren’t to be women over men in the church age, at least in the church and home.

    After years of considering the relevant verses, I still think the pastor-teachers (like apostles, prophets, and evangelists) of Ephesians 4 are gifts from Christ to His church, and that the elders and deacons of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are offices for which one must be qualified and are offices that can be worked toward. The elders are tasked with pastoring (Acts 20, 1 Pet 5), but that does not mean they are pastor-teachers in the sense of Ephesians 4.

    In Him,

  29. Debbie, I think I might have worded that last comment not so well (as Jim pointed out a bit). I was just asking, basically, asking what your thoughts on the book and it’s relation to this topic was in more detail.

  30. John

    It is true that many passages, when taken into isolinear consideration, do seem to conflict or even contradict each other. But I do not think that your conclusion necessarily follows from this observation. For an excellent treatment of the subject, I recommend Poythress’s “Symphonic Theology” (P&R Publishing, 2001). It is concise, short, and to the point. Charis.

  31. I’m coming in here late, but thought I’d add a couple of thoughts in case anyone found them germane.

    First, as to Hoehner’s thesis being “novel,” it depends on your standard of novelty, I suppose.

    I was a student at DTS from January 1974 to May of 1978. I’d have to dig out my transcripts to nail down the precise semester (perhaps), but early in the curriculum, probably in the Fall of 1975, maybe in the fall of 1974, in a theology class taught by Charles Ryrie, Ryrie made the very point Hoehner is said to make here — namely, that “pastor-teacher” is a spiritual gift, and that it is not to be confused with the office of elder or deacon, which are offices, not spiritual gifts.

    Of course, when Ryrie made this point, it prompted questions from the students (DTS was all male back in those days) concerning “women pastors.” Ryrie pointed out that “pastor” was, in most of the Baptistic circles the students had hailed from, a synonym for what the NT called an elder.

    “So women can be pastors?” Ryrie’s response was “they can have a pastoral ministry, and this will not be aimed at men, for they are not permitted to exercise authority or to teach men, which pastors ordinarily do toward those whom they pastor.” In other words, women can do pastoral ministry toward other women or toward children.

    If there is any novelty in this view in today’s context, the “novelty” isn’t in the parsing of Ephesians 4 and 1 Timothy 2. Rather it is that some would seek to press the terminological ambiguity of the term “pastor” in modern congregational ecclesiology,
    where it is used to name an office and a kind of ministry.

    A second point (actually pulled out of Ryrie’s commnts) relates to the ambiguity of the term “pastor” in Baptist climes. I wonder if the controversy would ever have arisen (at least in this form) in communions (such as mine) where “pastor” is not the term of art for an officer in the Church. Those offices are deacon, priest (or elder, or presbyter), and bishop.

    It is well understood (and well practiced) that “to pastor” or “to be a pastor” or “to do pastoral ministry” is to point to a complex of activities which women may perform as well as men. These activities are NOT restricted to any church office in the sense that only the officers may perform them. Parents routinely perform these functionis toward their children. The laity (men and women) regularly perform these functions without express ordination to a church office.

    Two distinctions are maintained within catholic (note the small “c”) Christianity — (1) by Apostolic command, women are prohibited from pastoring — that is teaching or exercising authorty — over men, and (2) men ordained to church office have a responsibility to Christ for the teaching and guarding of the deposit of faith received from Christ and the Apostles. These distinctions may or may not be perfectly maintained in this or that era of Church history, but they are embedded in the New Testament and the Church has generally complied with them for two millennia.

    In the modern context, these distinctives are generally abandoned in Western Protestantism, and they are swiftyly disappearing from ostensibly evangelical Protestantism. Dallas Seminary, evidently, has no problem with a theology professor changing his mind on complementarian convictions and openly embracing egalitarianism:


    This report is now two years old (dated in January 2005). Dallas also sponsored a leading exponent of egalitarian conviction at its annual Griffith-Thomas lecture series, and she spoke on “gender issues.”

  32. Jim,

    There is an interesting discussion going on in relation to genders issues over here:

    How do you see these issues of teaching and authority in light of female roles of seminary professors? And in light of two women being on the BFM2000 committee? Also, if as alleged, women being on the Trustee board of SWBTS?

    Just curious,

  33. Mark,

    Thanks for your note. I agree with the rationale that in seminary we
    are training pastors. It doesn’t fit for women to train men to be
    pastors. I think we are bound by the inspired, apostolic prohibition
    of women teaching or exercising authority over men.

    As for the BF&M committee and a board of trustees, I think I can
    conceive of women participating on such committees in ways that they
    do not teach men or exercise authority over them.

    That’s my take,


  34. Hi,
    I found your blog via google by accident and have to admit that youve a really interesting blog 🙂
    Just saved your feed in my reader, have a nice day 🙂

  35. ruthe

    I know what Paul said about the issue of Women teaching, but what did God our Father say? I also have another question, when is it okay to Divorce?

  36. I think God spoke through Paul.

    On divorce, I see permission to divorce in cases of sexual immorality (Matt 19) and abandonment by an unbeliever (1 Cor 7).



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