Sunday, May 25, 2008

ESV De-Pastorized?

An interesting discussion going on at the blogsite of a pastor who points out, and is favorably inclined, to a 2007 revision of the English Standard Version (ESV) that renders the Greek word ποιμένας in Eph 4:11 as "shepherds" (instead of the former translation "pastors").

Given the ESV's status as the quasi-official translation of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, as well as the ESV's stated objectives to make use of traditional churchly terminology* in its translation, I can't say I'm too thrilled.

I have commented in the thread a few times.

So, what do y'all think? Should we in the Christian ministry take down those signs on our doors that say "Pastor" and replace them with "Shepherd"? Will our LCMS agendas and lectionaries change to reflect this "new and improved" translation?

I'm wondering what additional changes are being proposed. I'm also wondering if this change (which flies in the face of five centuries of English translation precedent) is driven by the "emerging church movement" which often eschews the traditional churchly lingo that the ESV claims to be committed to preserving.

* From the ESV Preface: "The ESV also carries forward classic translation principles in its literary style. Accordingly it retains theological terminology—words such as grace, faith, justification, sanctification, redemption, regeneration, reconciliation, propitiation—because of their central importance for Christian doctrine and also because the underlying Greek words were already becoming key words and technical terms in New Testament times."


Anonymous Lutheran said...

I don't pretend to know what the correct translation is from a linguistic standpoint; but when I think of the word "shepherd" in this context, I think of the Shepherding Movement. So I, as a layperson, am a bit creeped out by the introduction of this word where a more conventional word has been used for centuries.

TCR said...

Pastor Hollywood, I'm that guilty poster (smile). No one is "de-pastorizing" anyone, and no need to take down the signs. I was just pointing out an inconsistency on the translators part, though you be to differ,and that is ok.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anon:

Maybe I'm too jaded, but I can't help but small a rat. I know that in many of these "emerging" churches (as well as a lot of the charismatic and non-denom churches), there is a shift away from having ordained ministers and a move toward lay leadership and cell groups (as your link to the "Shepherding Movement" points out).

I just can't think of any compelling reason to make modifications to a version that uses the word "Standard" in its name only five years after publication - unless it is to pander to such movements and denominations.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear TCR:

I don't think I could get a new nameplate put into the church budget this year anyway. :-)

Since the ESV is an "essentially literal" translation, there are going to be "inconsistencies" based on context.

For example, from the ESV Preface:


"A third specialized term, the word “behold,” usually has been retained as the most common translation for the Hebrew word hinneh and the Greek word idou. Both of these words mean something like “Pay careful attention to what follows! This is important!” Other than the word “behold,” there is no single word in English that fits well in most contexts. Although “Look!” and “See!” and “Listen!” would be workable in some contexts, in many others these words lack sufficient weight and dignity. Given the principles of “essentially literal” translation, it is important not to leave hinneh and idou completely untranslated, and so to lose the intended emphasis in the original languages. The older and more formal word “behold” has usually been retained, therefore, as the best available option for conveying the original sense of meaning."

[End quote]

The alternative would be to eliminate all "inconsistencies" and translate the same word to the same English word all the time - which would be an extremely wooden-sounding translation - more of an interlinear than a "translation."

Are you aware of any other revisions that were made for the 2007 edition, or any others on the horizon? I can't find anything about the revision on the ESV website.

Thanks for dropping by!

Hon. J.R. Silverthorne, Esq. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hon. J.R. Silverthorne, Esq. said...

Father Hollywood, it is my understanding that the word pastor is used only once in the Bible and, even then, it is meant as shepherd.

The model of the early church had elders and overseers or bishops, but there was not the move toward a single pastor like there is today. I think we rely too much on the pastor to do everything for the congregation when a priesthood of believers could accomplish as much or more than paid clergy.

Anonymous Lutheran said...

J.R., at least from my point of view, the question is not about really so much about early church ecclesiology, as about what we today understand the word "shepherd" to mean--or perhaps its lack of formal definition.

Can you define the word "shepherd" as used here, explain how it differs from "pastor," and defend its use on historical and doctrinal grounds?

Hon. J.R. Silverthorne, Esq. said...


In response to the usage of pastor or shepherd in this chapter, John Wesley (and yes, I realize I'm on a Lutheran blog) commented as follows, "Some pastors - Watching over their several flocks."

Historically, I turn again to the Bible: (Php 1:1 ESV) "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:" I think you can see from this passage that Paul's letter mentions nothing of a church pastor, rather he directs it to the overseers and deacons.

Doctrinally, I don't know if I can find a "Handbook of Accepted Christian Doctrines" anywhere other than to just read the Bible. For additional information regarding this topic, you can follow the link below to an article written by a friend of a friend, who has done more research than I care to do in response to a blog post.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Dr. Silverthorne:

The pastoral ministry is known by several names in Scripture, one of which is "pastor" or "shepherd" (whichever rendering you prefer) in Eph 4:11 (which is used metaphorically, not in the literal sense of the person who herds goats and sheep). But more commonly, the pastoral office is described by the words "bishop" (overseer) and "elder" (presbyter/priest).

The word "bishop" addresses his function, while the word "elder" addresses his standing in the church. Scripture uses episkopos (overseer/bishop) and presbuteros (elder) interchangeably to describe the office of a man who oversees, preaches, and administers the sacraments in a local congregation.

Of course, the presbyter/bishops had those who assisted them, the "deacons" you cite in Phil 1:1.

The word "pastor" is today used across the board to describe a man in parish ministry, by Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Protestants alike. Nearly two billion Christians today use the word "pastor" to mean the guy in the pulpit and at the altar.

It's sort of like the word "Trinity." It's not in the Bible, but it has become a universally accepted term to describe a biblical doctrine.

In fact, Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus (in which Paul even describes the rite of ordination) are today known across the church as the "pastoral epistles" - even though these men were not known for herding furry critters in grassy fields and beating up on wolves with big sticks (though metaphorically, this is exactly what we pastors do).

The difference between ministers who are today called presbyters/priests and those that are today called bishops developed pretty early on in the history of the church, but this distinction is by human right (de jure humano) as opposed to by divine right (de jure divino) as our Lutheran confessions describe this historical situation.

John Wesley was himself ordained as a presbyter/priest in the Church of England. His modern followers in the Methodist Church continue to ordain men (and unfortunately, women) to the pastoral office. Methodists also elevate some of their ministers to the grade of bishop to provide oversight over parishes and pastors.

If you want to see how the early church understood and interpreted the office of the ministry as given through our Lord and the apostles, we need only read the Apostolic Fathers. You can read them here for free:

There is no need to do research and try to reinvent the wheel. We Christians have been at this for 2,000 years. The idea that we can today have churches without pastors is an innovation. St. Ignatius of Antioch (one of the apostolic fathers, a bishop from the first century) addresses the oxymoron of a church without a bishop.

Anonymous Lutheran said...

Dr. Silverthorne, to be honest, you didn't exactly answer my question. What is a shepherd, and how does he differ from a pastor? This is important, because it informs us as to the purpose of changing this word.

The only things I could infer from the article you linked to are that a shepherd is apparently sort of a special, more active member of the congregation, and a formal theological education is considered dispensable.

For Lutherans, would this mean that just anyone might go around administering the sacraments willy-nilly? Or that under normal circumstances I would make my confessions to a person who lacks the training to give me proper spiritual counsel?

The New Testament may not contain a precise description of what we know today as the office of pastor, but it certainly lays down the pattern of the Gospel being delivered to us as an apostolic tradition, not something developed from within the congregation itself. This inherently implies leaders coming from outside the local congregation, and a body of formal instruction that would need to be received for ministry under ordinary circumstances.

Pastor Jeff Hemmer said...

Honestly, translating "poimenas" as shepherds makes it easier to argue that all of these "jobs" in Eph 4:11 are functions of the pastoral office. The pastor is the one sent with the prophetic word of the evangel to shepherd and to teach.

J.R. Silverthorne said...

My apologies for the "handle" I was using that may have led you to think I was someone with a doctorate. That was a username I had chosen for use in jest on a friend's blog.

Father Hollywood, I respectfully disagree about 2 billion Christians using pastor as the guy in the pulpit and at the altar. The house church movement is converting thousands of new Christians in China, with limited use of the Bible and even fewer ordained clergy to lead them.

While I prefer to work under the leadership of my pastor, I do not find it biblical or necessary. The wheel may not need to be reinvented, but the Christians in the West have become lazy under the current design of the wheel, and it may be time to modify the stone version and head toward something made with rubber.

Regarding ordination as described in Timothy, it looks to me like the elders are appointing him with a gift. I would, however, enjoy more of your insight into this matter as I know you are more educated in theology.

In regard to the Anonymous Lutheran's rebuttle, I would say that, as a Lutheran, you will never have someone administer the sacraments willy nilly. As a Christian, I would hope it doesn't happen this way either. However, ordained clergy are not required for distribution of communion. Acts 2:46 does not show a requirement of ordained clergy to administer communion.

Also, confession is another story... and one I won't comment on. I do not practice confession as a Lutheran would, and since I do not believe that it is worth fighting to the death over, I'll leave that alone.

Lastly, in response to Mr. Hemmer, it is my understanding that no matter how you translate the word, it does not roll all of these jobs/offices into one.

Father Hollywood, I apologize if bringing my liberal Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) background has drawn your ire. That has not been my point. I read your blog every day and enjoy what you write. Keep up the great work.