An Exegetical Analysis
The critical issue here is to decide on the meaning of the wordpista,(pista) since it is translated either “believing” or “faithful” in various translations as already pointed out. If one should choose the wordpista,(pista) to mean “believing,” then one would conclude that one of the qualifications for an elder is “he must have Christian children.” On the other hand, if one should choose the word pista,(pista) to mean more neutral sense, namely “faithful,” then one would conclude that an elder’s qualification is not determined by whether his children are Christians or not. Either way, this would have some important implications in the life of a local church.
The word pista,(pista) comes from its root wordpisto,j(pistos). Although many proponents of View 1 do not argue that its root word always refers to that of believers, it does have a reference to believers in some cases. The following are five textual examples that occur throughout the Pastoral Epistles:
- ·NAU 1 Timothy 4:3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe (pistoi/j from pistos) and know the truth.
- ·NAU 1 Timothy 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers (pistw/n from pistos).
- ·NAU 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe (pistw/n from pistos).
- ·NAU 1 Timothy 5:16 If any woman who is a believer (pisth. from pistos) has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.
- ·NAU 1 Timothy 6:2 ¶ Those who have believers (pistou.j from pistos) as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers (pistoi, from pistos) and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
At the same time its root word is also translated to “faithful” in many cases. The following are ten textual examples that occur throughout the Pastoral Epistles:
- ·NAU 1 Timothy 1:12 ¶ I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful (pisto,n from pistos), putting me into service.
- ·NAU 1 Timothy 1:15 It is a trustworthy (pisto.j from pistos) statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
- ·NAU 1 Timothy 3:1 ¶ It is a trustworthy (Pisto.j from pistos) statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.
- ·NAU 1 Timothy 3:11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful (pista.j from pistos) in all things.
- ·NAU 1 Timothy 4:9 It is a trustworthy (pisto.j from pistos) statement deserving full acceptance.
- ·NAU 2 Timothy 2:2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful (pistoi/j from pistos) men who will be able to teach others also.
- ·NAU 2 Timothy 2:11 It is a trustworthy (pisto.jfrom pistos) statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
- ·NAU 2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful (pisto.jfrom pistos), for He cannot deny Himself.
- ·NAU Titus 1:9 holding fast the faithful (pistou/from pistos) word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
- ·NAU Titus 3:8 ¶ This is a trustworthy (pisto.jfrom pistos) statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.
And only once in the Pastoral Epistles where the meaning of believing and faithful are used interchangeably.
- ·NAU 2 Timothy 2:2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Exegetically, the words from the root word pisto.j (pistos) have more neutral renderings (i.e. faithful and trustworthy) throughout the Pastoral Epistles than the specific believing sense. But more importantly, the particular Greek word in Titus 1:6 is not any one of the words that have mentioned above (pistoi/j, pistw/n, pisth., pistou.j, pistoi,, pisto,n, pista.j, or pistou/). Rather, it is pista,, uniquely found only twice in the New Testament – here and Acts 13:34. In regards to the latter text, almost all translations have the more neutral rendering “sure,” which is more close to the meaning “faithful” than “believing.”
George Knight, one of the leading scholars in the Pastoral Epistles, makes the following assessment as he argues for non-salvific meaning than salvific sense:
It is likely, therefore, that te,kna e;cwn pista,here is virtually equivalent to te,kna e;conta evn u`potagh/| (“having/keeping his children under control”) in 1 Tim. 3:4. If that is so, then pista, here means “faithful” in the sense of “submissive” or “obedient,” as a servant or steward is regarded as pisto.j when he carries out the requests of his master.
However, this does not negate a present elder or potential elder candidate to be “off the hook” on his God-given mandate to manage his own household. Although Knight is a proponent to View 2, he offers the following words of strong exhortation:
What must not characterize the children of an elder is immorality and undisciplined rebelliousness, if the children are still at home and under his authority. Paul is not asking any more of the elder and his children than is expected of every Christian father and his children. However, only if a man exercises such proper control over his children may he be an elder.