Author: Ron Graham
Word Study: Pastor
Word family: Pastor, pastoring, pastoral.
Synonyms: Overseer, bishop, shepherd, elder, presbyter
Related ideas: church government, leadership, guardianship, submission
Definitions: In Latin, the word for shepherd is "pastor". In English, "pastor" is generally used to mean a clergyman or preacher. However in the scriptures it refers exclusively to the shepherds (elders) of a congregation, not the preachers or evangelists.
Greek References and Scripture:
There are four Greek words rendered by seven English words. Here are the Greek, English, Strong's reference, and scripture examples
- 1. επισκοπος (episkopos)
1985 cf 1983-4
Titus 1:7, Philippians 1:1, Acts 20:28
- 2. ποιμην (poimeen)
4166 cf 4165-8
Ephesians 4:11, 1Peter 2:25, 1Peter 5:1-4, Acts 20:28
- 3. πρεσβυτερος (presbuteros)
4245 cf 4243-7
1Peter 5:1, Titus 1:5, Acts 20:17, 1Timothy 4:14
- 4. προιστημι (proisteemi)
VERB to rule
1Thessalonians 5:12, 1Timothy 5:17
A comparison of these passages will show that the terms overseer, bishop, shepherd, pastor, elder, presbyter, and ruler, are synonymous and interchangeable. They are simply different words for the same thing. Notice in particular the following points:
- Whom Paul calls elders in Titus 1:5, he calls overseers/bishops in 1:7.
- Acts 20:17,28 and 1Peter 5:1-4 call elders shepherds/pastors.
- According to 1Timothy 5:17, elders are to rule.
- Both elders and apostles governed the first congregation (Acts 15:1-6).
Comment: In the above table, the Greek/English equivalents are given. Some translators, instead of the simpler English, use the words in brackets. Personally, I think the bracketed words (bishop, pastor, presbyter) are less suitable for general use in the church, because they need too much explaining and can be misleading because of denominational usage.