A Treatise on the Eldership
J. W. McGarvey  (1870)


      After the above preliminary statements, we proceed to inquire, Is these an office in the church called the Eldership?

      The common English version of the New Testament does not contain the term eldership, but the term presbuterion in the original should be so translated. This uniformity requires; for the adjective presbuteros is uniformly translated elder, and the only rendering of presbuterion which harmonizes with this is eldership. This term should occur three times in the English Testament, twice having reference to the Jewish Sanhedrin, and once to the eldership in the church. Lu. 22:66; Acts 22:5, 1 Ti. 4:14. In this last passage our English version has presbytery, which is the Greek word anglicised, and is the exact equivalent of eldership. The body so styled, as the term itself indicates, was composed of the individual elders of the church referred to.

      But why should we argue a proposition which is not denied? It is indisputable that there was a body of men in the primitive churches called elders, and that so many of these as were found in one congregation constituted the eldership of that congregation.

      Individuals have been found who admit all this, and admit that there should be an eldership in the churches of all ages; who also ascribe to the eldership of modern churches the functions which belonged [9] to those in the primitive age; but who deny that the term eldership designates an office, or that elders are properly styled officers. They deny, indeed, the existence of office in the church, and would use the term work where the term office is commonly employed. We regard the distinction as one between words rather than ideas; for one of a body of men, who has any work specially assigned to him by the body, is an officer of that body, in the full import of the term. If, then, we shall, in the course of our investigation, ascertain that the elders of the church are charged with the performance of public duties assigned to them by their brethren, we shall thereby know that they are entitled to the name of officers. If, after this, any shall still prefer not to call them officers, while recognizing all the functions with which they are charged, we care not to have a war about words with such persons.

[ATOTE 9-10]

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