1 Timothy 3

Elders and Deacons


If a man seeks the office of overseer, he desires a good work (1 Timothy 3:1).

The word “overseer” (Gk. episkopē) literally means to “look” (scope) ”on” (epi). This concept comes from the office of someone in charge who would watch over a group. The funerary stele pictured here illustrates the literal configuration of this concept with an overseer literally looking over workers from above as they carry out their construction tasks. This concept was extended to the office of “overseer” (also called “shepherd” or ”pastor”, e.g., Eph. 4:11) in the church as one responsible for the congregation, not only to make sure they are carrying out their Christian duties properly, but also to look out for their best interests and protection (cf. Acts 20:28).

Ephesian Households

He must be one who rules his own house well (1 Timothy 3:4).

“House” stands by metonymy for those who live in the house. The house shown here is one of a series of wealthy houses located along the southern side of Ephesus. Most of them were in use during the 1st century AD, and some continued to be used for centuries.

Sapling Believers

Not a recent convert, lest he become conceited and fall into condemnation (1 Timothy 3:6).

The term translated here as “recent convert” is a figurative use of a horticultural term that means “newly grown” (Gk. neophutos). This is the only use of the word in the New Testament, but in the LXX, it appears in Psalm 128:3 to describe the blessing of children who are like olive tree saplings (Gk. neophuta elaiōn). Shown here are newly planted date palm trees near the Dead Sea.

Early Church Deacons

Deacons likewise must be dignified (1 Timothy 3:8).

This tombstone honors an otherwise anonymous “deacon” (Gk. diakonos) who served the church located at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, otherwise known as the Probatic Church (“the Church of the Sheep”). The title appears at the beginning of the third line. This tombstone is now housed at the Church of Saint Anne, the successor to the Probatic Church.

Husband of One Wife

Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own households well (1 Timothy 3:12).

The handshake was sometimes used in Greco-Roman art to signify the marriage covenant. It represented marital fidelity and fits well with the admonition of Paul that deacons in the church should be faithful to a single woman. This relief was photographed at the San Antonio Museum of Art.

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