re: The DEI in I Timothy 3:2

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Feb 18 1997 - 07:34:24 EST

At 1:47 AM -0600 2/18/97, Tom Launder wrote:
>> The majority of commentators I read on this passage tend to reflect
>> personal, denominational or peer bias when dealing with this word
>> exegetically, so I find them dubiously helpful in answering this
>> question: grammatically, contextually and objectively, to which of the
>> items listed in I Timothy 3:2-7 (note it is repeated in verse 7) does
>> the DEI apply?
>> Can of worms anyone?

A can of worms beyond all doubting!

>I will take a humble stab at this one. The DEI (it is necessary) is
>I think this is easy if you ask "What is necessary?" The answer is then
>"for an overseer to be above reproach. I am sure there might be a
>question as to whether or not the rest of the list is to be included in
>the DEI.
>I hope this helps, (I am biased against my being biased) :)

Yeah, I like that sentiment too. And Ronald Wong's note was a fine one and
said most everything that needs to be said. DEI really does mean that
there's a binding obligation (lit. "there is need"). So why address what
was admitted at the outset to be a potential can of worms? Because it IS

Honestly, I suspect that all those adjectives that follow upon ANEPILHMPTON
are meant to be clarifications of what the author means by ANEPILHMPTOS.
But it has occurred to me that, with all due respect, I have known
wonderful persons in high ordained positions, but I don't know that I have
ever known one that I was absolutely sure was "above reproach." Does that
mean "sinless?" I raise this question simply because there is an overture
now being voted on by the presbyteries in the PC(USA) that would seem to be
based on this verse and that is effectively asserting that nobody can be
ordained who is not sinless. I don't want to discuss that overture or the
politics underlying it, but I am wondering whether, on the basis of what
this text in 1 Tim 3 states, the word ANEPILHMPTOS has an absolute or only
a relative applicability, i.e., that "above reproach" DOES or does NOT mean
"sinless," or perhaps may be understood as meaning "respectable" in terms
of currently prevailing standards of respectability? Of course it is
usually said that the standard applied to a candidate for ordination must
be higher than the standard applied to a candidate for membership in the
community of faith, but it seems to me that this gets close to the heart of
the problem that evoked a doctrine of the "priesthood of all believers"
(some of my Calvinist background won't readily rub off!): what does it mean
to be "above reproach" in absolute terms? And if we don't apply absolute
terms, what criteria have we for ordination that are not relative?

Well, with luck, I may be the only one who does see this as a "can of worms."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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