Vol.VIII No.VI Pg.7
August 1971

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Dear bro. Turner:

Can a Christian with only one child scripturally serve as an elder? Please answer in Plain Talk. CBM


Having a child, or many children, is not the point of 1 Tim. 3:4--5 and Titus 1:6. It is the ability to rule, with gravity, ones own, that is being considered and made a qualifying run. Of course ruled children necessitate children to rule, but we must not allow the issue to degenerate to the level of genetics or progeny. It is no reproach on a man to be childless, but unruled children are a dishonor.

With this aside, there remain two questions: (1) Do the scriptures demand (positively) that he have ruled children, or do they teach that such children as he may have, must be under subjection? (2) Would the requirements (tekna) allow one child?

Fourteen characteristics of the bishop are given in Timothy, headed by dei einai or it behooves — to be. Each of these are accusative predicates of the first to be; with the last two being participles: ruling and having. Literally (Marshall) it says, It behooves — the bishop — to be: household ruling, children having. Lenski notes that the objects of both participles have an emphasis because they are placed forward.

If (ruled) children having is coordinate (on an equal footing) with household (well) ruling then they are equally required of a bishop — he must have children. Lenski, and others, think children having is subordinate to household ruling but nothing is cited in the text to substantiate this. It is said that one may rule a household in which there are no children, and this is true. So why did the Holy Spirit give such gram- matically equal space to children having? If the return to household ruling in 1 Tim. 3:5 means that children having is subordinate, what conclusion are we to draw from Titus 1:6 where well ruled children are a qualification, and household ruling apart from children, is not so much as named?

As unruled children are a reproach so well ruled children are an honor and, I believe, on equal footing with other honoring qualifications here.

Must there be a plurality of such children? The word tekna does not affirm it. Some admit that child is not ruled out by the plural tekna (see Matt. 22:24 Eph. 6:1) but say it is never so used where qualifications or regulations are being given. Is not the single child of a widow bound to care for his own? (1 Tim. 5:4,8) We sometimes make rules to fit our need.

And now that the above is written, I must add that I favor the interpretation or exegesis that calls for a plurality of well ruled children. It may be my traditional upbringing, but of course I assign it to my appreciation of the context. I can not say a one — child bishop is unscriptural; but other things being equal, I would select men proven in a multi -child home. Perhaps I imagine this best fits the general context, but I know it will avoid unnecessary confusion.