ï¿¼Defining τÎκνα in Paul’s Qualification of Household Management
When discussing the qualifications of an individual for eldership, the question regarding his family inevitably arises. Though this question is often discussed it is at the same time to loosely applied. Paul makes it clear in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 that for an elder to qualify,
4. He must manage his own household well,
with all dignity keeping his children submissive,
5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household,
how will he care for God’s church?
The reason for the qualification found in v.4, that the elder must be able to manage his own household, is to ensure that he will have the character and ability to care for God’s church. For those who take serious this particular qualification there still remains a question regarding just what is meant by Paul when he states: τοá¿¦ á¼°δÎ¯ου οá¼´κου καλá¿¶ς προÏŠστÎ¬μενον, τÎκνα á¼”χοντα á¼ν á½‘ποταγá¿‡, μετá½° πÎ¬σης σεμνÏŒτητος.1 Did Paul mean to say by this that no matter what age the child was, if he was unsubmissive or unfaithful (Titus 1:6) that the elder in question would be disqualified? Or, was Paul seeking to say that the child within his home must meet these qualifications?
To determine the right question and thus the right answer we must first define tekna. Louw and Nida define τÎκνα as: one’s immediate offspring, but without specific reference to sex or age—‘child, offspring.’2 Though there are many different words for children in Greek, τÎκνα is referring to one’s children with out reference to age. The child could be two years old or 30 years old. So how are we to determine what Paul’s intent is in 1 Timothy 4:3? By looking at the context.
If we want to understand Paul’s meaning we must look at the context wherein he uses τÎκνα. ΤÎκνα is defined by its context. For example in Matthew 2:18 we read: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”3 From the context we know that the τÎκνα in question is at least two years old and not much older. In contrast in Matthew 3:9 we read Christ telling the Pharisees, “not [to] presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children (τÎκνα) for Abraham.”4 Out of all 77 times we encounter τÎκνα, each time it is defined by its immediate context.
When we come to 1 Timothy 3:4 we need to let the immediate context guide our definition. The context in which we find τÎκνα is the home. We read: 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive…” Clearly the context is the elder’s home.
In 1 Tim 3:4 Paul tells us that the elder must manage his own household well. Paul defines the household as those that are still under his management (προÏŠστÎ¬μενον), those who are still under his headship and rule. He then goes on to give an example of what he means by this in particular when he states that the elder must have the character and ability to keep his τÎκνα submissive with all dignity. The τÎκνα in view are those that the elder has headship over and must rule in such a way as to align with all dignity (σεμνÏŒτητος)
To define τÎκνα we must determine the context and again the context is the household. The τÎκνα within the household are those that still have a head over them and are required to be submissive that head. The greek word for household is οá¼´κου which is defined as: the family consisting of those related by blood and marriage, as well as slaves and servants, living in the same house or homestead—‘family, household.’5 We discover here our first clue to how we are to define τÎκνα. The τÎκνα must still be within the household of the elder.
Within our context we also see that the τÎκνα must be Submissive (á½‘ποταγá¿‡). á½‘ποταγá¿‡ means to submit to the orders or directives of someone—‘to obey, to submit to, obedience, submission.’6 á½‘ποταγá¿‡ is a military term that speaks of lining up in rank under one in authority.7 Clearly the τÎκνα in question must still be of the age where obedience is required.
We discover another clue to help in definning τÎκνα when Paul tells Timothy that the elder must mangage (προÏŠστÎ¬μενον) his household. To manage the household was to: exercise a position of leadership, rule, direct, be at the head (of).8 Adding this to our context we see that the τÎκνα has someone in a position of authority over them. They are being ruled by their father who is the elder in question.
Though τÎκνα does not have a referrence to age in it’s definition we can conclude from the context that the children (τÎκνα) in question must be of the age where he or she is still within their father’s home, under his headship, and still required to be obedient unto him. We can determine what Paul’s intent is in 1 Timothy 4:3 by looking at the context and the context has given us our answer.
Paul told Timothy that if a man wants to be an elder in the church he must rule his own household well. An example of ruling well was a man who, with dignity, had submissive ï¿¼children, and these children were still within his home and under his authority. Clearly Paul did not have in mind a man’s adult children. Adult chidlren are no longer under his authority, nor are they required to be obedeint and submissive to him. Rather, they are the head of their own family- their own household.
When considering an elder it is wise to see how his children turned out. It is the better part of wisdom to look to see if his children are walking with the Lord and serving Him, for it says a lot about a man. But what we can not do is keep a man from being an elder if one of his adult chidlren, outside of his authority and influence, has chosen to walk away from the faith. We must also keep in mind that God gives His people both Esaus and Jacobs (Romans 9) as children. If a man’s adult son proves to be an Esau, and thus goes out from among the church (1 John 2:19) we had better take extra time to consider that man for eldership, but we can not say from this passage that he is unqualified.
1 Eberhard Nestle et al., The Greek New Testament, 27th ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), 545.
2 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 115.
3 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.
4 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001. ï¿¼
5 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 112.
6 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 467.
7 John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Timothy, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 113.
8 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 870. ï¿¼