Here we will perform Analysis Item #2.
- Is the same Greek word is consistently translated to the same word/clause as used in this verse.
- If it is not consistent, then how often is the chosen English word/clause used in other places as compared to this instance.
- This may also include other relevant analysis related to the translation of the Greek word/clause in question.
In summary, we are analyzing whether the translation from the Greek word to this particular English word is the most valid translation.
In Laymans Terms
This one is kind of hard due to my skill level in Greek (novice). There are at least three layers of complexity, but we observe some key things based on how this word is translated in some key locations.
- First Complexity – This particular greek word takes on two distinct senses. One relates to “leading” (leading, ruling) and the other relates to “thinking” (considering, regarding, esteeming). These two ideas are somewhat disparate and not comparable in a simple and straight forward way.
- Second Complexity – There is some difference in view between different lexicon’s about the etymology of this word.
- Strong’s Lexicon and NASB Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionary say this word is the “middle voice of a (presumed) strengthened form of Strong’s 71 – ago” or something similar
- Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary says this word is “akin to Strong’s 2232 – hegemon and used in the present participle to denote ‘a governor’ or literally, ‘one governing'”
- Third Complexity – There is a particular Greek construction which is used for some instances of this word in the Bible I am not equipped to fully decipher, but I have understood that it is meaningful
- Words in the Greek prefaced by the definite article (ho) have special meaning in some cases. There are 5 or 6 instances like this (Luke 22:25; Acts 14:12; Hebrews 13:7, 13:17, 13:24)
As a result of these complexities, I will only attempt to point out some key items along with some doubt in my ability to fully and thoroughly analyze this term.
Of the two senses of this word a) leading b) thinking, considering, regarding, or esteeming, we are primarily interested in the first one a) leading. It is quite clear that the other sense (thinking, regarding, etc) of this word should not come into our consideration and should not influence the way we think of the use of hegeomai in Hebrew 13:17. All of the cases that are translated to “lead”, “leader” or “ruler” are present participle forms of hegeomai, while other mood and tenses tend towards the other sense of hegeomai (thinking, regarding, etc). Based on my reading of lexicons it appears that the present participle construction vs. other grammatical constructions is one of the primary things that distinguishes between the two senses of the word.
From Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon – Strong’s 2233 (Verb)
- to lead
- to go before
- to be a leader
- to rule, command
- to have authority over
- a prince, of regal power, governor, viceroy, chief, leading as repsects influence, controlling in counsel, overseers or leaders of the churches
- use of any kind of leader, chief, commander
- the leader in speech, chief, spokesman
- to consider, deem, account, think
Consistency and Analysis of the Translation of Hegeomai
Breakdown of Occurrences of Hegeomai in the Bible
- 5 times (9%) – ho [definite article] (Strong’s 3588) hegeomai [verb] (Strong’s 2233) – translated as “the one who leads” and leaders
- this is a particular construction in the Greek which combines the definite article with this verb, hegeomai. It is counted separately.
- 3 times – hegeomai [verb] (Strong’s 2233) – translated leader, ruler, principal speaker
- 20 times – hegeomai [verb] (Strong’s 2233) – translated consider/considered/considering, regard/regarded and esteem
There are 28 occurrences. Keep in mind the two major senses of this word as described above. There is one sense that is (A) “to lead” and the other which is (B) “to consider, deem, account, think”. Hebrews 13:17 uses “leaders” or “them that have the rule over”.
Note: Verses where the definite article (ho) precedes hegeomai are italicized.
- #1 – Sense B – (57%) 16 of 28 – consider
- Acts 26:2; 2 Corinthians 9:5; Philippians 2:3, 2:6, 2:25, 3:7, 3:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:15; 1 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 10:29; 11:26; James 1:2; 2 Peter 1:13; 2:13; 3:9
- #2 – Sense A – (14%) 4 of 28 – leaders
- Acts 15:22; Hebrews 13:7, 13:17, 13:24
- #3 – Sense B – (11%) 3 of 28 – regard
- 1 Timothy 6:1; Hebrews 11:11; 2 Peter 3:15
- #4 – Sense A – (7%) 2 of 28 – ruler
- Matthew 2:6; Acts 7:10
- #5 – Sense A – (4%) 1 0f 28 – leads
- Luke 22:26
- #6 – Sense B – (4%) 1 of 28 – esteem
- 1 Thessalonians 5:13
- #7 – Sense A – (4%) 1 of 28 – principal speaker
- Acts 14:12
Additional Analysis of Hegeomai
Since we are focused on only one sense (to lead) of hegeomai for Hebrews 13:17, we end up with a pretty short list of verses. We can look at all of them and make a few observations.
Firstly, we can say that the sense of hegeomai that we are interested in is translated pretty consistently into English. There are no major issues with consistency.
Verse Group #1 – ho hegeomai
Luke 22:26-27 – But you are not to be like this. But the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the one who leads (ho hegeomai) like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am in your midst as the one who serves.
Hebrews 13:7 – Remember your leaders (ho hegeomai), who spoke the word of God to you: considering the outcome of their way of life, imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders (ho hegeomai) and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with groaning, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Hebrews 13:24 – Greet all your leaders (ho hegeomai) and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.
- Take a close look here. Luke 22:26-27 uses the exact same word with the exact same definite article, but it is not translated “leader”. It is translated “the one who leads”. This more closely matches the Greek. Now consider the verses in Hebrews 13. It does makes sense that Hebrews 13 would be consistent and use the same word/clause for each occurrence of our word. And, yes, the argument can be made based on Hebrews 13:24 where “those leading” are distinguished from “the saints” that choosing “leader” is not invalid. To me, it would be acceptable to go with “leaders” in all three verses in Hebrews if verse 17 was not opened with “obey” for peitho. The use of obey points us down the wrong path and then the use of “leader” emphasizes the very real possibility of this verse implying that “leaders” in the church have command authority over other believers. As shown in the study of the word “obey”, the Word of God has not been rightly divided and now the use of a noun (leader) instead of a translation that makes it clear that the word is a verb. Given the definite article, we are definitely pointing at individuals who are performing the action, but it is a weak reference rather than a strong one. The weakness of the reference is proven by the availability of many other Greek words that could have been used for leader/ruler that would have conveyed a much stronger sense.
- Let’s not forget the context of Luke 22:26-27 and the fact that there are other verses that support the view of Luke 22:26-27 which nullifies many of the standard concepts of leadership that are applicable in other realms of life. Jesus is very clear that leadership in the church is very different. So, even with a reference to “those leading”, we should be clear that the leading in the church should not be thought of the same as other realms of life.
Verse Group #2 – hegeomai
Matthew 2:6 – ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for from you will go out a ruler (hegeomai) who will shepherd my people Israel’
Acts 7:10 – and rescued him from all his afflictions and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And he appointed him ruler (hegeomai) over Egypt and all his household
Acts 15:22 – Then it seemed best to the apostles and the elders, together with the whole church, to send men chosen from among them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas–Judas who was called Barsabas and Silas, men who were leaders (hegeomai) among the brothers
- These verses do legitimize the idea that hegeomai can refer to one who is governing.
- Matthew 2:6 is a prophetic verse demonstrating that as a ruler (hegeomai) that Jesus Christ will shepherd (poimaino). We know from our 1st analysis question about leader(s) that poimaino points to a servant-leader, not an overlord.
- Acts 15:22 deserves the same comments as the Hebrews 13 verses, but probably to a stronger level. There is no definite article in front of hegeomai in Acts 15:22, so the idea of this being turned into a noun in English is a bit more problematic. The translation should probably read, “Judas who was called Barsabas and Silas men leading among the brothers“
Even though Acts 14:12 which is translated as “principal speaker” has the same sense that we are looking at, it is not considered because this clause is from multiple Greek words. It does not add too much or take away too much from our study.
In our analysis of leader(s)/rule(rs) including both Analysis #1 and Analysis #2, close attention is called to a Greek verb being turned into an English noun. To many readers, this may not seem to matter much. In fact, the difference is subtle and would not be all that important if it didn’t have a larger cumulative effect throughout the Word of God. The more that all phases of leadership are “nounified” in the Word of God the more possible it becomes for christian leadership to take advantage of a positional status to exercise authority. This is the kind of subtle shift that the Enemy of God uses to introduce deception and bondage into the Body of Christ.
In the case of Hebrews 13, there is some textual support in the Greek for using a noun, but in the balance of Scripture and with the other problems in Hebrews 13:17 it seems unwise and it leaves to much room for the Enemy to use it to his advantage.