Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Wade Burleson on Christian Leadership in Hebrews 13

In this video, Wade explains that there is no Greek word for “over” in the verses about church leaders in Hebrews chapter 13. Moreover, the word “rule”, used in the King James Version of these verses, is an overly strong translation of the Greek word hēgeomai (Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24 KJV).

Christian leaders are not rulers. They do not have authority over other the lives of capable brothers and sisters in Christ. The word hēgeomai doesn’t always mean rule with a strong sense and there is no word for “over” in any verses about Christian leadership in the entire Greek New Testament. My article Authority in the Church covers some of the same ground as the video.

Only Servants and No Masters (Hebrews 13:7) from Emmanuel Enid on Vimeo.

Wade Burleson is the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma. More videos from Wade here. Wade blogs here.

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Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
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Paul’s Masculine and Feminine Leadership
Kephalē and “Male Headship” in Paul’s Letters
Paul’s Thanks – Philippians 1:3–6 

Wade Burleson takes a brief look at authority in the church and the history of the word ekklesia (“congregation, church”) in his article entitled Who’s the Boss at Your Church?

4 thoughts on “Wade Burleson on Christian Leadership in Hebrews 13

  1. Really enjoyed this! Thank you for sharing! Loving your other articles on authority too!

  2. That was mostly quite good. I’m still sorting it out, but for now ISTM he’s doing some cherry-picking in regard to “hegeomai,” and in regard to English derivatives. In regard to the latter, the English “hegemon” is *very* strong in its sense of dominance and authority.

    NT usage seems pretty varied.

    1. Hēgeomai has a range of strengths. At one end of the spectrum, it is the strongest word used in the context of Christian leadership in the Greek New Testament, but the idea of ruling people or having dominance is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught and demonstrated.

      So either the author of Hebrews got it wrong when he used the word hēgeomai for church leaders, or he simply meant leaders, not rulers. I’m going with the second option.

      Needless to say, loan words in the English language from Greek aren’t a reliable indicator of a word’s various senses and forces.

      For example, despot is a loan word that conveys one particularly harsh sense, even a brutal sense, in English. We would never call God a despot, but he is addressed as despota (Lord, Master) a few times in the Bible without any sense of harshness or despostism.

      1. On the “loan words” thing — Of course. I brought it up because (1) the word was already floating around in my mind because of news reports about President Xi’s ambitions to be a world “hegemon,” and (2) because Pastor Burleson invoked other English derivatives of the word.

        I wonder if it’s possible that different NT churches had different leadership structures.

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