Some time ago, I wrote a blog called The Leadership Deception, which can be read here.
This blog entry is a continuation of the themes and ideas presented there, but will be more specific in scope.
For this entry, I would like to zero in on one particular verse, shared in the previous post, namely Matthew 23:10.
But instead of posting the King James Version of the verse, which can be read here, I want to share it from the New American Standard Bible, which reads as follows:
10. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
You will notice right away a contrast between the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible in that the King James Version reads “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ”.
Indeed, other major English translations read differently than the New American Standard Bible. For example:
- The English Standard Version reads, “Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ“
- The New Revised Standard Version reads, “Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah“
- The New International Version reads, “Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ”
- The New King James Version reads, “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ“
- The New American Bible reads, “Do not be called ‘Master‘; you have but one Master, the Messiah“
- The New Living Translation reads, “And don’t let anyone call you ‘Master‘, for there is only one master, the Messiah“
It would seem that there is a general consensus among the major English versions that the verse should be translated as anything other than leaders and Leader, respectively. And when considering how the seven other versions given above translate the words, it makes one wonder what the translation team behind the New American Standard Bible was thinking.
And yet, since its publication, the New American Standard Bible has been unanimously respected as one of, if not the most literal, word for word English Bible translations in the world. In fact, it is so literal, by following as much as possible the syntax and grammar of the source languages for each testament (and not just the individual, denotative meanings for every word of Scripture), that some complain its readability greatly suffers.
And I would agree with that complaint, having read through various portions over the years. And I admit, I was just as puzzled as anyone when I read its translation of Matthew 23:10.
But it’s easily understood when looking at the Greek text behind all of the translations so far examined. It looks like this:
μηδε κληθητε καθηγηται εις γαρ υμων εστιν ο καθηγητης ο χριστος
Transliterated into English alphabets, it looks like this:
mede kaethete kathegetai eis gar humon estin ho kathegetes ho Christos
The pertinent words have been bolded. As you can see, they are merely different forms of the same root word, kathegetes. With this in mind, let’s break the word down and see if we can figure out why the New American Standard Bible translation team chose to translate Matthew 23:10 the way it did.
Kathegetes: (noun) a compound word, made up of two components, kata- and hegeomai. Kata- is a prefix and usually means down, under, or through, often indicating intensity (although it is translated many different ways in the New Testament, depending on context and grammatical structure). Hegeomai, as a verb, is the middle voice of a strengthened form of the Greek word ago. Ago simply means to lead. Therefore, hegeomai also means to lead, but the idea behind the word is strengthened or more forceful than ago by itself. Basically, hegeomai means to command, as with official authority.
Therefore, we can construct an understanding of the compound word as such: a kathegetes is someone who not only leads, but leads with authority, issuing commands along the way. A kathegetes doesn’t merely show the way through exemplified leadership qualities, he or she actually (because of the intensity represented by kata-) orders the way others should go.
This is corroborated by several respected commentaries. See here:
- Vincent Word Studies reads, “Matthew 23:10, Masters (καθηγηταί), Lit., leaders”
- Albert Barnes Notes on the New Testament reads, “Neither be ye called masters – That is, leaders, guides, for this is the literal meaning of the word. It refers to those who go before others; who claim, therefore, the right to direct and control others. This was also a title conferred on Jewish teachers…Neither of these commands forbids us to give proper titles of civil office to men, or to render them the honor belonging to their station…They prohibit the disciples of Jesus from seeking or receiving mere empty titles, producing distinctions among themselves, implying authority to control the opinions and conduct of others, and claiming that others should acknowledge them to be superior to them.”
- Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible reads, “Matthew 23:10 Neither be ye called masters – Καθηγηται, leaders. God is in all these respects jealous of his honor. To him alone it belongs to guide and lead his Church, as well as to govern and defend it… [these] are the three titles which… our blessed Lord condemns…”
- John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible reads, “Matthew 23:10 Neither be ye called masters, Or guides and leaders…”
So now, instead of wondering why the team behind the New American Standard Bible translated Matthew 23:10 the way it did, we ought to be asking ourselves why any of the other teams behind their respective translations didn’t translate Matthew 23:10 the way the New American Standard Bible people did!
Furthermore, there are other Greek words that means instructor/teacher and master, respectively, namely didaskalos, (from the verb didasko, to teach) and kurios, commonly translated as “lord” in the King James Version and others, neither of which are present in Matthew 23:10, so all of the versions above appear to have chosen incorrect words for their respective translations.
Now, if we can admit that the New American Standard Version is correct in its translation of Matthew 23:10 and that the others are incorrect, we need to ask a simple question:
Mind you, we aren’t asking why the one version is correct and the others incorrect as it pertains to lexicographical meaning, but rather, why did the one version translate the verse properly versus the others which did not, as in, what was the motive?
To answer, I guess we have to decide how optimistic versus pessimistic we want to be. Optimism says it was an honest mistake made by honest translators, who, for whatever reason, were convinced the Greek word kathegetes ought to be translated as master, instructor, or teacher i.e. as someone who leads a classroom or takes the lead in the giving of instruction).
Pessimism says the translators knew what they were doing, knew they were not being honest or accurate, and because of any number of reasons, from personal bias to pressure from outside sources, gave into their flesh and purposefully misled their respective audiences.
Whatever the reasons for the sundry translations, a startlingly fact remains: we are not, under orders from Jesus Himself, to call ourselves or allow ourselves to be called “leaders”.
And yet, as I wrote in Part One, being a leader and the idea of leadership in general is all we ever seem to hear about. It’s the number one marketed gimmick in the American church today.
I challenge you to go to any average assembly on any given day when a service is being held, and ask the average parishioner who the “leader” is or who the “leaders” are, and they will inevitably point you to the pastor and his leadership team, IN DIRECT DEFIANCE OF THE WORDS OF THE LORD JESUS as given to us by Matthew in 23:10.
But I hear someone argue and say, “But the apostles most certainly were leaders and issued commands on a regular basis”. To which I reply, the apostles most certainly were slaves and transmitted the orders of Messiah as they were given to them by Him through the Holy Spirit (See Acts 1:2). And even then, the various Greek words behind “command” and/or “commanded” (and etc.) as given in the New Testament in regards to the Apostles, more readily mean to urge, admonish, bid, exhort, or instruct than they mean to order about, issue commands, or control through speech, i.e. boss around and/or demand compliance/submission.
In fact, the only times in the Greek that stronger or more forceful words are used (e.g. entellomai [to enjoin upon, i.e. to impress upon another a duty, that is, to command] and/or keleuo [to incite to action by speech]) they are ever only used, in a good sense, of the Lord Jesus in the Gospels regarding the commands He gave to His disciples.
In the bad sense, these words are used by the Pharisees and Sadducees in their early relations with the Apostles in the Book of Acts (See, for example, Acts 4:15 and Acts 5:34).
Now, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t yield ourselves to the urgings, admonishments, biddings, exhortations, and instructions of the Apostles of the 1st century or of others in our own century.
But it does mean that no one, apart from the Head Himself, has any authority whatsoever to command and/or order anyone in the church around to do anything. Why? Because there is only One Leader in the Church of the Living God, that is, Jesus Christ, and He hasn’t delegated that authority to anyone, ever.
So, I say: Thank you New American Standard Bible translation committee for being true to the Greek text and the real words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Oh, how His words save us from our leadership deception!
So what does all this mean, in real terms, in today’s church world?
The first thing it means is that the ramifications are far and wide-reaching. Almost every aspect of our church culture has to change. Why? Because right now, almost every assembly across the USA, and even the world, revolves around a leader or group of leaders who aren’t supposed to be what they claim they are. To be true to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ as contained in Matthew 23:10 means that an entire group of Christians, who often think of themselves as the collective “clergy”, all need to repent and change their way of thinking and how they perceive their status and role in the Body of Christ.
Second, another group of Christians, who are often thought of as the “laity” need to also repent and change their way of thinking and how they perceive their status and role in the Body of Christ.
Repentance for the first because of presumption, pride, and arrogance (and in many cases, ignorance—which is not an excuse!). Repentance for the second because of apathy, idolatry, and indifference (and in many cases, ignorance—which is not an excuse!).
It’s not enough that so-called, self-named leaders repent and allow Christ to finally be the Only Leader of the Church. The rest of the Body must likewise humble itself for abandoning its responsibility to God.
God has called each and every member of the Church to the New Testament Priesthood. Instead, thousands and even millions have called themselves to the pews while someone else does all the ministering in the Body.
Yes, there are translation issues which have, unfortunately, caused many people to not realize the true teachings of Christ. Shame on the translators who have misled a believing multitude of English speaking Christians.
But one verse of Scripture has been accurately translated in English by all of the major translations, namely 1 Corinthians 11:3.
King James Version:
3. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ…
New Revised Standard Version:
3. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man…
New International Version:
3. Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ…
New King James Version:
3. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ…
English Standard Version:
3. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ…
New American Bible:
3. But I want you to know Christ is the head of every man…
New Living Translation:
3. But there is one thing I want you to know: A man is responsible to Christ…
And finally, the New American Standard Bible:
3. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man…
Your only leader is Christ Jesus. None else. You follow Him and Him alone. Anyone else who gets in your way is not from God, but is…well, just wait for Part Three.
 Of all the English Bible translations I have checked, the only other major one that uses the words “leaders” and “Leader” is the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the version commonly used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are however, lesser known and lesser read versions that use the same language. Examples include: The Centenary Translation of the New Testament, God’s Word, Moffatt’s New Testament, and the Weymouth New Testament.
 Middle voice simply means that the person or thing both performs and is affected by the actions represented by the verb in question.
 Ellipses or words in brackets are my doing and are not part of the original text.
 Here Barnes lists three verses of Scripture which I have omitted from the quote. They are Matthew 22:21, Romans 13:7 and 1 Peter 2:17. Please note, as Barnes did, that these are civil, i.e. NOT sacred titles, given to people who hold positions in the secular world, e.g. Caesar, King, President, Governor, and etc.
 Examples include diatasso, to set in order or appoint, and so, by implication, to give direction. This is in regards to official church policy, as in the taking up of an offering (See, e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:1). Also, paraggello, to pass on an announcement, that is to say, to charge someone at someone else’s command (i.e. the Lord’s a la 1 Corinthians 7:10). Finally, protasso, used famously in Acts 10:48 of Simon Peter and Cornelius’ household, meaning to arrange toward, i.e. to set up in the near future. Basically, Peter, in seeing their need to be immersed in the name of the Lord, spoke and shared with them their need and so, with their cooperation, arranged for them to be baptized. He wasn’t ordering them as demanding they obey him or else.
 As it reads in the Foreword of the New American Standard Bible, under the Fourfold Aim of the Lockman Foundation (i.e. the publishers): 1. These publications shall be true to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. 2. They shall be grammatically correct. 3. They shall be understandable. 4. They shall give the Lord Jesus Christ His proper place, the place which the Word gives Him…
 Note the word “head”, which, in Greek, is kephale. Of course it means the physical member of the human or even animal body. But as a metaphor, means the following: anything supreme, chief, [or] prominent (Thayer’s Greek Definitions). As Adam Clarke stated in his commentary, “The apostle is speaking particularly of Christianity and its ordinances: Christ is the Head or Author of this religion; and is the creator, preserver, and Lord of every man”.
 And before you throw 1 Corinthians 11:1, et al, at me, please note the Greek word behind “followers” as given in the King James Version, is mimetes, and it means to imitate, as in do the same as according to practice, not (metaphorically or otherwise) walk behind someone else barking out orders, constantly telling you what you can and cannot do, how you can and cannot live, and act, and etc., in your service to Christ in His Body.
 And not only the Corinthians, but also the Ephesians (See Ephesians 1:22, 4:15, and 5:23) and the Colossians (See Colossians 1:18 and 2:10). Paul’s teaching on the matter is conclusive, and thus universal. The entire church, for all time, and not just these three 1st century assemblies, are to embrace this understanding of Christ as Head as true doctrine.