Questions From Readers
● Why does the King James Version at 1 Timothy 3:1, 2, speak of “bishops” and at 1 Timothy 3:8, 10, 12, 13, of “deacons,” whereas the New World Translation terms the former “overseers” and the latter “ministerial servants”?—R. H., United States.
The religious words or titles “bishop” and “deacon” are simply words that have been more or less closely transliterated into the English language; that is, they are carried over much like the way they appear in the Greek instead of being translated. These two words are epískopos and diákonos. To illustrate: “Logos” and “Christ” are transliterated because they are titles. If not used as titles, they would be “word” and “anointed.”
In the days of the apostles there were no titles for servants among the Christian congregations and so in the letters of Paul these words should have been translated. However, at an early time the apostate church made titles out of these designations and applied them to men who held positions corresponding to the form of service or office that is described by these Greek words. This falling away was foretold by the apostle Paul at Acts 20:29, 30.
The King James Version was translated at the express command of King James of England by men who belonged to the Church of England and in which there were officers known as “bishops” and “deacons.” So instead of translating the Greek words epískopos and diákonos according to what they literally mean, the King James Version translators rendered them as titles.
However, the New World Translation as well as certain others, such as An American Translation, do not render epískopos and diákonos as titles but according to the meaning of the words, as “overseers” or “superintendents” and as “assistants” or “ministerial servants.” The American Standard Version gives in the footnote the alternate reading of “overseer” in each instance where “bishop” is used in the text. Avoiding such man-made titles is in harmony with the sentiments expressed by faithful Elihu: “Let me not, please, show partiality to a man; and on an earthling man I shall not bestow a title; for I certainly do not know how I can bestow a title; easily my Maker would carry me away.”—Job 32:21, 22.