An Elder Must Be Temperate, Prudent
In The New American Standard Bible, in 1 Tim 3:2, we read, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” (Also see Titus 2:2.) The King James Bible reads, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach.” And while the NAS translates the word “temperate” (The majority of translations use this rendering.) and the KJV renders the word “vigilant,” it has also been translated “sober.”
The meaning of temperate is, “Exercising moderation and self-restraint: learned to be temperate in eating and drinking. 2. Moderate in degree or quality; restrained: temperate criticism” (Excerpted from American Heritage Talking Dictionary. Copyright © 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.). And this seems to be aligned with the meaning of the Greek word, “nephalios” here.
The next word translated “prudent (NAS), “sober” (KJV) (“sober-minded”), is also translated “self-controlled” or “sensible.” [Note that Paul says that the deacons' wives are to possess this latter quality (3:11)]. The meaning of this word is better explained by The American Heritage Talking Dictionary than I am able to explain it. “Wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment or common sense. 2. Careful in regard to one's own interests; provident. 3. Careful about one's conduct; circumspect.” (Excerpted from American Heritage Talking Dictionary. Copyright © 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.).
(Note: It is not this author's belief that modern world dictionaries can be used to define biblical words (from 2000 years ago or from translations hundreds of years ago), but that it can be used to define the modern word that we use to best represent the translation of the original Greek word.)
Observe the Vine's definition of “prudent.” SOBER, SOBERLY, SOBERMINDED, “sophron,” denotes "of sound mind" (sozo, "to save," phren, "the mind"); hence, "self-controlled, sober-minded," always rendered "sober-minded" in the RV; in 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:8, KJV, "sober"; in Titus 2:2, KJV, "temperate"; in 2:5, KJV, "discreet." And “sophronos,” akin to A and B, Nos. 2 and 3, "soberly," occurs in Titus 2:12; it suggests the exercise of that self-restraint that governs all passions and desires, enabling the believer to be conformed to the mind of Christ.” (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers).
While I admit that most of what we have covered thus far is no more than quotations from different `dictionaries,' I believe that we have a clear understanding as to the qualifications mentioned here in verse 2.
C. Michael Moss writes, “The next quality is “temperate” (nephalios; cf. 3:11; Titus 2:2). . . . . . his concern here is, “sober in the sense of clear-headed, self-controlled” (BAGD). The next word, “self-controlled” (sophron), is a synonym often denoting “prudent, thoughtful” (BAGD).” [The College Press NIV Commentary 1, 2 Timthy & Titus, by C. Michael Moss, Copyright 1994, College Press Publishing Company. BAGD refers to the “Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker Greek Lexicon (2nd. Ed.)].
We can be certain that these words demand that one who aspires to the work of elder must possess self-control, restraint, be sensible and wise in dealing with matters . . . . Perhaps the best way to explain such characteristics is to quote Matt 16:24, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (NAS).