“Pastor” isn’t in the Bible?

It was pointed out to me recently that the word “pastor” only appears once in some translations of the Bible. I was surprised to hear that, so I went on a hunt and this is what I found. I pray that it is edifying to you. {OvO}

Pastor is the Latin translation of the word shepherd {like pasture..} and seems to be a holdover from the King James Version of the Bible. Shepherd is from the Greek poimén {noun} or poimainó {verb}. The word flock is from a similar root; poimné or poimnion {plural}. Together, this family of words is used 39 times in the New Testament.

My favorite discovery is the way the word is used to 1) describe Jesus’ role as Messiah, 2) commission Peter, and 3) establish the early church structure.

Jesus as Messiah

In Matthew 2:6, the Jewish priests and scribes, reporting to Herod the king, quoted Micah 5:2 when they said, “In Bethlehem of Judea {was born} ‘a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'” That’s poimainó.

Peter’s Commission

Before His death, Jesus asks Peter to “feed my lambs,” {John 21:15} “tend my sheep,” {21:16} and “feed my sheep” {21:17}. V. 16 uses poimaine while the others seem to refer literally to feeding sheep {boske ta arnia}.

Shepherds in the Early Church

In Acts 20, we see Paul reminding the early church fathers to “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church {poimainein} of God, which He obtained with His own blood.” {Acts 20:20}

And later, Peter passes the baton he received directly from Christ, in his first epistle: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” {1 Peter 5:1-5}

“And [Jesus] gave apostles {apostulous}, the prophets {prophetas}, the evangelists {evangelistas}, the shepherds {poimenas}, and the teachers {didaskalous} to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” {Ephesians 4:11} This is where many translations have pastors; ESV {correctly, imo} uses shepherds.


Technically it is true that the word “pastor” is not frequently used in the Bible, but clearly the word behind it, shepherd, is an important one for us to understand. Jesus was foretold and is the Chief Shepherd. Before His ascension, Jesus asked Peter to shepherd His flock. And Peter, not as the first pope, but as the first of many shepherds, reminds the new church leadership how to live among their flocks as shepherds. Peter and Paul clearly exhort believers to come under eldership, to seek wisdom and teaching, and to do it for the building up of the body of Christ.

Scroll down and let me know what do you think!
Spread the love

4 thoughts on ““Pastor” isn’t in the Bible?

  1. This is beautiful…that’s what I think!!! Love it…Love the imagery and love the reality!!!
    Thanks Becky!

  2. When someone says that pastors are not in the bible they are referring to the modern office of pastor and its function – namely, a person who is paid to give a weekly speech to which the body is under compulsion to listen to every week. There is not a shred of support for this office in the bible, in fact this office and practice is in utter opposition and defiance to the biblical functioning of a church.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Aaron! You said “the office of pastor…is in utter opposition and defiance to the biblical functioning of a church.” Would you be willing to share how you have come to that conclusion?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: