Saturday, June 7, 2014

Heb 13:17 - Heavily Mistranslated, by the preachers, for the preachers?!

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: ..." Heb 13:17

It appears that this is a heavily mistranslated scripture to match the requirement of the clergy class (caste).

The Greek word translated as "them that have the rule over you" is G2233 (hēgeomai) is translated as "to think", "to count", "to esteem", and "to account" elsewhere in the scriptures. No doubt the word is also translated as "governor" and "chief" in a couple of places.

The thought that there can be rulers or chiefs or governors among the Christian believers goes contrary to every teaching of Jesus Christ.

Using the same Greek word, Jesus told his disciples:

Luk 22:25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 
Luk 22:26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is CHIEF [G2233], as he that doth serve.

While stating the same concept in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus added:

Mar 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

The concept of a ruler among brethren is gentile one in the sight of Jesus Christ. He has unambiguously stated that we are all brothers and there cannot be anyone considered as teachers among us:

Mat 23:8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 
Mat 23:10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 
Mat 23:11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant

Being the greatest teacher ever and also being the Son of God, Jesus called us brothers (Heb 2:11).

Apostle Peter on Elders

The elders which are among you I exhort,….Feed the flock of God which is among you…Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” (1Pe 5:1-3)

“Lording over” or being rulers over the flock is not envisaged by the scriptures.

All these Christian concepts are overturned by all the available translations of Heb 13:17!

G2233 (hēgeomai) from Heb 13

Heb 13:7 also uses the same Greek word:

Remember them which have the rule over [G2233] you, who have spoken unto you the word of God

It appears from the context that the expression “them which have the rule over you” really means “those who SPOKE to you the Word of God”. This view further substantiated by the rendering of the same Greek word in Acts 14:12 as “chief speaker”.

Are we to obey the messenger or the message?

The Greek word that is translated as “obey” is G3982 (peithō) which essentially means “to trust”, “to believe” or “to be persuaded”. While it is said that someone “obeyed the truth” (Gal 2:1) or “obeyed unrighteousness” (Rom 2:8), it implies that the person in question trusted or was persuaded by truth or unrighteousness, respectively.

Coming back to Heb 13:17, are we to trust the messenger or the message? Trusting man (the messenger) is against the collective testimony of many scriptures. (Ps 118:8; Mic 7:5…)

“Submit yourselves”, to whom?

Another Greek word used in Heb 13:17 is G5226 (hupeikō), translated as "submit yourselves". This word is not used elsewhere in the scriptures and hence a comparative study is impossible. Nevertheless, are we to submit ourselves to the messenger or the message?

Given the collective testimony of various scriptures and the instructions of Jesus Christ and Apostles, we are not to submit to the human messengers. We are to submit to the message.

A reasonable understanding of Heb 13:17

“Trust and submit yourselves to the Word of God as it is spoken to you by the chief speakers”.

How about the latter portion of the scripture?

… for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you”. (Heb 13:17)

From the available translations it appears that the church or congregation is not supposed to hurt the ego of the speaker. Did Jesus really teach that the disciples (students) have to take care of the teacher? What did Jesus tell about those who reject the gospel?

Mat 10:14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

Do the speakers or preachers watch over souls? How? Does that absolve us of our accountability towards God? If the preacher is the one who is watching over our souls then what is the role Jesus Christ who is interceding for us always? Are we not to stand before the judgment seat of Christ? (Rom 14:10, 2Co 5:10).

Jesus said: He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (Joh 12:48)

Friend, it is not your preacher who keeps watch over your soul, it is the Word of God that watches over your soul, it is the one that judges you.


The collective testimony of the scriptures tell us that:

  • Those who seek to be leaders have to be the servants of brethren.
  • Shepherds have to take care of the flock and not the other way round.

Therefore, it is not hard to discern that Heb 13:17 is translated to fit the agenda of the preachers, by the preachers.

This may not be the final word on Heb 13:17. Many, like Mark Winter, have studied the scripture and arrived at similar conclusion. This is just an attempt at understanding the scripture and let us hope that unbiased scholars will come up with better studies, in the days to come.

Your brother in Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal (TaZ)

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