|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
A name frequently used in the Old Testament as denoting a person clothed with authority, and entitled to respect and reverence (Genesis 50:7). It also denoted a political office (Numbers 22:7). The "elders of Israel" held a rank among the people indicative of authority. Moses opened his commission to them (Exodus 3:16). They attended Moses on all important occasions. Seventy of them attended on him at the giving of the law (Exodus 24:1). Seventy also were selected from the whole number to bear with Moses the burden of the people (Numbers 11:16, 17). The "elder" is the keystone of the social and political fabric wherever the patriarchal system exists. At the present day this is the case among the Arabs, where the sheik (i.e., "the old man") is the highest authority in the tribe. The body of the "elders" of Israel were the representatives of the people from the very first, and were recognized as such by Moses. All down through the history of the Jews we find mention made of the elders as exercising authority among the people. They appear as governors (Deuteronomy 31:28), as local magistrates (16:18), administering justice (19:12). They were men of extensive influence (1 Samuel 30:26-31). In New Testament times they also appear taking an active part in public affairs (Matthew 16:21; 21:23; 26:59).
The Jewish eldership was transferred from the old dispensation to the new. "The creation of the office of elder is nowhere recorded in the New Testament, as in the case of deacons and apostles, because the latter offices were created to meet new and special emergencies, while the former was transmitted from the earlies times. In other words, the office of elder was the only permanent essential office of the church under either dispensation."
The "elders" of the New Testament church were the "pastors" (Ephesians 4:11), "bishops or overseers" (Acts 20:28), "leaders" and "rulers" (Hebrews 13:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:12) of the flock. Everywhere in the New Testament bishop and presbyter are titles given to one and the same officer of the Christian church. He who is called presbyter or elder on account of his age or gravity is also called bishop or overseer with reference to the duty that lay upon him (Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17-28; Philippians 1:1).
Noah Webster's Dictionary
1. (a.) Older; more aged, or existing longer.
2. (a.) Born before another; prior in years; senior; earlier; older; as, his elder brother died in infancy; -- opposed to younger, and now commonly applied to a son, daughter, child, brother, etc.
3. (a.) One who is older; a superior in age; a senior.
4. (n.) An aged person; one who lived at an earlier period; a predecessor.
5. (n.) A person who, on account of his age, occupies the office of ruler or judge; hence, a person occupying any office appropriate to such as have the experience and dignity which age confers; as, the elders of Israel; the elders of the synagogue; the elders in the apostolic church.
6. (n.) A clergyman authorized to administer all the sacraments; as, a traveling elder.
7. (n.) A genus of shrubs (Sambucus) having broad umbels of white flowers, and small black or red berries.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
ELDER IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
(1) The word is used adjectivally to denote seniority (Luke 15:25 1 Timothy 5:2).
(2) Referring to the Jewish elders of the synagogue, usually associated with the scribes and Pharisees, and New Testament passages cited in the previous article.
(3) It denotes certain persons appointed to hold office in the Christian church, and to exercise spiritual oversight over the flock entrusted to them. From the references in Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17 it may be inferred that the churches generally had elders appointed over them. That "elders" and "bishops" were in apostolic and sub-apostolic times the same, is now almost universally admitted; in all New Testament references their functions are identical. The most probable explanation of the difference of names is that "elder" refers mainly to the person, and "bishop" to the office; the name "elder" emphasizes what he is, while "bishop," that is "overseer," emphasizes what the elder or presbyter does.
See BISHOP; CHURCH GOVERNMENT; MINISTRY.
A. C. Grant
ELDER IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Among primitive peoples authority seems naturally to be invested in those who by virtue of greater age and, consequently, experience are best fitted to govern thus Iliad iii0.149. Later the idea of age became merged in that of dignity (Il. ii.404, ii0.57; Odyssey ii.14). In like manner the word patres came to be used among the Romans (Cic. Rep. 2, 8, 14). So also among the Germans authority was entrusted to those who were older; compare Tacitus Agricola. The same is true among the Arabians to the present day, the sheik being always a man of age as well as of authority.
From the first the Hebrews held this view of government, although the term "elder" came later to be used of the idea of the authority for which, at first, age was regarded necessary. Thus the office appears in both the Jahwist, J (9th century B.C.) (Exodus 3:16; Exodus 12:21; Exodus 24:1, of the elders of the Hebrews; and of the Egyptians, Genesis 50:7); and Elohist (E) (8th century B.C.) (Exodus 17:5; Exodus 18:12; Exodus 19:7 (the second Deuteronomist (D2)); Joshua 24:31, elders of Israel, or of the people. Compare the principle of selection of heads of tens, fifties, etc., Exodus 18:13, seventy being selected from a previous body of elders); compare Jahwist(J)-Elohist(E) (Numbers 11:16, 24). Seventy are also mentioned in Exodus 24:1, while in Judges 8:14 seventy-seven are mentioned, although this might be taken to include seven princes. Probably the number was not uniform.
Elder as a title continues to have place down through the times of the Judges (Judges 8:16; Judges 2:7); compare Ruth 4:2 into the kingdom. Saul asked to be honored before the elders (1 Samuel 15:30); the elders of Bethlehem appeared before Samuel (1 Samuel 16:4); the elders appeared before David in Hebron (2 Samuel 17:15 1 Chronicles 11:3); elders took part in the temple procession of Solomon (1 Kings 8:3 2 Chronicles 5:4). They continued through the Persian period Ezra 5:5, 9; Ezra 6:7, 14; 10:8, 14 Joel 1:14 margin and the Maccabean period APC Judith 6:16; 7:23; 8:10; 10:06; 13:12; 1Maccabees 12:35, while the New Testament presbuteros, Matthew 16:21; Matthew 26:47, 57 Mark 8:31 Luke 9:22 Acts 4:5, 23 makes frequent mention of the office.
The elders served as local magistrates, in bringing murderers to trial (Deuteronomy 19:12; Deuteronomy 21:1 Joshua 20:4), punishing a disobedient son (Deuteronomy 21:19), inflicting penalty for slander (Deuteronomy 22:15), for noncompliance with the Levirate marriage law (Deuteronomy 25:7), enforcing the Law (Deuteronomy 27:1), conducting the service in expiation of unwitting violation of the Law (Leviticus 4:13).
In certain passages different classes of officers are mentioned as "judges and officers" (Deuteronomy 16:18), "elders" and "officers" (Deuteronomy 31:28), "heads, tribes, elders officers" (Deuteronomy 29:10 Hebrew 9). It is probable that both classes were selected from among the elders, and that to one class was assigned the work of judging, and that the "officers" exercised executive functions (Schurer). In entirely Jewish communities the same men would be both officers of the community and elders of the synagogue. In this case the same men would have jurisdiction over civil and religious matters.
Schurer, GJV3, section 23, especially 175 Eng. edition, II, i, 149; Benzinger, H A2, 51; Deissmann, Bibelstudien, 153 (sv..); BDB, 278 (.); Preuschen, Griechisch-Deutsches Handworterbuch, under the word, 958.
W. N. Stearns
see ELDER IN THE OLD TESTAMENT; ELDER IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Elder (34 Occurrences)
Matthew 21:28 "But give me your judgement. There was a man who had two sons. He came to the elder of them, and said, "'My son, go and work in the vineyard to-day.' (WEY)
Luke 15:25 "Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT RSV)
John 8:9 But they, having heard that, went out one by one beginning from the elder ones until the last; and Jesus was left alone and the woman standing there. (DBY YLT)
Acts 15:23 They wrote these things by their hand: "The apostles, the elders, and the brothers, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: greetings. (Root in WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Romans 9:12 it was said to her, "The elder will serve the younger." (WEB KJV WEY ASV WBS RSV)
1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; (KJV ASV DBY WBS)
1 Timothy 5:2 the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, in all purity. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS)
1 Timothy 5:19 Don't receive an accusation against an elder, except at the word of two or three witnesses. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Titus 2:2 that the elder men be sober, grave, discreet, sound in faith, in love, in patience; (DBY)
Titus 2:3 that the elder women in like manner be in deportment as becoming those who have to say to sacred things, not slanderers, not enslaved to much wine, teachers of what is right; (DBY)
1 Peter 5:1 I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and who will also share in the glory that will be revealed. (Root in WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you younger ones, be subject to the elder. Yes, all of you gird yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)
2 John 1:1 The elder, to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not I only, but also all those who know the truth; (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
3 John 1:1 The elder to Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Genesis 10:21 To Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, to him also were children born. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT RSV)
Genesis 24:2 Abraham said to his servant, the elder of his house, who ruled over all that he had, "Please put your hand under my thigh. (WEB JPS ASV)
Genesis 25:23 Yahweh said to her, "Two nations are in your womb. Two peoples will be separated from your body. The one people will be stronger than the other people. The elder will serve the younger." (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT RSV)
Genesis 27:1 It happened, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his elder son, and said to him, "My son?" He said to him, "Here I am." (WEB JPS ASV DBY YLT)
Genesis 27:15 Rebekah took the good clothes of Esau, her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob, her younger son. (WEB JPS ASV DBY YLT NAS)
Genesis 27:42 The words of Esau, her elder son, were told to Rebekah. She sent and called Jacob, her younger son, and said to him, "Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS)
Genesis 29:16 Laban had two daughters. The name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT)
1 Samuel 18:17 Saul said to David, "Behold, my elder daughter Merab, I will give her to you as wife. Only be valiant for me, and fight Yahweh's battles." For Saul said, "Don't let my hand be on him, but let the hand of the Philistines be on him." (WEB KJV JPS ASV WBS YLT RSV)
1 Kings 2:22 King Solomon answered his mother, "Why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also; for he is my elder brother; even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah." (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT RSV)
1 Chronicles 18:17 and Benaiah son of Jehoiada 'is' over the Cherethite and the Pelethite, and the elder sons of David 'are' at the hand of the king. (YLT)
2 Chronicles 22:1 And the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah his youngest son king in his stead; for the band of men that came in the camp with the Arabians had slain all the elder ones. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah reigned. (DBY YLT)
Job 15:10 With us are both the gray-headed and the very aged men, much elder than your father. (WEB KJV ASV)
Job 32:4 Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job, because they were elder than he. (WEB KJV ASV)
Isaiah 3:2 the mighty man, the man of war, the judge, the prophet, the diviner, the elder, (WEB JPS ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Isaiah 3:5 And the people shall be oppressed one by the other, and each by his neighbour; the child will be insolent against the elder, and the base against the honourable. (DBY WBS NAS RSV)
Isaiah 9:15 The elder and the honorable man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail. (WEB JPS ASV YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jeremiah 6:11 And with the fury of Jehovah I have been filled, (I have been weary of containing,) To pour 'it' on the suckling in the street, And on the assembly of youths together, For even husband with wife are captured, An elder with one full of days, (YLT)
Ezekiel 16:46 Your elder sister is Samaria, who dwells at your left hand, she and her daughters; and your younger sister, who dwells at your right hand, is Sodom and her daughters. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT RSV)
Ezekiel 16:61 Then you shall remember your ways, and be ashamed, when you shall receive your sisters, your elder sisters and your younger; and I will give them to you for daughters, but not by your covenant. (WEB KJV JPS ASV WBS YLT RSV)
Ezekiel 23:4 The names of them were Oholah the elder, and Oholibah her sister: and they became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Samaria is Oholah, and Jerusalem Oholibah. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)