Our first reading today is part of a letter that St. Paul wrote to his disciple Titus whom he had sent to the island of Crete to establish church leaders in every town.. Now, although Paul wrote this letter in Greek, we Americans can only read translations of it into English. Taking up just verses 5 to 7 In Chapter One of Paul’s letter, we can see that things can go wrong with our Catholic and Baptist English translations.
Let me quote both.
First, our Catholic translation states: 5 to 7 like this: For this reason I left you on Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you, 6 on condition that a man be blameless, married only once, with believing children who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious. 7 For a bishop as God’s steward must be blameless.
The Baptist version states: 5. For this sake I left you on Crete that the things lacking might be set right, and you might appoint elders in every city as I ordered you. 6. If one in unimpeachable, husband of one wife, having children who are believers, not accused of dissoluteness or being insubordinate. For it behooves an overseer to be unimpeachable.
Now, Father Joseph A. Fitzmyer is recognized as the world’s best authority on Paul’s letters; and while once attending a week of lessons that he gave to us Florida priests; I was able to ask him abour verses 5 though 7 of Chapter One of Paul’s Letter to Titus. And, he pointed out the mistakes that both Baptists and Catholics made in translating these verses,
The Baptist mistake wasn’t too bad. But the Greek word presbuterous does not directly translate to “elders.” It etymological meaning was a “lead ox.” And our English word “priest” is derived from presbyter.
Let’s look at a unbiased version. Where Paul’s verse 7 was a continuation of his description of the qualifications for a Presbyter, it goes on then to say that as an overseer he should be unimpeachable.
Our Catholic version however disconnected Paul’s chain of thinking so it could interject bishops there. We do that by taking Paul’s word epi scopon, (literally “over seer” ) and translating it as “a bishop.”