One Wife In Timothy 3 and Titus 1
1 Timothy 3:2 "Then it behooves the overseer to be without reproach, husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, well-ordered, hospitable, apt at teaching"
I received a question concerning a qualification for two men who were being considered for the office of deacon.
> We are selecting deacons. We have one nominee that was married.
"Mia gune" is the Greek for the phrase that is translated "one wife" in most versions of the scripture. Mia, however is not the Greek word for the number one. The King James translates the word as "one", "a" or "first". Strong's says "one" or "first". For example mia sabbaton is usually translated "first day of the week" as in the first day in order. It is a phrase derived from the literal "first of Sabbaths". Mia is actually the Greek word for "first in order" when used in that context. In other verses it carries more of the idea of "a" such as in Matthew 17:4 where Peter is asking if they should build three tabernacles. Each of the "one"'s could be replaced by the word "a" without changing the meaning.
So now to look at 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6. The death of a wife and divorcing a wife do not disqualify a man from being an elder or deacon. If that were true then we would have received more instruction as to such in the list of items that qualify or disqualify a man. I have for some time stated that the man simply must be married. That is true as a minimum to meet the requirement and this may be all that was intended. However I must suggest that the verse could very well require that an elder or deacon in fact still have their first wives. The verse may have been better translated:
"be the husband of a first wife"
You will have to pray and study and decide if that is true or if it should just say:
"be the husband of a wife"
Either way, "be the husband of one wife" is wrong and misleading. I do not see that the death of the first wife could disqualify as it is not something that relates to the man's ability to rule like divorce or never having been married. My inclination is to lean toward "a wife" rather than "first wife". The main reason for this is because when looking at the sum of God's word that seems more correct. I think the answer is partly in these verses:
1 Timothy 3:4, 5 "ruling his own house well, having children in subjection with all honor. (For if a man does not know to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
A man's marital history might be an indication to determine if he is truly qualified. If he has married and divorced several times that might indicate that he is unstable. That kind of man might not be one to "take care of the church of God". This is why prayer must be involved when choosing a man to fill a leadership role in the church.
An added note. Paul's list applies to men when they become an elder or deacon. The death or divorce of a wife does not of itself disqualify a man from serving if he still passes the character tests in Paul's list. Also once the children are no longer children and they are no longer under the coverature and household of the man he is no longer responsible for their actions. The scripture only talks about a church adding elders. There is no authority to force a man to quit being an elder because he is the only one left. I believe that the remaining elder may continue his duties. His presence and example may very well help that church to add more elders sooner than if he had left. An elder is always an elder unless he no longer passes the character tests in Paul's list.
Feel free to send your helpful comments.