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ὁμοίως, νεώτεροι, ὑποτάγητε πρεσβυτέροις. πάντες δὲ ἀλλήλοις τὴν ταπεινοφροσύνην ἐγκομβώσασθε, ὅτι Ὁ θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν.

1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)
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."

Does the Greek text have any indication as to whether this means

  • the elders of the local church, or
  • all elderly people in general?

Which way should the passage be interpreted?

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Maybe the title shall be changed to "Who are the πρεσβυτέροι in 1 Peter 5:1-5"? Because the πρεσβυτέροι do not only appear in the 5<sup>th</sup> verse … – Karl von Moor Oct 6 '11 at 19:48
up vote 8 down vote accepted

They are the pillars of the early church, not only the old ones – although they are from the group of the old and experienced.1 According to verse 2a they shall "be shepherds of God's flock".

The technical use of the word πρεσβυτέροι for the heads of a community was usual for OT-Jewish region and "understandable" for the hellenistic environment.2

1: Leonahrt Goppelt, Der erste Petrusbrief, Göttingen 71912, p. 321
2: Bornkamm, ''Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament'', p. 660-666

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