As far as I know, it has been widely argued that the "shepherds (or pastors) and teachers" in this verse stands collectively, that is, they are treated as one class of office. If so, what is the significance of using two words "shepherds and teachers" and not just one word to name it?

Eph 4:11 ESV And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers...

Does this imply something like there can actually be two types of ministers here, one who does the shepherding and another who does the teaching (though they both are in the same level of service and both belong to one class of officers)?

  • @JonahElbert Are you referring to the "Five-Fold Ministries" discussion? Eph. 4:11 is the basic text quote for this doctrine; referring to the "Ministry Offices" vs 'ministry gifts'.
    – Tau
    Sep 19, 2014 at 2:48
  • Contrary to your expectations, this is actually the first time I've ever heard it suggested that they should be considered collectively!
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 8, 2014 at 8:28

3 Answers 3


It is sometimes argued by modern American Christians (who are used to having a single "pastor-teacher" figure up in front of their church) that pastors and teachers are the same. However, I would be careful not to think of this as the majority view (or even the majority view amongst scholars.)

The interpretive decision to group "pastors and teachers" together is based on a misunderstanding of a rule of Greek syntax known as "Granville Sharp's Rule".

For a full explanation of why this is a misapplication of the Rule, see Daniel Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, or his 1983 journal article 'The Semantic Range of the Article-Noun-Kai'-Noun Plural Construction in the New Testament (Grace Theological Journal 4(1), 59–84).

For a quick example of why this interpretation of the Rule does not work, cf. 2:20 and 3:5 where such logic would require that all apostles are prophets and all prophets are apostles, which does not work either in the immediate contexts, nor in the synthesis of Scripture's overall teachings.

  • Pulled out Wallace's book to remind myself of the exact details of Granville Sharp Rule. Certainly this is does not meet the requirements--they are plural nouns and are not preceded by a only one nominative article, ὁ. But, setting that rule aside, it does seem something interesting is happening in 4:11. Each office is give a τους and linked with a δε, with the exception of shepherds and teachers, in which only shepherd is preceded by a τους and there is a και linking teacher. Is it not possible, then, that shepherd-teacher is still a single, linked idea? Mar 31, 2018 at 23:11
  • Not a strict (a = b) overlap, but at least some unique sense of overlap? Possibly referring to elders, those who are commanded to shepherd and teach? Mar 31, 2018 at 23:13

A footnote found in the TEV Bible at bible.org provides us with a nice summary of the passage under consideration:

"Some interpreters have understood the phrase pastors and teachers to refer to one and the same group. This would mean that all pastors are teachers and that all teachers are pastors. This position is often taken because it is recognized that both nouns (i.e., pastors and teachers) are governed by one article in Greek. But because the nouns are plural, it is extremely unlikely that they refer to the same group, but only that the author is linking them closely together. It is better to regard the pastors as a subset of teachers. In other words, all pastors are teachers, but not all teachers are pastors" (my emphasis).

Complicating things a bit is the office of bishop (alternately, elder or overseer) whom Peter called "shepherds of the flock" (1 Peter 5:2), since the norm for local churches in the first century seems to have been a plurality of bishops/elders/overseers/under-shepherds, with Christ as the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep (see John 10: 11 and 14; Acts 20:17 and 28).

"For this reason I [Paul] left you in Crete, that you [Titus] would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you" (Titus 1:5 NAS).

Complicating things even further is that one of the qualifications to be a ruling elder is the ability to teach, or as a number of versions put it, "apt to teach." I like the use of the word apt, which in addition to meaning able also carries with it the concept of fitness to perform the task of teaching, particularly when false teaching threatens to spoil the unity within a local congregation (or even, perhaps, an entire denomination!). This verse implies, I believe, that an elder may not have the gift of teaching, but he or she does have sufficient biblical savvy (if I may put it that way) to recognize bad doctrine from good, and is able to confront and refute bad doctrine.

Another aspect of fitness is a biblical integrity and sincerity. God does not want hypocritical leaders in his church. A church's leaders must be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2; 3:10; and Titus 1:6-7); if not, they are not fit (or apt) to teach. In other words, not every elder is necessarily gifted by the Holy Spirit to be a teacher to the body, but every elder needs to be fit to teach in two modes, if you will:

  • sound doctrine, which can be measured against apostolic teaching and doctrine which were once and for all delivered to the saints (see Jude 1:3b NASB Updated).

  • refutation, which uses apostolic teaching to confront false teachers and refute their false teaching, as Titus 1:9 makes clear:

". . . holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that . . . [an elder] will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict."

Put differently, the elders in a local church are to be diligent in spotting and exposing a counterfeit faith, but they must also be diligent in studying the real faith, which is, interestingly, how Treasury Department investigators learn how to spot counterfeit money; namely, by studying the real thing!

Before positing a tentative answer to your question, we need to consider another wrinkle in the exercise of the "spirituals" (i.e., spiritual gifts) and the fulfillment of roles within a church or group of churches. Paul addresses that wrinkle in 1 Timothy 5:17-18:

"The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor , especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING," and 'The laborer is worthy of his wages.'"

Putting all the above information together, I suggest there are several kinds of servant-leaders in any given local church, or any group of local churches, no matter the size or how widely spread geographically they might be. (Remember, Titus was responsible for appointing elders in at least two or more churches--"in every city"--in Crete).

    1. elders/pastors/under-shepherds who serve a church or churches in a volunteer capacity and who support themselves with the income from "normal jobs," whatever those jobs may be. The day to day care of the church may be entrusted to another person who is called by God to serve fulltime, with the congregation providing for his support (and that of his family, if that pertains).
    1. elders/pastors/under-shepherds who serve as fulltime preachers and teachers within a church or churches and who deserve to be supported financially by their church or churches since they "work hard at preaching and teaching." I suggest this category of person is the equivalent of our modern-day vocational minister/pastor/priest/rector who is supported by his or her local church (or denomination) after being "ordained" for such a ministry. Usually, some sort of extensive education, training, and/or credentialing is required of fulltime vocational ministers of the word today.
    1. elders/pastors/under-shepherds who could be described as "tentmakers." They are servant-leaders who supplement their income with part-time (possibly fulltime) jobs or trades as needed (e.g., making and repairing tents, as the apostle Paul did, Acts 18:3). Like Paul, they may be sent forth by a church or denomination to be cross-cultural missionaries, for example, in the "field" to which they are called. Sometimes their denomination provides a salary, and sometimes these modern-day apostles may be required to raise their own support from a number of churches and individuals (e.g., family members and friends)

Putting all these seemingly disparate parts together, I think it is safe to conclude the following:

  • a pastor/teacher is a gift from God to the church universal in whatever incarnation that church or para-church ministry might take:
  • "And He [the resurrected Jesus] gave [to the church universal] some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13 NASB Updated, my emphasis).
  • the role of a pastor/teacher involves teaching, but not every teacher is a pastor, nor is every pastor called only to teach, but to shepherd the flock through teaching, exhorting, preaching, rebuking, encouraging, discipling, and providing leadership to elders and deacons (though in some denominations, "the pastor" is also accountable to the elders), to name just a few of the tasks associated with the role of a pastor/teacher. We must keep in mind, however, that the lead pastor in a church does not possess all the gifts, and wise is the leadership in a church who encourage a lead pastor to function within his area of giftedness and not burn out by either using that giftedness or by attempting to function in an area in which he is not gifted!

In conclusion, I myself am an example of a teacher who is not a pastor. My calling of God is as a teacher. My role, almost from its nascency, has been as a scholar/teacher. My bent from the very beginning has been to

"Be diligent to present . . . [myself] approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB Updated).

Frankly, I have never "aspired to the office of overseer [i.e., bishop/episcopos], content by being just a teacher to the body. This is not to say I will never aspire to the office of bishop, but at 64, it's beginning to look less and less likely!

  • Please remember that this site focuses on interpretation of the text but stops short of modern application. If you disagree with these site guidelines, it should be brought up on meta.
    – Susan
    Oct 7, 2014 at 22:40
  • @Susan: Thank you for the suggestion, but speaking only for me, I think my bringing something up on meta would not be a wise--not to mention an efficient--use of my time, which is not to say I'll never bring up something on Meta, as I recognize Meta as being, potentially at least, a good and useful feature of BHB. Don Oct 7, 2014 at 23:43

This is found through understanding the teachings and dissecting communication. Two metaphors have been used to help determine this structure from scripture.

  • The Water of Life
  • The Light

The Water of Life

Here is a representation for the Teacher.

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38 NKJV)

Here is a representation for the Student/Shepherd.

but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14 NKJV)

The Light

Here is a representation for the Teacher. Where the Light shines out from inside.

But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. (Ephesians 5:13 NKJV)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NKJV)

Here is a representation for the Student/Shepherd. Where the Light is received.

Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14 NKJV)

Teachings that Reflect This

Truly I say to you whoever does not enter into the heart by the word but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters by the word is ruler over the speaker. To the ruler, the doors of the heart will open, the ears will hear the words of the ruler, the ruler calls to words by name and leads them out. And when the ruler brings out these words the ruler will stand before them, and those words follow for they know the voice of the speaker. Yet the words will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.

All who ever came before me are thieves and robbers but they have not heard of these truths. If anyone enters by the word, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his own life for the words being spoken to me. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the words, sees the wolf coming and leaves the conversation and flees; and the wolf catches the words and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about what is being said. I am the good shepherd; and I know my truth, and am known by my own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the truth. And other truths I have which are not of the speaker; them also I must bring, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

“Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my own thoughts that I may take my thoughts again. No one takes my thoughts from me, but I lay my thoughts down by myself. I have power to lay them down, and I have power to take them again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:1-18 - The sheep, gate, and shepherd : Decoded Version 1.0)

The Role as a Shepherd

As the listener to the conversation, because of "prayer to the breath", the shepherd guides truth from the heart of the speaker into their own house(memory).

The Role as a Teacher

As the speaker, truth comes from within and shines the light to all that hear.

Why it is done this way

And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. (John 4:36 NKJV)

For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3 NKJV)

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NKJV)

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