In Titus 1:5, it is written,

Εʹ Τούτου χάριν κατέλιπόν σε ἐν Κρήτῃ ἵνα τὰ λείποντα ἐπιδιορθώσῃ καὶ καταστήσῃς κατὰ πόλιν πρεσβυτέρους ὡς ἐγώ σοι διεταξάμην TR, 1550

My question concerns the meaning of the verb καταστήσῃς, a conjugation of the lemma καθίστημι. My assumption is that it means (just as it is translated in the KJV, 1769) “to appoint, ordain.”

According to LSJ, it is “usu[ally] without the inf[initive].” The first example it provides of this particular usage is the following from Herodotus:1

...and he appointed Mascames son of Megadostes governor in this Doriscus...
...καὶ ὕπαρχον ἐν τῷ Δορίσκῳ τούτῳ καταστήσας Μασκάμην τὸν Μεγαδόστεω...

I notice that there is a double accusative as the direct object of the verb: (1) Μασκάμην (“Mascames”) and (2) ὕπαρχον (“governor”): “He appointed Mascames governor.” Also, in Aristophanes,2 there is «καταστήσας σ᾽ ἐγὼ τύραννον», once again with the double accusative: (1) σ᾽ (“you”) and (2) τύραννον (“ruler”): “I shall appoint you ruler.” (One could perhaps supply the infinitive “to be” between the two accusatives.)

  1. Is there a basis for interpreting καθίστημι to mean “appoint, ordain” in Tit. 1:5 despite it lacking a double accusative?
  2. Or, is there an ellipsis wherein a noun must be supplied to complete the double accusative?
  3. Are the elders being appointed to an office, or are some people being appointed to be elders (which would make “elders” the office to which some people are appointed)?

Related: “Of Titus and Old Men”

1 Herodotus. The Histories. (Book 7, Ch. 105)
2 Aristophanes. Birds. (Line 1672)

2 Answers 2


The examples you provide from Greek literature involve appointing specific persons to particular offices. Paul is not writing to Titus that he expects him to appoint so-and-so as elders. He is simply directing Titus to appoint elders in general.

I didn't research similar usages in Greek literature, but they occur in the Septuagint. For example:

Genesis 41:34 LXX

καὶ ποιησάτω Φαραω καὶ καταστησάτω τοπάρχας ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, καὶ ἀποπεμπτωσάτωσαν πάντα τὰ γενήματα τῆς γῆς Αἰγύπτου τῶν ἑπτὰ ἐτῶν τῆς εὐθηνίας

And let Pharao make and appoint local governors over the land; and let them take up a fifth part of all the produce of the land of Egypt for the seven years of the plenty.

Exodus 18:21

καὶ σὺ σεαυτῷ σκέψαι ἀπὸ παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ ἄνδρας δυνατοὺς θεοσεβεῖς, ἄνδρας δικαίους μισοῦντας ὑπερηφανίαν, καὶ καταστήσεις αὐτοὺς ἐπʼ αὐτῶν χιλιάρχους καὶ ἑκατοντάρχους καὶ πεντηκοντάρχους καὶ δεκαδάρχους

And do thou look out for thyself out of all the people able men, fearing God, righteous men, hating pride, and thou shalt set over the people captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, and captains of fifties, and captains of tens.


An "elder" is not an "office" per se but rather a family and societal role in Semitic societies (which continued into Pauline assemblies). That is, elders were the alpha males of families who represented the families in the broader congregation:

NIV Numbers 11:16 The LORD said to Moses: "Bring me seventy of Israel's elders who are known to you [IE: recognized by you] as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you.

This was not unique to Israel:

ESV Genesis 50:7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,

NIV Numbers 22:7 The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.

The 70 elders of Israel were to be the ones recognized by the people as leaders and officials and were trusted by the people to represent them at the "tent of meeting".

The alpha male of the family would always be a male and always of significant age, hence the name "elder" which in the Greek was literally an "older man" and age commanded respect:

NIV 1 Timothy 5: 1Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

However while the elder of a family would be a senior member (and never what the ancients referred to as a "whipper-snapper") or a woman there could be an exception in the case of a family bereft of a competent representative because of a lack of marbles in the most senior's marble cache and such. [citation needed]

Elders serving in the wider congregation must not be a man with more than one wife since he might favor one family unit over the other and the less loved wife might go unrepresented and would probably be overburdened and thus unable to be devoted to a more public role:

ESV 1 Timothy 3:2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

NIV 1 Corinthians 7: 32I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

So it is not possible to vote a person into such a role. It is a question of recognizing the voice of those who are the legitimate family leaders. You can't make a young person or a woman an elder by democracy. The respected elders of the community are recognized and charged with public leadership and the others defer. They received public endorsement and responsibility. That is the way it was from ancient times. If you visit tribal societies you will find the same today.


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