Why was the word "Bishop" used in Titus 1:7 and 1 Peter 2:25 [KJV] instead of "Guardian" / "Episkopon" (Ἐπίσκοπον)?

1 Peter 2:25 [KJV]

[25] "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."

Titus 1:7 [KJV]

[7] "7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre".

In the original Greek text of 1 Peter 2:25 & Titus 1:7, we do not find the word "Bishop". - Instead of Bishop, the word "Guardian" / "Episkopon" ( ἐπίσκοπον ) is used.

Why did the KJV use a Bishop instead of simply stating a Guardian or "Episkopon"?

  • 2
    Bishop etymologically comes from Episkopos. It's the same word just untranslated, like Christ 'translates' Christos (Anointed). Oct 12 '20 at 14:11
  • 1
    Some translate the word 'overseer'. I prefer the word 'evaluator', myself. The word is a matter of clearly assessing what is visible. But tradition is involved and quarrels arise. Down-vote cancelled (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Oct 12 '20 at 14:43
  • If "Bishop" derives from "bisceop", could "bisceop" be an Old English mistransliteration of the Latin "episcopus" that derived from the Greek "ἐπίσκοπον"? Oct 12 '20 at 17:37
  • For etymological questions such as this one, please consult Linguistics.SE, Latin.SE, or the Wiktionary.
    – Lucian
    Oct 12 '20 at 18:48

Merriam Webster:

The Old English word bisceop, from which we get our English word bishop, comes from the Latin word episcopus. Like many other Latin words connected with religion and the church, this was borrowed from Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written. The Greek word episkopos, meaning “overseer,” was first used for officials in government, and later came to be used for church leaders. In the Bible, bishop and priest were used to identify the same thing. It was much later when a bishop became overseer of a large district, or diocese.

The meaning of the word bishop has changed over the centuries from overseer to today's bishop as a title in the Catholic church. To avoid that confusion, the New King James Version translated 1 Peter 2:25 as

For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

  • This question isn't about the NKJV, but the KJV.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 12 '20 at 23:07

The word ἐπίσκοπος (episkopos) literally means one who looks over, ie, an overseer. It occurs just 5 times in the NT, Acts 20:28, Phil 1:1, 1 Tim 3;2, Tit 1:7, 1 Peter 2:25, and is used almost synonymously with πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros) - see Acts 20:17, 28, 1 Tim 3:2, cf. Tit 1:5, 7, 1 Peter 5:1-3.

BDAG provides the following meaning:

one who has the responsibility of safeguarding or seeing to it that something is done in the correct way, guardian, eg, 1 Peter 2:25, ... In the Gr-Rom world, frequently refers to one who has a definite function or fixed office of guardianship and related activity within a group ... overseer, supervisor, eg, Acts 20:28, Phil 1:1, 1 Tim 3;2, Tit 1:7.

The KJV word meanings were quite accurate at the time they were translated but word meaning have changed somewhat in the last 400 years. The English word "bishop" has the following etymology (Macquarrie and OED):

ME; OE bisce(o)p, from VL (e)biscopus, var of L episcopus, from Gr episkopos overseer.

Thus, the old English "Bishop" and "overseer" are the same word. Almost all modern versions use this modern word, including the NKJV, BLB and YLT.

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