Bishop/Elder - "Episkope"

"Episkopos" - Overseers

"Episkopos" is the Greek word used to describe an elder's leadership role. It is sometimes translated as "bishop." It means "overseer" as a watchman over the flocks in Israel that stood in a tower above the flock to gain a view of all that was happening. We would do well to understand what God commanded Ezekiel as a "watchman over the house of Israel." This is what God means for elders.

"So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me." - Ezekiel 33:7

Care must be taken to not misunderstand the term. When translated "bishop" it often yeilds the idea of an office to which one is elected. It is not so much an office as a position to which one is assigned - an overseer, or one who watches over and protects the flock. Often this term gives rise the the "Elder Rule" concept which is foreign to the Lord Jesus and the Apostles. The term bishop is never once used to denote a different office from that of elder or presbyter.

<1984> episkope (ep-is-kop-ay')
from 1980; (to look out for) and from 4649; (watchman)
AV-visitation 2, bishoprick 1, office of a bishop 1; 4

1) investigation, inspection, visitation
1a) that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character, of men, in order to adjudge them their lot accordingly, whether joyous or sad 1b) oversight
1b1) overseership, office, charge, the office of an elder
1b2) the overseer or presiding officers of a Christian church

<1980> episkeptomai (ep-ee-skep'-tom-ahee) - translated as "visit" or "look after"
middle voice from 1909 (look out for) and the base of 4649 (watchman)
AV-visit 10, look out 1; 11

1) to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes
1a) in order to see how he is, i.e. to visit, go to see one
1a1) the poor and afflicted, the sick
1b) to look upon in order to help or to benefit
1b1) to look after, have care for, provide for: of God
1c) to look (about) for, look out (one to choose, employ, etc.)


  • Luke 19:44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation <1984>.
  • Acts 1:20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick <1984> let another take.
  • Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
  • 1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
  • 1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
  • Titus 1:7 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;
  • Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
  • James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit <1980> the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
  • 1 Peter 2:12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation <1984>.
  • 1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.