“hēgeomai”

Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: hā-ge’-o-mī
  • Strongs Concordance: #G2233
  • Appears 29 times in 7 verses
    • to lead
      • to go before
      • to be a leader
        • to rule, command
        • to have authority over
        • a prince, of regal power, governor, viceroy, chief, leading as respects influence, controlling in counsel, overseers or leaders of the churches
        • used of any kind of leader, chief, commander
        • the leader in speech, chief, spokesman
    • to consider, deem, account, think
  • Common translations
    • “Ruler” (1x)
    • “chief” (1x)
    • “consider”,”considered”,”considering” (6x)
    • “count”, “counted” (5x)
    • “esteem” 1
    • “governor” 1
    • “leader”, “leaders”, “leading” (5x)
    • “led” 1
    • “regard”, “regarded” ( 6x)
    • “thought” (2x)

Where and how hēgeomai is used in the New Testament

  1. Matthew 2:6 NASB – “6 ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'””

  2. Luke 22:26 NASB – “26 “But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.”

  3. Acts 7:10 NASB – “10 and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household.”

  4. Acts 14:12 NASB – “12 And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.”

  5. Acts 15:22 NASB – “22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas–Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren,”

  6. Acts 26:2 NASB – “2 “In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today;”

  7. 2 Corinthians 9:5 NASB – “5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness.”

  8. Philippians 2:3, 6, 25 NASB – “3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; … 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, … 25 But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;”

  9. Philippians 3:7-8 NASB – “7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,”

  10. 1 Thessalonians 5:13 NASB – “13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.”

  11. 2 Thessalonians 3:15 NASB – “15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

  12. 1 Timothy 1:12 NASB – “12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,”

  13. 1 Timothy 6:1 NASB – “1 All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.”

  14. Hebrews 10:29 NASB – “29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

  15. Hebrews 11:11, 26 NASB – “11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. … 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.”

  16. Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24 NASB – “7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. … 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. … 24 Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.”

  17. James 1:2 NASB – “2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,”

  18. 2 Peter 1:13 NASB – “13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder,”

  19. 2 Peter 2:13 NASB – “13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you,”

  20. 2 Peter 3:9, 15 NASB – “9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. … 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,”

My observations and perspective

 

One thing is very apparent to me as I study the word hēgeomai…

The majority (69% –  20 out of 29 times, the word is related to considering/thinking/esteeming, regarding) of the times the word is used in the New Testament, it is used with it’s second Strong’s concordance meaning (“to consider, deem, account, think” or the verses that use derivatives of considering, thinking, esteeming and  regarding..).

I wonder if it’s fair then to say that when used in reference to people, the subjects are those who are receiving esteem? In other words… are “leaders” those who are the esteemed or regarded? What is a person was not regarded? What if today, a local church leaders is not regarded (perhaps for good reasons). Is the scripture speaking of a role of office that should be regarded, or of the person? Does our western viewpoint of “respect the uniform, not the man” cause us to get tripped up here?

There is no case for being dogmatic about this, but a simple observation of these 29 uses of the word hēgeomai sure does seem to indicate that the word has very little to do with a ruling sort of leadership but about being held in high regard or esteemed. This is consistent with the Jewish culture that regarded their older men as elders but still had others in their ranks they consider “leading men” (and women).

The word hēgeomai is used to describe many levels of being regarded – from regarded as a ruler (Jesus) or regarded as the governor, or regarded as the lead spokesperson and being esteemed as a leader. The heart of this word seems to entail “a considerate assigning of value to someone”. Is this respect-based, or duty-based?

The word does not seem to indicate an office occupied or held by way of appointment, but does speak of roles – even within the local church – that warrant esteem. Warranting esteem and dutifully requiring obedience are not the same thing.

In the cultural context, most of these roles appear to have been by popular consensus -not by duty. It appears that esteem and regard was an earned right of the subject of the esteem and not due them simply because of office. The entire body of teaching in the New Testament on leaders/elders affirms this as can be read elsewhere on this site. No teaching seems to make the saint duty-bound to obeying the words of a local church leader, elder, pastor, bishop, etc.

With this idea of “esteem” and “regard” in mind, the reader has the freedom to experiment with being a translator. In some instances of this word , translators chose one english word over another. Try doing likewise. Try substituting other english words in the list of words used for  hēgeomai and see what emerges. Think on these while also considering things like Hellenization, Jewish culture, communities influenced by their elders, etc.

If you feel weird doing such an exercise, please consider that the english words are themselves not inspired, of we’re all in big trouble for not using one common translation. The English words were chosen by learned people tasked with trying to describe what is being said. These learned people are every bit as biased as the rest of us.

When doing so, it becomes apparent that perhaps the bias of translators skews some of them toward more formal and Greek views of regarding leadership. When this happens, Hellenized worldviews are projected into non-hellenized contexts. What is perhaps willful esteem and respect becomes duty and obligatory obedience. I fear this is how we’ve come to the place where many have abdicated their relationship with God once again to a High Priest, or rather had it usurped by someone else.

When this happens, you end up getting “obey your leaders” when a more Jewish perspective would likely have read “allow yourself to be persuaded by those that are highly regarded among you” (Heb.13:17). One sounds dictatorial and doesn’t jive with the New Covenant nor the rest of scripture, and the other fits perfectly in the cultural context.

Regardless of translation and bias and the like… no case can be shown here for a person bearing authority that requires another person to obey them in a local church context. Those who wish to argue about Hebrews 13:17, please consider my comments here.

Are elders leaders?

If one reads Acts 15:22 plainly, it should be apparent that the writer makes a distinction between the “leading men” chosen and those otherwise referred to as elders and apostles. This tells us that at least in some cases, the elders were not the leading men, or vice versa. What does this then say about elders?

Was the church in Acts 15 lead by consensus, or by elder/leader decisions?

Another important observation here is that that “it seemed good to the apostles, the elders, AND the whole church to do something, and so they did. The whole local church was involved. This is at least one example of a consensus approach to decision making and evidence that the local church in Acts 15 did not abdicate their decisions to their elders and/or leaders as some advocate doing these days.

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