How do you know when a passage is talking about older men in a congregation or the elders of a congregation?


I was wondering with Elder being mentioned in 1  or 2 or 3rd John and refers to a woman. I just remember reading it (II John 1; III John 1). I remember someone mentioning it to me a long time ago and the question I have now is how do you tell two elders apart from serving in the church and an older person? Is there a difference in the Greek or just the wording? Anyway the question came up in my head.


"The Elder" is the title John refers to himself in his letters. II John is written either to a woman, or to a church using a woman as the personification of a church. III John is addressed to a man named Gaius. Elders are never women since one of the requirements is to be the husband of one wife.

When the office of elders is mentioned, the word "the" usually appears before the word. In Greek that is also the way they refer to a person's name. They often say "the Jesus" instead of just "Jesus" as we do in English. If the word is being used as a description (an adjective) then no "the" will appear before the word.

For example in Titus 2:2 it says in the Greek: presbutas nephalious einai, "(Elderly men) (sober) (to be)." In comparison, Hebrews 11:2 says in the Greek: en taute gar emarturethesan hoi presbuteroi, "(By) (this) (for) (were borne witness to) (the) (elders)."

There are some cases where a "the" doesn't appear in the text, but the context shows us we are talking about the duty or office of the elders and not just older men in a congregation.