1Timothy 5:17: What is “Double Honor”?

From the last in a six post series over at New Leaven comes this little puzzler, courtesy of that “hard to understand” apostle, Paul:

1Ti 5:17-18 NET. Elders who provide effective leadership must be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching. (18) For the scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The worker deserves his pay.”

The question has arisen: Just what does “honor” and “double honor” mean?

I’m no scholar, but thanks to e-Sword, I can give you a range of antique opinion upon this question.

Antique Quotes on 1 Tim 5:17:

John Calvin:
Accounted worthy of double honor: Chrysostom interprets “double honor” as meaning “support and reverence.” I do not oppose his opinion; let it be adopted by any one that chooses. But for my own part, I think it is more probable that a comparison is here drawn between widows and elders. Paul had formerly enjoined that honor should be paid — to widows; but elders are more worthy of being honored than widows, and, with respect to them, ought therefore to receive double honor.

George Haydock:
1Ti 5:17-18 The priests, or ancient ministers, (i.e. bishops, priests, &c.) deserve a double honour; i.e. to be more liberally supplied and maintained by the flock, especially when they labour in preaching the word. — Thou shalt not muzzle, &c. See 1 Corinthians ix. 9. (Witham) — It is the obligation of the faithful to provide a decent maintenance for their pastors, and the duty of pastors to be content with little. Happy the church where there is no further difference found than between the liberality of the former and the disinterestedness of the latter!

John Gill:
counted worthy of double honour; which some understand of honour in this world, and in the world to come, and which they have; they are honoured now by Christ, though reproached by the world, by being called unto, qualified for, and succeeded in the work of the ministry; and when they have faithfully discharged it, they will be honoured by him hereafter, and be introduced into his joy with commendation, and shine as the stars for ever and ever. But rather this is to be understood both of that outward respect that is to be shown them by words and actions; and of a sufficient maintenance that is to be provided for them; in which sense the word “honour” is used in this chapter before; See Gill on 1Ti_5:3, and some think that the comparison is between the widows before mentioned, and these elders; that if poor widows in the church are to be honoured and maintained, then much more the officers of it; these are worthy of more honour, even of double honour, or, a larger and a more honourable main tenant: and indeed this seems to be the meaning of the word “double” when used both in an ill and in a good sense; see Rev_18:6 and is an allusion to the firstborn among the Jews, who was to have a double portion of his father’s goods, Deu_21:17 and so may here signify, that the ministers of the Gospel ought not to have a short and scanty, but a large and honourable maintenance.

Adam Clarke:
Double honor – Διπλης τιμης. Almost every critic of note allows that τιμη here signifies reward, stipend, wages. Let him have a double or a larger salary who rules well; and why? Because in the discharge of his office he must be at expense, in proportion to his diligence, in visiting and relieving the sick, in lodging and providing for strangers; in a word, in his being given to hospitality, which was required of every bishop or presbyter.

Matthew Henry:
1Ti 5:17-25
Here are directions,
I. Concerning the supporting of ministers. Care must be taken that they be honourably maintained (1Ti_5:17): Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour (that is, of double maintenance, double to what they have had, or to what others have), especially those who labour in the word and doctrine, those who are more laborious than others. Observe, The presbytery ruled, and the same that ruled were those who laboured in the word and doctrine: they had not one to preach to them and another to rule them, but the work was done by one and the same person. Some have imagined that by the elders that rule well the apostle means lay-elders, who were employed in ruling but not in teaching, who were concerned in church-government, but did not meddle with the administration of the word and sacraments; and I confess this is the plainest text of scripture that can be found to countenance such an opinion. But it seem a little strange that mere ruling elders should be accounted worthy of double honour, when the apostle preferred preaching to baptizing, and much more would he prefer it to ruling the church; and it is more strange that the apostle should take no notice of them when he treats of church-officers; but, as it is hinted before, they had not, in the primitive church, one to preach to them and another to rule them, but ruling and teaching were performed by the same persons, only some might labour more in the word and doctrine than others. Here we have, 1. The work of ministers; it consists principally in two things: ruling well and labouring in the word and doctrine. This was the main business of elders or presbyters in the days of the apostles. 2. The honour due to those who were not idle, but laborious in this work; they were worthy of double honour, esteem, and maintenance. He quotes a scripture to confirm this command concerning the maintenance of ministers that we might think foreign; but it intimates what a significancy there was in many of the laws of Moses, and particularly in this, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn, Deu_25:4. The beasts that were employed in treading out the corn (for that way they took instead of threshing it) were allowed to feed while they did the work, so that the more work they did the more food they had; therefore let the elders that labour in the word and doctrine be well provided for; for the labourer is worthy of his reward (Mat_10:10), and there is all the reason in the world that he should have it. We hence learn, (1.) God, both under the law, and now under the gospel, has taken care that his ministers be well provided for. Does God take care for oxen, and will he not take care of his own servants? The ox only treads out the corn of which they make the bread that perishes; but ministers break the bread of life which endures for ever. (2.) The comfortable subsistence of ministers, as it is God’s appointment that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel (1Co_9:14), so it is their just due, as much as the reward of the labourer; and those who would have ministers starved, or not comfortably provided for, God will require it of them another day.

John Welsey:
1Ti 5:17 Let the elders that rule well – Who approve themselves faithful stewards of all that is committed to their charge. Be counted worthy of double honour – A more abundant provision, seeing that such will employ it all to the glory of God. As it was the most laborious and disinterested men who were put into these offices, so whatever any one had to bestow, in his life or death, was generally lodged in their hands for the poor. By this means the churchmen became very rich in after ages, but as the design of the donors was something else, there is the highest reason why it should be disposed of according to their pious intent. Especially those – Of them. Who labour – Diligently and painfully. In the word and teaching – In teaching the word.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown:
be counted worthy of double honour — that is, the honor which is expressed by gifts (1Ti_5:3, 1Ti_5:18) and otherwise. If a presbyter as such, in virtue of his office, is already worthy of honor, he who rules well is doubly so [Wiesinger] (1Co_9:14; Gal_6:6; 1Th_5:12). Not literally that a presbyter who rules well should get double the salary of one who does not rule well [Alford], or of a presbyteress widow, or of the deacons [Chrysostom]. “Double” is used for large in general (Rev_18:6).

Albert Barnes:
Be counted worthy of double honour – Of double respect; that is, of a high degree of respect; of a degree of respect becoming their age and office; compare 1Th_5:12-13. From the quotation which is made in 1Ti_5:18, in relation to this subject, it would seem probable that the apostle had some reference also to their support, or to what was necessary for their maintenance. There is no improbability in supposing that all the officers of the church, of whatever grade or rank, may have had some compensation, corresponding to the amount of time which their office required them to devote to the service of the church. Nothing would be more reasonable than that, if their duties in the church interfered with their regular employments in their secular calling, their brethren should contribute to their support; compare notes on 1 Cor. 9.

Marvin Vincent:
Double honor (διπλης τιμης)
This at least includes pecuniary remuneration for services, if it is not limited to that. The use of τιμή as pay or price appears Mat_27:6, Mat_27:9; Act_4:34; Act_7:16; 1Co_6:20. Double, not in a strictly literal sense, but as πλείονα τιμὴν more honor, Heb_3:3. The comparison is with those Elders who do not exhibit equal capacity or efficiency in ruling. The passage lends no support to the Reformed theory of two classes of Elders – ruling and teaching. The special honor or emolument is assigned to those who combine qualifications for both.

A.T. Robertson:
Of double honour (diples times). Old and common contract adjective (diploos, two-fold, in opposition to haploos, single fold). But why “of double honour”? See note on 1Ti_6:1 for “of all honour.” White suggests “remuneration” rather than “honour” for times (a common use for price or pay). Liddon proposes “honorarium” (both honour and pay and so “double”). Wetstein gives numerous examples of soldiers receiving double pay for unusual services. Some suggest twice the pay given the enrolled widows.

There are generally accounted five options to understanding “double honor”:

1. honor and pay

2. double honor as 1) elders and 2) ones who worked well

3. double the gifts given widows

4. more, but not double the pay of widows

5. more honor, not pay, as widows

(College Press NT Commentary, Baker NT Commentary)

3 thoughts on “1Timothy 5:17: What is “Double Honor”?

  1. Scripture MUST be used to interpret scripture.
    Paul …(who commanded that all must provide for themseves wherever possible) …explains what he means by double honor in a later parallel passage which somehow is never considered.
    1 Thess 5:12-13
    And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. NKJV

    Double honor is “recognition” and “being highly esteemed”. The wage which the worker is worthy of is HONOR….not money! (which would be contrary to Jesus words in Luke 16:13)

    The interpretations put on this by many that ‘double honor’ includes ‘financial reward’ is wishfull thinking which exposes their own covetous hearts.

  2. ! Thess.5:13 directs church members to pay due respect to their elders, that is, to obey them as they teach and admonish and give pastoral oversight to the flock over which God has made them overseers (bishops viz., Greek “episkopos”. .i.e. their function, not a title or office). The ‘double’ honour spoken of in 1 Tim.5:17 then becomes the honour due to their office, i.e. the esteem, approbation and obedience of the flock, plus something else. Since Paul in 1 Timothy 5 immediatley after verse 17 gives the example of ‘not muzzling the ox that treads out the grain’, he clearly has in mind that the elders who “rule well” should be recompensed for their labours. The ‘rule’ here spoken of is the teaching function that is requisite of all elders – they must be “apt to teach”; they rule by teaching the flock to observe all that the Lord has laid down in His Word for us to obey. What about the additional phrase “especially those who labour in the word and doctrine”? Paul cannot be teaching us that there are some elders who don’t rule well, and some that do, and we are especially to give double honour to those who do – those who labour in the word and doctrine. Surely he would admonish those who were not ruling well and require them to reform? To labour in the word and doctrine implies that there were some elders who did nothing else, i.e. their sole work was the ministry of the word. Hence it appropriate that they”especially” should be rewarded for their labours – you shall not muzzle the ox, etc. The “well” of the preceding clause can be explained as Paul’s recommendation of the ministry of all elders to the flock – viz., their rule is from the Lord, it is ‘well’, i.e. the Lords provision for the oversight and care of His people.

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