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Reverend: Is it a title appropriate for the minister of the gospel?

by Church Times

Reverend: Is it a title appropriate for the minister of the gospel?

reverend

Pastor Odunuga

  Olatokunbo Odunuga

I have read many documents and in fact, listened to messages where people of God are rebuked for bearing the title “Reverend”.

The argument is that Reverend is the name or title referring to or reserved only for God. But I wish to differ and to appeal that we cease rebuking or deriding the Reverend gentlemen, since we bear with those who put Pastor or Prophet, etc before their names. Even if care is not taken, the prefixed Brother X or Sister Y may in future degenerate into a Pharisaic religious identity. But God forbid! I have also not seen a single instance in scriptures where any of the apostles or believers refer personally to himself as Brother So and So.

But I see “I, John, your brother and partaker with you in the affliction (Rev 1:9)….”When they saw the grace given to me, James, Cephas (Peter) and John…”-Gal 2:9……”And after they had finished speaking, James responded saying, Brethren, listen to me, Simon(Peter) has described how God first visited the gentiles….'(Acts 15:13). You will notice that from the leadership to the others, they were in first name relationship. Their brotherhood was not about title -Bro So and So but philadelphic relationship.

 

2.0  The issue originated from Psalm 111: 9   “…… he hath commanded His covenant forever : holy and reverend is his name”. There is no way we would not be running into the web of narrowness and provincialism if we draw our scriptural resources from only one version of the Bible, especially the KJV- which spirit-filled, consecrated scholars have suggested to be among the most defective. I have mentioned it over and over that even in the preface to the RSV and NRSV Bibles, this same conclusion have been drawn and courageously stated.

 

About five years ago, a student in a seminary retorted that there seems to be a conspiracy against KJV. I was in pain by this exhibition of limited understanding, obstinacy, and intellectual brain-wash displayed by this KJV addict. One does not need to have passed through a Bible College or even a secondary school to realize that if the original KJV is flawless, there would have been no need for its revision to produce NKJV, 20th Century KJV, RNKJV, KJVA, International KJV, MKJV, KJV 2000, KJVR etc. which are all subsequent revisions and update of the 400-year old KJV.

 

3.0  Let us check Psalm 111: 9 in various versions

NKJV: “… Holy and awesome is His name”.

YLT: “Holy and fearful is His name”.

RSV: “Holy and terrible is His name”.

NLT: “what a holy, awe-inspiring name He has”.

NIRV: “His name is holy and wonderful”.

NIV: “Holy and awesome is His name”.

Message: “He’s so personal and holy, worthy of our respect”.

GW: “His name is holy and terrifying”.

GNB: “Holy and mighty is He”.

Geneva Bible: “Holy and fearful is His name”.

ERV: “God’s name is amazing and holy”.

DRB: “Holy and terrible is his name”.

BBE: “Holy is His name and greatly to be feared”.

In essence, “reverend” can be essentially interchangeable with, to be feared, terrible, amazing, to be respected, awe-inspiring, awesome, etc and it is actually not a personal name. Even the Yoruba Bible translated by Bishop Ajayi Crowther gives a good picture, ‘……Mimo in oruko re, o si lowo’ literally meaning ‘His name is holy and hallowed’. So holy and reverend are two adjectives qualifying God’s name and not that God’s first name is ‘holy’ and that the middle name is ‘reverend’. Who was that “Father” who gave birth to God and named Him ‘Reverend’ when He Himself had declared in Isaiah 42: 8 that, “I am  Jehovah, that is my name”

 

4.0. The Yorubas call Reverend gentleman – “Eni-owo” that is, a respectable person; One to be honoured or held in high esteem. What the unknown Psalmist who composed Psalm 119 implied was that the name of the Lord is awesome, worthy of honours and adoration and to be held in reverence. He did not in the least convey the impression that God’s name is “Reverend”. Indeed God is not Mr. Reverend. If it is his name, the “R” would have been in capital. I consulted about 50 Bible versions and all wrote ‘reverend’ and not ‘Reverend’. The name of God is forever Jehovah, Yahweh (YHWH-Exodus 6: 2.

The same logic that seeks to forbid Reverend as a prefix to the names of God’s servants should also apply to “Evangelist”, “Prophet”, “Pastor” etc before  their names; because all the latter, are gifts and not titles (Eph. 4:8, 11-13). On this matter of the awesomeness of God’s name, we read in Psalm 138 :2 “for you have magnified Your holy Name above all things”-(Complete Apostles’ Bible, Bishops’ Bible, Brenton Bible, Geneva Bible). It is not that God has magnified His word above His name as KJV implies.

It is not congruent that the Name, at the mention of which every knee in heaven, on earth, and under the earth shall bow, should be surpassed or superceded by His word (utterance)-Phil 2: 10. Many Bible Versions are not comfortable with the rendering, ‘magnifying His word above His Name’ as in KJV, so they are discreet by putting His word and His Name on the same pedestal-“….for thou hast magnified thy word and thy Name above all”-(RV, RNKJV, RSV, WEB, CLV, ESV, GNB, HCSB, HNV, Message Bible, NASB, NCV, NIV, NIRV, etc)

 

5.0.   I have seen cases of men of God who renounced the title “Reverend” not on the basis of being in competition with God but on grounds of humility and because they felt that it is not meant to be a title. A prominent case was that of former Baptist minister – Rev. T. Austin-Sparks. He was a mentor to Watchman Nee. In his books, Watchman Nee hardly cite people outside of the Bible characters, but apart from his “discipler”, Miss Barber, he made references to T.A. Sparks and quoted extensively from Sparks’ timeless book, ‘What is Man’. When Rev. Sparks had a vivid encounter with God, he dropped the title “Reverend”. Later he resigned his pastoral “office”.

He became simply Mr. T. Austin-Sparks throughout his subsequent ministry with Emmanuel Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. Again why do I put office in quote above? It is because the rendering on 1 Tim. 3: 1 as “…… the office of a pastor, overseer” etc is controversial.. The Greek text does not contain the word ‘office’ per se. Some translators inserted the word. It is better as “…..aspire to the overseer-ship…..” (Recovery version) “wishes to serve as watchman” (Father’s LIfe Version) “……to want to be a presiding elder….” (New Jerusalem Bible).

What the above shows is that these various ministries are not official status but the expressions or manifestations of the gifting within the gifted ministers. In the same vein, a man of God is to be reverenced, honoured etc.

 

6.0  We even oversight the fact that Psalm 119: 9 records “…..holy and reverend…”. Why do we contend with aspirations to “reverend” but would not contend with aspirations to be “holy” since the scripture does not just state reverend is His name, but holy also, even ahead of the word, reverend? Why are we tenacious about an isolated verse in Psalm 111 written by an unknown inspired Psalmist but we are not often trembling at Jesus’ words in Luke 14: 33, 9 :23, Mk. 8 :34, Mt. 12: 36, John 12: 48 etc for instance.

 

7.0  As I was about concluding this piece, my attention drew to the commentary on Psalm 119: 9, by Finis Dake, the man of God, who unlike me and many others, read the Bible for about seven and half hours daily for 43 years consistently. On page 602 of Dake Annotated Bible, he stated that the Hebrew word “y are” for reverend means ‘to be feared’, that this same ‘y are’ was translated for both God and man in 348 places in the Bible as fear, afraid, terrible, dread and reverence. He wrote further “here we have a simple statement that God’s name is reverend. It does not command or imply that ministers are forbidden to use reverend as title.

The same word is used of the fear of parents (Lev. 19: 3) and of God (Lev. 19: 4). It is even used of reverence of sanctuary, a material place (Lev 19: 30, 26 :2). If God commanded men to reverence a material place as well as parents, how could it be wrong to reverence men of God who are supposed to be holy and reverenced as His representatives here on earth?” unquote.

This universally acclaimed minister had helped to throw more light on this controversial verse. The only issue I have is that I don’t think Reverend should necessarily need be a title, but I reverence (revere) men of God especially those in positions of leadership. So my beloved Reverend gentlemen, I agree with you that you are not usurping God’s name but that we should reverence or revere you provided you do not subsequently augment your “Reverend” prefix to “Jehovah”. God bless you all-

By Olatokunbo ODUNUGA

 

 

 

 

 

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