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Why are ministers referred to as "Reverend?"
Webster's dictionary defines the word, "reverend," as
a title of respect for a clergyman. It comes from the idea of giving
"reverence," which means "to regard with deep love and respect."
Calling a minister "reverend" did not originate in
scripture. The term became accepted sometime in the seventeenth century in
England as a scriptural show of respect toward men of God. "And we urge you,
brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the
Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their
work's sake..." (1 Thes. 5:12-13).
The prominent Bible translation of that era, the King James Version, used
the word "reverence" 14 times in connection that which was holy or sacred.
Those things which were to be reverenced were: the Lord's sanctuary (Lev.
19:30, 26:2), the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 21:37, Mark 12:6, Luke 20:13),
the Lord's anointed (2 Sam. 9:6), our earthly father (Heb. 12:9), the
husband by his wife (Eph. 5:33), the way we serve the Lord (Heb. 12:28), and
the name of the Lord: "He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded
his covenant forever: holy and reverend is his name" (Psa. 111:9 KJV).
It's obvious that the term was never actually intended
to become a title, but rather, was an expression used by Christians to
identify and denote respect and esteem toward their minister. To say, "The
Reverend John Smith," was like saying, "The deeply loved and respected man
of God, John Smith."
In later years, "reverend" began to lose its original
distinction and evolved into a secular "title" of etiquette, used as a
prefix in front of a clergyman's name to indicate his ministerial vocation.
Some ministers don't wish to be identified by this term and may prefer to be
addressed as "pastor" or "brother."
Another tradition associated with ministers, the
so-called clerical collar, came from the standard style of a gentleman's
dress in Europe in the middle ages. As styles changed, clergymen were slow
to follow, and eventually the style became identified with formal clergy
attire. Most evangelical ministers do not ascribe to the tradition of the
This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins
, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications
, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible
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