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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

a-pok'-ri-fal akts:



1. Secret

2. False and Heretical

3. Extra-Canonical


1. Romance

2. The Supernatural

3. Sexual Asceticism

4. Heretical Teaching

5. Religious Feeling


1. Reverence for Apostles

2. Pious Curiosity

3. Apostolic Authority Desired

4. Interests of Local Churches


1. Canonical Acts

2. Traditions

3. Romances of Travel


1. Eastern

2. Western

3. Photius

4. Ecclesiastical Condemnation




1. As History

2. As Records of Early Christianity










I. The Meaning of "Apocryphal."

As applied to early-Christian writings the term "apocryphal" has the secondary and conventional sense of "extra-canonical."

1. Secret:

Originally, as the etymology of the word shows (Greek apokrupto = "hide"), it denoted what was "hidden" or "secret." In this sense "apocryphal" was, to begin with, a title of honor, being applied to writings used by the initiated in esoteric circles and highly valued by them as containing truths miraculously revealed and kept secret from the outside world. Just as there were writings of this kind among the Jews, so there were in Christian circles, among Gnostic sects, apocrypha, which claimed to embody the deeper truths of Christianity, committed as a secret tradition by the risen Christ to His apostles.

2. False and Heretical:

When the conception of a catholic church began to take shape, it was inevitable that these secret writings should have been regarded with suspicion and have been ultimately forbidden, not only because they fostered the spirit of division in the church, but because they were favorable to the spread of heretical teaching. By a gradual and intelligible transference of ideas "apocryphal," as applied to secret writings thus discredited by the church, came to have the bad sense of spurious and heretical. In this sense the word is used both by Irenaeus and Tertullian.

3. Extra-Canonical:

Short of being stigmatized as false and heretical many books were regarded as unsuitable for reading in public worship, although they might be used for purposes of private edification. Chiefly under the influence of Jerome the term "apocryphal" received an extension of meaning so as to include writings of this kind, stress now being laid on their non-acceptance as authoritative Scriptures by the church, without any suggestion that the ground of non-acceptance lay in heretical teaching. It is in this wide sense that the word is used when we speak of "Apocryphal Acts." Although the Acts which bear this name had their origin for the most part in circles of heretical tendency, the description of them as "apocryphal" involves no judgment as to the character of their contents, but simply denotes that they are Acts which were excluded from the New Testament canon because their title or claims to recognition as authoritative and normative writings were not admitted by the church. This definition limits the scope of our investigation to those Acts which belong to the 2nd century, the Biblical Acts having secured their place as an authoritative scripture by the end of that century. See further, APOCRYPHA.

II. General Characteristics.

The Apocryphal Acts purport to give the history of the activity of the apostles in fuller detail than the canonical Acts.

1. Romance:

The additions to the New Testament narrative found in them are highly flavored with romance and reveal an extravagant and unhealthy taste for the miraculous. Wonderful tales, the product of an exuberant fancy, often devoid of delicacy of feeling and always out of touch with reality, are freely heaped one upon the other. The apostles are no longer conceived as living on the ordinary levels of humanity; their human frailties, to which the canonical writers are not blind, have almost entirely disappeared; they walk through the world as men conversant with the mysteries of heaven and earth and possessed of powers to which no limit can be set. They have the power to heal, to exorcise demons, to raise the dead; and while marvelous deeds of that nature constantly recur, there are other miracles wrought by the apostles which remind one of the bizarre and non-moral prodigies of the Childhood Gospel of Thomas. A smoked fish is made to swim; a broken statue is made whole by the use of consecrated a wafer; a child of seven months is enabled to talk with a man's voice; animals receive the power of human speech.

2. The Supernatural:

The romantic character of the Apocryphal Acts is intensified by the frequent introduction of the supernatural. Angelic messengers appear in vision and in dream; heavenly voices are heard; clouds descend to hide the faithful in the hour of danger and lightnings smite their foes; the terrifying forces of Nature, earthquake, wind and fire, strike dismay into the hearts of the ungodly; and martyrs die transfigured in a blaze of unearthly glory. Especially characteristic of these Acts are the appearances of Christ in many forms; now as an old man, now as a comely youth, now as a child; but most frequently in the likeness of this or that apostle. (It is interesting to observe that Origen is familiar with a tradition that Jesus during His earthly life could change His appearance when and how He pleased, and gives that as a reason for the necessity of the traitor's kiss. Compare also Mark 16:9, 12.)

3. Sexual Asceticism:

One must not suppose from the foregoing that the Apocryphal Acts with their profusion of romantic and supernatural details were designed merely to exalt the personality of the apostles and to satisfy the prevalent desire for the marvelous. They had a definite practical end in view. They were intended to confirm and popularize a type of Christianity in strong reaction against the world, in which emphasis was laid on the rigid abstinence from sexual relations as the chief moral requirement. This sexual asceticism is the dominant motif in all the Acts. The "contendings" of the apostles, their trials and their eventual martyrdom are in almost every case due to their preaching the sinfulness of conjugal life and to their success in persuading women to reject the society of their husbands. The Acts are penetrated throughout by the conviction that abstinence from marriage is the supreme condition of entering upon the highest life and of winning heaven. The gospel on its practical side is (to use the succinct expression of the Acts of Paul) "the word of God regarding abstinence and the resurrection."

4. Heretical Teaching:

Besides inculcating an ascetic morality the Apocryphal Acts show traces more or less pronounced of dogmatic heresy. All of them with the exception of the Acts of Paul represent a docetic view of Christ; that is to say, the earthly life of Jesus is regarded merely as an appearance, phantasmal and unreal. This docetic Christology is most prominent in the Acts of John, where we read that when Jesus walked no footprints were discernible; that sometimes when the apostle attempted to lay hold of the body of Jesus his hand passed through it without resistance; that when the crowd gathered round the cross on which to all appearance Jesus hung, the Master Himself had an interview with His disciple John on the Mount of Olives. The crucifixion was simply a symbolical spectacle; it was only in appearance that Christ suffered and died. Allied with the docetic Christology is a naive Modalism, according to which there is no clear distinction between the Father and the Son.

5. Religious Feeling:

In spite of the unfavorable impression created by the flood of miraculous and supernatural details, the pervading atmosphere of sexual asceticism and the presence of dogmatic misconception, it is impossible not to feel in many sections of the Apocryphal Acts the rapture of a great spiritual enthusiasm. Particularly in the Acts of John, Andrew and Thomas there are passages (songs, prayers, homilies), sometimes of genuine poetic beauty, which are characterized by religious warmth, mystic fervor and moral earnestness. The mystical love to Christ, expressed though it frequently is in the strange language of Gnostic thought, served to bring the Saviour near to men as the satisfaction of the deepest yearnings of the soul for deliverance from the dark power of death. The rank superstition and the traces of unconquered heathenism should not blind us to the fact that in the Apocryphal Acts we have an authentic if greatly distorted expression of the Christian faith, and that through them great masses of people were confirmed in their conviction of the spiritual presence and power of Christ the Saviour.

III. Origin.

The Apocryphal Acts had their origin at a time when the canonical Acts of the Apostles were not yet recognized as alone authoritative. Various motives contributed to the appearance of books dealing with the life and activity of the different apostles.

1. Reverence for Apostles:

Behind every variety of motive lay the profound reverence for the apostles as the authoritative depositories of Christian truth. In apostolic times the sole authority in Christian communities, outside Old Testament Scripture, was "the Lord." But as the creative period of Christianity faded into the past, "the apostles" (in the sense of the college of the Twelve, including Paul) were raised to a preeminent position alongside of Christ with the object of securing continuity in the credentials of the faith. The commandments of the Lord had been received through them (2 Peter 3:2). In the Ignatian epistles they have a place of acknowledged supremacy by the side of Christ. Only that which had apostolic authority was normative for the church. The authority of the apostles was universal. They had gone into all the world to preach the gospel. They had, according to the legend referred to at the beginning of the Acts of Thomas, divided among themselves the different regions of the earth as the spheres of their activity. It was an inevitable consequence of the peculiar reverence in which the apostles were held as the securities for Christian truth that a lively interest should everywhere be shown in traditional stories about their work and that writings should be multiplied which purported to give their teaching with fullness of detail.

2. Pious Curiosity:

The canonical Acts were not calculated to satisfy the prevailing desire for a knowledge of the life and teaching of the apostles. For one thing many of the apostles are there ignored, and for another the information given about the chief apostles Peter and Paul is little more than a meager outline of the events of their life. In these circumstances traditions not preserved in the canonical Acts were eagerly accepted, and as the actual history of the individual apostles was largely shrouded in obscurity, legends were freely invented to gratify the insatiable curiosity. The marvelous character of these inventions is a testimony to the supernatural level to which the apostles had been raised in popular esteem.

3. Apostolic Authority Desired:

As in the case of the apocryphal Gospels, the. chief motive in the multiplication of apostolic romances was the desire to set forth with the full weight of apostolic authority conceptions of Christian life and doctrine which prevailed in certain circles.

(1) Alongside the saner and catholic type of Christianity there existed, especially in Asia Minor, a popular Christianity with perverted ideals of life. On its practical side the Christian religion was viewed as an ascetic discipline, involving not only abstinence from animal food and wine but also (and chiefly) abstinence from marriage. Virginity was the Christian ideal. Poverty and fastings were obligatory on all. The Apocryphal Acts are permeated by this spirit, and their evident design is to confirm and spread confidence in this ascetic ideal by representing the apostles as the zealous advocates of it.

(2) The Apocryphal Acts were also intended to serve a dogmatic interest. Heretical sects used them as a means of propagating their peculiar doctrinal views and sought to supplement or supplant the tradition of the growing catholic church by another tradition which claimed to be equally apostolic.

4. Interests of Local Churches:

A subsidiary cause in the fabrication of apostolic legends was the desire of churches to find support for the claims which they put forward for an apostolic foundation or for some connection with apostles. In some cases the tradition of the sphere of an apostle's activity may have been well based, but in others there is a probability that stories of an apostolic connection were freely invented for the purpose of enhancing the prestige of some local church.

IV. Sources.

In general it may be said that the Apocryphal Acts are full of legendary details. In the invention of these everything was done to inspire confidence in them as historically true.

1. Canonical Acts:

The narratives accordingly abound in clear reminiscences of the canonical Acts. The apostles are cast into prison and are marvelously set at liberty. Converts receive the apostles into their houses. The description of the Lord's Supper as "the breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42, 46) is repeated in the Apocryphal Acts and is strictly apposite to the ritual there set forth in which there is frequently no mention of wine in the celebration of the sacrament. In the Acts of Paul the author evidently used the canonical Acts as the framework of his narrative. This dependence on the canonical Acts and the variety of allusions to details in them served to give an appearance of historical truthfulness to the later inventions and to secure for them a readier acceptance. The fact that the canonical Acts were so used clearly shows that they had a position of exceptional authority at the time when the Apocryphal Acts were written.

2. Traditions:

The legendary character of the Apocryphal Acts does not preclude the possibility of authentic details in the additions made to the canonical history. There must have been many traditions regarding the apostles preserved in Christian communities which had a foundation in actual fact. Some of these would naturally find a place in writings which were designed in part at least to satisfy the popular curiosity for a fuller knowledge of the apostles. It is certain that there is some substratum of historical fact in the episode of Paul's association with Thecla (Acts of Paul). The description of Paul's appearance given in the same connection is in all likelihood due to trustworthy historical reminiscence. But it must be confessed that the signs of the presence of reliable traditions are very scanty. The few grains of historical fact are hidden in an overwhelming mass of material whose legendary character is unmistakable.

3. Romances of Travel:

Although a formal connection with the canonical Acts is recognizable and reliable traditions are to a slight extent incorporated in the Apocryphal Acts, it is unquestionable that as a whole they are the creation of the Hellenic spirit which reveled in the miraculous. A noteworthy type of popular literature whose influence is apparent on almost every page of the Apocryphal Acts was that of the travel-romance. The most famous example of this romantic literature is the Life of the neo-Pythagorean preacher, the great wonder-worker Apollonios of Tyana, who died about the end of the 1st century A.D. The marvelous deeds reported to have been wrought by him on his travels were freely transferred in a somewhat less striking form to other teachers. It is in the atmosphere of these romances that the Apocryphal Acts had their birth. In particular the Acts of Thomas recall the history of Apollonios. For just as Thomas was a missionary in India, so "Apollonios as a disciple of Pythagoras had traveled, a peaceful Alexander, to the Indian wonderland and there preached his master's wisdom" (Geffcken, Christliche Apokryphen, 36).

V. Ecclesiastical Testimony.

From the nature of his reference to the canonical Acts it is probable that the writer of the Muratorian Canon (circa 190 A.D.) had the existence of other Acts in mind. "The Acts of all the apostles," he says, "are written in a single book. Luke relates them admirably to Theophilus, confining himself to such as fell under his own notice, as he plainly shows by the omission of all reference either to the martyrdom of Peter or to the journey of Paul from Rome to Spain." During the 3rd century there are slight allusions to certain of the Apocryphal Acts, but it is only in the 4th century that distinct references are frequent in writers both of the East and of the West. A few of the more important references may be given here. (For a full account of the ecclesiastical testimony see Harnack, Gesch. der altchr. Lit., I, 116.)

1. Eastern:

Among eastern writers Eusebius (died 340) is the first to make any clear reference to Apocryphal Acts. He speaks of "Acts of Andrew, of John and of the other apostles," which were of such a character that no ecclesiastical writer thought it proper to invoke their testimony. Their style and their teaching showed them to be so plainly of heretical origin that he would not put them even among spurious Scriptures, but absolutely rejected them as absurd and impious (Historia Ecclesiastic, III, 250.6.7). Ephraem (died 373) declares that Acts were written by the Bardesanites to propagate in the name of the apostles the unbelief which the apostles had destroyed. Epiphanius (circa 375) repeatedly refers to individual Acts which were in use among heretical sects. Amphilochius of Iconium, a contemporary of Epiphanius, declares that certain writings emanating from heretical circles were "not Acts of the apostles but accounts of demons." The Second Synod of Nicea (787 A.D.), in the records of which those words of Amphilochius are preserved, dealt with apocryphal literature and had under special consideration the Acts of John to which the Iconoclasts appealed. In the synod's finding these Acts were characterized as "this abominable book," and on it the judgment was passed: "Let no one read it; and not only so, but we judge it worthy of being committed to the flames."

2. Western:

In the West from the 4th century onward references are frequent. Philastrius of Brescia (circa 387) testifies to the use of Apocryphal Acts among the Manicheans, and declares that although they are not suitable for general reading they may be read with profit by mature Christians (De Haeres, 88). The reason for this favorable judgment is to be found in the pronounced ascetic tendency of the Acts, which was in line with the moral ideal prevalent at that time in the West. Augustine refers repeatedly to apocryphal Acts in use among the Manicheans and characterizes them as the work of "cobblers of fables" (sutoribus fabularum). The Manicheans accepted them as true and genuine; and in respect of this claim Augustine says: "They would in the time of their authors have been counted worthy of being welcomed to the authority of the Holy Church, if saintly and learned men who were then alive and could examine such things had acknowledged them as speaking the truth" (Contra Faustum, XXII, 79). The Acts of John and the Acts of Thomas are mentioned by Augustine by name. He also refers to Leucius as the author of Apocryphal Acts. Turribius of Astorga (circa 450) speaks of Acts of Andrew, of John, of Thomas, and attributes them to the Manicheans. Of the heretical teaching in the Acts of Thomas, Turribius singles out for special condemnation baptism by oil instead of by water. Leucius is mentioned as the author of the Acts of John. The Acts of Andrew, Thomas, Peter, and Philip are condemned as apocryphal in the Gelasian Decree (496 A.D.) and in the same condemnation are included "all books written by Leucius, a disciple of the devil."

3. Photius:

The fullest and most important reference to the Apocryphal Acts is found in Photius, the Patriarch of Constantinople in the second half of the 9th century. In his Bibliotheca, which contains an account of 280 different books which he had read during his absence on a mission to Bagdad, we learn that among these was a volume, "the so-called Wanderings of the Apostles, in which were included Acts of Peter, John, Andrew, Thomas, Paul. The author of these Acts, as the book itself makes plain, was Leucius Charinus." The language had none of the grace which characterized the evangelic and apostolic writings. The book teemed with follies and contradictions. Its teaching was heretical. In particular it was taught that Christ had never really become man. Not Christ but another in His place had been crucified. After referring to the ascetic doctrine and the absurd miracles of the Acts and to the part which the Acts of John had played in the Iconoclastic Controversy, Photius concludes: "In short this book contains ten thousand things which are childish, incredible, ill-conceived, false, foolish, inconsistent, impious and godless. If anyone were to call it the fountain and mother of all heresy, he would not be far from the truth."

4. Ecclesiastical Condemnation:

There is thus a consensus of ecclesiastical testimony as to the general character of the Apocryphal Acts. They were writings used by a number of heretical sects but regarded by the church as unreliable and harmful. It is probable that the corpus of the Acts in five parts referred to by Photius was formed by the Manicheans of North Africa, who attempted to have them accepted by the church in place of the canonical Acts which they had rejected. These Acts in consequence were stamped by the church with a heretical character. The sharpest condemnation is that pronounced by Leo I (circa 450) who declares that "they should not only be forbidden but should be utterly swept away and burned. For although there are certain things in them which seem to have the appearance of piety, yet they are never free of poison and secretly work through the allurements of fables so that they involve in the snares of every possible error those who are seduced by the narration of marvelous things." The Acts of Paul, which show no trace of dogmatic heresy, were included in the ecclesiastical censure owing to the fact that they had received a place at the end of the corpus. Many teachers in the church, however, made a distinction between the miraculous details and the heretical doctrines of the Acts, and while they rejected the latter they retained the former. Witness the words of an orthodox reviser in regard to his heretical predecessor: "Quaedam de virtutibus quidem et miraculls quae per eos Dominus fecit, vera dixit; de doctrina vero multa mentitus est."

VI. Authorship.

In the notice of Photius (Bibliotheca codex 114) all the five Acts are ascribed to one author, Leucius Charinus. Earlier writers had associated the name of Leucius with certain Acts. In particular he is, on the witness of several writers, declared to be the author of the Acts of John. As these Acts show, the author professes to be a follower and companion of the apostle, and Epiphanius (Haeres., 51 6) mentions one named Leucius as being in the entourage of John. This notice of Epiphanius, however, is of doubtful value, as it probably rested on the association in his mind of the name of Leucius with the Acts of John. Whether or not there is any truth in the ascription of these Acts to a disciple of John must be left undecided, but the probabilities are against there being any. Be that as it may, when the different Acts were collected, the name of the reputed author of the Acts of John was transferred to the whole collection. This probably happened not later than the 4th century. Although all the Acts are certainly not from one hand (the difference of style is sufficient proof of this), there are so many striking similarities between some of them as to suggest a possible common authorship in those cases or at least a relation of literary dependence.

VII. Relationship of Different Acts.

That some connection existed between the different Acts was clearly recognized in early times, and it was doubtless due to this recognition that they were gathered together in a corpus under the name of one author. It is acknowledged that there is a close relationship between the Acts of Peter and the Acts of John, some holding that they are the work of the same author (James, Zahn), others that the former are dependent on the latter (Schmidt, Hennecke), while others again believe that their origin in the same theological school and in the same ecclesiastical atmosphere sufficiently explains all similarities (Ficker). The Acts of Andrew, too, reveal a near kinship to the Acts of Peter. But however the matter may stand in regard to literary dependence, the affinity between the different Acts in a material sense is manifest. All are pervaded by the ascetic spirit; in all Christ appears in the form of the apostle; in all women visit the apostle in prison. In respect of theological doctrine the Acts of Paul stand by themselves as anti-Gnostic in tendency, but the others agree in their docetic view of Christ's person; while in the Acts of John, Peter and Thomas, there is a similar mystical doctrine of the cross.

VIII. Value.

1. As History:

As a source for information about the life and work of the apostles the Apocryphal Acts are almost entirely worthless. A possible exception in this respect is the section of the Acts of Paul dealing with Paul and Thecla, although even there any historical elements are almost lost in the legendary overgrowth. The spheres of the apostles' work, so far as they are mentioned only in these Acts, cannot be accepted without question, although they may be derived from reliable tradition. Taken as a whole the picture given in the Apocryphal Acts of the missionary labors of the apostles is a grotesque caricature.

2. As Records of Early Christianity:

The Apocryphal Acts, however, though worthless as history, are of extreme value as throwing light on the period in which they were written. They belong to the 2nd century and are a rich quarry for information about the popular Christianity of that time. They give us a vivid picture of the form which Christianity assumed in contact with the enthusiastic mystery-cults and Gnostic sects which then flourished on the soil of Asia Minor. We see in them the Christian faith deeply tinged with the spirit of contemporary paganism; the faith in Christ the Saviour-God, which satisfied the widespread yearning for redemption from the powers of evil, in association with the as yet unconquered elements of its heathen environment.

(1) The Acts show us popular Christianity under the influence of Gnostic ideas as contrasted with the Gnosticism of the schools which moves in a region of mythological conceptions, cold abstractions and speculative subtleties. At the basis of Gnosticism lay a contempt for material existence; and in the Christianity of the Apocryphal Acts we see the practical working up of the two chief ideas which followed from this fundamental position, a docetic conception of Christ's person and an ascetic view of life. In this popular religion Christ had few of the features of the historic Jesus; He was the Saviour-God, exalted above principalities and powers, through union with whom the soul was delivered from the dread powers of evil and entered into the true life.

The manhood of Christ was sublimated into mere appearance; and in particular the sufferings of Christ were conceived mystically and symbolically, "sometimes in the form that in the story of His sufferings we see only the symbol of human sufferings in general; sometimes in the form that Christ who is present in His church shares in the martyr-sufferings of Christians; sometimes, again, in the form that the sin, weakness and unfaithfulness of His people inflict upon Him ever-renewed sufferings" (Pfleiderer, Primitive Christianity, III, 181). The ethical influence of Gnosticism is apparent in the spirit of strict asceticism which is the most characteristic feature of these Acts. It is true that the ascetic ideal obtained not only in Gnostic but also in orthodox church circles, as we gather from the Acts of Paul as well as from other sources.

The prominence of the strict ascetic ideal in early Christianity is intelligible. The chief battle which the Christian faith had to fight with Hellenic heathenism was for sexual purity, and in view of the coarseness and laxity which prevailed in sexual relations it is not surprising that the Christian protest was exaggerated in many cases into a demand for complete continence. This ascetic note in primitive Christianity was emphasized by the spirit of Gnosticism and finds clear expression in the Acts which arose either in Gnostic circles or in an environment tinged with Gnostic ideas. It goes without saying that the influence of these romances which are so largely concerned with sexual morality and occasionally are unspeakably coarse, was to preoccupy the mind with unhealthy thoughts and to sully that purity of spirit which it was their intention to secure. There are, however, other ethical elements in these Acts which are in complete harmony with a true Christian morality.

(2) The Apocryphal Acts are an invaluable source for information about early-Christian forms of worship. The ritual of the sacraments is fully described in the Acts of Thomas. Some of the prayers found in the Acts are pervaded by a warm religious spirit and are rich in liturgical expression.

(3) The beginnings of Christian hymnology may be traced in the Acts of Thomas, in which occur Gnostic hymns breathing the fantastic oriental spirit. (4) Apparent in the Acts throughout is the excessive love for the supernatural and the religious enthusiasm which flourished in Asia Minor in the 2nd century (compare especially the dance of the disciples round Jesus in the Acts of John: chapter 94).

IX. lnfluence.

The Apocryphal Acts had a remarkable influence in the later history of the church. After the establishment of Christianity under Constantine men turned their eyes to the earlier years of struggle and persecution. A deep interest was awakened in the events of the heroic age of the faith-the age of martyrs and apostles. Acts of martyrs were eagerly read, and in particular the Apocryphal Acts were drawn upon to satisfy the desire for a fuller knowledge of the apostles than was afforded by the canonical books. The heretical teaching with which the apostolic legends were associated in these Acts led to their condemnation by ecclesiastical authority, but the ban of the church was unavailing to eradicate the taste for the vivid colors of apostolic romance. In these circumstances church writers set themselves the task of rewriting the earlier Acts, omitting what was clearly heretical and retaining the miraculous and supernatural elements. And not only so, but the material of the Acts was freely used in the fabrication of lives of other apostles, as we find in the collection of the so-called Abdias in the 6th century.

The result was that from the 4th to the 11th century literature of this kind, dealing with the apostles, grew apace and "formed the favorite reading of Christians, from Ireland to the Abyssinian mountains and from Persia to Spain" (Harnack).

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jen'-er-al, jen'-er-al-i (kullah; paneguris):

(1) General is the translation of sar, "master," "head," "chief"; used once in the King James Version in the sense of commander-in-chief, "the general of the king's army" (1 Chronicles 27:34), usually in this connection translated "captain," the Revised Version (British and American) "the captain of the king's host."

(2) As an adjective "general assembly" is the translation of paneguris (whence we have panegyric), "an assembly or convocation of the whole people to celebrate any public festival or solemnity, as the public games or sacrifices, hence, a high festival, public convocation, joyful assembly" (Robinson); the word occurs in the New Testament only in Hebrews 12:23, "to the general assembly and church of the firstborn; paneguris is Septuagint for mo`edh (Ezekiel 46:11 Hosea 2:11), "solemn assembly" and for `atsarah (Amos 5:21), with the same meaning. The Greek words translated "and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn" (the King James Version) have been variously arranged and translated; Robinson gives "and to countless throngs (even) the joyful assembly of angels, i.e. as hymning the praises of God around His throne"; compare Revelation 5:11; Psalm 148:2 Daniel 7:10). From both Hebrew and Greek analogies, this is probably correct; similarly, Alford, Delitzsch and others have "festival assembly"; Weymouth translated "to countless hosts of angels, to the great festal gathering and church of the first-born."

(3) Generally, adverb, occurs in Jeremiah 48:38 the King James Version as the translation of kullah (Pual of kalah), "the whole of it," "There shall be lamentation generally (universally) upon all the housetops of Moab," the Revised Version (British and American) "everywhere"; in 2 Samuel 17:11, `acaph, "to be gathered," is translated "to be generally gathered," the Revised Version (British and American) "gathered together."

In Apocrypha we have "general" in the sense of "common," "universal" (Additions to Esther 15:10 margin, koinos; 2 Maccabees 3:18, pandemon); "in general" (2 Esdras 8:15, "man in general"; Ecclesiasticus 18:1, "all things in general," koinos, the Revised Version (British and American) "in common").

W. L. Walker


1. Original Words:

In the King James Version this word represents several originals, as follows: 'erets "earth"; chedhel, "the underworld"; cheledh, "lifetime," "age"; `olam, "indefinite time," "age"; tebhel, "fertile earth"; ge, "earth"; aion, "age," "indefinite time," with frequent connotation of the contents of time, its influences and powers; oikoumene, "inhabited earth," the world of man considered in its area and distribution; last, and most frequently, kosmos, properly "order," with the suggestion of beauty; thence the material universe, as the great example of such order; then the moral universe, the total system of intelligent creatures, perhaps sometimes including angels (1 Corinthians 4:9), but as a rule human beings only; then, in view of the fact of universal human failure, humanity in its sinful aspect, the spirit and forces of fallen humanity regarded as antagonistic to God and to good, "all around us which does not love God."

2. Remarks:

Of the above terms, some need not detain us; 'erets, as the original to "world," occurs only thrice, chedhel, once, cheledh, twice, `olam, twice (including Ecclesiastes 3:11), ge, once. The most important of the series, looking at frequency of occurrence, are tebhel, aion, oikoumene, kosmos. On these we briefly comment in order.

(1) Tebhel.

Tebhel, as the original to "world," occurs in 35 places, of which 15 are found in Psalms and 9 in the first half of Isaiah. By derivation it has to do with produce, fertility, but this cannot be said to come out in usage. The word actually plays nearly the same part as "globe" with us, denoting man's material dwelling-place, as simply as possible, without moral suggestions.

(2) Aion.

We have indicated above the speciality of aion. It is a time, with the suggestion always of extension rather than limit (so that it lends itself to phrases denoting vast if not endless extension, such as "to the aions of aions," rendered "forever and ever," or "world without end"). In Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 11:13, it denotes the "aeons" of the creative process. In numerous places, notably in Matthew, it refers to the "dispensations" of redemption, the present "age"of grace and, in distinction, the "age" which is to succeed it-"that world, and the resurrection" (Luke 20:35). Then, in view of the moral contents of the present state of things, it freely passes into the thought of forces and influences tending against faith and holiness, e.g., "Be not fashioned according to this world" (Romans 12:2). In this connection the Evil Power is said to be "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

(3) Oikoumene.

The word oikoumene occasionally means the Roman empire, regarded as pre-eminently the region of settled human life. So Luke 2:1 Acts 11:28, and perhaps Revelation 3:10, and other apocalyptic passages. In Hebrews it is used mystically of the Empire of the Messiah (1:6; 2:5).

(4) Kosmos.

We have remarked above on kosmos, with its curious and suggestive history of meanings. It may be enough here to add that that history prepares us to find its reference varying by subtle transitions, even in the same passage. See e.g. John 1:10, where "the world" appears first to denote earth and man simply as the creation of "the Word," and then mankind as sinfully alienated from their Creator. We are not surprised accordingly to read on the one hand that "God.... loved the world" (John 3:16), and on the other that the Christian must "not love the world" (1 John 2:15). The reader will find the context a sure clue in all cases, and the study will be pregnant of instruction.

Handley Dunelm


o-thor'-i-ti. See AUTHORITY IN RELIGION, sec. I.

4755. strategos -- a general, governor
... a general, governor. Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine Transliteration: strategos
Phonetic Spelling: (strat-ay-gos') Short Definition: a general, magistrate ...
// - 7k

2527. katholou -- in general
... in general. Part of Speech: Adverb Transliteration: katholou Phonetic Spelling:
(kath-ol'-oo) Short Definition: entirely, at all Definition: one the whole, in ...
// - 6k

3551. nomos -- that which is assigned, hence usage, law
... Transliteration: nomos Phonetic Spelling: (nom'-os) Short Definition: a law, the
Mosaic Law Definition: usage, custom, law; in NT: of law in general, plur: of ...
// - 7k

3831. paneguris -- a festal assembly
... Word Origin from pas and a derivation of agora Definition a festal assembly
NASB Word Usage general assembly (1). general assembly. ...
// - 7k

2602. katabole -- a laying down
... 2602 (from 2596 , "exactly according to," down from the most general to the most
specific detail, "following all the way along," and 906 , "to cast ...
// - 7k

5550. chronos -- time
... season. 5550 -- (in general), especially viewed (a " of moments"); in in
the , sovereignly apportioned by God to each person. 5550 ...
// - 7k

1175. deisidaimonia -- a religion, superstition
... Noun, Feminine Transliteration: deisidaimonia Phonetic Spelling: (dice-ee-dahee-
mon-ee'-ah) Short Definition: religion in general, superstition Definition ...
// - 7k

3510. nephros -- a kidney, fig. the (inmost) mind
... inmost) mind. Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine Transliteration: nephros Phonetic
Spelling: (nef-ros') Short Definition: a kidney as a general emotional center ...
// - 7k

694. argurion -- silvery, by ext. a piece of silver
... of Speech: Noun, Neuter Transliteration: argurion Phonetic Spelling: (ar-goo'-ree-
on) Short Definition: silver, a shekel, money in general Definition: silver ...
// - 6k

3195. mello -- to be about to
... 3195 -- properly, at the of acting; , " to happen." 3195 () is used "in general
of what is to happen" (J. Thayer). Word Origin a prim. ...
// - 9k

Strong's Hebrew
8661. Tartan -- general, commander (title of an Assyr. general)
... 8660, 8661. Tartan. 8662 . general, commander (title of an Assyr. general).
Transliteration: Tartan Phonetic Spelling: (tar-tawn') Short Definition: commander ...
/hebrew/8661.htm - 6k

5018. Nebuzaradan -- "Nebo has given seed," a Bab. general
... general. Transliteration: Nebuzaradan Phonetic Spelling: (neb-oo-zar-ad-awn') Short
Definition: Nebuzaradan. ... general NASB Word Usage Nebuzaradan (15). ...
/hebrew/5018.htm - 6k

5283. Naaman -- a descendant of Benjamin, also an Aramean (Syrian) ...
... Naaman. 5284 . a descendant of Benjamin, also an Aramean (Syrian) general.
Transliteration: Naaman Phonetic Spelling: (nah-am-awn') Short Definition: Naaman. ...
/hebrew/5283.htm - 6k

5516. Sisera -- a general of the king of Hazor, also the father of ...
... a general of the king of Hazor, also the father of some returning exiles.
Transliteration: Sisera Phonetic Spelling: (see-ser-aw') Short Definition: Sisera. ...
/hebrew/5516.htm - 6k

7780. Shophak -- an Aramean (Syrian) general
... 7779, 7780. Shophak. 7781 . an Aramean (Syrian) general. Transliteration: Shophak
Phonetic Spelling: (sho-fawk') Short Definition: Shophach. ...
/hebrew/7780.htm - 6k

7731. Shobak -- an Aramean (Syrian) general
... 7730, 7731. Shobak. 7732 . an Aramean (Syrian) general. Transliteration:
Shobak Phonetic Spelling: (sho-bawk') Short Definition: Shobach. ...
/hebrew/7731.htm - 6k

8269. sar -- chieftain, chief, ruler, official, captain, prince
... taskmasters* (1). chief captain, general, governor, keeper, lord, taskmaster,
principal,. From sarar; a head person (of any rank ...
/hebrew/8269.htm - 6k

127. adamah -- ground, land
... country, earth, ground, husbandman ry, land. From 'adam; soil (from its general
redness) -- country, earth, ground, husband(-man) (-ry), land. see HEBREW 'adam. ...
/hebrew/127.htm - 6k

374. ephah -- an ephah (a measure of grain)
... Or (shortened) ephah {ay-faw'}; of Egyptian derivation; an ephah or measure for
grain; hence, a measure in general -- ephah, (divers) measure(-s). 373, 374. ...
/hebrew/374.htm - 6k

7991. shaliysh -- a third (part)
... rather three-stringed lute); also (as an indefinite, great quantity) a three-fold
measure (perhaps a treble ephah); also (as an officer) a general of the third ...
/hebrew/7991.htm - 6k


The General Menaion
The General Menaion. <. The General Menaion Anonymous. Table of
// general menaion/

General Preface.
... GENERAL PREFACE. The design ... volume. He has endeavored to do the best that
was consistent with the general plan of the work. The ...
// to the bible/general preface.htm

The Epistles in General
... The Epistles in General. THE EPISTOLARY FORM IN BIBLICAL LITERATURE. ... For a general
description of the apostolic inspiration we refer to p.30 if. above. ...
/.../drummond/introduction to the new testament/the epistles in general.htm

General Index.
INDEX. A ' or Sinaitio MS., 2, 196. Accident, 8; pure A., 24-35. ...
/.../burgon/the causes of the corruption of the traditional text/general index.htm

General Index
... GENERAL INDEX. A QUESTION Absolution . . . . . ... 60 General confession . . . . . ...
// catechism no 4/general index.htm

General Index.
... GENERAL INDEX. Abel, hated by Cain, 46. Sabbath kept by, 453. ... Advent message,
proclamation of, timely, 351-354. general proclamation of, 355-374. ...
/.../white/the great controversy between christ and satan /general index.htm

General Note.
... Fragments General Note. The Banquet appears to me a genuine work, although, like
other writings of this Father, it may have been corrupted. ...
/.../methodius/the writings of methodius fragments/general note.htm

General Index.
... GENERAL INDEX. Under "Codices" will be found all the Evangelia described or quoted:
under "Texts" all the places of Scripture illustrated or referred to. ...
/.../the last twelve verses of the gospel according to s mark /general index.htm

General Note.
... Two Fragments, Uncertain. General Note. (Vexillas,"as they are called,
p.399.) It is very curious to note how certain ideas are ...
/.../methodius/the writings of methodius fragments/general note 2.htm

General Index.
... GENERAL INDEX. Under "Codices" will be found all the Evangelia described or quoted:
under "Texts" all the places of Scripture illustrated or referred to. ...
/.../the last twelve verses of the gospel according to s mark/general index.htm

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
1. (a.) Relating to a genus or kind; pertaining to a whole class or order; as, a general law of animal or vegetable economy.

2. (a.) Comprehending many species or individuals; not special or particular; including all particulars; as, a general inference or conclusion.

3. (a.) Not restrained or limited to a precise import; not specific; vague; indefinite; lax in signification; as, a loose and general expression.

4. (a.) Common to many, or the greatest number; widely spread; prevalent; extensive, though not universal; as, a general opinion; a general custom.

5. (a.) Having a relation to all; common to the whole; as, Adam, our general sire.

6. (a.) As a whole; in gross; for the most part.

7. (a.) Usual; common, on most occasions; as, his general habit or method.

8. (n.) The whole; the total; that which comprehends or relates to all, or the chief part; -- opposed to particular.

9. (a.) One of the chief military officers of a government or country; the commander of an army, of a body of men not less than a brigade. In European armies, the highest military rank next below field marshal.

10. (n.) The roll of the drum which calls the troops together; as, to beat the general.

11. (n.) The chief of an order of monks, or of all the houses or congregations under the same rule.

12. (n.) The public; the people; the vulgar.

General (9 Occurrences)
... Noah Webster's Dictionary 1. (a.) Relating to a genus or kind; pertaining to a whole
class or order; as, a general law of animal or vegetable economy. ...
/g/general.htm - 49k

General's (1 Occurrence)
... Multi-Version Concordance General's (1 Occurrence). Matthew 27:28 Stripping off
His garments, they put on Him a general's short crimson cloak. (WEY). ...
/g/general's.htm - 6k

... Catholic epistles: The epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; so called because
they are addressed to Christians in general, and not to any church or person ...
/c/catholic.htm - 9k

Ruler (329 Occurrences)
... wicked prince, a tyrant (Proverbs 28:15; compare Isaiah 14:5; Isaiah 49:7); to
theocratic king, the Messiah (Micah 5:2); it is often used in general (Proverbs ...
/r/ruler.htm - 50k

... GNOSTICISM. nos'-ti-siz'-m: I. GENERAL DEFINITION II. ... I. General Definition. On the
general definition of Gnosticism a few authorities may be cited. ...
/g/gnosticism.htm - 38k

Rule (291 Occurrences)
... 5. (a.) Conduct in general; behavior. ... 16. (n.) To establish or settle by, or as by,
a rule; to fix by universal or general consent, or by common practice. 17. ...
/r/rule.htm - 39k

Exile (101 Occurrences)
... After the destruction of Samaria (BC 720) by Shalmaneser and Sargon (qv), there
was a general deportation of the Israelites into Mesopotamia and Media (2 Kings ...
/e/exile.htm - 43k

Type (12 Occurrences)
... 5. (n.) A general form or structure common to a number of individuals; hence, the
ideal representation of a species, genus, or other group, combining the ...
/t/type.htm - 23k

Deborah (10 Occurrences)
... This time the oppressor was Jabin, king of Hazor, whose general was Sisera. ... Great
difficulties meet the exegete. Nevertheless the general substance is clear. ...
/d/deborah.htm - 14k

Claudius (3 Occurrences)
... Though in general he treated the Jews, especially those in Asia and Egypt, with
great indulgence, yet about the middle of his reign (AD 49) he banished them ...
/c/claudius.htm - 15k

Bible Concordance
General (9 Occurrences)

Acts 6:2 So the Twelve called together the general body of the disciples and said, "It does not seem fitting that we Apostles should neglect the delivery of God's Message and minister at tables.

Acts 6:5 The suggestion met with general approval, and they selected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch.

Hebrews 12:23 to the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Exodus 23:2 Do not be moved to do wrong by the general opinion, or give the support of your words to a wrong decision:

Deuteronomy 15:1 At the end of every seven years there is to be a general forgiveness of debt.

Deuteronomy 15:2 This is how it is to be done: every creditor is to give up his right to whatever he has let his neighbour have; he is not to make his neighbour, his countryman, give it back; because a general forgiveness has been ordered by the Lord.

Judges 4:7 And I will draw out Sis'era, the general of Jabin's army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.'"

1 Samuel 14:24 And all the people were with Saul, about twenty thousand men, and the fight was general through all the hill-country of Ephraim; but Saul made a great error that day, by putting the people under an oath, saying, Let that man be cursed who takes food before evening comes and I have given punishment to those who are against me. So the people had not a taste of food.

1 Chronicles 27:34 And after Ahithophel was Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, and Abiathar: and the general of the king's army was Joab.



Related Terms

General's (1 Occurrence)


Ruler (329 Occurrences)


Rule (291 Occurrences)

Exile (101 Occurrences)

Type (12 Occurrences)

Deborah (10 Occurrences)

Claudius (3 Occurrences)

Presbytery (1 Occurrence)

Conversion (1 Occurrence)

Salvation (386 Occurrences)

Chaldeans (82 Occurrences)

Issue (59 Occurrences)

Tenor (5 Occurrences)

Triumph (52 Occurrences)

Public (99 Occurrences)

Cistern (21 Occurrences)

Aqueduct (4 Occurrences)

Bread (433 Occurrences)

Exaltation (9 Occurrences)

Apollyon (1 Occurrence)

Redeemer (42 Occurrences)


Baptismal (1 Occurrence)

Glory (590 Occurrences)

Truth (380 Occurrences)

Almsgiving (3 Occurrences)


Sabbatical (1 Occurrence)


Redemption (46 Occurrences)

Thorn (30 Occurrences)


Keys (2 Occurrences)

Relationships (1 Occurrence)

Chaldea (8 Occurrences)

Well (2882 Occurrences)

Period (43 Occurrences)

Alms (13 Occurrences)


Adoption (5 Occurrences)

Pool (25 Occurrences)

Power (862 Occurrences)

Eden (19 Occurrences)

Taxing (3 Occurrences)

Satan (50 Occurrences)

Tax (43 Occurrences)

Parable (52 Occurrences)

Three (5005 Occurrences)


East (228 Occurrences)

Between (2624 Occurrences)

Miracle (15 Occurrences)


Godhead (5 Occurrences)

Rome (12 Occurrences)


Altar (343 Occurrences)


Demoniac (7 Occurrences)

Demon (26 Occurrences)

Worship (332 Occurrences)

Government (20 Occurrences)

Accommodation (1 Occurrence)


Bishop (4 Occurrences)

Devils (48 Occurrences)

Demons (54 Occurrences)

Key (8 Occurrences)

Kir (11 Occurrences)

Gracious (106 Occurrences)

Gog (12 Occurrences)

Wall (227 Occurrences)

Work (4564 Occurrences)

Fisherman (1 Occurrence)

Flag (30 Occurrences)

For (102061 Occurrences)

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