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Holman Bible Dictionary


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A relationship of devotion or fear of God or gods. 1. The cognate terms translated “religious” and “religion” (Acts 17:22; Acts 25:19 ) can indicate positive reverence for the gods or else negative fear of the gods. The pejorative translations “superstitious” (KJV) and “superstition” (KJV, RSV) is unfortunate. Paul hardly alienated the Athenians at the outset of his speech. He rather pointed to their outward expressions of piety (Acts 17:22 ). Though a monotheist (believer in one God) would not use “fear of the gods” to describe Judaism, the expression is natural on pagan Roman lips (Acts 25:19 ). 2 . The cognate terms translated “religion” and “religious” in Acts 26:5 and James 1:26-27 point to the “fear of God” as evidenced in religious conduct, particularly ritual practice. In Acts 26:5 Paul referred to Judaism as “our” way of evidencing reverence for God. According to James 1:26-27 , one who thinks himself religiously observant but who cannot control the tongue will find religious observance worthless. James continued that the religious observance God cares about is not a cultic matter but an ethical matter, care of the helpless of society. 3. Several terms derived from sebomai (to fear) are translated religious or religion. The term in Acts 13:43 is rendered “religious” (KJV), “devout” (NRSV), and “God-fearing” (NAS). The term RSV translated “religion” in 1 Timothy 2:10 is literally “God-fearing,” here in the sense of obedient to God's commands (compare John 9:31 ). The NIV translation “who profess to worship God” highlights the connection between fear and reverence. The KJV and NAS translation “godliness” accentuates the linkage of fear with an obedient life. The term RSV translated as “religion” (1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:5 ) and “religious duty” in 1 Timothy 5:4 is generally translated “godliness” or “piety.” The emphasis is again on conduct. 4. The meaning of the term the NAS translated as “self-made religion” is uncertain ( Colossians 2:23 ). The Greek roots suggest freely chosen worship (KJV, “will worship”; NIV, “self-imposed worship”; RSV, “promoting rigor of devotion”). Similar constructions with thelo suggest the meaning, “alleged worship.” 5. KJV translated Ioudaismo (Judaism) as the “Jews' religion” ( Galatians 1:13-14 ). 6 . NIV frequently inserts the adjective religious into its paraphrase to clarify the nature of feasts (Amos 5:21; Amos 8:10; Colossians 2:16 ) or service (Hebrews 10:11 ) when there is no corresponding term in the Greek or Hebrew text.

Chris Church

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Religion'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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