Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, May 19th, 2024
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Search for…
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Armour (2)
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

As Jews, the disciples of our Lord-not to speak of Himself-were exempt from military service. They had the privilege of ἀστρατεία, which Lentulus conceded to the Jews of Asia (Jos. Ant. xiv. x. 13f.), and Julius Caesar to those of Palestine (ib. x. 6). The Roman auxiliaries who garrisoned Judaea were recruited wholly from the Greek cities of Palestine, such as Sebaste and Caesarea. Probably, therefore, none of the disciples ever wore armour, or, with the possible exception of Simon the Zealot, became skilled in the use of weapons. St. Peter once carried a sword, but made a very blundering use of it (Mark 14:47, John 18:10). The only sword of which Christianity approves is that which is the symbol of the punitive ministry of the magistrate (Romans 13:4). Nevertheless, it was impossible for Christians not to be profoundly interested in the brave men who were taught that it was dulce et decorum pro patria mori, and Christ Himself sanctioned the use of illustrations drawn from the warfare of kings (Luke 14:31). It is not surprising, therefore, to find that St. Paul regards the valour and endurance of the world’s conquerors and the Empire’s defenders as worthy of emulation, and that he transfigures the armour of the Roman legionary into the panoply of the Christian soldier (Ephesians 6:11 ff.).

Descriptions of the equipment of soldiers are frequent in Greek authors. (1) Homer lets us see his πρόμαχοι arming before they go forth to battle. Paris (Il. iii. 328ff.) cases his limbs in greaves (κνημῖδες); a splendid cuirass (θώραξ) covers his breast; a baldrick sustains the sword (ξίφος) that glitters at his side; his great round shield (σάκος) is then displayed; over his brows he places his helmet (κυνέη) with nodding plume; and last of all he grasps his spear (ἔγχος) in his hand (cf. Il. iv. 132ff., xi. 15ff., xvi. 130ff., xix. 364ff.). ‘The six pieces of armour are always mentioned in the same order, in which they would naturally be put on, except that we should expect the helmet to be donned before the shield was taken on the arm’ (Leaf’s Homer, i. 106).-(2) Polybius (vi. 23) describes the armour of Roman soldiers in the time of the Punic wars. The heavy-armed carried an oblong shield (θυρεός, scutum), 4 feet by 2½, incurved into the shape of a half-cylinder; the helmet (περικεφαλαια) of bronze had a crest of three feathers; and a greave protected the right leg. The wealthier soldiers wore a cuirass of chain-armour (lorica), the poorer a bronze plate 9 inches square. For defence they all carried a Spanish sword (μάχαιρα), straight, double-edged, and pointed, which was used for both thrust and cut; and two long javelins (ὑσσοί, pila), which were either hurled at a distance or used at close quarters like modern bayonets.-(3) Josephus (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) iii. v. 5) describes the equipment of Roman soldiers under the Empire. The heavy-armed had a helmet (κράνος), a cuirass, a long sword worn on the left side and a dagger on the right, a pilum (ξυστόν), and scutum (θυρεός). The detachment which attended the commander had a round shield (ἀσπίς, clipeus) and a long spear (λόγχη). The cavalry wore armour like that of the infantry, with a broadsword (μάχαιρα), a buckler slung from the horse’s side, a lance, and several javelins (ἄκοντες), almost as large as spears, in a sheath or quiver.

In his enumeration of the weapons of spiritual warfare St. Paul omits the spear, and by implication adds girdle and shoes (ζωστήρ and caligœ). The complete equipment consists of six pieces, defensive and offensive-the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of readiness to carry good tidings, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. The Christian soldier is clad cap-à-pie in supernatural armour-the panoply which is the gift of God. There is he defence for the back, which should never need any.

‘The next day they took him [Christian] into the armoury, where they showed him all manner of furniture, which the Lord had provided for pilgrims, as sword, shield, helmet, breastplate, all-prayer, and shoes that would not wear out. And there was enough of this to harness out as many men for the service of their Lord as there be stars in the heaven for multitude’ (Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress).

In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 the breastplate (θυρεός) is faith and love. In the realm of the imagination a happy idea will present itself in various aspects to different minds, and even to the same mind at different moments. Isaiah (59:17) had already suggested the thought of a panoply in which God Himself is clothed, and the writer of Wisdom had worked it out thus (5:17-20): ‘He shall take His jealousy as complete armour; … He shall put on righteousness as a breastplate, and shall array Himself with judgment unfeigned as with a helmet; He shall take holiness as an invincible shield, and He shall sharpen stern wrath for a sword.’

Literature.-In addition to the sources cited in the article, see article ‘Arma,’ in Smith’s Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Ant.3, London, 1891, and article ‘Armour, Arms’ (A. R. S. Kennedy), in Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible .

James Strahan.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Armour'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​a/armour.html. 1906-1918.
Ads FreeProfile