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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Captain of the Temple

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(Acts 4:1; Acts 5:24; Acts 5:26, ὁ στρατηγὸς τοῦ ἱεροῦ)

This is St. Luke’s name for the commander of the Levitical guard who kept order in the Temple precincts and guarded the house. He was not a civil officer, but a priest; and his duty, besides keeping the peace, was to make his rounds by night, visit all the gates, and see that the sentries were awake. The office appears in Nehemiah 11:11, Jeremiah 20:1, etc. In 2 Maccabees 3:4 he is called προστάτης τοῦ ἱεροῦ, and is said to be of the tribe of Benjamin. If the reading is correct, this would be an irregularity. In the time of Claudius Caesar, one Ananus, the commander of the Temple, was sent in bonds to Rome to answer for his actions in a Jewish-Samaritan tumult (Jos. Ant. xx. vi. 2). For the name cf. also Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) vi. v. 3.

In the NT period, some of the high priests were blamed for nepotism, because, among other things, they made their sons ‘captains of the Temple.’

In Acts 4:1 the captain intervened on the ground that the peace of the Temple was likely to be broken by the preaching of the apostles, who were regarded as unauthorized speakers, and as such were under the ban of Jeremiah 29:26; ‘that there might be an overseer in the house of the Lord for every man who is insane and prophesies, and that thou mightest put him in the stocks and in the block.’

In Acts 5:24; Acts 5:26 the captain of the Temple re-arrested Peter and John, who had escaped from prison the previous night. But clearly he was uncertain of his position, and recognized that popular opinion was on the side of the apostles. It was the policy of the Sadducees to avoid disturbance, and to give no excuse for the intervention of the Roman power. Therefore the arrest was ejected courteously, ‘without violence, for they feared the people lest they should be stoned.’

W. M. Grant.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Captain of the Temple'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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