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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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This word appears in the English Version of the NT as the translation of the Gr. εὐσέβεια (1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:7-8, 2 Timothy 3:5, Titus 1:1, 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:6-7; 2 Peter 3:11, also Acts 3:12 Revised Version ). In 1 Timothy 2:10 it translates θεοσέβεια. Cf. also 2 Clem. xix. 1 (εὐσέβεια), xx. 4. (θεοσέβεια). ‘εὐσέβεια is a more general word than θεοσέβεια, and is almost equivalent to the Latin pietas, due esteem of superiors, whether human or Divine, while θεοσέβεια is restricted to God as its object. However, in the NT εὐσέβεια always has reference to God’ (J. H. Bernard, The Pastoral Epistles [Camb. Greek Test., 1899], p. 39f.).

It will be seen from the above references that the word εὐσέβεια (θεοσέβεια) is particularly characteristic of the Pastoral Epistles, H. J. Holtzmann speaks of the idea represented by it as one of the most individual ideas of these letters, and points out that its appearance in them (cf. also εὐσεβῶς ζῆν [2 Timothy 3:12, Titus 2:12]) is connected with the recession of the one-sidedly religious interest of the great Pauline Epistles (Gal., Romans , 1 and 2 Cor.), and the coming to the front of an ethical conception of the business of life (see his NT Theol. 2, Tübingen, 1911, ii. 306). In the original Paulinism the supreme stress lies on the religious relation to God, and the central idea is that of justification by faith; while the ethical note is struck only in the second place, and in connexion with the peculiar Pauline mysticism. The Christian united to Christ in His Death and Resurrection is a new man, and must accordingly live as such. In the Pastoral Epistles, however, it is justification by faith and the specifically religious relation to God which are in the background; while the ethical demand of Christianity comes to the front in connexion with a fresh idea-that of adhesion to the Church, its doctrine and practice. It is just this latter point of view as a whole which is summed up in the word εὐσέβεια. ‘It is above all significant of the tendency of our epistles, that this conception serves to gather up in one both of these hues, in which the entire thought and effort of the author moves, viz. the ecclesiastical and the practical character of the type of religion recommended by him (Holtzmann, loc, cit.). On the one hand, therefore, godliness, as adhesion to the Church, appears as guaranteeing true doctrine (the teaching which is according to godliness [1 Timothy 3:16], the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness [1 Timothy 1:1], the mystery of godliness [1 Timothy 3:16]; cf. Ap. Const. iii. 5: κατηχεῖσθαι τὰ τῆς εὐσεβείας δόγματα). On the other hand, godliness evidences itself in good works and a life without reproach (1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 4:7). It is in fact because of the practical and ethical character of Christianity that its doctrine in opposition to the heretical speculations of Gnosis is sound speech (Titus 2:8), sound teaching (1 Timothy 6:3, 2 Timothy 1:13, Titus 1:9; Titus 2:1), sound words (1 Timothy 1:10, 2 Timothy 4:3); cf. ‘to be sound in the faith’ (Titus 1:13; Titus 2:2). On all this see Holtzmann, op. cit.

Holtzmann, of course, dues not accept the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles. Bernard, who does, says that the group of words connected with εὐσέβεια was within St. Paul’s sphere of knowledge, as they are all found in the Septuagint and are common in Greek literature; as a matter of fact, too, St. Paul uses the corresponding forms ἀσέβεια and ἀσεβής in Romans. ‘But why he should not have used them before and yet should use them so often in these latest letters is among the unsolved problems of the phraseology of the Pastorals, although corresponding literary phenomena have been often observed’ (op. cit. p. 39), The problem created by the use of these words is, however, only a part of the larger problem of the whole change in thought and atmosphere which has taken place between the ‘Hauptbriefe’ and the Pastoral Epistles (see the writer’s Man, Sin, and Salvation, London, 1908, pp. 137-140).

In conclusion, it may be observed, and it has a bearing on the question of the authorship of the Pastorals, that the idea of ‘godliness’ serves to hind these letters together with the certainly late and unauthentic 2 Peter , 2 Clement. In 2 Pet., moreover, εὐσέβεια serves to denote, just as in the Pastorals, the religion of the Church, in opposition to that of a heretical Gnosis (1:16; 2:1f.).

Robert S. Franks.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Godliness'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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