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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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Guard (2)
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(1) In Acts 5:23; Acts 12:6; Acts 12:19 the Authorized Version renders φύλακες ‘keepers,’ which the Revised Version retains in the former passage, where the watchmen are Jewish, but changes into ‘guards’ in the latter, where they are Roman. Arrested by the high priest Annas, and put ‘in public ward’ (Acts 5:18 : ἐν τηρήσει δημοσίᾳ), Peter and John were not chained; their keepers merely shut the prison-house (δεσμωτήριον) and stood on guard outside. But when St. Peter was arrested by Herod Agrippa, and imprisoned in the fortress of Antonia or the adjoining barracks, he was chained to two soldiers, while other two kept watch at the door of the prison (φυλακή, Vulgate carcer). The station of the latter two was apparently ‘the first ward’ (φυλακή, Vulgate custodia) which the prisoner had to pass before he could effect his escape. The four soldiers together made a quaternion (τετράδιον), and four such bodies of armed men were told off to mount guard in succession during the four watches into which, in Roman fashion, the night was divided.

(2) The above-named Agrippa himself, having incurred the displeasure of Tiberius, once had the experience of being chained as a prisoner for six months to soldiers of the Imperial bodyguard in Rome. It was fortunate for him that the Emperor’s sister-in-law Antonia, who used her influence with Macro, the prœfectus praetorio, ‘procured that the soldiers who kept him should be of a gentle nature, and that the centurion who was over them, and was to diet with him, should be of the same disposition’ (Jos. Ant. XVIII. vi. 7). Tiberius’ death restored him to liberty, and Caligula consoled him with the gift of a chain of gold, equal in weight to the one of iron which he had worn (ib. vi. 10).

(3) To another such iron chain, which coupled St. Paul to one soldier after another of the same Imperial guard, allusion is made in each of the Captivity Epistles. Thanks to the favourable report given by the centurion Junius on handing over his charge to the praefect of the Praetorians, St. Paul probably received better treatment than an ordinary prisoner; but the fact remained that in his own hired house he was the δέσμιος of Christ Jesus, always wearing galling ‘bonds’ (δεσμοί, Philippians 1:7; Philippians 1:13-14; Philippians 1:16, Colossians 4:18, Philemon 1:10; Philemon 1:13, 2 Timothy 2:9), called also a ‘chain’ (ἅλυσις, Ephesians 6:20, 2 Timothy 1:16). Great good, however, resulted from his imprisonment; for through the frequent relief of the guard, and the Apostle’s skill in changing an enforced fellowship with armed men into a spiritual communion, the real significance of his bonds-their relation to his faith in Christ-gradually became known among all ‘the Praetorians,’ the finest regiment of the Roman army (Philippians 1:12-13). The arguments for this interpretation of the word πραιτώριον are fully stated by Lightfoot, Philippians4, 1878, p. 99f. Other possible explanations will be found under Palace.

In the Republican days the cohors praetoria, or cohortes praetoriœ, formed the bodyguard of the praetor or propraetor, who was governor of a province with military powers. Under the Empire the Praetorians came to be the Imperial bodyguard, which, as constituted by Augustus, was made up of nine cohorts, each of a thousand picked men. They were distinguished from other legionaries by shorter service and double pay, and on discharge they received a generous bounty or grant of land. Tiberius concentrated the force in a strongly fortified camp to the east of Rome, on a rectangle of 39 acres, where the modern Italian army also has barracks. One cohort, wearing civilian garb, was always stationed at the Emperor’s house on the Palatine; others were often sent to foreign service. The Praetorians were under a prœfectus praetorio, or more often two, sometimes even three prœfecti. These were originally soldiers, but ultimately the office was mostly filled by lawyers, whose duty it was to relieve the Emperor in certain kinds of civil and criminal jurisdiction. One of Trajan’s rescripts to Pliny (Ep. 57) indicates that the proper course to take with a certain Bithynian prisoner is to hand him over in chains ‘ad praefectos praetorii mei,’ and the case seems to be parallel to that of the Apostle, who made an appeal unto Caesar (Acts 25:11; Acts 25:21).

James Strahan.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Guard'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​g/guard.html. 1906-1918.
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