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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

King of Kings and Lord of Lords

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The title ‘King of kings,’ assumed of old by the Babylonian monarchs and adopted by the Achaemenidae, is proved by coins and inscriptions to have been laid claim to, about the beginning of the Christian era, by various other Oriental potentates, e.g. the Kings of Armenia, the Bosporus, and Palmyra (A. Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, 1908, p. 265). It had been applied by the Jews to their God (2 Maccabees 13:4, 3 Maccabees 5:35), and is combined with the appellation ‘Lord of lords’ (bestowed on Jahweh in Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalms 136:3) to form the supreme title ‘King of kings and Lord of lords,’ with which God is invested in 1 Timothy 6:15. This heaping up of attributes has a parallel in 1 Timothy 1:17. It is not evident what is its precise purpose in the context. Some would explain it as a counterblast to Gnostic misrepresentations. H. Weinel (Die Stellung des Urchristentums zum Staat, 1908, pp. 22, 51), who recalls the Babylonian origin of the title, finds some trace of the old Babylonian astrology in the further course of the passage, ‘who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach’ (cf. James 1:17, ‘the Father of lights,’ i.e. stars). The same lofty title is applied in Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16 to Christ, in earnest of the certainty of His triumph over the kings of the earth. In view of the hostility to the Roman Empire which breathes throughout the Book of Revelation, and the express references in it to the worship of the Emperor (Revelation 13:8; Revelation 13:15, Revelation 14:9, Revelation 20:4), it is probable that this title is deliberately assigned to Christ in assertion of His right to that dignity and reverence which were falsely claimed by the Roman Emperor (see articles King and Lord).

G. Wauchope Stewart.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'King of Kings and Lord of Lords'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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