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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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STRANGER.—The Authorized Version has only the one rendering—‘stranger’—for five different words in the Greek. It is the natural translation of the term which has the most general signification—ξένος (Matthew 25:35; Matthew 25:43; Matthew 27:7 etc.); and there is no other word in English to express the exact force of ἀλλότριος (Matthew 17:25-26, John 10:5; cf. John 10:12—the ἀλλότριος is the one ‘whose own the sheep are not’). For ἀλλογενής the proper equivalent is ‘alien,’ as in Luke 17:18 ((Revised Version margin) ). For πάροικος and παρεπίδημος Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 rightly uses ‘sojourner’ (Acts 7:29, 1 Peter 2:11; cf. Luke 24:18, 1 Peter 1:1, Hebrews 11:13). These words indicate a sentiment which is (1) racial or national (Matthew 17:25-26 the kings of the earth take tribute from ‘strangers,’ not from sons), (2) humanitarian (Matthew 25:35 ‘I was a stranger, and ye took me in’), and (3) religious (1 Peter 2:11 ‘I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims to abstain,’ etc.).

Generally, however, it may be said that the connexion in which the words occur in NT is illustrative of the difference between the current Jewish conception of the stranger in the time of Christ, and that which is suggested by the Gospel. Jesus found His countrymen steeped in the idea that all foreigners were ‘dogs,’ that ‘the peoples’ was a term almost synonymous with ‘the heathen,’ and that only under rigid conditions and upon sufferance might a non-Jew obtain any of the privileges considered to be the Divine right of a Jew. He left His followers possessed of the thought, however unconscious they might be of all that it involved, that to Him the Samaritan and the Gentile, the man outside the pale and the man of no caste, were as much the objects of His mission as the favoured son of Abraham. ‘Stranger,’ to the average Jew, was the name for one with whom he might have commercial dealings and certain social or political relations, but with whom religious affinity or fellowship was practically impossible; to Jesus it meant one who had a special claim upon Him and His (Matthew 25:35 ff.). The impression which He created was not merely that Christianity meant a deepening and extending of that sense of the sacred duty of hospitality and kindness which already existed in the Jewish mind, as it does throughout the East (Exodus 23:9; Exodus 22:21, Luke 19:35, Deuteronomy 10:18-19, Jeremiah 7:6 etc.; cf. the practice existing among the Essenes, Josephus BJ ii. viii. 4, 5), but that it involved a complete change of the attitude which assumed that a different treatment was to be meted out to the stranger from that which was naturally shown to one’s own kith and kin (Matthew 5:43-48 etc.). See, further, artt. Cosmopolitanism, Hospitality, Gentiles, Universalism.

It is further to be noticed that Christianity gave a new signification to the word ‘stranger.’ The way had been prepared by the use of the Hebrew word ‘Ger’ (LXX Septuagint . πάροικος, see artt. ‘Ger’ in DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] and ‘Stranger’ in Encyc. Bibl.), which designated the sojourner who dwelt within the gates of Israel, and who, while having a certain status there and a temporary home, belonged to another country. The fact also that the Jews themselves had from the time of Abraham so often been sojourners in a land not their own (Acts 7:6; Acts 7:29, Hebrews 11:9), and the lessons taught by the dispersion in postexilic times, led to that metaphorical use of the term which has entered so largely into religious speech and poetry. The follower of Christ saw in it a description of himself as of one who was absent from his proper country, and whose citizenship was in heaven (Philippians 3:20). When St. Peter writes to the ‘sojourners of the Dispersion’ (1 Peter 1:1), and beseeches them ‘as sojourners and pilgrims’ to abstain from fleshly lusts (1 Peter 2:11), he is diverting the term from a geographical to a spiritual sense (cf. 1 Peter 1:17). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews has the same thought, ‘For we have not here an abiding city, but we seek after the city which is to come’ (Hebrews 13:14; cf. Hebrews 11:13-16).

Literature.—Uhlhorn, Chr. Charily in the Ancient Ch.; Brace, Gesta Christi, ch. xvi.; Seeley, Ecce Homo, chs. xiv. xvii.

J. Ross Murray.

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

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