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Young Men

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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Several Greek words, with little difference of meaning, are thus translated in Acts and the Epistles. (1) νεανίας: ‘laid down their garments at the feet of a young man’ (Acts 7:58, also Acts 20:9, Acts 23:17, etc.). (2) παῖς: ‘they brought the young man (Revised Version ‘lad’) alive’ (Acts 20:12 Authorized Version ). This word has often the significance of servant. (3) νεανίσκος: ‘the young men came in and found her dead’ (Acts 5:10, 1 John 2:13, etc.). The termination has a diminutive force. (4) νεώτερος: ‘the younger men arose and … carried him out’ (Acts 5:6 [Revised Version margin], 1 Timothy 5:1, Titus 2:6; 1 Peter 5:5); also younger women (1 Timothy 5:2), widows (1 Timothy 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:14). A well-marked distinction between old and young was a characteristic feature of the life of the ascetic communities in Palestine (Hatch, p. 63), of the θίασοι of the Greeks (Weizsäcker, ii. 331 f.), and apparently also of the Apostolic Church. Age was regarded as a title to honour, and one of the qualifications for office. Submission and reverence were the duty of the young. Age and rank or office are so closely related, as in the word πρεσβύτερος, that it is not easy to distinguish whether a writer in the Epistles is speaking of age or of office. This ambiguity is also found in Epistle of Clement of Rome (Hatch).

Interest attaches to the question whether young men (νεώτεροι) held any office in the Church. The relative texts are 1 Timothy 5:1; 1 Peter 5:5, and Acts 5:6; Acts 5:10. In the first two instances the context has to be taken into consideration. ‘Rebuke not an elder (πρεσβυτέρῳ) but exhort him as a father; the younger men as brethren: … the younger (women) as sisters’ (1 Timothy 5:12). Here it is evident that the words ‘elder,’ ‘younger’ have nothing to do with office but refer to age (Hart, White, Expositor’s Greek Testament in loc.). The passage in Peter runs: ‘The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder.… Likewise, ye younger (νεώτεροι), be subject unto the elder’ (πρεσβυτέροις). If πρεσβύτερος in 1 Timothy 5:1 is official, it would be natural to conclude that it has the same significance in 1 Timothy 5:5, and that νεώτερος is also official. But πρεσβύτερος in 1 Timothy 5:1 is unexpectedly qualified by the words ‘among you,’ as if indicating a class more numerous than the official elders, and Peter can scarcely be regarded as referring to office when he speaks of himself as a ‘fellow-elder’ (συνπρεσβύτερος). Had he been referring to his official position, he would have said ‘an apostle’ (1 Timothy 1:1). He appears to be giving injunctions to the older and more experienced members of the Christian community to ‘tend the flock of God,’ and does so, not on his authority as an apostle, but as one who was, like themselves, advanced in age and experience. Accordingly, it seems best to conclude that νεώτερος has not an official significance in this passage. In Acts 5:6, ‘the younger men arose … and carried him out’ (Revised Version margin), νεώτερος is taken by some as indicating regular servants of the Church (Meyer, Lindsay, etc.), but against that view is the fact that the young men are described as νεανίσκοι in Acts 5:10 (Knowing, Neander, Lechler, etc.). The absence in the NT of any clear reference to them as officials is also an objection. Most probably they are simply distinguished as a class in the Christian community, in accordance with Eastern custom. The distinction between ‘elder’ and ‘younger’ was not confined strictly to difference of age. It also included difference of experience and length of connexion with the Church (Weizsäcker, Hatch).

Literature.-Comm. on Acts by R. J. Knowling (Expositor’s Greek Testament , 1900), T. M. Lindsay (1884-85), H. A. W. Meyer (Eng. translation , 1877), in loc.; C. von Weizsäcker, Apostolic Age, ii. [1895] 331 f.; E. Hatch, Organization of the Early Christian Churches, 1881, p. 63 f.; J. H. A. Hart, ‘1 Peter,’ in Expositor’s Greek Testament , 1910, in loc.; N. J. D. White, ‘1 Timothy,’ in ib., in loc.; C. Bigg, International Critical Commentary , ‘St. Peter and St. Jude,’ 1901, in loc.; A. C. McGiffert, History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age, 1897, pp. 288, 663.

John Reid.

 

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Young Men'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​y/young-men.html. 1906-1918.
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