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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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BABE.1. βρέφος, lit. ‘nourished’—by the mother, is used of an unborn infant (Luke 1:41-44), of an infant still in swaddling-bands (Luke 2:12; Luke 2:16), and also of young children brought by their mothers to Jesus that He might touch them (Luke 18:15). 2. νήπιος, literally, ‘one that cannot yet speak’ (νη = ‘not,’ and ἔπος, ‘word’); cf. Lat. in-fans, ‘infant,’ which is a better rendering of νήπιος, though neither Authorized Version nor Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 is consistent in the translation of the two Greek words, νήπιος is a child as contrasted with an older person, e.g. with ‘the wise and prudent’ in Luke 10:21 and Matthew 11:25 (cf. Galatians 4:3, Ephesians 4:14). It is used also with θηλάζοντες, ‘sucklings,’ in Matthew 21:16, in which passage the root meaning of νήπιος is specially suggestive, ‘Out of the mouth of speechless (babes) thou hast perfected praise.’

Jesus’ fondness for these little ones was shown, both by His rebuke of the disciples who would have sent them and their mothers away when they came to Him for a blessing (Luke 18:15 f., cf. Matthew 19:14), and by His frequent use of children to illustrate the Christian disposition (cf. Matthew 18:2-5, Mark 10:15, Luke 18:16-17). See, further, artt. Infancy, Children.

The word ‘babe’ (βρἐφος) is twice used of the infant Jesus Himself (Luke 2:12; Luke 2:16). And it is worth noting that in Luke 2:12 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 brings out a significance of meaning which is lost in Authorized Version. In the Gr. there is no art. prefixed to βρέφος in this verse; the sign given to the shepherds was ‘the sign of a babe.’ Moreover, according to the reading which is most strongly supported, σκμεῖον should have the art., so that what the shepherds were told was ‘The sign is a babe.’ The meaning therefore is, not as Authorized Version suggests, ‘you shall find the babe you are looking for in such and such a condition,’ but rather this ‘most extraordinary and suggestive one, You shall find the Saviour you are looking for, Christ the Lord, in the form of a babe, wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and lying in a manger.’ See Dr. Monro Gibson in Sunday Mag., Dec. 1891; and cf. Dr. Hastings in Expos. Times, iii. [1892] 196, and [1894] 147.

E. B. Pollard.

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

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