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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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BENEFACTOR (εὐεργέτης).—A title conferred by a grateful sovereign or country for useful service rendered, often in time of difficulty or danger (Esther 2:23; Esther 6:2). The names of royal benefactors were enrolled in a register (Herod. viii. 85, where see Rawlinson’s note; Thnc. 1:129). In the Persian tongue the king’s benefactors enjoyed a special title, possibly implying that their names were recorded. Besides the special appellation given to all who had done public service, the title ‘benefactor’ is occasionally mentioned as a perpetual epithet of kings, merely enhancing their dignity. So Antiochus vii. of Syria, Ptolemy iii. of Egypt, and at a later period Ptolemy vii. (b.c. 145–117), were called benefactors. It is evidently this latter, complimentary or official, title to which our Lord chiefly allndes in Luke 22:55, and so Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 rightly spells with a capital, ‘Benefactors.’ In worldly societies men reign in virtue of superior power, and Εὐεργέτης, ‘Benefactor,’ is a title of flattery which may be applied to the most cruel despot—as in the case of Ptolemy vii., otherwise known as Physcon (‘Big-Belly’), and also called Κακεργέτης by a play upon his official designation. But in this new society which Jesus is instituting, the greatest is to be as the least, and he that is chief as he that doth serve. And this after the example of the Lord Himself, who, being the true Εὐεργέτης, ‘came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (see the parallel passage Matthew 20:25-28, and cf. the ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον, ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυνόμενον which Jesus had just spoken at the Last Supper [Luke 22:19-20]).

Literature.—Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, art. ‘Benefactor’; Comm. of Alford and Godet, in loc.; Smith, Classical Dict., art. ‘Ptolemaeus.’

C. H. Prichard.

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

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