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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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(Δημᾶς, perhaps a short form of Demetrius, as Silas was of Silvanus)

Demas was a Christian believer who was with St. Paul during his imprisonment in Rome, and sends greetings to the Colossians (Colossians 4:14) and to Philemon (Philemon 1:24). Probably he was a Thessalonian, and in both the references he is mentioned in connexion with St. Luke, while in 2 Timothy 4:10 his conduct is contrasted with that of the beloved physician, In the last-named passage we are informed that Demas left the Apostle when he was awaiting his trial before Nero. The desertion seems to have been deeply resented by St. Paul, who describes his action as due to his ‘having loved this present world.’ Probably Demas realized that it was dangerous to be connected with one who was certain to be condemned by Nero, and he saved his life by returning to his home in Thessalonica. The phrase used, however, suggests that the prospect of worldly advantage was the motive which determined Demas. No doubt the busy commercial centre of Thessalonica offered many opportunities for success in business, and love of money may have been the besetting sin of this professing Christian. The name ‘Demetrius’ occurs twice in the list of politarchs of Thessalonica; and, while we cannot say with certainty that the Demas of 2 Timothy 4:10 is identical with either of these, the possibility is not excluded. In this case the prospect of civic honours may have been the reason which led him to abandon the hardships and dangers of the Apostle’s life and return to Thessalonica, where his family may have held positions of influence. Perhaps the bare mention of his name in Colossians 4:14 and the reference in Philippians 2:20-21 may indicate that the Apostle even at this early date suspected the genuineness of Demas, who was with him at the time of his writing to Philippi (cf. Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 358). We have no certain assurance that the apostasy of Demas was final, but the darker view of his character has usually been taken, as e.g. by Bunyan in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Epiphanius (Haer. li. 6) classes him among the apostates from the faith. It is impossible to identify Demas with any Demetrius mentioned in the NT.

Literature.-W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen3, 1897. p. 358; J. B. Lightfoot, Colossians and Philemon2, 1876, pp. 36, 242; articles in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , Encyclopaedia Biblica , and Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible .

W. F. Boyd.

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

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Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
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