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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Soldiers


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SOLDIERS.—Throughout the Roman Empire, and especially in a praetorian province like Syria, of which the various divisions of Palestine practically formed part, soldiers were a common sight, and took a prominent share in the administration of affairs. The references to them, however, in the Gospels, except, as is natural, in connexion with our Lord’s trial and crucifixion, are not numerous.

1. In Luke 3:14 we read of soldiers who came to John the Baptist and asked him what they were to do. The word here is στρατευόμενοι (not στρατιῶται) and implies that they were on active service at the time. They can hardly have been Roman legionaries, but may have been members of Herod Antipas’ army engaged in some local expedition, of which we know nothing, or even, as Ewald supposes, only a kind of police or gendarmes employed in custom-house duties. The Baptist’s answer to their inquiry shows what the temptations of such folk were in those days. They must be careful, he says, henceforth not to do violence or extort money by false accusations, and to be content with their pay.

2. In Matthew 8:9 and Luke 7:8 the centurion (no doubt a proselyte, though a Roman officer; cf. Acts 10:1) who desired to have his servant healed, speaks of the soldiers who were under his command, and, in contrast to (1) above, his remarks bring out forcibly the idea of discipline and organization, which was to be found in a Roman legion.

3. The armies (στρατόπεδα) that would encircle Jerusalem in the fatal siege of Titus (a.d. 70) are referred to in Luke 21:20 (cf. Luke 19:43).

4. In the parable of the Marriage of the King’s Son (Matthew 22:1 ff.) we read of the armies (στρατεύματα) which the king sent to avenge the murder of his servants.

5. After the trial before Pilate, when our Lord had been scourged and condemned to be crucified, Pilate’s soldiers on duty took Him into their own quarters, and, gathering the whole band together, proceeded to treat Him with the grossest insults and mockery (Matthew 27:27, Mark 15:16, John 19:2). And during the long hours of crucifixion He had to endure similar maltreatment from the soldiers who were in charge (Luke 23:36; cf. Matthew 27:48, John 19:29). It is recorded also (John 19:23-24) how they parted His garments among them (see Coat and Quaternion); and further that, when the end had come, finding He was already dead, they refrained from breaking His legs, as Pilate had ordered, before taking Him down; but ‘one of them with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith there came out blood and water’ (John 19:32; John 19:34).

6. Lastly, soldiers were keeping guard at the sepulchre when the Resurrection took place (Matthew 27:65 f., Matthew 28:11-13; see Watch).

C. L. Feltoe.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Soldiers'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/s/soldiers.html. 1906-1918.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 26th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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