Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Bill; Bond

(1) In the parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:6 f) "bill," the King James Version, better "bond," the Revised Version (British and American), is used to translate the Greek grámmata , which is the equivalent of the contemporary Hebrew legal term sheṭar , "writing." This "writing," in the usage of the times, was an acknowledgment of the taking over or receiving of goods or money that had to be written and signed by the debtor himself. (See Bābhā' Bathrā' Luke 10:8 .) Edersheim's averment that the Greek word was adopted into the Hebrew (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah , II, 272), is based, according to competent textual critics, upon a false reading. The Greek, according to Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek , is tá grámmata , not tó grámma (Textus Receptus of the New Testament ). The word is indefinite, literally "the letter," and determines nothing involved in controversy.

(2) A question much discussed is, Was "the bond" (the Revised Version (British and American)) merely an acknowledgment of debt, or was it an obligation to pay a fixed annual rental from the produce of a farm? Edersheim, for instance, holds the former view, Lightfoot the latter. That the obligation is stated in the parable in kind - wheat and oil - and not in money - seems to bear against the simple debt theory. Edersheim sets down the remissions spoken of as authorized by the steward as amounting in money value to only about 5 British pounds and 25 British pounds respectively, and thinks they represented not a single but an annual payment (compare Kennedy, 1-vol HDB , and Fraser, DCG , article "Bill").

(3) Still another question has arisen: Was the old "bond" simply altered, or was a new one substituted for it? Here again Lightfoot and Edersheim are in the controversy and on opposite sides. The alteration of the old bond is suggested though not demanded by the language here, and, moreover, would be, Edersheim thinks, in accordance with the probabilities of the case. Such bonds were usually written, not on vellum or papyrus, but on wax-covered tablets, and so could be easily erased or altered by the stylus with its fiat, thick "eraser" ( mōḥēḳ ).

(4) It is probably safe to conclude: (a ) that the "bill" or "bond" had to be written and signed by the person assuming the obligation; (b ) that it was the only formal or legal evidence of the debt incurred; and (c ) that the supervision of the whole transaction belonged of right to "the steward." Should "the steward" conspire with the debtor against the master, the latter, it would appear, would have no check against the fraud.


Lightfoot, Hor. Hebrew , edition L. and T., II, 268-73; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah , II, 272ff; crit. commentary in the place cited.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and were generously provided by the folks at WordSearch Software.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Bill; Bond'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Next Entry