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Bible Lexicons

Trench's Synonyms of the New Testament

Worshiper of God

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theosebes (Strong's #2318) Worshiper of God

eusebes (Strong's #2152) Pious

eulabes (Strong's #2126) Devout

threskos (Strong's #2357) Religious, Godly

deisidaimon (Strong's #1174) Superstitious

Theosebes is applied to Job three times ( Job 1:1; Job 1:8; Job 2:3) but occurs only once in the New Testament ( John 9:31), as does theosebia (Strong's #2317; 1 Timothy 2:10; Genesis 20:11; cf. Job 28:28). Though it is rare in the Septuagint ( Isaiah 24:16; Isaiah 26:7; Isaiah 32:8), eusebes is common in the Apocrypha ( Sirach 11:22; Sirach 12:2; Sirach 12:4) and is found more frequently in the New Testament with dependent words ( 1 Timothy 2:2; Acts 10:2; 2 Peter 2:9; and often). Before considering the relation of theosebes and eusebes to the other words in this group, we should note a subordinate distinction between them. By virtue of its derivation, theosebes implies piety toward God or toward the gods; eusebes refers to piety in human relations (e. g., toward parents or others). According to its etymology, eusebes only implies "worship" (that is, "worthship") and reverence that is well and rightly directed. It has the same double meaning as the Latin pietas (piety and dutifulness), which is not just "uprightness toward the gods" or "the skill of cultivating the gods." This double meaning, though helpful, occasionally proves embarrassing. For accuracy and precision, Augustine defined pietas as what eusebeia (Strong's #2150) may mean and what theosebeia alone must mean, piety toward God? Plato defined eusebia as "uprightness concerning the gods," and the Stoics called it "knowledge of worshiping the gods," though not every reverencing of the gods was eusebia; only a correct reverencing of them aright (eu) was. Eusebia is the standing word used to refer to this piety, both in itself and as the correct mean between atheotes and deisidaimonia and between asebeia and deisidaimonia. Josephus also contrasted eusebia with eidololatreia (Strong's #1495). The eusebes is the antithesis of the anosios; he is philotheos and "sensible concerning the gods." Eusebius correctly described Christian eusebeia as "uprightness toward the one and only God as truly existing and confessed, and a resulting upright life."

Although most of the information about eulabes has been covered previously in section10, some additional material needs to be added. Earlier I observed that eulabeia (Strong's #2124) changed from signifying caution and carefulness in human relationships to signifying caution and carefulness in our relationship with God. The only places in the New Testament where eulabes occurs are Luke 2:25; Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2 (cf. Micah 7:2). Eulabes is usually translated "devout," a translation that cannot be improved. On all of these occasions eulabes refers to Jewish or Old Testament piety. In the first instance it is applied to Simeon, in the second to those Jews who came to Jerusalem from distant parts to keep the commanded feasts, and in the third instance to the andres eulabeis (devout men) who carried Stephen to his burial and who probably were not Christian brothers but devout Jews. By this courageous act they demonstrated their sorrow over the slaughtered saint and so separated themselves in spirit from the bloody deed and, if possible, from the judgments that would befall the city where the murder occurred. Whether they came to believe in the crucified Christ as witnessed to by Stephen we are not told, though we may well presume this to be the case.

The piety of man toward God consists of fear and love. The Old Testament emphasized fear, the New Testament love. Eulabes is an excellent word for describing piety under the old covenant. According to Luke 1:6, Zacharias and Elizabeth "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" and performing all their prescribed duties. When used in their religious senses, eulabes and eulabeia include the accurate and scrupulous performance of prescribed tasks where the danger of negligence in God's service and the need to preserve unaltered what God has commanded are recognized.

On several occasions Plutarch exalted the eulabeia of the Romans in the handling of divine things and contrasted it with the comparative carelessness of the Greeks. Thus after giving other examples he said: "Of late times also they did renew and begin a sacrifice thirty times one after another, because they thought still there fell out one fault or other in the same; so holy and devout were they to the gods" Elsewhere, Plutarch portrayed Aemilius Paulus as someone who was famous for his eulabeia. The following is a portion of that lengthy passage:

When he did anything belonging to his office of priesthood, he did it with great experience, judgment, and diligence; leaving all other thoughts, and without omitting any ancient ceremony, or adding to any new; contending oftentimes with his companions in things which seemed light and of small moment; declaring to them that though we do presume the gods are easy to be pacified, and that they readily pardon all faults and scrapes committed by negligence, yet if it were no more but the respect of the commonwealth's sake they should not slightly or carelessly dissemble or pass over faults committed in those matters.

In one passage Euripides portrayed eulabeia as a divine person, "most beneficial of the gods."

But if eulabes refers to the anxious and scrupulous worshiper who never changes or omits anything because he is afraid of offending, threskos ( James 1:26) refers to the Latin religiosus (devout) who zealously and diligently performs his outward service to God. Although the word does not occur anywhere else in Greek secular literature, its meaning may be determined by working back from threskeia which primarily refers to the ceremonial service of religion, the external framework of which eusebeia is the animating soul. Plutarch's suggested derivation of threskos from Orpheus the Thracian who inaugurated the celebration of religious mysteries, is etymologically worthless. That etymology does, however, emphasize the celebration of divine functions as fundamental.

James' choice of threskos and threskeia ( James 1:26-27) is both delicate and precise. "If any man," he would say, "seems to himself to be threskos, a diligent observer of the functions of religion, if any man would render a pure and undefiled threskeia to God, let him understand that this does not consist in outward purifications or ceremonial observances; there is a better threskeia than thousands of rams and rivers of oil, namely, to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with his God" ( Micah 6:7-8). Or, according to his own words, "to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (cf. Matthew 23:23). James was not affirming, as we sometimes hear, that these duties are the sum total or even the great essentials of true religion, but he declared them to be the body, the threskeia of which godliness or the love of God is the animating soul. His intention is somewhat obscured in English because our translations "religious" for threskos and "religion" for threskeia have lost their original meanings. James claimed that the new dispensation was superior to the old because the threskeia of the new consists in acts of mercy, love, and holiness. The new dispensation has light for its garment, its very robe is righteousness. In that way James explained the superiority of the new dispensation over the old, whose threskeia at best was merely ceremonial and formal, whatever inner truth it might embody. Coleridge made these same observations, though he deemed our translations of threskos and threskeia erroneous. They are, however, not so much erroneous as obsoletean explanation Coleridge suggested, though he was not aware of the meaning of "religion" in the time of the translators. Milton offered several more examples, characterizing some heathen idolatries as being "adorned with gay religions full of pomp and gold." Our Homilies supply many more examples: "Images used for no religion or superstition rather, we mean of none worshipped, nor in danger to be worshipped or any, may be suffered." An instructive passage on the merely external character of threskeiaoccurs in Philo. He rejected those who wanted to be counted among the eusebeis on the basis of various washings or costly offerings to the temple: "For he wanders from the path toward piety [eusebeian] when he deems ceremony [threskeian] a substitute for holiness." The tendency of threskeia to deteriorate into superstition and service of false gods itself indicates that it was more closely related to the form than to the essence of piety. Thus Gregory Nazianzene remarked: "I understand ceremony [threskeian] and the reverence of demons, but piety [eusebeia] is the adoration of the Trinity."

Deisidaimon, the last word of this group, and deisidaimonia at first had honorable uses that were equivalent to theosebes. It is possible that the Latin superstitio (superstition) and superstitiosus (superstitious) initially had the same meaning. There seem to be traces of this use of superstitiosus in Plautus, though since no one has yet solved the riddle of this word, it is impossible to say whether this is correct. By Cicero's time superstitiosus had certainly left its better meaning behind. Initially, the philosophers understood deisidaimonia unfavorably. Ast affirmed that it first occurred in an illsense in Polybius, but Jebb quoted a passage from Aristotle that showed that this meaning was not unknown to him. As soon as the philosophers began to see fear as a disturbing and not as a positive element in piety, it was almost inevitable that they would adopt deisidaimonia, whose etymology implies and involves fear. The philosophers then used deisidaimonia to denote what they condemned: the "empty fear of the gods," a phrase in which the emphasis should be on fear, not on empty. Augustine remarked: "Varro differentiates a pious person [religiosum] from a superstitious one [superstitioso] by this distinction, so that he says gods are feared by the superstitious; by the pious, however, they are revered as parents, not feared as enemies." Although Baxter does not have an identical emphasis, his definition of superstition is also a good one: "A conceit that God is well pleased by overdoing in external things and observances and laws of men's own making."

Even after deisidaimonia's meaning changed to an ignoble one, its higher meaning did not completely disappear. Deisidaimonia remained a "middle term" to the last; its sense, whether good or bad, depended on the user's intention. Deisidaimon and deisidaimonia occur in a good sense, even in Paul's memorable discourse on Mars' Hill. To the Athenians Paul said: "I perceive that in all things you are hos deisidaimonesterous"( Acts 17:22). This does not mean "too superstitious," as it is translated in the Authorized Version, or allzu abergldubisch (too superstitious) as Luther translated it, but religiosiores (rather pious), as Beza translated it in Latin, or sehr gottesfurchtig (very religious), as De Wette translated it in German, or "very religious," as it is translated in the New King James Version. Paul's habit was not to affront and thereby alienate his hearers, especially at the beginning of a discourse intended to win them to the truth. Deeper reasons than prudence would have prevented him from such expressions: he was aware of the religious element in heathenism, however overlaid or obscured it was by falsehood and error. For these reasons, interpreters like Chrysostom made deisidaimonesterous equivalent to eulabesterous (rather reverent) and understood it as praise. But we must avoid this extreme. Paul tactfully and truthfully selected a word that almost imperceptibly slipped from praise to blame. In his comments on Acts 17:22, Bengel said: "Deisidaimon in itself is a middle term and for that reason has a placid ambiguity very fitting for the beginning of the speech." Paul gave his Athenian hearers their due honor as zealous worshipers of the superior powers, so as far as their knowledge reached. Paul did not squander words of highest praise on the Athenians but reserved these words for the true worshipers of the true God. This is the case in the one passage where deisidamon occurs, as well as in the one passage where deisidaimonia occurs ( Acts 25:19). In that passage Festus may have spoken with an implied slight of the deisidaimonia or overstrained way of worshiping God that he believed was common to Paul and his Jewish accusers, but he would scarcely have referred to it as a "superstition" before Agrippa, who was himself an expert in the customs and questions of the Jews ( Acts 26:3; Acts 26:27). Festus certainly did not intend to insult Agrippa.

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Bibliography Information
Trench, Richard C. Entry for 'Worshiper of God'. Synonyms of the New Testament. 1854.

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