The Mystery τῆς εὐ­σεβείας

A few weeks ago I sent out the following tweet.

I had posted this in response to an apparently now deleted tweet from the “Ponytail Preacher” which claimed that Christianity wasn’t about religion but about a relationship with Jesus Christ. This idea that “Christianity is not a religion but a relationship” is a bit of a canard. By any reasonable definition of the word, Christianity is most assuredly a religion. Without a doubt, it is a religion where one of its main features is the idea that humans can have a personal relationship with the divine. But that doesn’t make it any less a religion.

Furthermore, the New Testament makes it clear that Christianity is a religion, as my tweet pointed out. In the epistle of James we read,

If any think they are religious [θρησκὸς], and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion [θρησκεία] is worthless. Religion [θρησκεία] that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:26-27, NRSV)

The word that stands behinds the word “religion” is θρησκεία. It appears only four times in the entire New Testament: Acts 26:5 (“the strictest sect of our religion [θρησκίας]”), Colossians 2:18 (“worship [θρησκίᾳ] of angels”), and here in James 1:26 and 1:27. Because it is a word used so infrequently in the New Testament, it is necessary to look at how the word was used in other ancient Greek literature. 

θρησκεία and James 1:26-27

First, θρησκεία is a substantive which is derived from the verb θρησκεύω, a term which meant the observation of religious practices. [1] θρησκεύω itself was used in a few different ways in Greek literature. [2] It could be used in a liturgical sense [3], to describe a ritual deed or action that is “an expression of an internal piety or a truly religious sentiment,” [4] to express the basic idea of a cult that worships God, or communicate the ethical obligations associated with religious feelings. It is this final sense that is intended in James 1:26-27. Just before 1:19-25 we read these words.

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak [βραδὺς εἰς τὸ λαλῆσαι], slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves [παραλογιζόμενοι ἑαυτούς]. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing. (1:19-25, NRSV)

What James is saying is that if you do not do as “the word” instructs and you just merely “hear” it, you are deceiving yourself. But deceived concerning what? This is where 1:26-27 come into play.

James says that those who think that they are θρησκὸς [5] have a worthless θρησκεία if they do two things: 1) fail to bridle their tongues and 2) deceive their hearts. He has already told them that they should be slow to speak, a bridling of the tongue. And he has warned them that if they are merely hearers of the word and not doers they are deceiving themselves. So worthless θρησκεία for James is essentially a failure to act upon “the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” (1:19)

But he doesn’t just describe worthless θρησκεία . He explains what worthwhile θρησκεία is: it is “pure” and “undefiled.” And what does it do? It is a doer of the word: it cares for orphans and widows and it keeps the one who is θρησκὸς unstained by the world. That is, there are ethical obligations associated with worthwhile θρησκεία both to others and to oneself. “Genuine religion,” James Adamson writes, “must always be practical” and “must always be pure.” [6] 

“Religion” or “Godliness”? 

So it is quite clear that θρησκεία is rightly translated as “religion” and we can appreciate its usage in James 1:26-27 by examining the context in which it was employed. But what about 1 Timothy 3:16? In my tweet I had used it as evidence that the New Testament itself considers Christianity a religion.

Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion [τῆς εὐσεβείας] is great… (NRSV)

Most translations do not render τῆς εὐσεβείας as “our religion” but usually translate it as “godliness” (ESV, KJV, etc.). [7] This makes the reading “our religion” unique to say the least. 

After I sent the tweet and had received a number of “likes” by various atheists, my friend Doug Carpenter, a pastor and teacher, offered some of his thoughts on both εὐσέβεια and θρησκεία.

Part 1 on εὐσέβεια:

Part 2 on θρησκεία: 

Generally, Doug agrees with my original sentiment. But Doug does not care for the NRSV’s rendering of τὸ τῆς εὐ­σεβείας μυστήριον – “the mystery of our religion.” Doug prefers the reading of other major translations like the NASB or ESV – “the mystery of godliness.”

When I originally began working on this post, I had my mind set to defend the NRSV’s reading of “our religion” for τῆς εὐσεβείας. It seemed to me that what followed the colon was a description of the content of the Christian religion. In fact, the note in the Harper Collins Study Bible reads about that description, “A hymnic fragment summarizes the content of the faith, here called the mystery of our religion.” [8] But in setting out to defend this rendering I had committed a cardinal exegetical sin: the failure to examine how the word was used in its overall context. 

The σεβ Root

Let’s start with the basics. εὐσέβεια is a noun that comes from the verb εὐσεβέω. εὐσεβέω is a compound word that combines the Greek word εὖ meaning “well” or “good” with the root σεβ which expresses the ideas of “awe” or “reverence.” The verb σέβομαι is used throughout ancient Greek literature (including the LXX), as are various nouns, adjectives, and adverbs with the σεβ root. For example, in the Wisdom of Solomon we read, 

People are mortal, and what they make with lawless hands is dead;
for they are better than the objects they worship [τῶν σεβασμάτων],
since they have life, but the idols never had.
(Wisdom of Solomon 11:15, NRSV)

Words containing the σεβ root appear throughout the New Testament as well. For example, the Greek verb σέβω (usually in participial form) appears eight times in the book of Acts! Other terms with the σεβ root that occur in the New Testament include σεβάζομαι (“to worship”), σέβασμα (an object of worship), and σεβαστός (“to be revered”). 

So what do we get when we combine the σεβ root with εὖ? Well, we end up with words like εὐσέβεια. And if εὖ means “well” and the σεβ root means “reverence” or “awe” then we end up with a word that “literally means well-directed worship, but does not imply an inward, inherent holiness. It is actually an externalized piety.” [9] This “externalized piety” can be directed towards deities and parents and can even express the idea of loyalty. In the New Testament, there are a number of words that feature the εὐσέβ root including the noun εὐσέβεια, the verb εὐσεβέω, the adjective εὐσεβής, and the adverb εὐσεβῶς

In what follows we will briefly examine the noun εὐσέβεια in New Testament passages outside of 1 Timothy. Following that, we will look at how εὐσέβεια is used specifically in 1 Timothy. Before we do that, I’d like to make a couple of comments on how εὐσέβεια is sometimes translated in English Bibles. 

My Problem with “Godliness”

As we will see, most of the major translations – the NRSV, ESV, NASB, NIV, KJV – render εὐσέβεια as “godliness.” I can understand why they choose to use that word. “Godliness” comes from “godly” which is itself an adverbial form of “God.” In essence, it means “to be like God” and “godliness” would mean that one has those God-like qualities. But what does it mean to have “God-like qualities”? There are clearly some qualities God has that humans cannot possess: eternality, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability. “Godliness” becomes too vague a word to stand in for εὐσέβεια. 

Futhermore, the Greek word for “God” is θεός, a word used over a thousand times in the New Testament. No part of θεός is found in εὐσέβεια as our breakdown of the term has already revealed. Interestingly enough, there is a term related to εὐσέβεια that drops the ευ prefix and replaces it with θεό from θεός: θεοσέβεια. It is used only once in the New Testament and there it means “reverance for God.” [10]  Therefore, there is no lexical reason for translating εὐσέβεια as “godliness.” 

For these reasons, I prefer terms like “piety” or “devotion” to “godliness.” Since εὐσέβεια fundamentally means to “reverence well,” the word “piety” seems like an excellent fit. “Devotion” is a related idea to “piety” and would also fit in certain contexts. So as we examine the texts containing εὐσέβεια you will see me render εὐσέβεια as “piety” or “devotion.” 

Let’s move on to those texts apart from 1 Timothy that contain εὐσέβεια. 

εὐσέβεια in the New Testament

Outside of the first epistle to Timothy, εὐσέβεια is used seven times. It appears in the book of Acts, the two Pastoral epistles of 2 Timothy and Titus, and in 2 Peter. Let’s briefly look at those passages.

Acts 3:12

After healing a crippled man (Acts 3:1-10), Peter addresses a crowd who are astonished at what had just transpired. He says to them,

You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety [εὐσεβείᾳ] we had made him walk? (Acts 3:12, NRSV)

The NRSV, ESV, NASB and others render εὐσεβείᾳ as “piety.” This is a good fit as Peter is emphasizing that it was not of their own ability (ἰδίᾳ δυνάμει) or through their pious devotion (εὐσεβείᾳ) to Jesus that he was able to cause the crippled man to walk. Rather, it was the name of Jesus, exercised in faith, that caused the miracle. (Acts 3:16) 

2 Timothy 3:5

The author of 2 Timothy begins in chapter three a discussion of “the last days” by describing the character of the people of that time:

For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness [εὐσεβείας] but denying its power. Avoid them! (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

The NRSV and other major translations render εὐσεβείας as “godliness” but “piety” or “devotion” would be a better fit. The author is stating that during the last days there will be those who may have an outer shell of pious behavior but it is effectively impotent. These false professors are to be avoided.

Titus 1:1

In the opening of the epistle to Titus we read these words:

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that is in accordance with godliness  [εὐσέβειαν]. (Titus 1:1)

Again, the NRSV and others have chosen “godliness” as their preferred translation. And again, “piety” or “devotion” would be a better fit. We should note that the phrase “knowledge of the truth that is in accordance with godliness” is very similiar to what we read in 1 Timothy 6:3 where we read of “the teaching that is in accordance with godliness.”

2 Peter 1:3, 1:6-7, 3:11

In the opening chapter of the second epistle of Peter we read this:

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness [εὐσέβειαν], through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness [τὴν εὐσέβειαν], and godliness [τῇ εὐσεβείᾳ] with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. (2 Peter 1:3-7)

Here the NRSV and other translations render the three εὐσέβειαs as “godliness.” I think in each instance, “piety” is a better fit. The author of 2 Peter claims that God’s “divine power” (τῆς θείας δυνάμεως) has supplied the faithful with all that they need “for life and for piety” or “pious living.” In 1:5-7 he commands believers to “support” their faith with a host of virtues which include piety because “if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:8) 

εὐσέβεια in 1 Timothy

There seems to be a consistent usage of εὐσέβεια in the New Testament, no matter its context. As we will see, this trend continues even in 1 Timothy but with one important caveat. 

εὐσέβεια appears eight times throughout the epistle of 1 Timothy. Of those eight occurences, half appear in the final chapter alone and three of those take place in the span of four verses which we will examine shortly. More important for our discussion is that of the eight appearances of εὐσέβεια in 1 Timothy, four of which occur with the definite article ἡ. Why is this important? 

Let’s compare two sentences in English:

John ate a pizza by himself.

John ate the pizza by himself.

The first sentence doesn’t tell us what kind of pizza it was that John ate or even what size it was. It is just pizza – generic, unspecified. But look at the second sentence. There it seems that there is a very specific pizza in mind: the large pizza. And while we don’t know what kind of pizza it was or what size it was we can deduce that John ate a specific pizza of some unknown variety.

As a general rule in Greek, when a noun has the definite article it is emphasizing identity whereas the lack of the definite article is emphasizing quality. [11] Nouns with the article are considered articular and nouns without the article are considered anarthrous. [12] Because Greek does not have its own indefinite article, you often read an anathrous noun as having the English indefinite article “a” or “an.” For example, in Romans 1:1 we read, Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ – “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” As you can see, the word translated as “a servant” is δοῦλος and there is no article attached to it. So translating it with the indefinite article makes sense. Paul is a servant, one of many.

But not all anarthrous nouns need to be translated with an indefinite article. In some instances, anathrous nouns should be translated with the definite article. For example, in John 1:1 we read, Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος – “In the beginning was the Word.” The word ἀρχῇ lacks the definite article but we would not translate it as “a beginning.” The author of John’s Gospel had something specific in mind: the beginning of everything (cf. John 1:3).

In other places, one does not need either an indefinite or definite article for an anarthrous noun. For example, in John 4:24 Jesus tells the Samaritan woman, πνεῦμα ὁ θεός – “God is spirit.” In the KJV this phrase is translated, “God is spirit” whereas most modern translations drop the indefinite article and for good reason. First, note that there is no verb in that phrase. While translations supply the verb for being (i.e. “is”), the Greek verb ειμί isn’t present. Second, both πνεῦμα and ὁ θεός are in the nominative case with πνεῦμα serving as the predicate nominative. What is being emphasized in John 4:24 is the essence of God, namely that he is spiritual and not physical. The KJV emphasizes his identity as a class of being, but this is not what the author intended by it.

But what about articular nouns? Do we always need to translate them with the definite article? Of course not. For example, in the Gospel of Mark we read, Καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ἀνεχώρησεν πρὸς τὴν θάλασσαν – “And Jesus with his disciples withdrew to the sea” (Mark 3:7). You’ll note that “Jesus” is actually ὁ Ἰησοῦς which if we translated literally would read “the Jesus.” But that makes no sense in English; I don’t say of my son, “The Elijah went into his bedroom.” Since Elijah is a proper noun, using it in a particular context renders the need for a definite article obsolete. The same is true in translating ὁ Ἰησοῦς in Mark 3:7. We’ve already come across this Jesus in chapters 1 and 2 so when the text mentions him later on we are not curious about whom it is speaking.

But there are instances where the definite article is pointing us to something in particular. And this is what is going on with the articular uses of εὐσέβεια in 1 Timothy. Let’s briefly look at each time εὐσέβεια occurs. 

Anarthrous Uses

1 Timothy 2:2

Greek text: ὑπὲρ βασιλέων καὶ πάντων τῶν ἐν ὑπεροχῇ ὄντων, ἵνα ἤρεμον καὶ ἡσύχιον βίον διάγωμεν ἐν πάσῃ εὐσεβείᾳ καὶ σεμνότητι.

My translation: “…for kings and all those in authority, so that a peaceful and quiet life you may lead in all piety [εὐσεβείᾳ] and dignity.”

1 Timothy 4:7

Greek text: τοὺς δὲ βεβήλους καὶ γραώδεις μύθους παραιτοῦ. γύμναζε δὲ σεαυτὸν πρὸς εὐσέβειαν·

My translation: “…but the profane and silly myths have nothing to do with! But train yourself in piety [εὐσέβειαν]….”

1 Timothy 6:3

Greek text: εἴ τις ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖ καὶ μὴ προσέρχεται ὑγιαίνουσιν λόγοις τοῖς τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ τῇ κατ᾽ εὐσέβειαν διδασκαλίᾳ,

My translation: “Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching in accordance with piety [εὐσέβειαν].”

1 Timothy 6:11

Greek text: Σὺ δέ, ὦ ἄνθρωπε θεοῦ, ταῦτα φεῦγε· δίωκε δὲ δικαιοσύνην εὐσέβειαν πίστιν, ἀγάπην ὑπομονὴν πραϋπαθίαν.

My translation: “But you, O man of God, run away from these things; but seek righteousness, piety [εὐσέβειαν], faith, love, endurance, gentleness.”

Thoughts on the Anarthrous εὐσέβεια

You’ll notice that I have chosen to render each anarthrous occurence of εὐσέβεια as “piety.” (See my section “My Problem with ‘Godliness'” above.) What the author is emphasizing in each verse is that a life of piety and devotion is what the believer is called to. They are to pray so that they can have a life of piety and dignity (2:2); they are to train in piety the way one would train physically (4:7-8); they are to be wary of those who teach something that doesn’t line up with pious teaching from Jesus and his disciples (6:3); and they are to pursue piety along with other Christian traits (6:11). 

But these uses of εὐσέβεια seem somewhat different than the articular uses found in 1 Timothy. Let’s look at those. 

Articular Uses

1 Timothy 3:16

Greek text: καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα ἐστὶν τὸ τῆς εὐ­σεβείας μυστήριον

 Ὃς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί,
ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι,
ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις,
ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν,
ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ,
ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ.

My translation: “And confessedly great is the mystery of our devotion [τῆς εὐ­σεβείας]:

He appeared in flesh,
was justified in spirit,
was seen of angels,
was preached among the peoples,
was believed in the world,
was taken up in glory.”

1 Timothy 4:8

Greek text: ἡ γὰρ σωματικὴ γυμνασία πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶν ὠφέλιμος, δὲ εὐσέβεια πρὸς πάντα ὠφέλιμός ἐστιν ἐπαγγελίαν ἔχουσα ζωῆς τῆς νῦν καὶ τῆς μελλούσης.

My translation: “…for bodily training is of some value, but piety [ἡ εὐσέβεια] is of value in every way, having a promise for this life now and the one to come.”

1 Timothy 6:5

Greek text: διαπαρατριβαὶ διεφθαρμένων ἀνθρώπων τὸν νοῦν καὶ ἀπεστερημένων τῆς ἀληθείας, νομιζόντων πορισμὸν εἶναι τὴν εὐσέβειαν.

My translation: “…friction from those men of the depraved mind and robbed of the truth, supposing that the devotion [τὴν εὐσέβειαν] is a means of gain.”

1 Timothy 6:6

Greek text: ἔστιν δὲ πορισμὸς μέγας ἡ εὐσέβεια μετὰ αὐταρκείας

My translation: “But the devotion [ἡ εὐσέβεια] is of great gain with contentment.”

Some Thoughts on the Articular εὐσέβεια

The author of 1 Timothy, by employing the definite article in these four instances, seems to be communicating something about εὐσέβεια. He is, it appears, particularizing it. And he does this by setting the stage with the first articular use of it in 3:16. 

The Mystery τῆς εὐ­σεβείας

One of the major themes of the Pastor Epistles in general and the epistle of 1 Timothy in particular is the contrast between true and false teaching and teachers. [13] False teaching will lead to false worship, and so the author of 1 Timothy employs εὐσέβεια, a term which we have already stated expresses the idea of “well-directed worship” and is, in the words of Spiros Zodhiates, “an externalized piety.” [14] This has led some to conclude that εὐσέβεια “is almost a technical term for the Christian religion as expressed in daily life.[15] 

What sets the stage for this understanding of this usage of εὐσέβεια stems, in my estimation, from 3:16 where we read of the τὸ τῆς εὐ­σεβείας μυστήριον – “the mystery of our devotion.” The construction in 3:16 is similiar to one just a few verses earlier in 3:9 where we read of the τὸ μυστήριον τῆς πίστεως – “the mystery of our faith.” I suspect that these two phrases are meant to be read as being similar. In other words, “the mystery of our faith” is the same as “the mystery of our devotion.” William Hendricksen writes,

“The mystery of our devotion” is “the mystery of our faith” (verse 9), meaning that it pertains to our faith, to our devotion. By faith we embrace him. By means of our devotion we glorify him. The word used in the original (εὐσέβεια, -ας) occurs here in a sense slightly different from piety or godlinesswhen this is viewed as a quality or condition of the soul. It is here used in a more active sense. It is piety in action.., godly living (as in 4:7) the conscientious devotion of our lives to God in Christ, the fear of God…. [16]


Recall that the NRSV translates τῆς εὐ­σεβείας as “our religion.” While one of the meanings of εὐσέβεια is certainly “religion,” [17] its context here conveys the sense of pious living or devotion. “Religion,” then, becomes too easily conflated with θρησκεία. Therefore, rendering τῆς εὐ­σεβείας as “our devotion” demonstrates the difference between the two.

The use of the articular εὐσέβεια in the other passages in 1 Timothy then become more clear. In 4:7 we read that believers should “train themselves in piety,” employing an anarthrous εὐσέβεια. But then in 4:8, the author is clear that it is a specific piety (ἡ εὐσέβεια) that is “of value in every way.” In light of 3:16, it is the piety that is truly “our devotion,” the “mystery of faith” (3:9) with which believers lead their lives. And again in 6:5-6, the author castigates those who think that this devotion (τὴν εὐσέβειαν) is a means of personal gain. Rather, ἡ εὐσέβεια is a means of gain but only with contentment. In other words, the devoted life, the faith that believers hold to, is a means of the kind of gain that is only possible when accompanied by contentment in life.


While it is important to acknowledge both the anarthrous and articular uses of εὐσέβεια, it should not go without saying that the author of 1 Timothy is using both in the same vein. That is to say, when he uses εὐσέβεια with the article he isn’t saying something contrary to what he what he was saying when he was using it without the article. The uses are intertwined. My point is simply that the articular use of εὐσέβεια in 1 Timothy 3:16 sets the tone for the other articular uses in the epistle. In fact, it may even shed light on on the anarthrous uses throughout it. 

This was by no means an exhaustive study and I plan to read more on the topic. My mind may change! And there is nothing wrong with that. 



[1] H. G. Liddell, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon Founded Upon the Seventh Edition of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1889), 369.

[2] Ceslas Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 200-204.

[3] Spicq writes that the liturgical is θρησκεύω’s “basic and most often attested sense.” Spicq, 201.

[4] Spicq, 202. Spicq notes that sometimes that θρησκεύω is connected with εὐσέβεια to denote a pious sentiment. 

[5] θρησκὸς (“religious”), an adjective, is a hapax legomenon and is unattested in any Greek literature before its usage here in the book of James.

[6] James Adamson, The Epistle of James, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), 86, 87.

[7] The New International Version reads, “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great.” This is a terrible translation as it forces an interpretation upon the text, namely that the mystery is the source of godliness. This is a possible understanding but rendering τῆς εὐσεβείας as such is dishonest and interpretive. 

[8] Wayne A. Meeks, general editor, The HarperCollins Study Bible, fully revised and updated (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006), 2,109.

[9] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chatanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), 683.

[10] A related Greek word, θεοσεβής – an adjective – appears in the Gospel of John: “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships [θεοσεβής] him and obeys his will.” (John 9:31, NRSV)

[11] James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1979), 73.

[12] For more on the Greek definite article and its myriad uses, see Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI: 1996), 206-290. Wallace notes that the article “was originally derived from the demonstrative pronoun” and that it’s original usage “was to point out something.” He writes, “It has largely kept the force of drawing attention to something.” (208)

[13] Andreas Kostenberger, 1 Timothy, in Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland, editors, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 12, revised edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 491.

[14] Zodhiates, 683.

[15] Newport J.D. White, The First and Second Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus, in W. Robertson Nicoll, editor, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol. 4 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, n.d.), 103.

[16] William Hendricksen, Commentary on 1 Timothy, in William Hendricksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews, NTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1957), 137.

[17] Liddell, 332.

Featured Image: By Wingchi Poon – Own work, photo taken in Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California., CC BY-SA 3.0,

4 thoughts on “The Mystery τῆς εὐ­σεβείας

  1. Very interesting. A few observations:
    1) εὐσέβεια seems to be exclusively used in biblical documents of later date probably post 90CE possibly as late as 130CE;
    2) Rev. Carpenter assumes that 1 Tim were written by Paul, which changes the context and hence the meaning intended for these terms, the usually accepted dating argues against Rev Carpenter’s view;
    3) There are times when the use of “reverence,” “due reverence” and “our reverence” might be more appropriate, indeed there may even be a play on words with the term normally transcribed as reverence – ευλάβεια

    One other matter Is there any study regarding the usage of εὐσέβεια in secular or non-canon documents possibly in relation to usage, date and place of origin?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good points. Interestingly, εὐλάβεια appears only in the epistle of Hebrews and εὐλαβής appears only in Luke-Acts.

      I’m not sure if there are any studies on non-biblical uses of εὐσέβεια. Ceslas Spicq doesn’t have an entry on it in his ‘Theological Lexicon of the New Testament’ but Liddell and Scott have a number of entries on it that could produce such a study.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks, that was informative


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