Chapter III:2: Synonymy of “Religion”

With respect to the Synonymy of the word Religion, The Hebrews, says our AUTHOR, have a more general terms, for example, the Knowledge of God, Psalm 36:10; 87:4; Proverbs 2:5: the Worship/ Service of God, 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 2:11; 100:2; Zephaniah 3:9: the Love of God, Psalm 97:10; 145:20; Isaiah 56:6: the Fear of the Lord, Psalm 34:11; 119:38; Proverbs 1:29: Calling upon the Lord, Psalm 79:6; 86:5; Joel 2:32a; etc.: yet more famous than all these is the appellation of the Way of God; which then does not so much denote the Way that God Himself walks, but the way that He wills to be walked by man, Genesis 18:19, etc.; in the place of which mention is also made of the Ways of the Lord in the plural, because the acts of Religion are presented as many, Psalm 25:4; Isaiah 2:3; etc. Now, in this expression of the Way and Ways of God or the Lord, the Genitive is able to be considered as, α. of the efficient cause; thus the Way of God is the Way both invented, and prescribed, by God: β. of the exemplary cause, because the perfections and virtues that God prescribes to us as to be followed and practiced are expressed most perfectly in Him, Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15, 16: γ. of the final cause, because this Way leads to God and is at the same time pleasing to Him. In a similar sense faith in Christ is called the work of God, John 6:29. In the Acts of the Apostles the Way and the Way of the Lord often come to be understood of the Christian Religion, Acts 18:25, 26; 9:2; 22:4; 24:14, 22.

According to the Most Illustrious VRIEMOET,[1] in his Adnotationibus ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, tome 2, chapter XII, on Isaiah 30:21, pages 258, 259, “The manner of worshipping/serving God and of seeking His favor is above all called the Way in the Sacred Codex, because under the Mosaic Economy there was a way/road to be entered upon to the city of Jerusalem and the sanctuary of the temple, to which therefore there is an allusion in the Prophets, where they treat of the conversion of the Gentiles to the true Worship of God, Isaiah 2:3; Zechariah 8:20 and following. And for this reason roads/ways were wont to be raised up high and leveled throughout all the land of Israel, especially in the time of the feasts: compare Part I, page 76.” Nevertheless, it appears to be able to be doubted whether Moses already in his own time made allusion to that, for example, Exodus 18:20; 32:8, even speaking of Abraham, for example, Genesis 18:19, 20. Indeed, also in Isaiah 2, the Nations want to go up to the mount and house of the Lord, so that, having been brought to that place, they might at last learn the ways and paths of the Lord. And the Most Illustrious VRIEMOET, in his Adnotationibus ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, tome 1, chapter V, page 243, on Jeremiah 32:39, explains דֶרֶךְ אֶחָד, the one way, of the one manner of worship, even external, adding more generally, From the most well-known usage of the word דֶּרֶךְ/way in Hebrew, and in a great many other languages also, even western tongues. Thus among the Greeks. See Gataker’s[2] Dissertationem de Stilo Novi Testamenti, chapter XXXII, and his ad Antoninum, book I, § 9; and Kuster’s notes on Aristophanes’[3] Equites, verse 1012. Wherefore in the New Testament one ought not to have recourse to Hebraisms.

Our AUTHOR adds, From this appellation the Hebraic denomination of Law and Teacher has its origin, namely, תּוֹרָה/Torah/law and מּוֹרֶה, Joel 2:23, where nevertheless some prefer to render it rain, rather than Teacher/Doctor,[4] concerning which see the discussion of our AUTHOR, both in his Commentario on this passage, and also in his Exercitationibus textualibus XXIII, Part I: compare more distinctly Chapter XI, § 8 below.

Among other Greek words, by which Religion is distinguished, the more solemn are, 1. Εὐσέβεια/godliness, which κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν, preeminently, is made use of concerning the fulfillment of duties toward God, as these are distinguished from the duties commanded toward ourselves or our neighbor, 2 Peter 1:6, 7,[5] upon which passage see Commentarium meum; but in a broader sense in 2 Peter 1:3 it includes all the duties of Piety,[6] in which place see also Commentarium meum; and in 1 Timothy 3:16,[7] on which text see our AUTHOR’S Exercitationibus textualibus XLIV, Part VI, and Concionem meum in the volume entitled Gedachtenis, etc., pages 305 and following. 2. Θρησκεία/threskeia/ religion/worship, which is indeed used of false worship, such that it also embraces under itself Pharisaic superstition, Acts 26:5,[8] and also ἀγγελολατρείαν/ Angel-worship, Colossians 2:18;[9] but, when used of the True Religion, James 1:26, 27,[10] it does not only denote duties toward God, but subsumes under itself prudence in restraining the tongue, charity toward one’s neighbor in visiting widows and orphans, and also abstinence in keeping oneself unspotted by the world. Θρησκεία, says SUIDAS,[11] ἡ λατρεία, ὅθεν καὶ ἑτερόθρησκος, ἑτερόδοξος, the worship is, whereby one is of another religion, another opinion: where it is referred to a peculiar sect and opinion concerning Religion, whence he that follows another Religion is declared to be one that is attached to another opinion. But there is no satisfaction in contending of the Etymology of this word, which our Author exhibits as threefold, which is able also to be found in MARTINIUS’[12] Lexico philologico on the word Religio/Religion. Without any absurdity it is related to the Hebrew דָּרַשׁ/darash, to seek, because Religion is the seeking of God, Psalm 9:10;[13] 27:8; Jeremiah 29:12, 13; etc.: neither is it incongruously considered as a compound of Θεὸς/ God and ἀρέσκω, to please, as CYRIL has it in his Lexico inedito, Θρησκεία, θεαρεσκία τις οὖσα, anything being pleasing to God: since it belongs to Religion Θεῷ ἀρέσκειν, to please God, which Paul testifies of the religious, Hebrews 11:5, 6,[14] so that the θρῆσκος, or religious man, is θεάρεσκος, one pleasing to God. Commonly it is derived from θρὰξ/thrax, a Thracian, for the Thracians were devoted to many ceremonies; or, as HOORNBEECK has it, Summa Controversiarum, page 8, because among the Thracians Orpheus first introduced the worship of the Gods.[15]

Elsewhere in the New Testament, Religion also goes by the name of Εὐλαβείας, godly fear, Hebrews 12:28;[16] and a religious man is called εὐλαβὴς/God-fearing, Luke 2:25, in which Simeon is related to have been δίκαιος/just/righteous toward men, and εὐλαβὴς/God-fearing toward God: which sort of ἄνδρες εὐλαβεῖς, God-fearing/devout men, are also found in Acts 2:5; 8:2, which elogy in the Septuagint corresponds to the Hebrew חָסִיד/good/pious in Micah 7:2.[17] Now, one is properly εὐλαβὴς, who manages a matter well,[18] that is, circumspectly, hence also cautiously: whence εὐλάβεια in general denotes the circumspect caution, with which one is wont to approach matters, or Circumspection and Caution in conducting affairs. But, from this more common usage, in the New Testament this word is carried over to denote reverence of the divine and piety, and the right and circumspect manner of handling matters of Religion, the Sacred Scriptures and divine Worship; and he that is imbued with such a disposition is regarded as εὐλαβὴς/God-fearing.

Δεισιδαιμονία/religion/superstition is read once in Acts 25:19, and as an adjective δεισιδαίμων/religious in the comparative degree, δεισιδαιμονεστέρους, Acts 17:22, whether in the more negative sense of superstition is open to question; see on both passages the Marginal Notes of the DUTCH TRANSLATION, and WOLF’S[19] Curas philologicas et criticas; likewise LELAND’S[20] de Utilitate et Necessitate Revelationis Christi, part I, section II, chapter XVIII, pages 507-516. Δεισιδαιμονία is a composite of δείδω, to fear, to tremble, and δαίμων/dæmon/deity.

Finally, concerning the terms θεοσέβεια/godliness[21] and λατρεία/latria/service/worship, and the Papistical differentiation of this term from δουλείᾳ/doulia/service/worship, see below on Chapter XI, § 1, as also concerning the term πίστις/faith in Galatians 1:23[22] on Chapter XXII, § 4.

Concerning the terms δόγμα/dogma/doctrine and φιλοσοφία/ philosophy with epithets, with which our AUTHOR observes the term Religion also occurs in the writing of the Fathers, see SUICERUS’ Thesaurum ecclesiasticum[23] on these words.

[1] Emo Lucius Vriemoet (1699-1760) was a Dutch Reformed Theologian and Orientalist.

[2] Thomas Gataker (1574-1654) was in his day regarded as a critic of unsurpassed skill, learning, and judgment. On account of his great learning, he was invited to sit as a member of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster.

[3] Ludolf Küster (1670-1716) was a Westphalian classicist and New Testament textual critic. He produced an edition of the works of Aristophanes.

[4] Joel 2:23: “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately (אֶת־הַמּוֹרֶ֖ה לִצְדָקָ֑ה, or, the teacher in righteousness), and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.”

[5] 2 Peter 1:6, 7: “And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness (τὴν εὐσέβειαν); and to godliness (τῇ εὐσεβείᾳ) brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”

[6] 2 Peter 1:3: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (εὐσέβειαν), through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue…”

[7] 1 Timothy 3:16: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness (τῆς εὐσεβείας): God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”

[8] Acts 26:5: “Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion (τῆς ἡμετέρας θρησκείας) I lived a Pharisee.”

[9] Colossians 2:18: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels (θρησκείᾳ τῶν ἀγγέλων), intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind…”

[10] James 1:26, 27: “If any man among you seem to be religious (θρῆσκος), and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain (τούτου μάταιος ἡ θρησκεία). Pure religion and undefiled (θρησκεία καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος) before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

[11] Suidas was the compiler of the Suda, an encyclopedia containing more than thirty thousand entries concerning the ancient Mediterranean world. It was probably composed in tenth-century Byzantium.

[12] Matthias Martinius (1572-1630) was a German Reformed theologian and teacher. His teaching was influential in the development of Cocceius’ covenant theology, and at Dort he represented a position tending toward Hypothetical Universalism.

[13] Psalm 9:10: “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee (דֹרְשֶׁיךָ).”

[14] Hebrews 11:5, 6: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God (εὐηρεστηκέναι τῷ Θεῷ). But without faith it is impossible to please (εὐαρεστῆσαι) him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

[15] In Greek mythology, Orpheus, son of the Muse Calliope and the Thracian King Oeagrus, was a Thracian musician and prophet.

[16] Hebrews 12:28: “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (μετὰ αἰδοῦς καὶ εὐλαβείας)…”

[17] Micah 7:2: “The good man (חָסִיד; εὐλαβὴς, in the Septuagint) is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.” חָסַד signifies to be good or kind.

[18] Εὐλαβὴς is composed of εὖ/well and λαβεῖν, to take hold of.

[19] Johann Christoph Wolf (1683-1739) was a German Lutheran Hebraist and scholar. His Bibliotheca Hebræa (published in four volumes, 1715-1733) was a standard reference work on Jewish literature for more than a century.

[20] John Leland (1691-1766) was an English Presbyterian minister. The focus of his authorship is the opposition of Deism.

[21] For example, 1 Timothy 2:10: “But (which becometh women professing godliness [θεοσέβειαν]) with good works.”

[22] Galatians 1:23: “But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith (τὴν πίστιν) which once he destroyed.”

[23] John Caspar Suicer (1620-1684) was a Swiss theologian and philologist. He studied at Saumur and Montauban, and served as Professor of Hebrew and Greek at the University of Zurich (1660). His Thesaurus ecclesiasticus was invaluable in the study of the Greek Fathers, shedding light upon words and expressions untreated by lexicographers.

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Chapter III:21: Tolerance

But Tolerance differs much from Syncretism. We admit the former concerning Heretics as well as Infidels in the external society of the world, imitating the example of God Himself, who bears with the s


Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




426 Patterson St.

Central, SC  29630