Word Study: Authority

With all that's been going on, I thought my next word study should be on authority. I wanted to know what the Bible said about what authority is and how it should behave.

In Hebrew

Between the KJV and the CSB, the verses containing the word authority were different. In the CSB, the first occurrence of the word is in Genesis 9:2, but in the KJV, the first occurrence is in Esther 9:29. I looked up the original Hebrew and found that indeed these were different words. There are actually quite a few words translated to authority depending on the translation. These are the two I found and their definition:
definition
[1] נָתַן
verb
    a primitive root; to give, used with greatest latitude of application (put, make, etc.):—add, apply, appoint, ascribe, assign, avenge, be (healed), bestow, bring (forth, hither), cast, cause, charge, come, commit, consider, count, cry, deliver (up), direct, distribute, do, × doubtless, × without fail, fasten, frame, get, give (forth, over, up), grant, hang (up), have, indeed, lay (unto charge, up), (give) leave, lend, let (out), lie, lift up, make, O that, occupy, offer, ordain, pay, perform, place, pour, print, pull, put (forth), recompense, render, requite, restore, send (out), set (forth), shew, shoot forth (up), sing, slander, strike, (sub-)mit, suffer, surely, take, thrust, trade, turn, utter, weep, willingly, withdraw, would (to) God, yield.
definition
[2] תֹּקֶף
noun
    might or (figuratively) positiveness:—authority, power, strength.

In Greek

definition
ἐξουσία[3]
noun
    (in the sense of ability); privilege, i.e. (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely, magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence:—authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength.
In the New Testament, when we see the word authority, it comes from the greek ἐξουσία. Its definition is similar to those in Hebrew, however I noticed a few things within this definition that suggests who is qualified for authority. Notably, this definition includes words like "capacity," "competency," and "delegated influence." A person (or agency) in authority must have the ability (or capacity) to get the job done, be competent in their approach, and be able to influence those they have authority over.

Who has Authority

Authority is given—either by man or by God. An interesting thing I thought about while doing this study, is that in order to give someone authority, you first have to have authority. I cannot appoint someone to the Supreme Court because I don't have that authority. God has all authority, but mankind has limited authority. In some cases we may find unauthorized people giving authority—we must be aware and stay away from this as it is not legitimate authority.

In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul tells us that as believers we each have the authority to spread the gospel, glorify God, and edify the body. He has not left us powerless, nor dependent on a singular person/group. In the time that Paul wrote, all authority for scripture belonged to the scribes and Pharisees. Only those in special positions where able to speak on these matters or participate in worship. When Christ came He built a new Temple (us) and distributed the power to anyone who follows Him. Now we all have the ability to learn the gospel and speak it to the world.
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.Proverbs 29:2 NKJV

Unfortunately, man gives authority as well. The first occurrence of us giving out authority was in Genesis 3. By choosing to listen to Satan instead of God, mankind gave him authority in our world. Since the fall, man has created systems of power in which we give authority to our fellow humans. This can be a government, an agency, or a single person. Sometimes, the people we allow to be authorities are horrible people, and sometimes they are great people. Proverbs 29:2 tells us the joys of having a righteous leader, but 1 Timothy 2:1-2 reminds us to pray for all leaders. As mentioned in the greek definition of the word, authorities have the power to influence. When those in positions of authority are righteous, they will influence those they are set over toward righteousness, but if they are horrible people, they will pull us toward wickedness. We must pray that they are in relationship with God, or come into relationship with God for the sake of those under their authority.
definition
Authority[4]
noun
  1. a: power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior b: freedom granted by one in authority : RIGHT
  2. a: persons in command
    specifically : GOVERNMENT
    b: a governmental agency or corporation to administer a revenue-producing public enterprise
  3. a: GROUNDS, WARRANT
    b: convincing force
  4. a(1) : a citation (as from a book or file) used in defense or support
    (2) : the source from which the citation is drawn
    b(1) : a conclusive statement or set of statements (such as an official decision of a court)
    (2) : a decision taken as a precedent
    (3) : TESTIMONY
    c : an individual cited or appealed to as an expert

Bible Verses to Look at

  • Proverbs 29:2
  • Matthew 8:9
  • Matthew 20:25
  • Matthew 21:23-27
  • Acts 9:14
  • Acts 26:10-12
  • 1 Corinthians 15:24
  • 2 Corinthians 10
  • 1 Timothy 2:1-2
  • Titus 2:14-15
  • Revelation 13:2

References

  1. "Strong's H5414. נָתַן". Blue Letter Bible; visited June 6, 2020
  2. "Strong's H8633. תֹּקֶף". Blue Letter Bible; visited June 6, 2020
  3. "Strong's G1849. ἐξουσία". Blue Letter Bible; visited June 6, 2020
  4. "Authority". Merriam Webster; visited June 6, 2020

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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