For an Informed Love of God
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Exegetical Insight (Chapter 18)
ajrchgovV as a title for Jesus appears only four times in the New Testament, twice each in Acts (3:15; 5:31) and Hebrews (2:10; 12:2). It is notoriously difficult to translate. A survey of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) and non-biblical use of the term suggests a threefold connotation: (a) path-breaker (pioneer) who opens the way for others, hence, “guide,” “hero;” (b) the source or founder, hence, “author,” “initiator,” “beginning;” (c) the leader-ruler, hence, “captain,” “prince,” “king.”
These ideas are not necessarily exclusive of each other. In fact they probably all combine to speak of someone who explores new territory, opens a trail, and leads others to it. There he builds a city or fortress for those who follow and leads them in defense against attackers. When the peace has been won, he remains as their ruler and the city or community bears his name. He is thereafter honored as the founding hero.
The Old Testament speaks of several individuals who held such a position. For at least one our word is actually used. In Judges 11:6 ff., we learn that Jepthah was asked to become “head” over the inhabitants of Gilead in order to deliver them from the Ammonites (v. 6); one version of the Greek translation uses the word here. Jepthah agreed on condition that the position would be made permanent. The elders consented and he was made kefalh; kai; ajrchgovV even before the battle (vv. 8-11). At the conclusion of his struggles, “Jepthah judged Israel six years” (Judges 12:7).
In Acts 3:15 Peter accuses the Jews of killing the “ajrchgovV of life,” suggesting that Jesus is not only the origin of biological life, but also of “new life” and the guide-protector-provider-ruler-namesake of those identified with him. Later Peter speaks of Jesus as the “ajrchgovn and Savior, to give repentance to Israel” (5:31). The word “Savior” was associated with the judges of old. Jesus is the one who meets the emergency situation caused by the sin of God’s people. He comes to bring not only deliverance but also the continuing service of ajrchgovV. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the suffering “ajrchgovV of salvation” (2:10) and the ajrchgovV and Perfecter of our faith” (12:2). In each case Jesus as ajrchgovV not only initiates and provides the new life for his people, but remains with them through it; they bear his name. He is their hero.
J. Julius Scott, Jr