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Thanatos Θάνατος

(1,566 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name Thanatos is the Greek mythological personification of the power of death as a god or a demon. It occurs as the name of a demonic power in the NT (for OT see Mot) in 9 passages (out of a total of 120 occurrences of the word thanatos) in Paul (e.g. 1 Cor. 15.26, 1 Cor. 54–56) and in Rev (e.g. 1 Cor. 20.13–14). II. Identity Thanatos as a personification is not frequently found in Greek literature; and when it occurs, it is often doubtful whether the personified Thanatos is merely a poetic metaphor or a real figure of popular belief (Kern 1926:262–3; Lesky 1934:1245; von Geisau 1975:648–9; cf. al…


(531 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name In the Bible itself there are no traces of traditions that Adam was ever regarded as a divine or angelic being. For non-biblical ANE material possibly relevant to Adam veneration the reader is referred to the lemma Soil. Here only post-biblical material pertinent to the motif of Adam’s divine or angelic status is dealt with. II. Identity Some passages in early rabbinic literature testify to the existence of ‘heretics’ ( minim) that held that Adam had acted as God’s associate in creation or as his plenipotentiary (e.g., b.Sanh. 38a: “Our rabbis taught: Adam was created [last …

Hyle Ὕλη

(351 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name The word ὕλη is relatively rare in the Greek Bible. When used, it is always in the neutral meaning of ‘material, matter, wood’ (e.g. Jas. 3.5). In philosophical and religious literature of the early Roman Empire, however, one sees ὕλη, ‘matter’, evolve into a kind of demonic power. II. Identity Due to an increasingly negative assessment of the material world in later Platonic philosophy, one finds in the writings of some philosophical circles of the early Christian centuries a correspondingly negative use of the word ὕλη. Philo, the Jewish philosopher from Alexandria…

God (II) Θεός

(2,601 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name The word θεός occurs 5302 times in the Greek Bible: 3984 occurrences in the LXX and 1318 in the NT. In almost all of these instances the word refers to the God of Israel, Yahweh (and of course in the plural to pagan gods); some exceptions will be discussed below. In Greek literature the terms θεός, ὁ θεός, θεοί, οἱ θεοί, and later also το θεῖον, are often used without much difference in meaning (Gigon 1965:194). The word is of uncertain etymology. The only aspect to be dealt with in this entry is the use of the word θεός (and deus) in ancient literature and its difference from b…

Chaos Χάος

(798 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name The Greek word χάος (related to χάσκω or χαίνω, ‘gape, yawn’) literally means ‘chasm’ or ‘yawning space’. There were various conceptions of it in Greco-Roman antiquity, because in various mythical cosmogonies Chaos played very different roles. The word occurs only twice in the Greek Bible, in Mic. 1.6 and Zech. 14.4, each time as a translation of the Hebrew gyʾ, ‘valley’; and 2 times in the Greek fragments of 1 Enoch (10:13) and Jubilees (2:2), where it seems to be used for the abyss where the evil angels have been incarcerated forever. The modern sense of t…

Themis Θέμις

(522 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name Themis is the Greek goddess of what is just and lawful (θέμις = ‘law’, ‘justice’, ‘custom’, probably deriving from the stem θε-, ‘to lay down, set, establish’; but see Hirzel 1907: 53–56; Ehrenberg 1921: 41–43); she is the embodiment of the ‘social imperative’, the ‘social conscience’ (Harrison 1927, 485–6). In the Bible themis does not occur as a goddess, but only twice in 2 Maccabees in the expression οὐ θέμις, ‘it is not lawful’. II. Identity Themis is one of the many personified and deified abstract concepts (or rather a case of ‘Person-Bereicheinheit’, thus Pötscher 1975:67…

Dike Δίκη

(1,308 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name Dikē (originally ‘customary behaviour’, later ‘justice’) is the Greek deity of justice and occurs as a divine name in the Bible in Acts 28.4 and as a metaphor for a heavenly being in Wis. 1.8–9 and Wis. 11.20. The personification of abstract concepts in the form of deities occurs in Greek literature as early as the second half of the eighth century bce. Personifications appear first in poetry, then move into the visual arts (see e.g. Pausanias 5, 18, 2; further Hamdorf 1964:52–53, 110 et passim), and finally find their way into the realm of the cult. II. Identity The didactic poet Hesi…

Mammon μαμωνᾶς

(631 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name Mammon (Aram. status emphaticus mamōnāʾ), the etymology of which is not completely certain, probably is a maqtāl form of the root ʾmn with the meaning of ‘that in which one puts trust’, with ‘money, riches’ as a derivative meaning (J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke II [New York 1985] 1109; for other etymologies see Hauck 1942:390 n. 2 and Rüger 1973:127–131; on problems of spelling see Mastin 1984). It occurs in both Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the post-biblical period (Hauck 1942:391; BAGD s.v.; Balz 1981: 942; Sokoloff 1990:311; its occurrence in a 7th cent. BC…

Evil Inclination יצר הרע

(871 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name The concept of an evil inclination is typically rabbinic. This notion does not occur in the Bible, but the rabbis did derive it from biblical texts (esp. Gen. 2.7; Gen. 6.5; Gen. 8.21). This inclination or drive is sometimes personified as a demonic figure or the Satan. II. Identity The widespread Goethean concept ‘zwei Seelen gibt’s in meiner Brust [two souls are in my breast]’ was given expression by the early rabbis in a theory of two yeṣarim (‘inclinations, desires, drives, bents of mind’), namely the yeṣer ha-tov (the desire to do good) and the yeṣer ha-ra‘ (the desire to do …

Father of the Lights πατὴρ τῶν φώτων

(487 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name James. 1.17 is the only biblical text where God is called the “Father of the Lights” (πατὴρ τῶν φώτων). Most scholars agree that the expression means “the creator of the celestial bodies”, i.e. of the heavenly beings. In early Judaism there was a widespread belief that stars were angels (Schrenk 1954:1015 n. 410; Dibelius-Greeven 1964:130–131). That God created the heavenly bodies is a commonly accepted belief in the OT and in ancient Judaism (e.g. Gen. 1.14–18; Ps. 136.7; Sir. 43.1–12; see τὰ φῶτα αὐτοῦ in LXX Jer. 4.23; Philo, De Abrahamo 156–159), but the expression o…

Hypnos Ὕπνος

(551 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name Hypnos (‘sleep’) is the god of sleep in Greek mythology. He is the son of Nyx (Night) and the twin brother of Thanatos (Death). In the Greek Bible hypnos does not occur as a deity but only in the sense of literal sleep (e.g. Gen. 28.16; Matt. 1.24), as a euphemism for sexual intercourse (Sap 4:6), or as a metaphor for spiritual torpidity ( Rom. 13.11) and death (Joh. 11.11). II. Identity In the Homeric epos the god Hypnos, called Thanatos’ twin ( Iliad 14:231; on their likeness Odyssee 13:80; cf. Virgil, Aeneid 6:278), lives on the island of Lemnos, where Hera promises to give hi…

Ananke Ἀνάγκη

(658 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name Anankē, ‘necessity, constraint’, presented as the personification of the inevitable and inescapable, hence of the inexorable Fate, plays an important role in Greek religious and philosophical literature (Schreckenberg 1964). The word occurs 43 times in the LXX and 18 times in the NT with the meanings ‘necessity, compulsion, obligation; distress, suffering, calamity; inevitability’ (Strobel 1980) but never as a personification of Fate. II. Identity Anankē is mentioned by Plato in the myth of Er ( Resp. 616c–617c) as the enthroned governor of the cosmos and as th…

Unknown God Ἄγνωστος θεός

(1,980 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name In the Book of Acts (17.23) Luke tells how Paul the apostle addresses the Athenians on the Areopagus and takes as his point of departure an inscription on an altar he saw in the city. This inscription, he says, ran as follows: “For an unknown god” (ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ). II. Identity All the other evidence for a cult of (an) unknown god(s) is later than Acts. In the 2nd cent. ce, Pausanias says that near the harbour of Phalerum (Athens) there were altars of gods named ‘unknown ones’ and of heroes (βωμοὶ δὲ θεῶν τε ὀνομαζομένων ἀγνώστῶν καὶ ἡρώων, I, 1, 4). In his description of…

Dominion κυριότης

(574 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name The word κυριότης occurs 4 times in the NT (not in the LXX), twice referring to Jesus’ power or position as Lord (κύριος) and twice referring to members of a class of angels ( Eph. 1.21; Col. 1.16). II. Identity In extrabiblical literature, κυριότης occurs only very rarely. When it does, it has the meanings of ‘lordship, rule’ and ‘special meaning’. It is only in writings influenced by the NT that the term is used to refer to a class of angels; see the many references in Lampe’s PGL 788b. When in a fragment of the originally Jewish Apocalypse of Zephaniah the author is said to have be…

Eros Ἔρως

(1,113 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name Eros is passionate love or desire and also the Greek god of love (frequently but not always the son or companion of Aphrodite, other candidate mothers including Eileithyia, Iris and Nyx). As so often in Greek (and Roman) religion, in this case as well, the deity and his domain coincide terminologically (‘Person-Bereichdenken’), because the Greeks drew no sharp distinction between the passionate desire and the deity who brought it about. In the Bible, Eros does not occur as a deity or demon, but in the two passages where eros is mentioned ( Prov. 7.18 and Prov. 30.16 LXX), its danger…

Hosios Kai Dikaios Ὅσιος καὶ Δίκαιος

(590 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name Both ὅσιος (‘pious, holy’) and δίκαιος (‘just, righteous’) occur countless times in the Greek Bible as epithets of both humans and God. Also the combination of both words occurs, e.g. Deut. 32.4; Tit. 1.8; Rev. 16.5; cf. Eph. 4.24, as is very often the case in pagan Greek literature. As the name of an angel or a pair of angels Ὅσιος καὶ Δίκαιος occurs, almost always in this combination, on several dozen inscriptions, mostly from third century ce Phrygia and Lydia in Asia Minor, which were discovered during the last decades (many of them were published in MAMA IX and TAM V 1; see also D…

Lamb ἀμνός, ἀρνίον

(961 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name In the NT Christ is designated 31 times as a lamb. In John 1.29, John 36 he is called the lamb (ἀμνός) of God; in the Revelation of John ( John 5.6, John 8 et passim [29x]) he is depicted as a heavenly lamb (ἀρνίον) that receives honour and worship as if it is God himself. II. Identity There is much uncertainty and debate about the religio-historical background of the image of Christ as a lamb. There seems to be partly an OT background to this imagery, if one regards Isa. 53.6–7 as the source of the remark in John’s Gospel that Jesus is the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world ( Isa. 1.2…

Amazons Ἀμαζονίδες

(752 words)

Author(s): P. W. van der Horst
I. Name The Amazons were a mythical race of brave female warriors that lived, according to the oldest Greek versions of the saga, on the southern and western coast of the Black Sea and were eventually defeated by men in an Amazonomachia. They do not occur in the Bible except possibly in an addition to the biblical text by the Septuagint translator of 2 Chron. 14.14, where they seem to be said to have been part of the booty destroyed or captured by the Judaean king Asa in his victory over the Cushite king Zera. II. Identity The etymology of the name Amazons is unclear. Ancient popular etymol…


(2,031 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn | B. Becking | P. W. van der Horst
The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (henceforth DDD) is in some ways unlike any other dictionary in the field of biblical studies. This is the first catalogue of its kind, one which discusses all the gods and demons whose names are found in the Bible. Complementing the usual surveys and histories of Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Ugaritic, Syro-Palestinian, Persian, Greek, and Roman religion, DDD assesses the impact of contemporary religions on Israel and the Early Church by focusing on those gods that actually left traces in the Bible. The deities and demons dealt with in th…

Preface to the Revised Edition

(268 words)

Author(s): K. van der Toorn | B. Becking | P. W. van der Horst
The first edition of DDD, published in the summer of 1995, had to go through two printings in order to meet the demands of the market. The success of the book, also in terms of its academic standing, is a source of pride and gratitude for the editors and the many contributors. The ongoing demand for DDD provided its editorial team also with an excellent opportunity to take a fresh look at the first edition in view of the preparation of a second, revised, edition. Many of the lacunae and occasional errors in DDD1, signalled to us by friends and colleagues, could thus be repaired. The pre…