Word Study #73 — Honor

“Honor”, a frequent request on the “search” lists, represents two different “families” of words. However, we will deal here with only one: timao / time, because the other, doxazo /doxa, is much more frequently (and probably more correctly) translated “glory” (144 x for the noun and 54 x for the verb, against only rendered “honor” 6 x for the noun and 3 for the verb). That will require a separate study.

Time, the noun, classically referred primarily to “honor or esteem accorded to the gods or to one’s superiors, or bestowed by them as a reward”, to the dignity of civic office, an honor, or a compliment. It was also used of the appraised value of an object or property, or its price; and of either a penalty or compensation awarded in the settlement of a lawsuit.
Timao, the verb, is parallel: to honor, esteem or value, to estimate value or worth, to pay due regard to a person, or legally to assess a reward or penalty.

Eight times in the New Testament, time simply designates a price: the money involved in Judas’ betrayal of Jesus (Mt.27:6,9); the price of property (Ac.4:34 and 5:2,3); the value of books burned in Ephesus (Ac.19:19); and the “price” with which Jesus ransomed his people (I Cor.6:20, 7:23).
Closely related, the idea of value of household utensils (Rom.9:21, I Tim.2:20,21), or of usefulness (Col.2:23) is also fairly straightforward.

After that, however, when referring to people, the situation becomes somewhat more complicated. Even the instances where people are instructed simply to render “due respect” to others (Rom.13:7 – government officials, I Tim.6:1– slaves to masters, I Pet.3:7 – husbands to wives, or I Thess.4:4 – one’s own inclinations), and where Jesus himself laments the lack of respect accorded to a prophet by his own countrymen (Jn.4:44, Mt.13:57, Mk.6:4), when it comes to mutual relations within the Christian brotherhood, Paul emphasizes (Rom.12:10) an extra measure of devotion to be expressed there, and (I Cor.12:23,24) special care to be taken of those upon whom the rest of the world would place less value. Peter contrasts the “value” placed upon Jesus himself (I Pet.2:7) by his opponents (the “builders”) with the true value seen by the faithful. In 2:17, he expresses an interesting (and appropriate) attitude toward the world’s hierarchies: “Honor (timesate- aorist imperative: a decision?) everyone, love (agapate– present imperative) the brotherhood, respect (phobeisate – present imperative) God, honor (timate– present imperative) the king”! The king is to be “honored” just like everyone else – not scorned because the brethren know the emptiness of hierarchy – but God, and the brotherhood, are in a special, more elevated category!

There are times, however, when “honor” itself clearly includes some practical evidence of respect. Jesus’ scolding of the Pharisees (Mt.15:4-8, Mk.7:6-13) for creating a loophole for failure to support one’s parents, Luke’s account of the provisions supplied to Paul’s group by the inhabitants of Melita (Ac.28:10), and Paul’s instructions to Timothy (I Tim.5:3) regarding the care of widows, are plain enough to raise the possibility that a similar idea is present in I Tim.5:17 with regard to faithful elders (remember, however, W.S. #42, that these are old people, not officials!).

Paul speaks approvingly (Rom.2:7) of people “seeking glory and honor and immortality” by the perseverance born of good deeds, and assures them that the result will be “praise and honor and peace” (v.10). The writer to the Hebrews, however, offers a reminder that even under the old system, the “honor” of priesthood was not intended to be a result of personal ambition, but only the appointment of God (Heb.5:4), and also contrasts Jesus’ faithfulness with that of Moses, as the difference between the “honor” due to a builder and the admiration of the building he has produced (3:13). Nevertheless, Peter (I Pet.1:7) encourages the expectation on the part of the faithful of “commendation and glory and honor” when Jesus comes.

It remains to consider the places where “honor” becomes an aspect of the praises offered to God himself. Jesus dealt with this matter very specifically. His own testimony should lay to rest the arguments of those who try to “demote” the Lord Jesus to a lower “status” than whatever nebulous entity it is that they call “God”. He states unequivocally (Jn.5:23) “The one who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him”, and (8:49) plainly equates the honor ascribed to each as one and the same.

Usually, in scenes of praise, “honor” is combined with other words, including “glory and honor” (I Tim.1:17, Heb.2:7,9; II Pet.1:17, Rev.4:9,11; 5:12, 21:24, 26), or “honor and power” (I Tim.6:16, Rv.4:11, 7:12, 19:1). The creatures around the throne give “glory and honor and thanks” to the One who is alive forever (Rv.4:9). There are even longer lists, as in the exuberance of Rv.5:12: “The slaughtered Lamb is worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing!”

Forget the technicalities of defining the terms!
Far better to simply follow the example of the living creatures, the elders, and “every created thing in heaven and on earth and beneath the earth and on the sea” (5:13), ascribing to the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb “Blessing and honor and glory and power” – falling down before him in worship!

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