1. Linguistic Problems. Differing forms of the term for “four” occur in the Greek dialects (Attic téttares, Ionic tésseres, Doric tétores). The NT perhaps gives evidence of a general intermingling of forms, tesser- being preferred on euphonic or rhythmic grounds.
2. The Greek Sphere.
a. On the basis of the four corners, etc., the number four becomes a term for totality. It is only occasionally a sacred number, but it often serves as a round number (cf. the four cardinal virtues, basic emotions, or types of sovereignty).
b. The number frequently has special significance, as in references to the fourth assault, the dangers of the fourth day, the four-day fever, the need for marriage after four years of sexual maturity, the birth of Heracles on the fourth day of the month (cf. also four-year contests).
c. Myths commonly contain the idea of the four ages of the world, and we also read of the four discoveries of Hermes, the four-cornered Hermes pillars, the four-eyed Proserpine, etc.
d. In the Platonic and Pythagorean tradition four is a symbol, but Aristotle stresses the numerical aspect. The four elements play an important role in Mithraism. For the Pythagoreans four is the basis of the decimal system inasmuch as the first four numbers add up to ten. Stress lies elsewhere on the four phases of the moon or the four seasons.
1. The OT.
a. Four is a figure denoting totality in the OT (cf. the four quarters of heaven, the four rivers of paradise, also Dan. 11:4; Ezek. 7:2; Zech. 1:8ff.). Four is important in the theophany of Ezek. 1 (the four living creatures, four faces, and four wheels). There are four phenomena at Elijah’s theophany in 1 Kgs. 19:11-12. Four is also important in apocalyptic (cf. Dan. 7:2-3, 6, 17; also 2:31ff.).
b. As a round number, four figures in Zech. 7:1; Judg. 14:15; 2 Kgs. 7:3, and cf. in relation to the ark and tabernacle Ex. 25:12, 26, 34; 26:2, 8, 32.
c. The series three-four, which also occurs in the Greek world, has the sense of a few. It is schematic in proverbs (Amos 1:3, 6, 9; Prov. 30:15, 18, 21,24, 29).
a. In rabbinic works four is often a round number, e.g., four categories of penitence or of scholars, or four things for which there are rewards and punishments. The fourth day is the day of demons, and on the fourth day the soul finally leaves the tomb. Qumran has four waters of purification and divides the community fourfold. Eth. En. 22 divides the underworld into four.
b. Philo refers to the four elements. He attributes to Moses the holiness of the number four. Thus on the fourth day God made heaven and the stars. Philo also refers to four main emotions, and for him the most important secret of the number is the tetragrammaton, the divine name.
1. General Use. The use is technical in Mark 2:3 and Acts 10:11; 11:5. The four anchors of Acts 27:29 are for added safety. Four denotes a short space of time in Jn. 4:35; Acts 10:30. The fourth watch is the dawn in Mark 6:48. The series of four in 2 Pet. 3:10 and Rev. 5:13 suggests completeness. The four parts of the field in Mark 4:1ff. contain three that are similar and a fourth that is different. The four days in the tomb in Jn. 11:17 express the irreversibility of death. The fourfold division of Jesus’ clothes (Jn. 19:23) corresponds to the number of soldiers in the watch. Fourfold restitution in Luke 19:8 displays generosity.
2. Apocalyptic. Revelation uses the Ezekiel tradition in 4:6, 8; 5:6, 8, etc. The four faces become four animals (4:7), eyes replace the wheels, and the creatures now surround the throne. Rev. 6:1ff. adopts the motif of the four horses, combining it with that of the first four seals (cf. the four destroying angels of 9:14-15). The heavenly city is foursquare (21:16). In Mark 13:27 the elect are gathered from the four winds.
Motifs in the apostolic fathers include the gathering from the four quarters of the earth (Did. 10.5) and the four periods (Hermas Similitudes 9.4.3). Irenaeus associates the four Gospels with the four districts of the earth and the need for four pillars (Against Heresies 3.11.8). He also characterizes the Gospels as tour beasts. Augustine later links the names of the four Evangelists with the beasts (On the Harmony of the Gospels 1.6).
a. In the Greek world 40 is a round number. 40 years are a long time, 40 days a shorter time.
b. 40 is also the time of maturity. One must be at least 40 to be appointed to certain posts.
c. 40 also denotes specific periods, e.g., the first movement of a child in the womb, the crisis in an illness, and the normal period of pregnancy (7 times 40 days). Pythagoras fasts for 40 days, and we also read of a period of rain for 40 days and of the 40-day period when the Pleiades are not visible.
a. In the OT 40 years are the period of a generation, i.e., when a whole generation is active (cf. the wilderness generation, Ex. 16:35; Dt. 1:3, etc.). David reigns for 40 years in 2 Sam. 5:4-5 (cf. also Solomon in 1 Kgs. 11:42), and the period from the exodus to the temple consists of 480 years.
b. The number 40 also denotes maturity, e.g., the year of marriage or accession (Gen. 25:20; 2 Sam. 2:10). The span of human life consists of 120 years (Gen. 6:3).
c. 40 also serves as a typical round number (cf. the flood in Gen. 7:4, Moses on Sinai in Ex. 24:18, the taunting of Goliath in 1 Sam. 7:16, the time for repentance in Jon. 3:4, Elijah’s journey in 1 Kgs. 19:8, the days of impurity in Lev. 12:4, the maximum number of stripes in Dt. 25:3).
2. 40 is a most important number, second only to seven, in later Judaism. 40 days are a typical period in popular medicine and agriculture as well as in relation to biblical incidents (the flood etc.). Reference is made to 40 days of fasting, and 40 years are significant as periods in office. Signs appear 40 years before the destruction of the temple. A rabbinic disciple achieves independence of judgment when reaching 40.
b. 40 also serves as a round number, e.g., in learning or in scourging.
c. In messianic contexts the interim messianic kingdom lasts 40 years. At Qumran 40 years elapse between the Teacher of Righteousness and the coming of the divine kingdom. Apocalyptic attaches 40 days of judgment to the 40-year messianic kingdom. The wilderness years become a messianic type.
40 serves as a round number in Acts 4:22; 23:13, 21. When Paul is given 40 stripes save one (2 Cor. 11:24), this is the first written instance of the omission of the last stroke. Heb. 3:10, 17 and Acts 13:18 recall God’s judging and guiding in the wilderness period. Acts 13:21 seems to ascribe 40 years to Saul. Acts 7:42 gives a negative turn to Amos 5:25. Acts 7:23 refers to the three 40-year periods in the life of Moses. Mark 1:13 and parallels link the 40-day fast of Jesus to his baptism and thus find in it obedience to his messianic commission. The references to the animals and the angels define the desert as a place of eschatological paradisal peace. We also find Moses typology in Matt. 4:2 (cf. Luke 4:2-3). The 40 days of appearances to the disciples are the period when the disclosures of the risen Lord elucidate and validate the gospel (Acts 1:3).
The apostolic fathers refer only to Moses on Sinai (1 Clem. 53.2). Tertullian mentions the teaching of the risen Lord (Apology 21.23). A 40-day fast develops prior to Easter on the model of that of Jesus.
[H. BALZ, VIII, 127–39]
—Theological Dictionary of the New Testament - Abridged Edition
1. “To receive,” “take up,” “bear,” “endure.” Thus one “receives” the word (Heb. 13:22; 2 Tim. 4:3), “accepts” people (2 Cor. 11:1), “puts up” with them (Mark 9:19), “receives” or “bears” afflictions (2 Th. 1:4), and “endures” in the absolute (1 Cor. 4:12); cf. in the absolute the verbal adjective anektós (“tolerable”) in Luke 10:12.
2. “To restrain oneself.” God does this either to our destruction (Isa. 64:12 LXX) or in mercy (Isa. 42:14 LXX). In Isa. 63:15 LXX the sense merges into that of “to tolerate.” The noun anochḗ in Rom. 2:4 and 3:25 is God’s “restraint” in judgment (linked with his kindness and patience in 2:4 and forgiveness in 3:25).
[H. SCHLIER, I, 359–60]
—Theological Dictionary of the New Testament - Abridged Edition
The usual translation of this term is “zeal”: a. as the capacity of state of passionate commitment; b. comprehensively for the forces that motivate personality (e.g., interest, taste, imitative zeal, rivalry, fame, enthusiasm); c. in the bad sense jealousy, envy, competition, contention.
1. zḗlos as a human emotion occurs only in the later parts of the OT; all sense of zealous striving to ennoble personality is alien to the underlying Hebrew. a. The term characterizes the living in Eccl. 9:6. It has a derogatory sense in Sirach 30:24 etc.; Prov. 27:4; perhaps Eccl. 4:4. The feeling that gives rise lo national hostility is the point in Ezek. 35:11; cf. Isa. 11:13. b. Marital jealousy is the reference in Prov. 6:34; Song 8:6. c. A special OT sense is that of zeal for God and his will (Pss. 69:9; 119:139).
2. In half of the LXX instances the term denotes the intensity of God’s action, whether this means good or ill for those concerned. It is linked with anger in Dt. 29:20, with fire in Zeph. 1:18, and with compassion in Isa. 63:15. God’s zeal (qinʾâ), which is more commonly mentioned in the OT than zḗlos might suggest, relates primarily to Israel. Expressing God’s holiness, his zeal turns against the apostasy of Israel (as jealousy at her adultery), but when the nations seek to disrupt his plan for Israel, his zeal is displayed either historically or eschatologically on her behalf (cf. Ezek. 16:38 on the one side; Ezek. 36:6; Isa. 9:7; 26:11; Zech. 1:14; Zeph. 1:18 on the other). Its combination with “Lord of hosts” (Isa. 9:7; 2 Kgs. 19:31) shows that zḗlos is closely related to the concept of Yahweh as the Lord of history.
3. Philo uses zḗlos for human striving after things along the lines of Greek ethics. The term may be predicated of God only for the sake of those of lesser intelligence.
4. The rabbis, too, find it hard to speak about God’s zeal for fear of anthropomorphism. God is a jealous God, not because he envies idols as rivals, but because he cannot allow his honor to be infringed by idolatry.
1. In the NT the word is in the singular except in Rom. 13:13 and Gal. 5:20. It occurs in the Gospels only in Jn. 2:17 (quoting Ps. 69) for the zeal of the righteous. This is also the point in Jewish zeal against Christianity in Acts 5:17 and possibly 13:45 (cf. 17:5). Zeal for God is what Paul has in mind in Rom. 10:2, though when misplaced this turns against itself (v. 3). Paul earlier shared this zeal when persecuting the church (Phil. 3:16).
2. In 2 Cor. 11:2 we find a sense similar to that of the OT (cf. 1 Cor. 10:22). As God seeks with holy zeal to keep his people from idolatry, so Paul jealously watches over the church lest it fall into error.
3. Elsewhere zḗlos has the ordinary Greek senses: a. enthusiasm for the collection in 2 Cor. 9:2 and an ardent desire to restore good relations in 2 Cor. 7:7; b. in connection with such words as quarreling, anger, etc., competitive envy or jealousy (Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 3:3; 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:20); c. consuming ardor (of fire) (Heb. 10:27).
In the apostolic fathers, zḗlos (envy) is an important word in 1 Clement and Cyprian, who depict the evils of envy, but Chrysostom in his homily on 2 Cor. 12:21, while condemning divisive zḗlos, finds high ethical value in imitative zḗlos.
In Greek zēlóō is mostly in the active and means “to admire or commend,” with such nuances as “to be enthusiastic for,” “to seek to imitate,” “to envy” in a good sense; yet we also find the bad sense of “to envy” and an occasional use for jealousy in marriage.
1.a. The most consistent use is in Proverbs, where it means “to strive after,” though commonly with a warning not to do so (3:31; 4:14, etc.; but cf. 6:6). b. Wrathful indignation is the point in 1 Macc. 2:24 (cf. Ps. 73:3, 21-22), envy in Gen. 26:14, and zeal on behalf of the people in 2 Sam. 21:2. c. The only instances of jealousy in marriage are in Num. 5:14, 30.
2.a. God is jealous in Ex. 20:5; 34:14. This jealous zeal is not a mood but belongs to God’s very essence. It turns against Israel in case of disobedience (Dt. 32:19) but may also work in her favor (Ezek. 39:25). It is bound up with the manifestation of God’s omnipotent reality (Ezek. 39:28). b. The righteous may be zealous on God’s behalf, not in mood, but in specific action (Num. 25:11; 1 Kgs. 19:10, 14; 2 Kgs. 10:16; 1 Macc. 2:24).
1. Zeal for God and his law and honor is in keeping with the basic orientation of Pharisaism and comes to violent expression in the movement of Zealotism. The Zealots make active zeal for God the determinative factor in their whole conduct.
2. The origins of Zealotism are obscure. It derives from Pharisaism and takes shape when Judas of Galilee joins Zadok in resistance to Roman rule. Phinehas is taken as the prototype of the Zealot. At first Pharisaism tends to side with Zealotism but diverges from it when Zealotism becomes a more revolutionary and anarchical movement.
3. The fact that the first disciples include a Zealot points to some link between Zealotism and Palestinian Christianity (though not in respect of social action). Gamaliel adopts the same principle in relation to both (Acts 5:34ff.). The distinction may be seen when Zealots plot to murder Paul in Acts 23:12ff. Zealotism is activist, seeking to set up the rule of God by revolt, displaying a readiness to suffer to this end, and passionately trusting that God will intervene to insure success. A saying like Mark 8:34-35 is immediately understandable in the context of Zealotism, and a question like that of Mark 12:13ff. arises in the same context, though Zealots would reply with a definite negative. The sons of Zebedee manifest Zealot traits in Luke 9:54 and Mark 10:38-39 (cf. their name in Mark 3:17). Rev. 13:4ff. also reflects a Zealot hostility to alien domination. The application to Rome of OT prophecies concerning Edom and Babylon may also indicate Zealot influence (cf. Rev. 18:2-3, 9ff.). Yet Christians could not stay in Jerusalem when Zealot rule was established, not merely because the Zealots were now becoming revolutionary fanatics, but because of basic incompatibilities, e.g., the Christian command to love one’s enemies, or Christ’s understanding of his crucifixion as the fulfilment of his divine mission.
1. A first meaning is that of zeal for God. a. The disciple Simon is called zēlōtḗs in Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13; this denotes membership in the Zealot party. b. This zeal may find expression in hostility to Christian preaching (Acts 17:5). Paul had been one of these zealous Jews (Gal. 1:14). Christian Jews may still be zealous for the law (Acts 21:20).
2. zēlóō may also denote the apostle’s personal attitude to the community, as in 2 Cor. 11:2. Paul’s strong concern is to woo believers to obedience to the gospel. In Gal. 4:17 Paul’s opponents manifest zeal for the welfare of the Galatians, but only for a selfish purpose; in contrast, the apostolic zeal of Paul is good, for it is for a good purpose.
3. The usual Greek sense “to strive after something” may be seen in Tit. 2:14 and 1 Pet. 3:13, not along the lines of individualistic ethics, but with a view to edification (cf. striving after gifts in 1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1). In 1 Cor. 13:4 and Jms. 4:2, however, there is no thought of edification and thus the sense of envious or passionate striving is apposite.
[A. STUMPFF, II, 877–88]
—Theological Dictionary of the New Testament - Abridged Edition