The Centurion’s Faith

I have a request if you’re hopping around. I’d be curious to see your insight on the centurion’s request for the servant. The modern world, much like the Jewish one; would likely classify him as the anti-thesis of Christ. Yet this is not the case, and Christ praises him for a faith that is not held by any in Israel. The Centurion also would be closer aligned with what we consider masculine and similar to one of the Old Testament Patriarchs than any of Jesus’s disciples until the descent of the Holy Ghost.

Obviously, I find the man fascinating, despite his only getting a small number of verses. Hence why I thought your insight with Greek might go further.

It’s a pretty straight forward passage with no real surprise in the choice of words used there. The first thing to note about this passage is the Centurion’s addressing of Jesus in Matthew 8 (NASB),

5 And when [e]Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, 6 and saying, “[f]Lord (kurios), my [g]servant is [h]lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” 7 Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion said, “[i]Lord (kurios), I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just [j]say the word (logos), and my [k]servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority (exousia), with soldiers under (hupo) me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith (pistis) [l]with anyone in Israel. 11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and [m]recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; [n]it shall be done for you as you have believed (pisteuo).” And the [o]servant was healed that very [p]moment.

I bolded some of the more pertinent words and am going to talk about them a bit.

G2962 — κύριος — kurios — koo’-ree-os
From κῦρος kuros (supremacy); supreme in authority, that is, (as noun) controller; by implication Mr. (as a respectful title): – God, Lord, master, Sir.

G1849 — ἐξουσία — exousia — ex-oo-see’-ah
From G1832 (in the sense of ability); privilege, that is, (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence: – authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength.

G5259 — ὑπό — hupo — hoop-o’
A primary preposition; under, that is, (with the genitive) of place (beneath), or with verbs (the agency or means, through); (with the accusative) of place (whither [underneath] or where [below]) or time (when [at]): – among, by, from, in, of, under, with. In compounds it retains the same genitive applications, especially of inferior position or condition, and specifically covertly or moderately.

The “authority” that the Centurion talks about is “exousia” which is different from “dunamis” that was discussed in this article. There’s a bit more on this here:

It’s important to note that “dunamis” is more about power that is expressed through our actions (or demonstrative power) while “exousia” is about the the authoritative power that comes from a certain position.

And of course the word for “faith” is “pistis” which is the same as used in the fruits of the Spirit. Hebrews 11, etc.

I have little doubt that the Centurion uses logos (“written” word) instead of rhema (“spoken” word) because logos is typically referred to as the written Scriptures or Jesus himself (John 1). The Scriptures of the time represent the law, and the law as an authority for how to be right with God. Essentially, the Centurion recognizes that Jesus has authority (exousia) to exert power/miracles/etc (dunamis) over sickness, and thus he knows that Jesus does not have to come to have his servant healed.

The hierarchical understand of God and authority is important because we see this manifested in the structure of God as one in three (Father > Jesus > Holy Spirit), and we see that as manifested in earthly relationships as well (Father > Jesus > Husband > Wife > Children) as well as submission to earthly authorities.

The reason why I highlighted under (hupo) is that it is the same prefix that is used for the word for submission in Greek — hupotasso — which means to be subordinated to or to obey. The suffix tasso deals with being in an orderly manner. Thus, Jesus submits (hupotasso) to the Father’s will likewise as servants submit (hupotasso) to the Centurion’s will likewise as wives submit (hupotasso) to the husband’s will. Thus, we know that “equality” fails at all levels of knowledge because it fails to adhere to the authority structures that God has placed in His creation.

And as Jesus said, this requires faith. The Centurion’s knowledge of the hierarchical structure of how authority works allows him to be able to place an immense amount of faith to trust in Jesus at his word (logos). It is the same as we do as Christians today.

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3 Responses to The Centurion’s Faith

  1. Chad says:

    Thank you sir. Very illuminating. The Greek seems to leave very little room for doubt on the hierarchy and power of faith.

    It also seems clear, from both the Centurion’s and Christ’s actions and attitudes towards those under their protection, that they are compelled towards acting responsibly and with compassion towards the men and women in their service whom show submission, hope, and faith towards them. It’s not stated as explicitly, but can be seen in their respect for each other and the respect shown to the needs (not always desires) of those in their care.

  2. alcockell says:

    And to crossref to Dorothy L Sayers’ play cycle “The man born to be king”, she wrote Roman centurions as what they were- NCOs, so you can hear him address Jesus will the classic British staccato “Sir..”

  3. Pingback: Faith | Christianity and masculinity

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