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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
Although this word occurs twice (2 Corinthians 5:20 and Ephesians 6:20) in the English Version of the NT, the corresponding Greek noun (πρεσβευτής) occurs nowhere. Instead, we find the verb πρεσβεύω, ‘to be an ambassador,’ while the cognate collective noun (Revised Version ‘ambassage’) is used in Luke 14:32; Luke 19:14.* [Note: πρεσβεύω and πρεσβευτής were the recognized terms in the Greek East for the Legate of the Roman Empire (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East2, 1911, p. 379).]
In the OT the idea behind the words translated ‘ambassador’ (generally mal’âkh) is that of going or being sent, and of this the etymological equivalent in the NT is not ‘ambassador’ but ‘apostle’ (ἀπόστολος, ‘one sent forth’); but both the OT terms and the NT ἀπόστολος have to be understood in the light of use and contest rather than of derivation. In this way they acquire a richer content, of which the chief component ideas are the bearing of a message, the dealing, in a representative character, with those to whom one is sent, and the solemn investiture, before starting out, with a delegated authority sufficient for the task (cf. Galatians 1:15-17).
The representative character of ambassadorship is emphasized by the repeated ὑπέρ, ‘on behalf of,’ in 2 Corinthians 5:20, with the added ‘as though God were intreating by us.’ The same preposition (ὑπέρ) occurs in Ephesians 6:20; thus πρεσβεύω is never found in the NT without it. So also in Luke 14:32; Luke 19:14 the context shows that the πρεσβεία is representative.
There is no very marked difference between ‘ambassador’ and ‘apostle.’ πρεσβεύω, having πρέσβυς (‘aged’) as its stem, does suggest a certain special dignity and gravity, based on the ancient idea of the vastly superior wisdom brought by ripeness of years. Probably, however, St. Paul was not thinking of age at all, for πρεσβεύω had lived a life of its own long enough to be independent of its antecedents. His tone of dignity and of pride springs not so much from his metaphor as direct from his vividly realized relation to God: ὑπέρ is more emphatic than πρεσβεύω. It is in exactly the same tone that he claims the title ‘apostle’ (see, e.g., Galatians 1:1, 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:9-10); cf. Galatians 1:15 f., where his ‘separation to preach’ expresses the same thought in yet another form. Nevertheless, his is a humble pride, for only grace has put him in his lofty position (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9 f.). Moreover, his commission is not to lord it over others, but to ‘beseech’ them; nay, God Himself only ‘intreats’ (2 Corinthians 5:20). It is He who seeks ‘arrangements for peace’ with men (cf. Luke 14:32). On the πρεσβύτης of Philemon 1:9 (Authorized Version and Revised Version ‘the aged,’ Revised Version margin ‘an ambassador’) see article Aged.
C. H. Watkins.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ambassador'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/a/ambassador.html. 1906-1918.