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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
dē̇ -grē ´ (מעלה , ma‛ălāh , "a going up" or "ascent," hence, a staircase or flight of steps; "rank": ταπεινός , tapeinós , "low"): By derivation it should mean "a step down" (Latin, de , down, gradus , step). It is used, however, of any step, up or down; then of grade or rank, whether high or low. (1) In its literal sense of step (as of a stair), it is used in the plural to translate Hebrew ma‛ălōth ("steps"), in the parallel passages 2 Kings 20:9-11 the King James Version (5 t); Isaiah 38:8 the King James Version (3 t), where we read of the "degrees" (the Revised Version (British and American) "steps") on the "dial of Ahaz" (Hebrew "steps of Ahaz"). See DIAL OF AHAZ . It seems to mean steps or progressive movements of the body toward a certain place in the phrase "A Song of Degrees" (the Revised Version (British and American) "Ascents"), which forms the title of each of the Psalms 120 through 134, probably because they were sung on the way up to the great feasts at Jerusalem. See PSALMS (2) The secondary (but now the more usual) sense of rank, order, grade is found in the following passages: (a ) 1 Chronicles 15:18 , "their brethren of the second (degree)," literally, "of the seconds" (Hebrew mishnı̄m ; compare 2 Chronicles 28:7 , "Elkanah that was next to the king," Hebrew, "the king's second," i.e. in rank); (b ) 1 Chronicles 17:17 , "a man of high degree" (Hebrew ma‛ălāh , "step"); (c ) Psalm 62:9 , "men of low degree ... men of high degree," a paraphrase of Hebrew "sons of man ... sons of man," the first "man" being Hebrew 'ādhām ("common humanity"; compare Greek ánthrōpos , Latin homo , Welsh dyn ), and the second Hebrew 'ı̄sh (man in a superior sense; compare Greek anḗr , Latin vir, Welsh gwr); (d ) "of low degree" for Greek tapeinos in Sirach 11:1; Luke 1:52; James 1:9; (e) In 1 Timothy 3:13 the King James Version "a good degree" (Greek bathmós kalós , the Revised Version (British and American) "a good standing") is assured to those who have "served well as deacons." Some take this to mean promotion to a higher official position in the church; but it probably means simply a position of moral weight and influence in the church gained by faithfulness in service (so Hort).
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Degree'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/d/degree.html. 1915.