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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Virtue

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vûr´t̬u : This word has two quite distinct meanings in the King James Version: (1) It was formerly often used in the now obsolete sense of "manly power," "valor," "efficacy" (Latin, virtus , "manly strength" or "excellence," from vir , "man"):

"Trust in thy single virtue ; for thy soldiers

All levied in thy name, have in thy name

Took their discharge."

- S hakespeare, King Lear , V, iii, 103 ff.

It was also used in the sense of a mighty work, a miracle. Thus Wycliffe translates Matthew 11:20 : " Thanne Jhesus bigan to saye repreef to cities in whiche ful many vertues of him weren don ." So in the King James Version, Mark 5:30 ; Luke 6:19 ; Luke 8:46 , in the sense of "power," "miraculous energy or influence" (δύναμις , dúnamis , "inherent power, residing in the nature of a thing"; contrast ἐξουσία , exousı́a , "power arising from external opportunity or liberty of action"). In these passages it is translated in the Revised Version (British and American) "power" (as elsewhere in the King James Version; compare Acts 3:12 , etc.). (2) In its ordinary modern meaning of "moral goodness" it occurs in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) The Wisdom of Solomon 4:1; 5:13; 8:7; Philippians 4:8 ; 2 Peter 1:3 , 2 Peter 1:5 . In these passages it stands for ἀρετή , aretḗ , the usual classical term for "moral excellence" (originally "fitness" of any sort), used in Septuagint to translate words meaning "glory," "praiseworthiness," as in Habakkuk 3:3 ; Isaiah 42:12 ; Isaiah 63:7 (of God); Zechariah 6:13 (of the Messiah). The Septuagint sense may color the meaning of the word as applied to God in 2 Peter 1:3 the Revised Version (British and American); as also in its plural use (of God) in 1 Peter 2:9 (the King James Version "praises," the Revised Version (British and American) "excellencies").

The adjective "virtuous" occurs in the King James Version, the English Revised Version Rth 3:11; Proverbs 12:4 ; Proverbs 31:10 (the American Standard Revised Version "worthy"), and the adverb "virtuously" in Proverbs 31:29 (the American Standard Revised Version "worthily"), in each case for חיל , ḥayil , "strength," "force" (whether of body or of mind), then in a moral sense of "worth," "virtue."


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Virtue'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/v/virtue.html. 1915.

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