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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(ἀήρ ), the atmosphere, as opposed to the ether (αἰθήρ ), or higher and purer region of the sky (Acts 22:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 2:2; Revelation 16:17). The Hebrew term רוּחִ,, ru ach, occurs in this sense but once (Job 41:16); "air" is elsewhere the rendering of שָׁמִיַם, shama yim, in speaking of birds of the heavens. The later Jews (see Eisenmenger, Entd. Jud. 2, 437 sq.), in common with the Gentiles (see Elsner, Obs. 2, 205; Dougtaei Annal. p. 127), especially the Pythagoreans, believed the air to be peopled with spirits, under the government of a chief, who there held his seat of empire (Philo, 31, 28; Diog. Laert. 8:32; Plutarch, Quaest. Romans p. 274). These spirits were supposed to be powerful, but malignant, and to incite men to evil. That the Jews held this opinion is plain from the rabbinical citations of Lightfoot, Wetstein, etc. Thus in Pirke Aboth, 83, 2, they are described as filling the whole air, arranged in troops, in regular subordination (see Rosenroth, Cabbala denud. 1, 417). The early Christian fathers entertained the same belief (Ignat. ad Ephes. § 13), which has indeed come down to our own times. It is to this notion that Paul is supposed to allude in Ephesians 2:2, where Satan is called "prince of the power (i.e. of those who exercise the power) of the air" (see Stuart, in the Biblioth. Sacra, 1843, p. 139). Some, however, explain "air" here by darkness, a sense which it bears also in profane writers. But the apostle no doubt speaks according to the notions entertained by most of those to whom he wrote, without expressing the extent of his own belief (see Bloomfield, Rec. Syn., and Meyer, Comment. in loc.). (See POWER); (See PRINCIPALITY). The sky as the midst of heaven, or the middle station between heaven and earth, may symbolically represent the place where the Divine judgments are denounced, as in 1 Chronicles 21:16. (See ANGEL).

The phrase είς ἀέρα λαλεῖν , to speak into the aim (1 Corinthians 14:9), is a proverbial expression to denote speaking in vain, like ventis verba profundere in Latin (Lucret. 4:929), and a similar one in our own language; and εἰς ἀέρα δέρειν, to beat the air (1 Corinthians 9:26), denotes acting in vain, and is a proverbial allusion to an abortive stroke into the air in pugilistic contests (comp. Virgil, AEn. 5, 377). (See GAMES).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Air'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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