Here we will perform Analysis Item #2.
- Is the same Greek word is consistently translated to the same word/clause as used in this verse.
- If it is not consistent, then how often is the chosen English word/clause used in other places as compared to this instance.
- This may also include other relevant analysis related to the translation of the Greek word/clause in question.
In summary, we are analyzing whether the translation from the Greek word to this particular English word is the most valid translation.
See Keyword – peitho and review the definitions of this word.
Peitho is a verb. This is important because the sense conveyed by various translations of Hebrews 13:17 is that of a noun. Peitho is not a simple word because it is translated in a few different ways that are seemingly disparate. It takes some more in depth study and thought to get a stronger sense for how this word fits in among other words.
There are several main uses of this word, but a larger distinction should be made between how it is used in the sense of “persuading someone” as opposed to “being persuaded by someone”. Both are applicable with this word. In Hebrews 13:17 we are interested in the “being persuaded by someone” sense of this word. In this sense, there are several facets that can be expressed through several different English words. See the #2 definition from the Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon.
Consistency and Analysis of the Translation of Peitho
There are 52 occurrences. There are two major senses expressed in the following verses. There is one sense that is “persuading someone” and the other which is “being persuaded by someone”. We are interested in the verses that relate to “being persuaded by someone”.
- #1 – (32%) 17 of 52 – convince
- Luke 16:31, 20:6; Acts 26:26, 27:11, 28:24; Romans 8:38, 14:14, 15:14; 2 Corinthians 10:7; Philippians 1:6; 1:25, 2:24; 2 Timothy 1:5, 1:12; Hebrews 6:9, 13:18; 1 John 3:19
- #2 – (17%) 9 of 52 – persuaded
- Matthew 27:20; Acts 5:39, 12:20, 13:43, 17:4, 19:26, 21:14, 23:21, 26:28
- #3 – (13%) 7 of 52 – confident
- Romans 2:19; 2 Corinthians 2:3; Galatians 5:10; Philippians 3:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:4; Philemon 21
- #4 – (10%) 5 of 52 – trust
- Matthew 27:43; Luke 11:22, 18:9; Philippians 1:14; Hebrews 2:13
- #5 – (9%) 4 of 52 – obey
- Romans 2:8; Galatians 5:7; Hebrews 13:17; James 3:3
- #6 – (4%) 2 of 52 – attempting to persuade
- Acts 18:4; 2 Corinthians 5:11
- #7 – (4%) 2 of 52 – attempting to convince
- Acts 19:8, 28:23
- #8 – (4%) 2 of 52 – followed
- Acts 5:36-37
- #9 – (2%) 1 of 52 – satisfy
- Matthew 28:14
- #10 – (2%) 1 of 52 – won over
- Acts 14:19
- #11 – (2%) 1 of 52 – putting confidence
- 2 Corinthians 1:9
- #12 – (2%) 1 of 52 – appeal
- Galatians 1:10
Additional Analysis of Peitho
- The Bible seems to clearly lean towards “persuade” or “be persuaded” for peitho. If you review all of the verses you will see translators lean heavily towards the meaning of persuading or being persuaded. There is a pretty small minority of cases where the word “obey” is used by translators. In some of cases where “obey” is used, switching to “persuaded” seems to be viable. This leaves us with a very short list of verses where obey is appropriate and Hebrews 13:17 appears to be one of the instances where “be persuaded” is completely viable and harmonizes with other portions of the Bible and sound doctrine.
- The use of “obey” in Hebrews 13:17 seems inappropriate because it makes it sound like the same thing as “children obey your parents” or “slaves obey your masters” which both use an entirely different Greek word (hupakouo) which clearly indicates the need for obedience to commands issued by parents or masters. Peitho does not carry with it the idea of obedience by command. Given the meaning that is translated to the reader when the word obey is used and then compared with “children obey your parents” and “slaves obey your master”, the uninformed mind could form deceptive and harmful thoughts about the command authority of leaders in the church setting.
- Due to the fact that the author of Hebrews used hupakouo (obey) in two other places (Hebrews 5:9, 11:8), it is clear that intention of the author of Hebrews was to convey a different meaning by using a different word (peitho) in Hebrews 13:17.
Let’s look at each verse where peitho is translated to “obey” (not including Hebrews 13:17) and provide a quick comment on whether “obey” makes sense.
Romans 2:8 – but to those who act from selfish ambition and who disobey the truth, but who obey (peitho) unrighteousness, wrath and anger.
- This use of the word obey for peitho is the most defensible given the context and use of disobey (apeitho) in juxtaposition. Apeitho (disobey) is another relevant study, but the reader should not be mislead to believe that apeitho and peitho are black and white antonyms of one another. They are not.
Galatians 5:7-8 – You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying (peitho) the truth? This persuasion is not from the one who calls you!
- This seems to be an inappropriate translation given the use of “this persuasion” just following the use of “who hindered you from peitho the truth. The context seems to dictate that this should read “who hindered you from being persuaded/convinced of the truth”.
Hebrews 13:17 – Obey (peitho) your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with groaning, for this would be unprofitable for you.
- This is the verse we are studying. We won’t add additional commentary here.
James 3:3 – And if we put bits in the mouths of horses so that they obey (ho peitho) us, we also guide their whole bodies.
- The use of the definite article (ho) may influence this translation, but “persuaded” is a valid potential translation. This is not an unreasonable translation since it is dealing with the relationship between a man and an animal.
- The great majority of how the word peitho is translated into English seems to support the idea that Hebrews 13:17 should follow the pattern of the majority unless there were some other clear Biblical basis for using “obey”. It appears there isn’t another clear Biblical basis. It seems that it is tied to leadership concepts that cannot be fully supported in the Word of God.
- Of the 52 verses with peitho, it appears that there are only two (Romans 2:8, James 3:3) of them that can justify using the word “obey”. The other two (Galatians 5:7, Hebrews 13:17) seem to be valid as “persuaded” or “be persuaded”.
- The use of the word “obey” in this context seems to mislead the reader into thinking that they owe leaders obedience to their (the leaders) commands because of how “obey” is used in other contexts in the Bible.
- Keep in mind the doubts about how peitho is translated as we move through the analysis of the rest of the verse. The evidence against this translation seems to strengthen.