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Virtue

VIRTUE

vur'-tu:

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."

--Shakespeare, King Lear, V, iii, 103.

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; 8:46, in the sense of "power," "miraculous energy or influence" (dunamis, "inherent power, residing in the nature of a thing"; contrast exousia, "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 1:3,5. In these passages it stands for arete, 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; 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 Ruth 3:11; Proverbs 12:4; 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 chayil, "strength," "force" (whether of body or of mind), then in a moral sense of "worth," "virtue."

D. Miall Edwards


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'VIRTUE'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.