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The "band of Roman soldiers" referred to in ( Matthew 27:27 ) and elsewhere was the tenth part of a legion. It was called a "cohort," and numbered 400 to 600 men. [See ARMY]

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Band'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.


The English word has two generic meanings, each shading off into several specific meanings:

(1) that which holds together, binds or encircles:

a bond;

(2) a company of men. The second sense may philologically and logically have been derived from the first, men being held together by social ties. Both meanings appear in Old Testament and New Testament representing various Hebrew and Greek words.

(1) A band

(a) ('ecur):

a flaxen rope (Judges 15:14); a band of iron and brass (Daniel 4:15,23); metaphorically used of a false woman's hands (Ecclesiastes 7:26).

(b) (chebhel):

"The bands of the wicked have robbed me" (the King James Version of Psalms 119:61), where "bands" = "troops" by mistr; the Revised Version (British and American) "The cords of the wicked have wrapped me round"; plural chobhlim = "bands" = the name of the prophet's symbolic staff representing the brotherhood between Judah and Israel (Zechariah 11:7,14).

(c) (`abhoth):

"I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love" (Hosea 11:4; compare Ezekiel 3:25; 4:8; Job 39:10).

(d) (saphah):

the edge of the round opening in the robe of the ephod with a band (the Revised Version (British and American) "binding") round about the hole of it (only in Exodus 39:23).

(e) (chartsubboth):

bands (the Revised Version (British and American) "bonds") of wickedness (Isaiah 58:6); bands (= pains) in death (Psalms 73:4); the Revised Version, margin ("pangs," Cheyne, "torments").

(f) (moTah):

the cross bar of oxen's yoke, holding them together (Leviticus 26:13; Ezekiel 34:27 the King James Version; the Revised Version (British and American) "bars").

(g) (mocer):

a fetter: "Who hath loosed the bonds of the swift ass?" (Job 39:5; Psalms 2:3; 107:14; Isaiah 28:22; 52:2; Jeremiah 2:20; all in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American)). The same Hebrew word (in Psalms 116:16; Jeremiah 5:5; 27:2; 30:8; Nahum 1:13) is translated "bonds " in the King James Version, and in the English Revised Version of Psalms 116:16, and Nahum 1:13, but "bands" in the English Revised Version of Jeremiah 5:5; 27:2; 30:8; the American Standard Revised Version has "bonds" throughout. See BOND.

(h) (moshekhoth):

"Canst thou .... loose the bands of Orion?" (only in Job 38:31).

(i) (desmos, sundesmos):

a fetter: that which binds together: of the chains of a lunatic or prisoner (Luke 8:29; Acts 16:26; 22:30 the King James Version), metaphorically of the mystic union of Christ and the church (Colossians 2:19). These words are often translated by "bond" in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American).

(j) (zeukteria):

the rudder's bands (only in Acts 27:40).

(2) A company of men

(a) (gedhudh):

a band of soldiers (2 Samuel 4:2; 1 Kings 11:24, the King James Version; 2 Kings 6:23; 13:20,21; 24:2; 1 Chronicles 7:4; 12:18,21; 2 Chronicles 22:1). So the Revised Version (British and American) (except in 1 Kings 11:24, "troop").

(b) (ro'sh):

"head" = "division": "The Chaldeans made three bands" (Job 1:17); 1 Chronicles 12:23 the Revised Version (British and American) translates "heads."

(c) (chayil):

"a band of men" the Revised Version (British and American) the "host" (only in 1 Samuel 10:26).

(d) ('aghappim):

"the wings of an army," only in Ezekiel, armies of the King of Judah (12:14; 17:21); of Gomer and of Togarmah (38:6); of Gog (the Revised Version (British and American) "hordes") (38:9,22; 39:4).

(e) (machaneh):

"camp": only in Genesis 32:7,10; the Revised Version (British and American) "companies."

(f) (chotsets):

of locusts dividing into companies or swarms (Proverbs 30:27).

(g) (speira):

usually a "cohort" (see the Revised Version, margin) of Roman soldiers; the tenth part of a legion, about 600 men: (Matthew 27:27; Mark 15:16; Acts 10:1; 21:31; 27:1). A smaller detachment of soldiers (John 18:3,12; compare 2 Macc 8:23; Judith 1:4:11).

(h) (poiein sustrophen):

"to make a conspiracy": "The Jews banded together" (Acts 23:12).

T. Rees

_(3)_ The Augustan Band (speira Sebaste) to which Julius, the Roman centurion who had charge of Paul as a prisoner on his voyage to Rome, belonged, was a cohort apparently stationed at Caesarea at the time (Acts 27:1). Schurer (GJV, I3, 461 f) is of opinion that it was one of five cohorts mentioned by Josephus, recruited in Samaria and called Sebastenes from the Greek name of the city of Samaria (Sebaste). This particular cohort had in all likelihood for its full name Cohors Augusta Sebastenorum, Augusta being an honorific title of which examples are found in the case of auxiliary troops. Sir William Ramsay, following Mommsen (Paul the Traveler, 315, 348), thinks it denotes a body of legionary centurions, selected from legions serving abroad, who were employed by the emperor on confidential business between the provinces and Rome, the title Augustan being conferred upon them as a mark of favor and distinction. The grounds on which the views of Mommsen and Ramsay rest are questioned by Professor Zahn (Introduction to the New Testament, I, 551), and more evidence is needed to establish them.


_(4)_ The Italian Band (speira Italike) was a cohort composed of volunteer Roman citizens born in Italy and stationed at Caesarea at this time (Acts 10:1). Schurer maintains that there could have been no Roman cohort there at this time, although he accepts the testimony of inscriptions to the presence of an Italian cohort at a later time. He accordingly rejects the story of Cornelius, holding that the author of the Ac has given in this narrative conditions belonging to a later time (GJV, I3, 462 f). In reply to Schurer, Blass asks why one of the five cohorts mentioned by Josephus may not have been composed of Roman citizens living at Caesarea or Sebaste, and bearing this name (Blass, Acta Apostolorum, 124). From a recently discovered inscription, Sir W. M. Ramsay has ascertained that there was an Italian cohort stationed in Syria in 69 AD, which heightens the probability of one actually being found in Caesarea at 41-44 AD, and he shows that even if his cohort was at the time on duty elsewhere a centurion like Cornelius might well have been at Caesarea at the time mentioned (Expositor, 5th series, IV, V, with Schurer's rejoinder). The subject of detached service in the provinces of the Roman Empire is admittedly obscure, but nothing emerges in this discussion to cast doubt upon the historical character of Luke's narrative.


T. Nicol.

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

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