de-gre' (ma`alah, "a going up" or "ascent," hence, a staircase or flight of steps; "rank":
tapeinos, "low"): By derivation it should mean "a step down" (Latin, de, down, gradus, step). It is used, however, of any step, up or down; then of grade or rank, whether high or low.
(1) In its literal sense of step (as of a stair), it is used in the plural to translate Hebrew ma`aloth ("steps"), in the parallel passages 2 Kings 20:9-11 the King James Version (5 t); Isaiah 38:8 the King James Version (3 t), where we read of the "degrees" (the Revised Version (British and American) "steps") on the "dial of Ahaz" (Hebrew "steps of Ahaz"). See DIAL OF AHAZ. It seems to mean steps or progressive movements of the body toward a certain place in the phrase "A So of Degrees" (the Revised Version (British and American) "Ascents"), which forms the title of each of the Psalms 120-134, probably because they were sung on the way up to the great feasts at Jerusalem. See PSALMS
(2) The secondary (but now the more usual) sense of rank, order, grade is found in the following passages:
(a) 1 Chronicles 15:18, "their brethren of the second (degree)," literally, "of the seconds" (Hebrew mishnim; compare 2 Chronicles 28:7, "Elkanah that was next to the king," Hebrew, "the king's second," i.e. in rank);
(b) 1 Chronicles 17:17, "a man of high degree" (Hebrew ma`alah, "step");
(c) Psalms 62:9, "men of low degree .... men of high degree," a paraphrase of Hebrew "sons of man .... sons of man," the first "man" being Hebrew 'adham ("common humanity"; compare Greek anthropos, Latin homo, Welsh dyn), and the second Hebrew 'ish (man in a superior sense; compare Greek aner, Latin vir, Welsh gwr) ;
(e) In 1 Timothy 3:13 the King James Version "a good degree" (Greek bathmos kalos, the Revised Version (British and American) "a good standing") is assured to those who have "served well as deacons." Some take this to mean promotion to a higher official position in the church; but it probably means simply a position of moral weight and influence in the church gained by faithfulness in service (so Hort).
D. Miall Edwards
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