Acts 3:15 KJV/SBLGNT

15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

The Greek word archegos can be either 'prince' or 'author' according to Strongs. Which is correct?

See also LSJ's lexicon entry for ἀρχηγός.

  • 2
    Hey please put a little more effort into asking here. If you expect others to put work into writing good answer (as we expect on this site in general), using regular English punctuation and capitalization will help your case.
    – Caleb
    Aug 25 '18 at 9:21
  • Welcome, Eric. On here, some folk like complex questions showing signs of much research. Others appreciate simple, direct questions that can receive direct answers, such as Nigel J's. The important thing is to ask a Q that is worthy of a considered answer, and not so much one that shows flawless punctuation, grammar etc., nice though that is.
    – Anne
    Aug 30 '18 at 18:47
  1. Arche, Αρχη Strong 746

Arche means beginning and is so used by Mark, Luke and John in relation to the inauguration of the gospel, Mark 1:1, the documentation of the gospel, Luke 1:2 and the existence of all possible intelligent communication - as such - ('word') in John 1:1.

All that could ever be intelligently communicated from any one to any other - 'word' - already existed in the arche - in the beginning.

And God was the Word, John 1:1 (the correct, literal order of that statement).

  1. Archegos, Αρχηγος Strong 747

This word simply adds to arche and personifies it. It is now a person who embodies the word arche.

It is used four times in the Greek scripture, all four times a title for Jesus Christ, either as suffering (Acts 3:15 and Hebrews 2:10) or as risen and ascended (Acts 5:31 and Hebrews 12:2).

The translations 'captain and prince' are not, terribly, helpful, especially as they are not consistent.

What is helpful is Thayer's explanation of the word in which he uses the two words 'predecessor' and 'pre-eminent' which, respectively, give expression to the two uses of the word as detailed above - firstly in the preparatory necessity of priestly self-sacrifice (Acts 3:15 and Hebrews 2:10) - and secondly in the pre-eminence of his on-going reign and rule (Acts 5:31 and Hebrews 12:2).

My own way of understanding the twin meanings of the way the word is used by Luke and the writer to the Hebrews is 'instigator and perpetrator' or 'initiator and administrator' which I admit are not perfect translations.

  1. Archon, Αρχων Strong 758

This word also comes from the same root, arche, but is used, thirty seven times, of 'princes' and 'rulers' generally. It is not a specific title of the Lord Jesus Christ as is archegos.

  • All three of the Greek words that you cite are spelt wrong. Can you edit it?
    – fdb
    Aug 26 '18 at 13:53
  • Thank you for pointing out. Sincere apologies. Immediately edited.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 26 '18 at 13:57
  • I must be more careful about eta/epsilon and omicron/omega.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 27 '18 at 12:28

Unfortunately, both are correct. The word, "archegos" is from the cognate root, "archo" meaning to begin, to originate, to author, to start or to lead (and thus govern or rule). We have a similar situation in English where "principle" is a starting idea, or basic idea, and give rise to the our word "prince" and "principality" or even "Principal" of a school being the "first" or "leading" teacher.

The same idea arises on 1 Tim 1:15 where Paul calls himself the "prince" of sinners, or the "chief" of sinners, or the "worst" of sinners, etc. The idea being that Paul regarded himself as the greatest sinner.

We have an identical situation in Rev 3:14 where Jesus is either the "beginning" or "ruler" of God's creation. (There has been much ink wasted in this debate that I will not enter here).


My answer is intended to show that in Acts 3:15 Peter alludes to Numbers 25 to indict the Jewish leaders (and the complicit Jews) for bringing upon themselves judgment and a curse and forfeiting the kingdom of God by rejecting their king, the son of David. Given the context I suggest that Peter's word choice (Αρχηγος) would have been taken to refer to Jesus as "the ringleader" and "instigator" of life in ironic opposition to Barabbas who was a ringleader of the rebels, legally condemned to death.

The NT plays out in the final days of temple-centric Judaism and the sacrificial system (which was brought about in 70 AD) wherein God gives Israel a decisive opportunity to allow God's kingdom to be realized through their nation but instead refuses over and over.

In chapter 2 Peter accuses the Jews of murdering Jesus:

NIV Acts 2:

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

In chapter 3 he repeats the accusation and adds a reference to their preferring a murderer:

NIV Acts 3:

13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15a You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this...

In Acts 7 Stephen recounts a litany of situations where the Jews likewise refused God's plan and instead incurred God's punisment:

NIV Acts 7:

9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him ... 27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? ... 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’ 35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. ... 39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him [Moses]. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. 42a But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars... 43d ...Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.

Stephen's indictment is to show that the Jewish people have a long history of refusing God's plan and instead incurring judgment because they are a uniquely stubborn nation:

NIV Acts 7:

51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

In Peter's indictment in Acts 3 he is calling attention to the contrast between Barabbas who was an insurrectionist (a Jew set on overthrowing Rome through a violent rebellion) with Jesus whose only crime is being a "ringleader" and "instigator" of life! To get a sense of the usage I quote Clement below:

1 Clement 14:

1 Therefore it is right and holy, my brethren, for us to obey God rather than to follow those who in pride and unruliness are the instigators of an abominable jealousy. 2 For we shall incur no common harm, but great danger, if we rashly yield ourselves to the purposes of men who rush into strife and sedition, to estrange us from what is right.

Whereas Barabbas was a rebel and murderer who took life and incurred wrath, Jesus' only "crime" was that he was an "instigator of life"!

The word is used in Numbers 25 to refer to the ringleaders of a rebellious effort to get the Jews to worship Baal-Peor, a Moabite version of the Baal cult:

NET Bible Numbers 25:

4 The Lord said to Moses, “Arrest all the leaders (ἀρχηγοὺς) of the people, and hang them up before the Lord in broad daylight, so that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.”

The prime mover seems to have been Moabite women among the Jews who were hoping to get a foothold for their religion within Israel:

NET Bible Numbers 25:

1 When Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to commit sexual immorality with the daughters of Moab. 2 These women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods; then the people ate and bowed down to their gods.

It was in executing by hanging on a tree that the ringleaders were to be eliminated but instead Phineas executed one of the rebels who had the temerity to bring a Midianite women to the entrance of the tent of meeting (the tabernacle) where the Jews were in angst because of the plague that killed thousands among them:

NET Bible Numbers 25:

6 Just then one of the Israelites came and brought to his brothers a Midianite woman in the plain view of Moses and of the whole community of the Israelites, while they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he got up from among the assembly, took a javelin in his hand, 8 and went after the Israelite man into the tent and thrust through the Israelite man and into the woman’s abdomen. So the plague was stopped from the Israelites.

Of interest: This javelin thrust is echoed in the death of Jesus.

The result of the execution of this rebel was that the plague on the Jews was stopped. However, the Jews of Acts 3 instead chose to kill the "instigator of life".

In order to inherit the kingdom and not inherit God's curses the Jews are instructed by Peter to repent of the murder (and be washed in mikveh, though that is not explicit here):

NIV Acts 3:

19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.

The assumption in Acts 3:19-20 is that if they do NOT repent and receive mikveh, instead of God sending the messiah to the Jews as he was appointed to do they would be cursed and subject to God's judgment, which is what happened in 70 AD.

As the Jews refused YHVH from being their king and chose Saul, who cast his sword at David, the LORD's anointed, refused the Christ and chose Barabbas and killed Stephen who preached against them so they were doomed to NOT receive the kingdom but instead by subject to the judgment of 70 AD so that "even what they had would be taken away".

This invocation of Numbers 25 is designed to show that rather than kill the one who was guilty of rebellion they killed the instigator of life and thus would and did bear the curse of 70 AD.

  • One word from Numbers is strong enough to give reason to believe this is an echo? I like the idea but I'm wondering how much of a stretch it is.
    – Eric Ross
    Oct 12 '18 at 2:39

Simplicity always seem to be sacrificed for deeper meanings. Jesus is referred to as the prince of peace and here he is referred to as the prince of life. He is referred to as the author and finisher of our faith. Most importantly, he was killed and God raised him from the dead...(He who raised Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies).

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