1 Peter 2:17 NIV

Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor [βασιλεύς].

Nero was emporor at the time.

Berean Literal Bible

Honor everyone: love the brotherhood, fear God, Honor the king [βασιλεύς].

In https://biblehub.com/1_peter/2-17.htm, 8 versions use "emperor" and 24 versions use "king". Which is better?

  • Can we even be sure that he is not referring to Christ?!
    – Ruminator
    May 29, 2021 at 10:37
  • Elaborate and I'll +1.
    – Tony Chan
    May 29, 2021 at 13:00

2 Answers 2


In 1 Peter 2:17, the operative word is βασιλεύς (basileus) which is definitely "king" in English, and occurs about 115 times in the NT, eg, Matt 1:6, 2:1, 5:35, 10:18, etc. Thayer offers the following meaning: "leader of the people, prince, commander, lord of the land, king". When this refers unambiguously to the Caesar, it could be translated, Emperor".

In 1 Peter 2:17, only "king" is defensible unambiguously as it simply refers to the local head of government, whoever that might be, without excluding Caesar.

The word "Emperor" is Σεβαστός (Sebastos) and occurs only three times in the NT, namely, Acts 25:21, 25, 27:1. Its meaning is clear: it was the official Latin title of the "Augustus", the emperor of Rome. Note the meaning from Thayer:

  1. reverend, venerable.

  2. ὁ σεβαστός, Latin augustus, the title of the Roman emperors: Acts 25:21, 25 (Strabo, Lucian, Herodian, Dio Cassius, others); adjective σεβαστός, σεβαστη, Σεβαστόν, Augustan, i. e. taking its name from the emperor; a title of honor which used to be given to certain legions, or cohorts, or battalions, for valor (ala augusta ob virtutem appellata. Corpus inscriptions Latin vii. n. 340, 341, 344): σπείρης Σεβαστῆς, the Augustan (Imperial) cohort, Acts 27:1 (λεγεών σεβαστη, Ptolemy, 2, 3, 30; 2, 9, 18; 4, 3, 30). The subject is fully treated by Schürer in the Zeitsehr. für wissensch. Theol. for 1875, p. 413ff


The words, "king" and "kings" are used in Daniel to describe Rome's emperors. The emperors enjoyed a "kingly position" (having supreme military authority for life) following Julius Caesar's restructuring of his "emperor position". In that reconstructing process, he also laid claim to being a "deity" which would pass along to his heir (Octavian, etc.) upon his death. Because that claim of deity is a fraudulent encroachment upon the ONE TRUE GOD's claim of being the ONLY deity, the term, "king" should be the only acceptable term that could be properly expressed by Scripture--the very WORD of the ONE TRUE GOD.

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