While doing research to answer a question on Christ Jesus being our Saviour, I noticed something strange in the New World Translation while reading Acts 5:31.

The King James Version, New International Version, English Standard Version and New Living Translation all say that Jesus is either a Prince or a Leader, and is Saviour.

But the New World Translation puts it this way:

God exalted this one [Jesus] as Chief Agent and Savior to his right hand...

Is there any basis for describing Jesus as God's "Chief Agent" in this Bible verse?

  • 3
    The NWT Interlinear (Westcott & Hort Greek text) has 'Chief Leader' under the Greek word, and puts 'Chief Agent' in its English rendition. Exactly the same Greek word is in the Authorised Version Interlinear (Nestle Greek text) and it has 'a Ruler' under the Greek word, and puts 'a Prince' in its English rendition. I hope some Greek scholars can take it from there, for 'a chief Agent' smacks of an employee.
    – Anne
    Nov 11, 2020 at 18:32
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    The Greek word, "ἀρχηγός" (archēgos) appears in 4 verses. The NWT consistently translates it as "Chief Agent". The KJV translates it as "Prince" in Acts 3:15 and 5:31, and as "captain" in Hebrews 2:10 and "author" in 12:2. ¶ The Greek word is defined as meaning "the chief leader, prince", "the author", and "one that takes the lead in any thing and thus affords an example, a predecessor in a matter, pioneer". See Strong's ¶ It sounds like someone with initiative, authority, and leadership, not simply an agent. Nov 11, 2020 at 21:13
  • @Lesley - On reflection, strictly speaking, I may well have failed to answer your question but I didn't fail to point out why the JW's translated the way they did, whether a correct translation or not. After years of study, I have found that the NASB, to take but just one translation, is riddled with errors in translation to fit the translators predetermined theology, Dan,9:27 being a case in point, as pointed out by myself on this site on several occasions. Nov 12, 2020 at 19:55

2 Answers 2


Is there any basis for describing Jesus as God's "Chief Agent" (re:archegos) in this Bible verse (Acts 5:31) ?

No, none at all :

Arche in Greek is far, far more than 'chief'. Arche is that which has precedence and which is foundational (archetypal). Not only so, but arche is that which is in place at the beginning with a view to being the progenitor of that which follows afterwards.

Thus Archegos (no italic, I am transliterating the word into English) the personification of the attribute, arche, should be viewed likewise.

See Thayer on Strong 746 arche :

Origin, the first person in a series, the origin and active cause, the first place, prinicpality

See Thayer on Strong 747 archegos :

Predecessor, Author, Furnishing the first cause or occasion, A Predecessor in a matter

Thayer indicates that four texts in the New Tetament writings contain the word Archegos.

'Chief Agent' would, in English, simply denote the head position or supervisor of other agents in a hierarchy of activity. Archegos in Greek expresses far more than that.

The question also asks whether any 'manuscript' suggests that Jesus is God's 'chief agent'. The answer is, No, for no manuscript contains Greek words that can be translated 'chief' and 'agent' together to form such a collocation in English.

The manuscripts, without exception, contain the word Archegos which cannot be translated 'chief' and 'agent'.

The four texts clearly declare what the word Archegos means if one examines them in turn.

  • 1 Acts 3:15 : Here, Jesus is called the Archegos of life. Life, itself. Here is no 'agent' in charge of other 'agents' in regard to life. Here, Jesus is - alone - the Archegos of life itself. As it is written 'in him was life and the life was the light of men'. The life that is in him (by his very existence) is that which lights mankind. Else they are in darkness. And this life is begotten by the Father. It is the same life as the life of the Father : divine, eternal life. A Father does not 'make' a Son. A Father begets a Son, in life.

  • 2 Acts 5:31 : God hath exalted [Jesus] with his right hand, an Archegos and a Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness (aphesis) of sins. No other 'agents' are involved in this, but Jesus himself. He is not seen, here, to be orchestrating something by managerial activity over competent technicians. It is He, himself, who is solely responsible for the granting of the priceless, spiritual gifts (which God alone can provide and administer) of repentance and dismissal of one's sins.

  • 3 Hebrews 2:10 : The Archegos of the salvation of many sons brought to glory. No 'agents' are involved of whom Jesus is the administrative 'chief'. Only sons are involved of whom Jesus is the predecessor, the archetype, the prior cause, the progenitor. He is the sole Person responsible, under the Father, to bring many sons of God to glory.

  • Hebrews 12:2 : The perfecter and Archegos of faith. Since faith works by love (as it is written) and since love is of God (as it is written) then if Jesus be the Archegos of faith then he is Divine. No other 'agent' is involved. No other 'agent' could be involved, this is the province of Deity. Jesus alone, under the Father, is the instigator and the propagator of faith in his divinity.

There are other uses of the word Archegos in the Septuagint which translates Hebrew words in the Old Testament and that is another study of value in the pursuit of its true meaning, but was not part of this question. Though it would be a profitable question to ask.

  • As with @Dottard's answer, I cannot fault either of you for your copious responses with regard to the "manuscript" part of the OP's question. I myself was focusing more on the OP's last line...."Is there any basis for describing Jesus as God's "Chief Agent" in this Bible verse?"...which you both (being Trinitarians) dismissed out of hand. Nov 12, 2020 at 5:52
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    @OldeEnglish I have answered that question in full, hermeneutically, from the text itself. No, there is no basis, as I have shown in my answer.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 12, 2020 at 6:19
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    @Nigel Excellent post, +1 "Arche" is also used at Revelation 3:14 demonstrating that Jesus Christ is "NOT" a created being or the first creation of God the Father. We get are English word "architect" from the word Arche. Thayer who was a Unitarian rightly explains how the word is used. Origin, first cause etc. It makes sense because John 1:1-3 and other verses spell out that Jesus is the creator. Jesus was in the "Arche" with God at John 1:2. If Jesus is created how can He rightfully be identified as the creator at John 1:3, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:10 by His own Father and else ware.
    – Mr. Bond
    Nov 12, 2020 at 18:29

First, by its own admission, the NWT is a translation of the Wescott and Hort Greek text. However, in Acts 5:31, there is no difference between W&H vs any other such as UBS5, NA28, Byzantine text and TR etc. UBS5 shows no variations in the text at Acts 5:31. NA28 does list some minor variants but none that changes the sense and all MSS have the same word ἀρχηγός (archégos).

The operative word here is ἀρχηγός (archégos) which occurs just four times in the NT in Acts 3:15, 5:31, Heb 2:10, 12:2. In all these cases, the NWT translates ἀρχηγός (archégos) as "chief agent", presumably to fit its predetermined theology.

I could find no reputable lexicon to support such a translation. Here are some lexicons:

  • Thayer: Chief leader, prince, author
  • NAS: author, prince
  • BDAG: (1) one who has a preeminent position, leader, ruler, prince; (2) one who begins or originates something that is first in a series, instigator; (3) one who begins or originates, originator, founder.
  • Souter: originator, author, founder
  • Newman: leader, pioneer, founder, founder, originator
  • RGNT(NIV): leader, ruler, prince, originator, founder
  • Friberg, Friberg, Miller (ANLEX): (1) strictly, one who goes first on the path, hence, leader, prince, pioneer; (2) as one who causes something to begin originator, founder, initiator

ἀρχηγός (archégos) is constructed of two Greek words: ἀρχή (arché) + ἄγω (agó) = chief/prince + to lead; hence chief leader, or originator, etc.

It appears the NWT prefers "chief agent" to fit with their Arian theology that Jesus is never an originator/author but only an agent of God's will.

In commenting on Acts 3:15 ("And killed the Prince of life ..."), Ellicott observes:

(15) And killed the Prince of life.—The word translated “Prince” is applied to Christ here and in Acts 5:31. In Hebrews 2:10 we meet with it in “the Captain of their salvation;” in Hebrews 12:2, in “the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Its primary meaning, like that of prince (princeps), is one who takes the lead—who is the originator of that to which the title is attached. The “Prince of life,” the “Captain of salvation,” is accordingly He who is the source from which life and salvation flow. In the LXX. of the Old Testament it is used for the “chieftains” or “princes” of Moab and the like (Numbers 13:3; Numbers 24:17).

It is significant that John labors the point that Christ is not the agent of life and light but the actual source of life and light in places like John 1:4, 3:36, 8:12, 14:6, 1 John 1:2, 5:11, 12, etc.

Matthew Poole observes (in commenting on Acts 3:15):

The Prince of life; as God, he is the Author of our temporal life too, in whom we live, and move, &c., and in whose hand is our breath; but Christ, as Mediator, is the guide and way to eternal life, John 14:6. These are said to have killed our Saviour, though neither Herod, nor Pilate, nor probably many (if any) of them that nailed him to the cross, were present; but it was done for their sakes, and at their desires, and therefore by their means; and it is here charged upon them, as done by them.

  • I thought that I would be posting the first answer on this one and then after posting I see that you beat me to it. Why am I not surprised. If the "Trinity" concept was truth then your answer would be first class, but the jury is still out on that concept. At least we now have alternative/opposing answers, which makes things interesting if nothing else. Nov 12, 2020 at 0:21
  • Interesting that the NWT deviates from the Wescott and Hort Greek text on those four occassions where archégos appears in the manuscripts. It is also significant that nobody else sees fit to translate the word as "chief agent". Appreciate your research and insights.
    – Lesley
    Nov 17, 2020 at 11:24

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