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Appendix: The Lexical Meaning of Anti


The Lexical Meaning of Anti

We quote from two authoritative references to establish the meaning of the Greek word anti (as in Antichrist). Our first refe­rence is A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by Bauer, Danker, Arndt, Gingrich (BDAG, 3rd edition). This lexicon gives the following five defini­tions of anti, here quoted verbatim from the lexicon, omitting sources and references:

  1. indicating that one person or thing is, or is to be, replaced by another, instead of, in place of
  2. indicating that one thing is equiv. to another, for, as, in place of
  3. indicating a process of intervention. Gen 44:33 shows how the sense ‘in place of,’ can develop into in behalf of, for someone
  4. indicating the reason for someth., because of, for the purpose of
  5. indicating result, w. implication of being a replacement for someth., wherefore, therefore, so then

Our second reference is Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Kittel and Friedrich. For brevity, we quote not from the ten-volume set (which uses Greek script that few can read) but from the one-volume abridgment by Geoffrey Bromiley (which uses transliterated Greek). The definition of anti is here quoted in its entirety:

Antí [in place of]

A preposition from the Hellenistic period, antí does not have the sense “over against” in the NT but is used for a. “in place of” to denote a replacement or equivalent (Rom.12:17; 1 Th.5:15; 1 Pet.3:9; Heb.12:16), or a similarity (1 Cor.11:15). From this develop the senses b. “on behalf of” in Mt.17:27 or “to the account of” and c. “for the sake of” or “for this cause” (Eph.5:31), “because” (2 Th.2:10 — antí toútou). In Mk.10:45 the position of antí pollón (“for many”) shows that it goes with lýtron rather than doúnai and thus has sense a.: The sacrificed life of Jesus is a sufficient price to redeem many. Even if we put it with doúnai and give it sense b., it still carries a vicarious significance, for Jesus is then giving his life “on behalf of” the forfeited life of the many.

Conclusion: Against our expectation as speakers of English who are familiar with terms such as anti-government or anti-aircraft, the sense of against or opposition does not appear in any of the definitions of anti offered by these two standard and authoritative references.

It is true that a pseudo Christ is also some kind of contra Christ, since a false Christ acts in a way that seeks to undermine Christ. But this kind of opposition is hidden rather than overt. The Antichrist opposes Christ, but outwardly he is a pseudo Christ rather than a contra Christ.

It is important to base our understanding of “Antichrist” on the Greek rather than the English because the English “Antichrist” is merely a transliteration of the Greek word antichristos.

The term “Antichrist” is even more misleading in Chinese Bibles because here we are no longer dealing with a straightforward transliteration. The term 敌基督 (di jidu) explicitly declares the Antichrist to be an “enemy of Christ”. This is an arbitrary interpre­tation, and a wrong one at that, because the sense of “enemy” or “opposition” is secondary (i.e., not the primary or dominant mean­ing of anti in the New Testament).


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