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Smith's Bible Dictionary

The use of this term in Scripture has exclusive reference to the usages of the Roman empire. The privilege of Roman citizenship was originally acquired in various ways, as by purchase, (Acts 22:28) by military services, by favor or by manumission. The right once obtained descended to a man's children. (Acts 22:28) Among the privileges attached to citizenship we may note that a man could not be bound or imprisoned without a formal trial, (Acts 22:29) still less be scourged. (Acts 16:37) Cic. in Verr. v. 63,66. Another privilege attaching to citizenship was the appeal from a provincial tribunal to the emperor at Rome. (Acts 25:11)

Easton's Bible Dictionary
The rights and privileges of a citizen in distinction from a foreigner (Luke 15:15; 19:14; Acts 21:39). Under the Mosaic law non-Israelites, with the exception of the Moabites and the Ammonites and others mentioned in Deuteronomy 23:1-3, were admitted to the general privileges of citizenship among the Jews (Exodus 12:19; Leviticus 24:22; Numbers 15:15; 35:15; Deuteronomy 10:18; 14:29; 16:10, 14).

The right of citizenship under the Roman government was granted by the emperor to individuals, and sometimes to provinces, as a favour or as a recompense for services rendered to the state, or for a sum of money (Acts 22:28). This "freedom" secured privileges equal to those enjoyed by natives of Rome. Among the most notable of these was the provision that a man could not be bound or imprisoned without a formal trial (Acts 22:25, 26), or scourged (16:37). All Roman citizens had the right of appeal to Caesar (25:11).

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
(n.) The state of being a citizen; the status of a citizen.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

sit'-i-zen-ship: All the words in use connected with this subject are derived from polis, "city."

1. Philological:

These words, with the meanings which they have in the Bible, are the nouns, polites, "citizen"; politeia, "citizenship"; politeuma, "commonwealth"; sumpolites, "fellow-citizen"; and the verb, politeuo, "to behave as a citizen." Each will be considered more fully in its proper place.

2. Civil:

(1) The word for citizen is sometimes used to indicate little if anything more than the inhabitant of a city or country. "The citizens of that country" (Luke 15:15); "His citizens hated him" (Luke 19:14). Also the quotation from the Septuagint, "They shall not teach every man his fellow-citizen" (Hebrews 8:11; compare Jeremiah 31:34). So also in the Apocrypha (2 Maccabees 4:50; 5:06; 9:19).

(2) Roman citizenship.-This is of especial interest to the Bible student because of the apostle Paul's relation to it. It was one of his qualifications as the apostle to the Gentiles. Luke shows him in Acts as a Roman citizen, who, though a Jew and Christian receives, for the most part, justice and courtesy from the Roman officials, and more than once successfully claims its privileges. He himself declares that he was a citizen of Tarsus (Acts 21:39). He was not only born in that city but had a citizen's rights in it.


But this citizenship in Tarsus did not of itself confer upon Paul the higher dignity of Roman citizenship. Had it done so, Claudius Lysias would not have ordered him to be scourged, as he did, after having learned that he was a citizen of Tarsus (Acts 21:39; compare Acts 22:25). So, over and above this Tarsian citizenship, was the Roman one, which availed for him not in one city only, but throughout the Roman world and secured for him everywhere certain great immunities and rights. Precisely what all of these were we are not certain, but we know that, by the Valerian and Porcian laws, exemption from shameful punishments, such as scourging with rods or whips, and especially crucifixion, was secured to every Roman citizen; also the right of appeal to the emperor with certain limitations. This sanctity of person had become almost a part of their religion, so that any violation was esteemed a sacrilege. Cicero's oration against Verres indicates the almost fanatical extreme to which this feeling had been carried. Yet Paul had been thrice beaten with rods, and five times received from the Jews forty stripes save one (2 Corinthians 11:24, 25). Perhaps it was as at Philippi before he made known his citizenship (Acts 16:22, 23), or the Jews had the right to whip those who came before their own tribunals. Roman citizenship included also the right of appeal to the emperor in all cases, after sentence had been passed, and no needless impediment must be interposed against a trial. Furthermore, the citizen had the right to be sent to Rome for trial before the emperor himself, when charged with capital offenses (Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25-29; 25:11).

How then had Paul, a Jew, acquired this valued dignity? He himself tells us. In contrast to the parvenu citizenship of the chief captain, who seems to have thought that Paul also must have purchased it, though apparently too poor, Paul quietly, says, "But I was free born" (King James Versions; "a Roman born" the Revised Version (British and American), Acts 22:28). Thus either Paul's father or some other ancestor had acquired the right and had transmitted it to the son.

3. Metaphorical and Spiritual:

What more natural than that Paul should sometimes use this civic privilege to illustrate spiritual truths? He does so a number of times. Before the Sanhedrin he says, in the words of our English Versions, "I have lived before God in all good conscience" (Acts 23:1). But this translation does not bring out the sense. Paul uses a noticeable word, politeuo, "to live as a citizen." He adds, "to God" (to Theo). That is to say, he had lived conscientiously as God's citizen, as a member of God's commonwealth. The day before, by appealing to his Roman citizenship, he had saved himself from ignominious whipping, and now what more natural than that he should declare that he had been true to his citizenship in a higher state? What was this higher commonwealth in which he has enjoyed the rights and performed the duties of a citizen? What but theocracy of his fathers, the ancient church, of which the Sanhedrin was still the ostensible representative, but which was really continued in the kingdom of Christ without the national restrictions of the older one? Thus Paul does not mean to say simply, "I have lived conscientiously before God," but "I have lived as a citizen to God, of the body of which He is the immediate Sovereign." He had lived theocratically as a faithful member of the Jewish church, from which his enemies claimed he was an apostate. Thus Paul's conception was a kind of blending of two ideas or feelings, one of which came from the old theocracy, and the other from his Roman citizenship.

Later, writing from Rome itself to the Philippians, who were proud of their own citizenship as members of a colonia, a reproduction on a small scale of the parent commonwealth, where he had once successfully maintained his own Roman rights, Paul forcibly brings out the idea that Christians are citizens of a heavenly commonwealth, urging them to live worthy of such honor (Philippians 1:27 margin).

A similar thought is brought out when he says, "For our commonwealth (politeuma) is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20 margin). The state to which we belong is heaven. Though absent in body from the heavenly commonwealth, as was Paul from Rome when he asserted his rights, believers still enjoy its civic privileges and protections; sojourners upon earth, citizens of heaven. The Old Testament conception, as in Isaiah 60-62, would easily lend itself to this idea, which appears in Hebrews 11:10, 16; Hebrews 12:22-24; 13:14 Galatians 4:26, and possibly in Revelation 21.

See also ROME.

G. H. Trever

4174. politeia -- citizenship
... citizenship. Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: politeia Phonetic Spelling:
(pol-ee-ti'-ah) Short Definition: citizen body, citizenship Definition ...
// - 6k

4175. politeuma -- a form of government, citizenship
... a form of government, citizenship. Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter Transliteration:
politeuma Phonetic Spelling: (pol-it'-yoo-mah) Short Definition: a state ...
// - 6k

2009. epitimia -- punishment
... punishment. From a compound of epi and time; properly, esteem, ie Citizenship; used
(in the sense of epitimao) of a penalty -- punishment. see GREEK epi. ...
// - 7k


The Foundations of Good Citizenship.
Readings. Hist. Bible I, 194-198. Prin. of Politics, Chap. II. ...
/.../kent/the making of a nation/study x the foundations of.htm

Twenty Third Sunday after Trinity Enemies of the Cross of Christ ...
... Twenty Third Sunday After Trinity ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST AND THE
CHRISTIAN'S CITIZENSHIP IN HEAVEN. Text: Philippians 3, 17-21. ...
/.../luther/epistle sermons vol iii/twenty third sunday after trinity.htm

Political and Religious Life of the Jewish Dispersion in the West ...
... It was not only in the capital of the Empire that the Jews enjoyed the rights of
Roman citizenship. Many in Asia Minor could boast of the same privilege. ...
/.../the life and times of jesus the messiah/chapter vi political and religious.htm

Chapter eleven
... Then he spoke sadly but with great conviction: "Maxwell, you and I belong to a class
of professional men who have always avoided the duties of citizenship. ...
// his steps/chapter eleven.htm

The Song of Two Cities
... First, the song sets in sharp contrast the two cities, describing, in verses 1-4,
the city of God, its strength defences, conditions of citizenship, and the ...
/.../maclaren/expositions of holy scripture h/the song of two cities.htm

Whether the Judicial Precepts Regarding Foreigners were Framed in ...
... For they were not at once admitted to citizenship: just as it was law with some
nations that no one was deemed a citizen except after two or three generations ...
/.../aquinas/summa theologica/whether the judicial precepts regarding.htm

Christ's Discourses in Peræa - Close of the Peræan Ministry
... the highest outward claims would be found unavailing; but the expectation of admission
was grounded rather on what was done, than on mere citizenship and its ...
/.../the life and times of jesus the messiah/chapter xx christs discourses in.htm

Philippians iii. 18-21
... For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord
Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it ...
/.../homily xiii philippians iii 18-21.htm

Third Sunday after Easter
... established. The dwelling-place, the citizenship and the authority of Christians
are to be found in another direction, not in this world. ...
/.../luther/epistle sermons vol ii/third sunday after easter.htm

Through-The-Week Activities for Boys' Organized Classes
... Hayseed Carnival Parlor Magic Athletic Stunts Independence Day Political
Campaign Town Meeting Sex Instruction Practical Citizenship. ...
/.../the boy and the sunday school/x through-the-week activities for boys.htm

Citizenship (4 Occurrences)
... the exception of the Moabites and the Ammonites and others mentioned in Deuteronomy
23:1-3, were admitted to the general privileges of citizenship among the ...
/c/citizenship.htm - 16k

Colony (1 Occurrence)
... They were distinguished as (a) c. civium Romanorum, wherein the colonists retained
Roman citizenship, also called c. maritumae, because situated on the coast ...
/c/colony.htm - 10k

Claudius (3 Occurrences)
... (2.) Claudius Lysias, a Greek who, having obtained by purchase the privilege of
Roman citizenship, took the name of Claudius (Acts 21:31-40; 22:28; 23:26). ...
/c/claudius.htm - 15k

Commonwealth (2 Occurrences)
... The same word is rendered "freedom," the King James Version; "citizenship"
the Revised Version (British and American). ... See CITIZENSHIP. ...
/c/commonwealth.htm - 8k

Citizens (28 Occurrences)
... Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a
Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (Root in WEB WEY ASV YLT NAS NIV). ...
/c/citizens.htm - 15k

Lysias (3 Occurrences)
... He obtained his Roman citizenship by purchase, and was therefore probably a Greek.
(see CLAUDIUS.). Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia. CLAUDIUS LYSIAS. ...
/l/lysias.htm - 12k

Parchments (1 Occurrence)
... by Kenyon (HDB, III, 673) that they contained the Old Testament in Greek; by Farrar,
that the parchments were a diploma of Paul's Roman citizenship; by Bull ...
/p/parchments.htm - 10k

Conversation (30 Occurrences)
... It there means one's relations to a community as a citizen, ie, citizenship. Noah
Webster's Dictionary. 1. (n.) General course of conduct; behavior. ...
/c/conversation.htm - 19k

Philippians (2 Occurrences)
... to behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27), and he
reminds them that though they were proud of their Roman citizenship, as was he ...
/p/philippians.htm - 42k

Tarsus (5 Occurrences)
... It did not by itself bestow Roman citizenship on the Tarsinas, but doubtless there
were many natives of the city to whom Pompey, Caesar, Antony and Augustus ...
/t/tarsus.htm - 30k

Bible Concordance
Citizenship (4 Occurrences)

Acts 22:28 The commanding officer answered, "I bought my citizenship for a great price." Paul said, "But I was born a Roman."

Ephesians 2:12 that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
(See NIV)

Ephesians 2:19 You are therefore no longer mere foreigners or persons excluded from civil rights. On the contrary you share citizenship with God's people and are members of His family.

Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;



Related Terms

Colony (1 Occurrence)

Claudius (3 Occurrences)

Commonwealth (2 Occurrences)

Citizens (28 Occurrences)

Lysias (3 Occurrences)

Parchments (1 Occurrence)

Conversation (30 Occurrences)

Philippians (2 Occurrences)

Tarsus (5 Occurrences)

Circumcision (98 Occurrences)

Philippi (8 Occurrences)

Officer (70 Occurrences)

Tribune (18 Occurrences)

Romans (8 Occurrences)

Rights (35 Occurrences)

Eagerly (36 Occurrences)

Excluded (14 Occurrences)

Mere (56 Occurrences)

Paul (207 Occurrences)

Paid (86 Occurrences)

Bought (66 Occurrences)

Book (211 Occurrences)

Big (21 Occurrences)


Citron (2 Occurrences)

Civil (4 Occurrences)

Congregation (347 Occurrences)

Commander (111 Occurrences)

Commanding (79 Occurrences)

Citizen (9 Occurrences)

Chiliarch (17 Occurrences)

Actually (35 Occurrences)

Acquired (32 Occurrences)

Slander (34 Occurrences)

Savior (60 Occurrences)

Dispersion (4 Occurrences)

Price (181 Occurrences)

Empire (8 Occurrences)

Alexandria (4 Occurrences)

Taxing (3 Occurrences)

Members (54 Occurrences)

Tax (43 Occurrences)



Share (138 Occurrences)

Born (228 Occurrences)

Pay (212 Occurrences)

Preacher (27 Occurrences)

Army (401 Occurrences)

Ecclesiastes (1 Occurrence)

Contrary (77 Occurrences)


Roman (26 Occurrences)

Wait (223 Occurrences)

Persons (156 Occurrences)

Mark (182 Occurrences)

Titus (15 Occurrences)

Large (235 Occurrences)

Law (670 Occurrences)

Discomfiture (6 Occurrences)

Mystery (31 Occurrences)

Papyrus (4 Occurrences)

Minor (2 Occurrences)

Asia (22 Occurrences)

Proverbs (11 Occurrences)


Apostle (25 Occurrences)

Greece (15 Occurrences)

Money (284 Occurrences)

Family (438 Occurrences)

Consist (7 Occurrences)

John (154 Occurrences)

Anem (1 Occurrence)

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