From: alexali (
Date: Tue Jun 08 1999 - 19:41:04 EDT

Mitchell Gray asked,

>Would the word "parousia" mean "coming" or "presence"?

Previous responses have noted the usage of the word in relation to the
coming of official persons in state visits.

If Mitchell is interested in papyrological evidence, some is to be found in
New Documents illustrating Early Christianity, volumes 1 and 4.

The 11th article of the first volume gives an example of the cognate verb,
PAREIMI, used of an official's coming. The editor, Greg Horsley, also
refers the reader to "the old but still valuable treatment in Deissmann,
Light from the Ancient East, 368-373. For the verb used of gods from Homer
onwards, see L. Robert, Hellenica 13 (1965) 129-131; also SEG 821.10."

The 78th article of the fourth volume gives two examples of the noun. The
examples occur in two letters of King Mithridates of Pontos; in both, he
speaks of the rebel, Chairemon's flight upon hearing of Mithridates'
coming. In the first, we read 'and now having found out about my coming he
has ... fled'; in the second, 'and now having learnt of my coming he has
escaped'. The editor of New Docs 4 notes, "In this context parousia takes
on connotations of retribution (the purpose and consequence of the king's
coming) and makes a good parallel to eschatological uses of the word in the
NT (e.g., Mt. 24.27, 37, 39)."

The article then refers to another piece of papyrus evidence, a business
letter in which a certain Didymos asks someone 'to wait for the arrival of

The editor's comment addresses Mitchell Gray's question: "Didymos is
speaking of an arrival which he sees as an event that will only affect the
person waiting when it achieves actual physical fulfilment (through the
presence of Phanias). In the letters of Mithridates above, however, the
parousia is an impending arrival: Chairemon fled on hearing not of the
king's actual presence, but of his imminent arrival. It is not clear who
Phanias is, but it seems that he is a business associate rather than a
visiting official, in which case this example parallels the use of parousia
in the NT for the arrival of Titus (2 Cor. 7.6, 7) and Paul (Phil. 1.26;

Ceslas Spicq also has an entry on PAROUSIA in his Theological Lexicon of
the New Testament (translated and edited by James Ernest).

Dr Alex Hopkins (Melbourne, Australia)

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