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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

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Humanity, Human PersonHusband
Additional Resources
• Nave's Topical Bible
• Torrey's Topical Textbook
Humility of Christ, The
• Easton's Bible Dictionary
• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Greek - humility
Greek - humility, humility of mind
Hebrew - humility

Biblical humility is grounded in the character of God. The Father stoops down to help the poor and needy (Psalm 113:4-9; 138:6-7); the incarnate Son exhibits humility from the manger to the cross (Matt 11:29; Acts 8:32-33; Php 2:5-8). The dual usage of "meek" (Gk. praus [πραΰς]) and "humble (tapeinos [ταπεινός] "low") in heart" in Matthew 11:29 emphasizes Christ's humility before humankind, whom he came to serve (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:27) and his submission before God. Humility and meekness are often inseparable (2 Col 10:1; Eph 4:2; Col 3:12).

As a sign of genuine religion (Mic 6:8) humility is necessary to enter God's kingdom (Matt 5:3; 18:1-4) or to be great in it (Matt 20:26-27; Mark 10:43-44). As the absence of self (Matt 10:38-39; Luke 9:23-25), it is a bankruptcy of spirit (Matt 5:3) that accrues no merit but depends solely on God's righteousness for salvation (Luke 18:9-14,15-17). It may involve praying (2 Chron 7:14; Dan 6:10; 9:3-20), fasting (Lev 16:29-32; 23:27-32; Ezra 8:21, 23; Psalm 35:13; Dan 10:1-3, 12), and falling prostrate (Ezek 1:28; Dan 6:10; Rev 1:12-17) before the Lord. Since the Lord denounces hypocritical worship (Isa 58:3-7; Matt 6:5-8, 16-18) and false humility (Col 2:18,23), a person's heart must match his or her posture (Isa 57:15; Luke 18:9-14; cf. Isa 6:5; Matt 11:29).

Humility is the prerequisite for honor (Prov 15:33; 18:12; 22:4; 29:23) and physical blessing (Psalm 37:11; Matt 5:5). Intimately associated with the fear of the Lord (Psalm 25:9, 12-14; Prov 15:33), it may provide the key to wealth and life (Prov 22:4); but even when blessings are postponed, a humble spirit is necessary (Prov 16:18-19; cf. Rom 12:14, 16-17). It is the gateway to eternal life (Matt 5:3; 18:1-4), not necessarily physical reward (5:10-12).

God gives grace to the humble (or afflicted) but resists the proud (Prov 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Regardless of social or moral position (Luke 1:48, 52-54; cf. Psalm 51:16-17), God often delivers people who humble themselves before him— whether righteous kings (2 Chron 32:24-26; 34:26-28), wicked rulers (1 Kings 21:27-29; 2 Chron 33:12-13), or commoners (2 Ch 30:8-11).

The Lord exalts the humble (Matt 23:12; Luke 1:52; 14:11; 18:14; James 4:10) in his proper timing (1 Peter 5:6). A person must not claim honor for self (Prov 25:6-7; Luke 14:7-11) but have an unassuming attitude (Rom 12:3). Jesus' teaching and life illustrate this perfectly. He humbled himself as a servant (John 13:1-16), even unto death (Isa 53:7-8; Acts 8:32-33) in obedience to the Father (Php 2:5-8), who highly exalted him (vv. 9-11).

The Lord rewards the humble with wisdom (Prov 11:2). He does not ignore the plight of the humble and contrite (Isa 66:2,5) but encourages the lowly and afflicted of heart (Isa 57:15; 2 Cor 7:6).

The Christian ought to emulate Christ's example (Matt 11:28-30; 2 Col 10:1) of meekness and humility. Humility is the foremost test of a truly great person or leader (Luke 22:24-27). Paul's teachings and life (Acts 20:18-21) emphasize and elucidate Christian humility. Recognizing he was the chief sinner (1 Tim 1:15) and the least saint and apostle (1 Cor 15:9; Eph 3:8) he gloried in the grace of God (1 Cor 15:10; cf. 2 Cor 12:9-10) and in the cross of Christ (Gal 6:14; cf. 1 Cor 1:18-2:5) rather than self-righteousness (Php 3:3-9).

Greg W. Parsons

Bibliography. J. Knox Chamblin, Paul and the Self: Apostolic Teaching for Personal Wholeness; H.-H. Esser, NIDNTT, 2:256-64; F. S. Fitzsimmons, New Bible Dictionary, p. 500; R. E. O. White, EDT, p. 537.


Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell Copyright 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Humility'". "Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology".
<>. 1897.


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