Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words 
denotes "authority" (from the impersonal verb exesti, "it is lawful"). From the meaning of "leave or permission," or liberty of doing as one pleases, it passed to that of "the ability or strength with which one is endued," then to that of the "power of authority," the right to exercise power, e.g., Matthew 9:6; 21:23; 2—Corinthians 10:8; or "the power of rule or government," the power of one whose will and commands must be obeyed by others, e.g., Matthew 28:18; John 17:2; Jude 1:25; Revelation 12:10; 17:13; more specifically of apostolic "authority," 2—Corinthians 10:8; 13:10; the "power" of judicial decision, John 19:10; of "managing domestic affairs," Mark 13:34 . By metonymy, or name-change (the substitution of a suggestive word for the name of the thing meant), it stands for "that which is subject to authority or rule," Luke 4:6 (RV, "authority," for the AV "power"); or, as with the English "authority," "one who possesses authority, a ruler, magistrate," Romans 13:1-3; Luke 12:11; Titus 3:1; or "a spiritual potentate," e.g., Ephesians 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 1:16; 2:10,15; 1—Peter 3:22 . The RV usually translates it "authority."
an injunction (from epi, "upon," tasso, "to order"), is once rendered "authority," Titus 2:15 (RV, marg., "commandment"). See Commandment.
primarily, "a projection, eminence," as a mountain peak, hence, metaphorically, "pre-eminence, superiority, excellency," is once rendered "authority," 1—Timothy 2:2 , AV (marg., "eminent place"), RV, "high place," of the position of magistrates; in 1—Corinthians 2:1 , "excellency" (of speech). Cp. huperecho, "to surpass." See Excellency.
akin to dunamis, "power," (Eng., "dynasty,") signifies "a potentate, a high officer;" in Acts 8:27 , of a high officer, it is rendered "of great authority;" in Luke 1:52 , RV, "princes, (AV, "the mighty"); in 1—Timothy 6:15 it is said of God ("Potentate"). See Mighty , Potentate.
akin to A, No. 1, signifies "to exercise power," Luke 22:25; 1—Corinthians 6:12; 7:4 (twice). See Power.
kata, "down," intensive, and No. 1, "to exercise authority upon," is used in Matthew 20:25; Mark 10:42 .
from autos, "self," and a lost noun hentes, probably signifying working (Eng., "authentic"), "to execise authority on one's own account, to domineer over," is used in 1—Timothy 2:12 , AV, "to usurp authority," RV, "to have dominion." In the earlier usage of the word it signified one who with his own hand killed either others or himself. Later it came to denote one who acts on his own "authority;" hence, "to exercise authority, dominion." See Dominion , Note.
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology 
The concept of authority seldom appears in the Old Testament. It is used predominantly in the New Testament, where the word exousia [Ἐξουσία] functions in at least four ways.
First, authority is the freedom to decide or a right to act without hindrance. All such authority begins with God, for there is no authority except from God ( Romans 13:1 ). God has the right to mold the clay as he wishes ( Romans 9:21 ) and to set times and dates ( Acts 1:7 ). God gave Paul the right to preach the gospel ( 1 Corinthians 9:18 ). Believers have the right to become children of God ( John 1:12 ), and they have freedom with respect to the law ( 1 Corinthians 8:9 ). While authority is valueless without the power to make it effective, we can make a fine distinction between the two concepts. This first understanding of authority, then, is distinct from power and refers primarily to a prerogative.
Second, the concept of authority refers to the power, ability, or capability to complete an action. Jesus was given the authority to forgive sins ( Matthew 9:6-8 ) and to drive out spirits ( Mark 6:7 ). Jesus gave seventy-two disciples the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions ( Luke 10:19 ). Simon sought power to grant the Holy Spirit ( Acts 8:19 ). Satan has authority to function within the parameters established by God ( Acts 26:18 ).
Third, the word "authority" is used with reference to delegated authority in the form of a warrant, license, or authorization to perform. Jesus was asked by whose authorization he taught ( Matthew 21:23 ). He was granted authority for his ministry from God the Father ( John 10:18 ). Saul was sent to Damascus to persecute Christians by warrant of the priests ( Acts 26:12 ). God gave the apostles license to build up the church ( 2 Corinthians 10:8 ).
Fourth, by a natural extension of meaning, exousia [ Luke 20:20 ). When Pilate learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction or authority, the governor sent him to Herod ( Luke 23:7 ). Rulers and kings have their spheres of influence ( Romans 13:1 ), as does Satan ( Colossians 1:13 ), but Christ has been placed above all realms of authority ( Ephesians 1:21 ). More often exousia [ Titus 3:1 ). This use of authority indicates a social relation between at least two individuals where one is the ruler. The subordinate in the relationship accepts the ruler's orders, not by external constraint but out of the conviction that the ruler is entitled to give orders and that it is the duty of the subject to obey and recognize the authenticity of the ruler's position and orders.
From a theological perspective the fourth use of authority is most significant. The question of authority is a fundamental issue facing every person, especially the believer. Its significance cannot be overestimated. Every person has an authority in life that he or she submits to as a subordinate, not by constraint but by conviction. Furthermore, God has created human beings to live under his authority. When they choose to live under a different rule, that of self or an idol, they sin. This is, in a simple summary, the teaching of Genesis 1-3 . That portion of Scripture illustrates the human tendency, moved by pride, to seek independence from external authority and to establish self as the final authority in life.
How, then, does God exercise his authority over creation and his creatures? The testimony of Scripture is that God has established three fundamental spheres of authority within which he delegates authority to individuals. These spheres are civil government, the home, and the church. The believer is obliged to obey those holding authority in those realms. Citizens are to submit to the governing authorities ( 1 Peter 2:13-14 ). Children are to obey parents ( Ephesians 6:1-2 ). Believers were to honor spiritual authorities such as apostles who demanded compliance on the basis of their commission from the Lord. There are exceptions. When a person in authority violates the trust granted by God, the source of all authority, the subordinate is free, indeed mandated, "to obey God rather than man" ( Acts 5:29 ). The apostle Peter provides the clearest example of what is called civil disobedience. In his epistle he encourages disciples of Christ to submit to governing authorities ( 1 Peter 2:13 ). According to Luke, however, when the governing authorities commanded Peter to cease preaching, he disobeyed ( Acts 5:29 ).
The issue facing contemporary Christians is how God exercises his authority in the spiritual realm, that is, the church. In the Old Testament, the answer was clear. God exercised his authority through prophets, priests, and kings. At the time of Christ, the disciples submitted to the lordship of God the Father through obedience to Jesus. Christ, then, delegated authority to the apostles, who directed the affairs of the primitive church. When Christ comes again, he will reign from a new throne in the new city. How does God in Christ exercise his authority in the dispensation between his comings?
Has the authority of the apostles been transmitted through the tradition or by episcopal consecration? The evangelical response to that question, uncovered in the Protestant Reformation, is soLam Scriptura . Evangelical theology appeals to the authority of Scripture because it views the Bible as the written Word of God, pointing beyond itself to the absolute authority, the living and transcendent Word of God. God exercises authority over the church through the Scriptures, which impart authoritative truth. The Bible issues definitive directives. It offers an authoritative norm by which all doctrine and principles must be shaped for both individual believers and the church. The Bible is a record and explanation of divine revelation that is both complete (sufficient) and comprehensible (perspicuous); that is to say, it contains all that the church needs to know in this world for its guidance in the way of salvation and service.
Sam Hamstra, Jr.
Bibliography . B. Holmberg, Paul and Power: The Structure of Authority in the Primitive Church .
Holman Bible Dictionary 
The word “authority” is used rarely in the Old Testament. In the English New Testament it translates the Greek exousia , a word for which there is no exact correspondence in Hebrew or Aramaic. The Greek “exousia” expresses both freedom and legal rights, and is used in the Bible in numerous ways.
Old Testament Two Hebrew words are translated “authority,” but occurrences are not common. Examples include Proverbs 29:2 , describing the rejoicing of the people when the righteous are “in authority;” Esther 9:29 , speaking of “full written authority” (RSV) Esther and Mordecai exercised; Daniel 4:17 , declaring that “the most High rules the kingdom of men” (RSV); and Daniel 7:13-14 , prophesying that eternal authority will be given to the “Son of Man.” God gave authority to humans over nature ( Genesis 1:28 ), to husband over wife ( Genesis 3:16 ), and to parents over their children ( Leviticus 19:3 ).
New Testament “Exousia” is found in the New Testament in a variety of usages, although always consistent with the belief that “there is no authority except from God” ( Romans 13:1 RSV; see John 19:11 ). “Exousia” describes first the freedom of God to act ( Luke 15:5; Acts 1:7 ). Second, it signifies the divinely given power and authority of Jesus Christ as deriving from the Father ( Matthew 28:18; John 10:18; John 17:2 ), enabling Him to forgive sin ( Mark 2:10 ), and signifying His power to heal and to expel demons, which He gave His disciples ( Mark 3:15 ). Third, it describes the freedom God gives His people for salvation ( John 1:12 ) and from legalism ( 1 Corinthians 6:12 ). Fourth, it denotes the authority God imparted to the leaders to build up the church ( 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 13:10 ). Fifth, “exousia” signifies the power God displayed through agents of destruction in the last days ( Revelation 6:8; Revelation 9:3 ,Revelation 9:3, 9:10 ,Revelation 9:10, 9:19; Revelation 14:18; Revelation 16:9; Revelation 18:1 ). Sixth, the word denotes the dominion God allows Satan to exercise ( Acts 26:18; Ephesians 2:2 ). Seventh, it describes the “authorities” created by God, both heavenly ( Colossians 1:16 ) and secular ( Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1 ).
As “exousia” denotes an authority manifested in power, translators sometimes render the word “power” (KJV, Matthew 9:6 ,Matthew 9:6, 9:8; Matthew 10:1; Matthew 28:18 ). “Exousia” sometimes denotes as well the sphere in which authority is exercised ( Luke 23:7 ).
Historical Survey of Religious Authority The scriptural views of authority have undergone major shifts in interpretation in church history. The early leaders of the church were virtually unanimous in viewing the Bible as the primary source of revelation and authority. The church soon began ascribing authority to its tradition as well as to the Scriptures. By the fourth century church tradition was viewed as of equal authority with the Bible. The medieval church especially emphasized the church as the sole interpreter of Scripture, through its tradition and creeds, councils, and pope.
The Reformation rejected this duality of authority in Bible and church, claiming “sola scriptura” (“only the Bible”). The Reformers argued that all authority, even that of the church, is derived from the Bible itself, and valuable only as it is consistent with Scripture. The Anabaptists and early Baptists made this view of biblical authority the foundation for their theological beliefs, maintaining that all church doctrine and practice must be entirely consistent with the Bible itself.
The Catholic church responded to the Reformation with an increased emphasis on the authority of the church and its tradition, culminating in its assertion of papal infallibility in all areas of faith and practice in 1870. Vatican II, held in 1962-65, modified this position by balancing papal authority with that of the bishops and interpreting both authorities in a ministerial context.
The nineteenth century movement of “Liberal Protestantism” defined religious authority in yet another way, locating authority in man's reason and experience. The Bible was seen as normative only insofar as it is consistent with reason and personal experience, and people are to interpret it subjectively. The movement called “Pietism” alternately located religious authority in man's evangelical experience.
Conclusions It is the uniform witness of the Bible that all authority is located in God. People possess authority only as the Lord gives it ( Romans 13:1 ). Religious authority derives from the authority of the Father, as that authority is revealed in the Son, manifested by the Holy Spirit, and given in and through the Bible to the church and the world. While each of the approaches to authority described in the above historical survey is still practiced and taught today, Scripture says all legitimate authority comes directly or indirectly from God.
Such a position will have obvious implications for contemporary Christian faith and practice. The church and its ministry possess genuine religious authority only as they serve the mission of Jesus in faithfulness to the Bible and in building up the church ( Matthew 28:18-20 ). The Christian accepts the truth of Scripture as authoritative by faith, and the command of Scripture as authoritative in obedience, and so demonstrates love for the Lord ( John 14:15 ).
James C. Denison
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament 
This word, which occurs much more frequently in Revised Versionthan in Authorized Version, in most cases represents the Gr. ἐξουσία. It is used of delegated authority in Acts 9:14; Acts 26:10; Acts 26:12; of the authority of an apostle in 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 13:10 (Revised Version); of earthly rulers (‘authorities’) in Titus 3:1 (Revised Version), cf. Luke 12:11; and in Revised Versionof Apocalypse is substituted frequently for Authorized Version‘power’; cf. Revelation 6:8; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 13:4-12; Revelation 17:12 (in Revelation 17:13 it replaces Authorized Version‘strength’). Yet in many places Revised Versionstill retains ‘power’ as the translation of ἐξουσία; cf. Acts 8:19, Colossians 1:13, Romans 13:1-3, Revelation 9:10; Revelation 11:6 etc. In 1 Corinthians 11:10 ἐξουσία is used in a peculiar sense (‘for this cause ought the woman to have ἐξουσίαν on her head, because of the angels’), where a veil appears to be meant. Here Authorized Versiongives ‘power,’ Revised Version‘ a sign of authority,’ with ‘have authority over’ in the margin.
In several passages ἐξουσία is used to designate a created being superior to man, a spiritual potentate, viz. 1 Corinthians 15:24, Ephesians 1:21, Colossians 2:10, and, in the plural, Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12, Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:15, 1 Peter 3:22. In 1 Corinthians 15:24 and 1 Peter 3:22, Authorized Versionand Revised Versionrender ‘authority’ and Revised Versionalso in Ephesians 1:21, the reason probably being that δύναμις also occurs in these verses for which the word ‘power’ was needed. In the other references the translation is ‘power’ or ‘powers.’ Seeing that ἐξουσίαι appear to be a class of angelic beings distinct from δυνάμεις, it would have been conducive to clearness if the word ‘authority’ had been used in all these passages. In Ephesians 6:12 evil principles are obviously referred to (cf. Ephesians 2:2); in 1 Corinthians 15:24 both good and evil angels may be included (Lightfoot, Col .3 1879, p. 154). See, further, under Principality, and cf. the preceding article.
In a few places ‘authority’ in Authorized Versionrepresents other Gr. words, viz. Acts 8:27 Authorized Version, Revised Version, ‘a eunuch of great authority ’ (δυνάστης); 1 Timothy 2:2 Authorized Version‘for kings and for all that are in authority ’ (ἐν ὑπεροχῇ), Revised Version‘in high place’; 1 Timothy 2:12 Authorized Version‘I suffer not a woman … to usurp authority over the man’ (αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός), Revised Version‘to have dominion over’; Titus 2:15 ‘rebuke (Authorized Versionreprove) with all authority ’ (ἐπιταγῆς).
W. H. Dundas.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
In some English versions of the Bible the two words ‘power’ and ‘authority’ are used to translate what is one word in the Greek. In such cases ‘power’ means ‘the right to exercise power’, and this is the aspect of power that is the subject of the present article. Concerning power in the sense of strength or might, see Power .
God is the one who has absolute authority ( Psalms 93:1-2; Psalms 115:3; Isaiah 40:20-23; Romans 9:20-24; Romans 13:1; see GOD, sub-headings ‘Eternal and independent’, ‘Majestic and sovereign’). Jesus Christ, being God, also had absolute authority, though he chose to exercise that authority in complete submission to his Father ( John 5:19). He had the same authority on earth as he had in heaven, the same authority in time as he had in eternity ( Matthew 21:23-27; Matthew 28:18; John 5:27; John 10:18).
By his authority Jesus Christ released sick and demonized people from the power of Satan ( Matthew 8:8-10; Mark 1:27) and instructed people in the truth of God ( Matthew 7:29). By that same authority he forgave people their sins ( Matthew 9:6), gave them eternal life ( John 17:2), made them children of God ( John 1:12), and gave them the authority and the power to carry on the work of his kingdom ( Matthew 10:1; Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 13:10; see Kingdom Of God; Apostle )
As the words that the Son of God spoke carried with them God’s authority, so did the words that the Spirit of God inspired the authors of the Bible to write. The Scriptures, Old and New Testament alike, are God’s authoritative Word to the human race ( 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21; see Inspiration ).
God wants every community of people be properly ordered for the well-being of all. Therefore, he has given authority to civil administrators to govern society ( Jeremiah 27:5; John 19:11; Romans 13:1-4; see Government ), to parents to govern the family ( Ephesians 6:4; 1 Timothy 5:14; see Parents ), and to elders to govern the church ( Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2; see Elder ).
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
AUTHORITY . The capability, liberty, and right to perform what one wills. The word implies also the physical and mental ability for accomplishing the end desired. Authority refers especially to the right one has, by virtue of his office, position, or relationship, to command obedience. The centurion was ‘a man under authority,’ who knew what it meant to be subject to others higher in authority than himself, and who also himself exercised authority over the soldiers placed under him ( Matthew 8:8-9 ). In like manner ‘Herod’s jurisdiction’ ( Luke 23:7 ) was his authority over the province which he ruled. Hence the authority of any person accords with the nature of his office or position, so that we speak of the authority of a husband, a parent, an apostle, a judge, or of any civil ruler. The magistrates who are called in Romans 13:1 ‘the higher powers,’ are strictly the highly exalted and honoured authorities of the State, who are to be obeyed in all that is right, and reverenced as the ‘ministers of God for good.’ God is Himself the highest authority in heaven and on earth, but He has also given unto His Son ‘authority on earth to forgive sins’ ( Matthew 9:6 ) and to execute judgment ( John 5:27 ). After His resurrection Jesus Himself declared: ‘All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth’ ( Matthew 28:18; cf. Colossians 2:10 , 1 Peter 3:22 ). In the plural the word is used in Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12 , Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:15 , to denote good and evil angels, who are supposed to hold various degrees and ranks of authority. See Dominion, Power.
M. S. Terry.
King James Dictionary 
AUTHOR'ITY, n. L. auctoritas.
1. Legal power, or a right to command or to act as the authority of a prince over subjects, and of parents over children. Power rule sway. 2. The power derived from opinion, respect or esteem influence of character or office credit as the authority of age or example, which is submitted to or respected, in some measure, as a law, or rule of action. That which is claimed in justification or support of opinions and measures. 3. Testimony witness or the person who testifies as, the Gospels or the evangelists are our authorities for the miracles of Christ. 4. Weight of testimony credibility as a historian of no authority. 5. Weight of character respectability dignity as a magistrate of great authority in the city. 6. Warrant order permission.
By what authority dost thou these things. Matthew 21 . Acts 9 .
7. Precedents, decisions of a court, official declarations, respectable opinions and says, also the books that contain them, are call authorities, as they influence the opinions of others and in law, the decisions of supreme courts have a binding force upon inferior courts, and are called authorities. 8. Government the persons or the body exercising power or command as the local authorities of the states.
In Connecticut, the justices of the peace are denominated the authority.
Webster's Dictionary 
(1): (n.) Legal or rightful power; a right to command or to act; power exercised buy a person in virtue of his office or trust; dominion; jurisdiction; authorization; as, the authority of a prince over subjects, and of parents over children; the authority of a court.
(2): (n.) Government; the persons or the body exercising power or command; as, the local authorities of the States; the military authorities.
(3): (n.) The power derived from opinion, respect, or esteem; influence of character, office, or station, or mental or moral superiority, and the like; claim to be believed or obeyed; as, an historian of no authority; a magistrate of great authority.
(4): (n.) That which, or one who, is claimed or appealed to in support of opinions, actions, measures, etc.
(5): (n.) Testimony; witness.
(6): (n.) A precedent; a decision of a court, an official declaration, or an opinion, saying, or statement worthy to be taken as a precedent.
(7): (n.) A book containing such a statement or opinion, or the author of the book.
(8): (n.) Justification; warrant.
Morrish Bible Dictionary 
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
(1.) in matters religious and ecclesiastical, an assumed right of dictation, attributed to certain fathers, councils, or church courts. On this subject Bishop Hoadley writes: "Authority is the greatest and most irreconcilable enemy to truth and argumlent that this world ever furnished. All the sophistry — all the color of plausibility — all the artifice and cunning of the subtlest disputer in the world may be laid open and turned to the advantage of that very truth which they are designed to hide; but against authority there is no defense." He shows that it was authority which crushed the noble sentiments of Socrates and others, and that by authority the Jews and heathens combated the truth of the Gospel; and that, when Christians increased into a majority, and came to think the same method to be the only proper one for the advantage of their cause which had been the enemy and destroyer of it, then it was the authority of Christians, which, by degrees, not only laid waste the honor of Christianity, but well-nigh extinguished it among men. It was authority which would have prevented all reformation where it is, and which has put a barrier against it wherever it is not. The remark of Charles II. is worthy of notice-that those of the established faith make much of the authority of the church in their disputes with dissenters, but that they take it all away when they deal with papists. — Buck, Theol. Dict. s.v.
(2.) In a proper sense, by the "authority of the church" is meant either the power' residing generally in the whole body of the faithful to execute the trust committed by Christ to his church, or the particular power residing in certain official members of that body. The first-named authority is vested in the clergy and laity jointly; the latter in the clergy alone. In the interpretation of Scripture for any particular church, that church's authority does not belong to all divines or "distinguished theologians" who may be members of the church, but only to the authorized formularies. Single writers of every age are to be taken as expressing only their individual opinions. The agreement of these opinions at any one period, or for any lengthened space of time, may and must be used as proof to ourselves, privately, as to the predominant sentiments of the church at that time, but no opinions can be quoted as deciding authoritatively any disputed question. The universal church deserves deference in all controversies of faith; and every particular church has a right to decree such rights and ceremonies as are not contrary to God's written word; but no church has a right to enforce any thing as necessary for salvation, unless it can be shown so to be by the express declaration of Holy Scripture. See the 20th and 34th Articles of the Church of England, and the 5th and 22d of the Methodist Episcopal Church. (See Rule Of Faith); (See Tradition).
- ↑ Authority from Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words
- ↑ Authority from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
- ↑ Authority from Holman Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Authority from Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- ↑ Authority from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Authority from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- ↑ Authority from King James Dictionary
- ↑ Authority from Webster's Dictionary
- ↑ Authority from Morrish Bible Dictionary
- ↑ Authority from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature