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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Robber ( λῃστής, Vulgate latro ) is found in Authorized Version only in  John 10:1;  John 10:8;  John 18:40 (Barabbas). In Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 it stands for the same Greek word also in  Matthew 21:13 =  Mark 11:17 =  Luke 19:46 (‘den of robbers’);  Matthew 26:55 =  Mark 14:48 =  Luke 22:52 (‘Are ye come out as against a robber?’);  Matthew 27:38;  Matthew 27:44 =  Mark 15:27 (‘two robbers’);  Luke 10:30;  Luke 10:36 (‘fell among robbers’). In all these places Authorized Version has ‘thief,’ which elsewhere is the equivalent of κλέπτης. The two Greek words differ precisely as the two English; the λῃστής (robber, brigand, highwayman) takes by force, the κλέπτης (thief) by stealth. Judas was a thief ( John 12:6), Barabbas a robber ( John 18:40, cf.  Mark 15:7). But earlier English versions join with Authorized Version in ignoring this distinction; ‘thief’ occurs in them all in the above passages from the Synoptists; in  John 10:1;  John 10:8 when another word was needed, Tind. [Note: Tindale’s NT 1526 and 1534, Pent. 1530.] and Geneva have ‘robber,’ but Cranmer ‘murtherer’ (cf. Luther, Mörder ); in  John 18:40 Wyc. [Note: Wyclif’s Bible (NT c. 1380, OT c. 1382, Purvey’s Revision c. 1388).] and Rhem. [Note: Rhemish NT 1582.] have ‘thief,’ Tind. [Note: Tindale’s NT 1526 and 1534, Pent. 1530.] ‘robber,’ Cran. [Note: Cranmer’s ‘Great’ Bible 1539.] and Gen. [Note: Geneva NT 1557, Bible 1560.] ‘murtherer.’ But in 16th cent. English, ‘thief’ was used in a wider sense than now, including all kinds of robbery. Thus Shakespeare calls pirates ‘water thieves’ ( Merchant of Venice , i. 3); Latimer ( Sermons , Parker Soc. 208) calls Robin Hood ‘a traitor and a thief,’ and (139) applying Is 1:23 says ‘He calleth princes thieves. Had they a standing at Shooter’s Hill or Standgate Hole, to take a purse?’ So Cranmer ( Remains , Parker Soc. 107), ‘Job said not “These wicked thieves have wrought me this woe”; but referred all to God.’ See Trench, NT Synonyms , § xliv.

Palestine has always, if its government has been weak, been infested by robbers, to whom its rocks and caves afford plentiful cover and shelter (cf.  Judges 9:25,  Hosea 6:9;  Hosea 7:1). Herod, when quite young, first made his reputation by ruthlessly executing robbers in Galilee (Josephus, Ant . xiv. ix. 2, BJ i. x. 5). At a later time he destroyed robbers who lived in inaccessible caverns, by lowering chests full of soldiers from the cliff above ( Ant . xiv. xv. 4–5, BJ i. xvi. 2–4). This reminds us of ‘den of robbers’ ( Jeremiah 7:11,  Matthew 21:13 ||). Not only had the Temple become a haunt of ‘robbers’—the dealers in the Temple market were notorious for their extortion—but it gave them fancied security in their evil-doing. (During the Jewish War the Temple was literally the stronghold of the robbers or Zealots, BJ iv. iii. 7, etc.). There was a great outbreak of robbery on the death of Herod ( Ant . xvii. x., BJ ii. iv.). We read later of robbers plundering a servant of the Emperor’s, near Bethhoron, which was avenged on the neighbouring villagers by Cumanus ( Ant . xx. v. 4, BJ ii. xii. 2), and of Fadus, Felix, and Festus destroying large numbers of them ( Ant . xx. i. 1, viii. 5, 10, BJ ii. xiii. 2, xiv. 1). Under the later procurators the country swarmed with them. It is probable that some of these ‘robbers’ were really Zealots, in rebellion against the authority of Rome, so that there was an element of misplaced, patriotism and even religion in their proceedings. Trench ( l.c. ) shows how this may throw light on the character of the ‘Penitent Robber.’ In any case, Josephus at a later date identifies robbers and Zealots ( BJ iv. iii. 3, 9, etc.).

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the scene of the parable of the Good Samaritan, has always had a bad name for robbers. Near it Pompey destroyed two robbers’ strongholds (Strabo, xvi. 2); Jerome (on  Jeremiah 3:2) speaks of its dangers, and derives the ‘ascent of Adummim’ on this road from the blood shed there by robbers ( Loc. Heb. s.v .). See Stanley, Sin. [Note: Sinaitic.] and Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian.] 314, 424, and art. Samaritan (The Good).

Harold Smith.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [2]

1: Λῃστής (Strong'S #3027 — Noun Masculine — lestes — lace-tace' )

"a robber, brigand" (akin to leia, "booty"), "one who plunders openly and by violence" (in contrast to kleptes, "a thief," see below), is always translated "robber" or "robbers" in the Rv , as the AV in  John 10:1,8;  18:40;  2—Corinthians 11:26; the AV has "thief" or "thieves" in  Matthew 21:13 , and parallel passages;  Matthew 26:55 , and parallel passages;  Matthew 27:38,44;  Mark 15:27;  Luke 10:30,36; but "thief" is the meaning of kleptes. See Thief.

2: Ἱερόσυλος (Strong'S #2417 — Noun Masculine — hierosulos — hee-er-os'-oo-los )

an adjective signifying "robbing temples" (hieron, "a temple," and sulao, "to rob"), is found in  Acts 19:37 . Cp. hierosuleo, "to rob a temple,"  Romans 2:22 , AV, "commit sacrilege."

King James Dictionary [3]


1. In law, one that takes goods or money from the person of another by force or menaces, and with a felonious intent. 2. In a looser sense, one who takes that to which he has no right one who steals, plunders or strips by violence and wrong.

Webster's Dictionary [4]

(n.) One who robs; in law, one who feloniously takes goods or money from the person of another by violence or by putting him in fear.