With This Ring: The Holy Spirit as our “Arrabon”

(A while back, I wrote a paper on Paul’s referring to the Holy Spirit as our Arrabon. Arra-what? Well, I’m glad you asked! I believe if you’ll take the time to read the next few “With This Ring: The Holy Spirit as our Arrabon” posts, you will gain new perspective as to the wonderful gift God has given to us in the Holy Spirit.)

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit, to be sure, is one that cannot be made to fit within a nicely packaged theological box. Volumes have been written in efforts to explain and comprehend the workings of the third “person” of the Trinity, and yet we find that even the Bible itself does not present us with a systematized outline concerning the Spirit; but rather teaches us about the Spirit through symbols and stories, concentrating more upon the work of the Spirit than anything else.[1] However, the Apostle Paul does give us a distinctively clear insight into one aspect of the Spirit’s work within the believer when in two of his epistles, he refers to the Holy Spirit as a pledge or arrabon, which God has given to the believer.  It is to this concept of the Spirit as the arrabon that we shall devote the content of this manuscript.

The usage of the word arrabon within the New Testament is distinctively Pauline,“…and it was a favorite of his because he uses it three times, always in the same connection. In II Cor. 1.22 he says that God has given us the arrabon of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. In II Cor. 5.5 he again talks about the arrabon of the Holy Spirit. And in Ephesians 1:14 he speaks about the Holy Spirit being the arrabon of our inheritance.”[2]  Arrabon, within the context of the aforementioned scriptures, seems to contain within it not only an aspect of the Spirit as the believer relates to him presently, but also an eschatological relevance as well. This arrabon is now a present reality, but his presence is indicative of the fact that there is more to come. There is a now, but not yet element in the word arrabon, and the propensity Paul had towards using the term peaks curiosity and incites a desire to further explore its connotations. However, before the theological implications of arrabon are explored, an excursion into its more practical aspects must be made.

Paul taught that he was teaching doctrine that had previously been hidden, and had been given to him by Jesus, through revelation( I Cor.2:7; I Cor. 11:23;Gal. 1:12). So, it behooves the sincere student of the Bible to carefully consider why Paul would use such a word as arrabon to describe the Holy Spirit. To understand the Apostle Paul’s affinity for the word arrabon, the etymology of the word must surely be considered, and the relevance which the term held for those who lived during the time of the apostle must also be comprehended.

According to James Wareing Bardsley ,

…arrabon, is doubtless of Phoenician origin. It originally signified the pledge or pawn which gave security to contract…As the Phoenicians had trading transactions with almost every part of the Mediterranean Sea, the word “arrabon”  became one of universal acceptance, just as the word “tariff,” derived from the Spanish traders, is found in almost every modern language. When the Greeks, however, adopted the term, they gave it a distinct and technical meaning. It was   not merely a pledge or security, it was something more; it signified the deposit  paid by a purchaser on entering into a contract for the purchase of anything.[3]

Raymond F. Collins shares Bardsley’s convictions that arrabon is a term taken “from the economic sphere, the world of financial transactions… [and] most likely of Phoenician origin;”[4]  Geoffrey Bromiley also concurs that “…arrabon is a commercial loanword from the Semitic [Phoenicia is included in this grouping] signifying “pledge” or “deposit”.[5]  In his book, Ephesians, Ernest Best lends his affirmation in attesting to the fact that the word arrabon “is a legal and commercial term of Semitic origin adopted into Greek which commits both giver and recipient to the completion of a deal under penalty. Yet the earnest is not just a pledge or guarantee that something will be given later; it is itself a partial gift…”[6] Among scholars, it seems to be the view of the majority that arrabon is Semitic in origin and its usage always contains some sort of commercial quality. Further citations could indeed be provided as to the origin of the word arrabon; but due to the brevity of this paper it is this writer’s hope that the reader has been given sufficient evidence as to verify arrabon’s etymology. But, is there documentation available that would indicate the colloquialism of arrabon during the time of Paul? Let us now turn our attention towards the manner in which arrabon was used in the vernacular of the first century.

To be continued…

            1.  Veli- Matti Karkkainen, Pneumatology, (Grand Rapids, MI – Baker Academic, 2002), 23.

2. William Barklay, New Testament Words, (Louisville, Kentucky- John Knox Press, 2000), 58.

                3. James Wareing Bardsley, Illustrative Texts and Texts Illustrated, (London, James Nisbet & CO., 1873), 223,224.

4. Raymond F. Collins, The Power of Images in Paul, (Minnesota, Liturgical Press, 2008), 153.

5. Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume 1, (Grand rapids, Michigan, William B. Erdmans Publishing Company, 1985), 80.

                6. Ernest Best, Ephesians, (New York, T&T Clark International, 1998), 151.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s