Biblical Vocabulary Term: Arrabon
Biblical Vocabulary Term:
Our Greek Term is
αρραβων = arrabohn = Strong’s Code # 728
This is a very interesting Greek term that is used in the New Testament only three times but it occurs in three very important verses as an expression of the terms of salvation.
The term is used by the Apostle Paul. Paul uses it twice in his second letter to the Corinthians – see II Cor 1: 22 and 5:5. He also uses the term again in his letter to the Ephesians in chapter 1, verse 14.
II Cor 1:22
"Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts"
The Greek word Arrabohn is translated into the KJV as “earnest”
I Cor 5:5
"Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit"
Here again arrabohn is translated into the KJV as “earnest.”
"Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."
Here again Paul’s term arrabohn is translated into the KJV as “earnest”
Now, what in the world does the KJV word “earnest” mean? For that matter, what does the Greek word “arrabohn” mean?
The fundamental idea of the Greek word “arrababohn” as used in the New Testament carries the idea of a “down payment” or “first installment.”
In all three passages, the KJV translates this word as “earnest.” In the New American Standard Version, the term is translated as “pledge, with a margin in the notes as meaning “down payment” in all three instances. The New International Version uses the term “deposit” each time.
An arrabohn was that part of a purchase price placed on deposit to guarantee that the purchase would be completed. It is sometimes likened to a “down payment” for purchasing a home or a car in our modern day usage. HOWEVER – the idea of “down payment” as we think and use the term today, is NOT quite the same as in the first century A.D. Today, one can make a down payment and then default on further payments, resulting in repossession of the item one had begun to purchase. This is NOT the case with arrabohn.
In the first century – an arrabohn – αρραβων – bound someone legally to the complete purchase. So there is no single English word that can completely convey this idea. While English translations are generally very good, there is not a single word or term in the English language that an English translation can use to adequately express the meaning of arrabohn. Not one English term can express the full and correct meaning of arrabohn.
Now the New Testament was written in the common, ordinary language of the people of that era – in what is known as Koine-Greek. “Koine” is a term that means “common.” So the term “Koine-Greek” means “Common Greek” indicating it was the commonly used Greek language. We note this because there was also a formal, or legal Greek language and while very similar to common Greek, it was used for official documents. You might say it was common Greek with a “legalese” twist as you would see today in legal court documents.
Now although arrabohn was only used three times in the New Testament, it was a common word used daily in the lives of everyone living in the New Testament era. There is a wonderful Biblical Resource tool for helping us understand such Greek words that were commonly used in daily life. That resource tool is a reference book or Lexicon, called “Moulton & Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek Testament.”
This lexicon provides definitions of Greek New Testament words as such words were used in ordinary life. These definitions are based upon recovered archaeological records as found in legal documents such as wills, personal letters, legal notices, accounting statements – such as an invoice from the milkman and many other types of writings, usually found to have been written on “papyri” or parchment paper.
One of these papyri that was recovered, mentions a woman who was selling a cow and received one thousand drachmae as “arrabohn” – a payment to guarantee the purchase of the cow. Another recovered document describes someone named “Lampon, the mouse catcher” who received drachmae intended to guarantee that he would catch the mice while they were still with young. So the idea of a guarantee is integral to the meaning of the word.
Another document tells of a village where the local leaders garnered the services of some dancing girls for an upcoming festival and the city fathers obtained a guarantee of their presence by paying an “arrabohn.”
The word was also used sometimes in connection with an engagement ring. In every usage case, the term carries with it the idea of a promise, a partial payment and most of all – the guarantee is implicit.
In II Corinthians 1:21-22, -- arrabohn is one of four major blessings that are given to all believers. What are those 4 blessings?
#1. God Establishes Us = “establishes” means “to make certain” or “make sure” or “make stable.” The Greek term was used in the “Attic” or “legal” Greek to denote the definite obligation of a seller to insure that a third party did not have some sort of claim. It is a present tense verb meaning that is continuous work and never stopping.
#2. God “Anointed” Us = Anointing indicates separation and commission. All prophets, priests, and kings were set aside and commissioned by an anointing. “anointed” is an aorist-tense participle. The anointing is viewed then as a definite event that took place when we first became believers.
#3. God “Sealed Us” = A seal was placed on the tomb of Jesus Christ in order to provide security (Matt 27:66) and it was used to mark a genuine product. It was often marked in the form of a signet ring..
#4. God “Pledged Us” with His Holy Spirit. We are given the Holy Spirit as a “pledge.” Note that the word “given” in verse 22 is in the Greek aorist tense. This means that the Holy Spirit is given to us and abides with us at the moment we are saved, not at some future point in time. His presence then becomes the “guarantee” that the remaining part of our salvation transformation (into a sinless, perfect, immortal body) is ‘guaranteed’ at a future point in time.
In the church age, the presence of the Holy Spirit is the fundamental mark of a Christian. Paul introduces a simile with the word “as.” – SO that the presence of the Holy Spirit is like an arrabohn – a first installment paid to guarantee the full purchase. Apart from other considerations, the word “arrabohn” by itself teaches the doctrine of eternal security of a believer, a metaphor taken from everyday life where in God says: “You are mine; you are secure; I guarantee it, and the presence of the Holy Spirit is my promise to you.”
The theme of II Corinthians 5:1-5 is the assured future of all believers. In the present, we dwell in this tent, or “skanos.” Skanos is a Greek term that refers to a transient dwelling, not a permanent dwelling. We live now in anticipation of our “heavenly” bodies.
In the present, we are being burdened, which refers to our present state and points to the frailties and limitations of our bodies. Verse 5 teaches us that God’s ultimate purpose for His own is glorification. In the original Greek text, the way a sentence is worded can impact on the meaning of words in terms of emphasis or impact. Here in verse 5, the noun translated “God” is located in the sentence in a position of emphasis. In other words, the glorious clothing with which we shall be clothed is not a human product; it is from God. God provides it, not ourselves. Glorification is the crowning experience of God’s work of grace in every believer. But how can such a future be assured?
In order to assure and guarantee the completion of His work, God, has given us the Holy Spirit as an “arrabohn” -- a first installment that guarantees the completion of the purchase. And make no mistake, God purchased us. The purchase price was the substitutionary atonement of God the Son’s shed blood on a cross – on our behalf. That paid the penalty for our sins. At the moment we believe this, God gives us His Holy Spirit as these verses explain. The presence of the Holy Spirit then is a guarantee to us from God that the rest of the salvation process will be completed at a future point with a resurrection body.
Now in Ephesians 1:13-14, Paul describes what happens the moment we hear the Gospel with believing ears. In the II Corinthian passages, we were simply told that we have been given the Holy Spirit as a “pledge” or as an “arrabohn.” Ephesians 1:14 then advances further by telling us what the “arrabohn” guarantees. It guaratees 2 things.
First, the “arrabohn” of the Holy Spirit guarantees our inheritance, which is described in I Peter 1:4-5 as “imperishable and undefiled and (one that) will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Second, we anticipate a full redemption, which includes the glorification of the believer, body, soul, and spirit; all of this, assured by the arrabohn, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
And so, now you know that a simple, little word, used only three times in the New Testament, can have a profound impact on our understanding of where we stand with God in terms of salvation. This one little word plays a big role in explaining point blank that we are guaranteed salvation by virtue of the presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling within us.
If you’re not totally familiar with what we mean by the Holy Spirit, see our related article, “The Doctrine of The Holy Spirit.”