. A word with obvious military connotation, and so generally used in the various VSS, though not to be understood in the modern military sense designating a particular rank in order of command. It is the tr. for various Heb. and Gr. words with such literal meanings as head, leader, chief, ruler, judge, officer, great one.
1. There are at least thirteen Heb. words tr. “captain” in KJV, though in several instances other trs. are given by ASV and RSV.
b. רֹאשׁ, H8031, head, as of an army, tribe, people (Num 14:4; Deut 29:10), of God Himself (2 Chron 13:12).
c. רַב, H8042, great one, esp. chief of Assyrian and Babylonian officers (2 Kings 18:17ff.; Isa 36:2ff.; Jer 39:9ff.; Dan 2:14).
d. פֶּחָה, H7068, usually rulers, governors (Isa 36:9; Jer 51:23; Ezek 23:12; Dan 3:2; 6:7).
e. שַׁלִּיט, H10718, having mastery (Dan 2:15).
f. שָׁלִישׁ, H8957, adjutant or officer, best explained as the third man in the chariot, BDB (Exod 14:7; 2 Kings 9:25; 15:25).
g. אַלּוּף, H477, leader of a thousand (Jer 13:21—but ASV and RSV tr. friend, perhaps from אָלַף, H544, cleave to, become familiar with, therefore, an intimate (BDB).
h. בָּעַל, H1250, owner, lord; only in Jeremiah 37:13, captain of the ward, but sentry in ASV, RSV.
i. טִפְסָר, H3261, a title of honor (Jer 51:27, where ASV and RSV tr. marshal, and Nah 3:17, scribe, RSV).
j. כַּר, H4119, a ram (Ezek 21:22; captain in KJV, but battering rams in ASV, RSV).
k. נָגִיד, H5592, leader (1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 13:14, et al., prince, in ASV, RSV).
l. נָשִׂיא, H5954, one lifted up (Num 2:3ff., prince, and leader in ASV, RSV).
m. קָצִין, H7903, chief, ruler, commander in war (Josh 10:24; Judg 11:6-11; chief in ASV, leader in RSV).
2. In the NT there are four Gr. words tr. “captain” in KJV, with some variation in other Eng. VSS.
b. στρατηγός, G5130, literally commander of an army, usually in NT referring to civil governor (Acts 16:20ff.), usually magistrate in Eng. VSS. But captain of the temple (Luke 22:4, 52; Acts 4:1; 5:24, 26), the commander of the Levites who kept guard in and around the Temple.
c. ̓αρχηγός, the chief leader, captain of salvation KJV and ASVmg. in Hebrews 2:10, author, ASV, pioneer, RSV, leader, NEB. The same Gr. word is tr. author by KJV, ASV in Hebrews 12:2, indicating Jesus is the initiator or beginner (Meyer, in loc.) of our faith, though the sense of leader of faith who goes before us is not inappropriate (Thayer, in loc.), cf. captain ASVmg. and pioneer, RSV.
d. στρατοπεδάρχης, G5134, commander of a military company, captain of the guard, KJV (Acts 28:16); but the word and the phrase in which it occurs has been omitted from ASV and later VSS.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
kap’-tin: In the King James Version there are no fewer than 13 Hebrew words, and 4 different Greek words, which are rendered by this one English word. In the Revised Version (British and American) some of these are rendered by other English words, and so we find for "captain": "marshal" (Jer 27; Na 3:17), "prince" (1Sa 9:16), "governor" (Jer 51:23,18), while in the case of one of these Hebrew words a different construction is found altogether (Jer 13:21).
1. In the Old Testament:
Of Hebrew words in the Old Testament rendered by "captain"
(2) rabh, later Hebrew for chief of the executioners or captain of the guard, a title always given to Nebuzar-adan (2Ki 25:8 ff; Jer 39:9 ff) and to Arioch (Da 2:14). Compare also Rab-mag, chief of the magicians (Jer 39:13), and Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs (Da 1:3).
(3) ro’sh, "head" over a host (Israel in the wilderness, Nu 14:4), over tribes (De 29:10, where the Revised Version (British and American) renders "heads"), over thousands (1Ch 12:20). Abijah, king of Judah, before joining battle against Jeroboam, claimed "God himself is with us for our captain" the King James Version, "with us at our head" the Revised Version (British and American) (2Ch 13:12).
(4) shalish, originally the third man in the chariot, who, when the chief occupant was the king, or commander-in-chief, was of the rank of captain (2Ki 7:2; 9:25), the term "third man" being generalized to mean "a captain" in 2Ki 10:25; 2Ch 8:9, where "chief of his captains" combines (1) and (4).
(5) naghidh, leader by Divine appointment: of Saul (1Sa 9:16, "captain," the King James Version, "prince" the Revised Version (British and American) 1Sa 10:1); of David (2Sa 5:2); of Hezekiah (2Ki 20:5); with a charge in connection with the temple (2Ch 31:13). It is the word used of Messiah "the prince" (Da 9:25), who is also Prince of the Covenant (Da 11:22).
(6) nasi’, rendered "captain" in the King James Version Nu 2:3,5,7 only, there in the Revised Version (British and American) and in other places, both the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), rendered "prince." In 1Ch 7:40 "chief of the princes" combines (3) and (6).
(7) pechah, is found almost entirely in a foreign title denoting "governor," and belongs to the later history of Israel (Ne 2:7,9; Ezr 8:36; Hag 1:1), rendered "captain" in exclusively foreign associations (1Ki 20:24; 2Ki 18:24; Da 3:27 f).
(8) qatsin (from root of qadi, Arabic for "judge"), denotes "dictator," almost "usurper," and is found in "rulers of Sodom" the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), "judges of Sodom" the Revised Version, margin (Isa 1:10), used of Jephthah in sense of "captain" the King James Version, "chief" the Revised Version (British and American) (Jud 11:6), found combined with (3), "head and captain" (King James Version, "head and chief" the Revised Version (British and American) Jud 11:11). In Jos 10:24 it denotes commanders of troops, the King James Version "captains of the men of war," the Revised Version (British and American) "chiefs of the men of war."
(9) kar, in Eze 21:22 "to set captains" the King James Version, is translated "to set battering rams" the Revised Version (British and American).
(10) ba`al, only once in "captain of the ward" (Jer 37:13).
(11) Tiphcar, a dignitary belonging to an oriental court, in the King James Version rendered "captain," in the Revised Version (British and American) "marshal" (Na 3:17; Jer 51:27).
(12) shalliT, in Da 2:15 of Arioch, the king’s captain; in Ec 8:8 "having power over," and in Ec 7:19 used of "mighty men" (the Revised Version (British and American) "rulers").
2. In the New Testament:
Of Greek words rendered by "captain" in New Testament there are the following:
(1) archegos, rendered "captain" in Hebrews 2:10 the King James Version but relegated to the margin in the Revised Version (British and American), where "author" (of their salvation) is preferred, this being the rendering of Hebrews 12:2 the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), "author" (and finisher of our faith), "captain" being still retained in the Revised Version, margin. Compare Ac 3:15 and Ac 5:31, where the same Greek word is rendered "Prince," the Revised Version, margin of the former passage giving "Author." In the Risen and Ascended Christ the various conceptions thus expressed are found to blend.
(2) chiliarchos, the Latin tribunus militum of which there were six to a legion, commanding the six cohorts of which it was composed. In its lit. acceptation it would be "commander of a thousand," and it is so used in Ac 22:28 where it designates the commander of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, consisting of a cohort, and is rendered "chief captain" (Joh 18:12; Ac 21:31; 22:24; 24:22). It is used more vaguely in the sense of "military officer" in Mr 6:21; Re 6:15; 19:18.
(3) strategos, used only by Luke in the New Testament, and almost exclusively of
(a) officials in charge of the Temple (Lu 22:4,52; Ac 4:1; 5:24,26). The captain of the Temple had the superintendence of the Levites and priests who were on guard in and around the Temple, and under him were strategoi, who were also captains of the Temple police, although they took their instruction from him as their head. He was not only a priest, but second in dignity only to the high priest himself;
(b) the exception to Luke’s general usage is where the word is used of the chief authorities in civil affairs at Philippi; where "the magistrates," as the word is rendered (Ac 16:20 f), called themselves "praetors" (strategoi). In the case of Paul and Silas they placed themselves in peril of removal from their office by ordering them to be beaten, being Romans and uncondemned.
(4) stratopedarches, the captain of the guard to whom Julius of the Augustan band (according to the Textus Receptus of the New Testament, Ac 28:16) delivered Paul and his fellow-prisoners. The word has disappeared from the Revised Version (British and American), but the passage in which it occurs has attestation which satisfies Blass, Sir William Ramsay, and other scholars. It was supposed that this was the captain of the Praetorian guard, but Mommsen and Ramsay believe him to be the princeps peregrinorum castrorum.
See Augustan Band; Roman Army.