CENTURION sĕn tyoor’ ĭ ən (Lat. centurio, commander of century, NT κεντυρίων, G3035, in Mark, ἑκατοντάρχης, G1672, in Matt., Luke, Acts; see Arndt s.v.). A non-commissioned officer in the Rom. army or one of its auxiliary armies, commanding a century (centuria) of nominally 100 men.
Although the responsibilities of centurions were similar to those of modern junior officers, there was a wide gap between their social status and that of officers, and comparatively few achieved promotion beyond senior centurion. The seniority of the six centurions in a cohort corresponded to that of their respective centuries. The centurion’s vine-staff (uitis) was a symbol of his disciplinary authority.
The troops in Judaea were auxiliaries and would be rewarded with Rom. citizenship after twenty-five years’ service. Such of their centurions as were Rom. citizens may have begun their service in the legions, in which Rom. citizenship was conferred on enlistment, or may have inherited it, like Paul. From their names it appears that Cornelius (
The presence of his relatives (
Julius belonged to an Augustan cohort, and may even have been a legionary centurion detached for special duties or on transfer. It is to be noted that on the government grain ship it was apparently he who took the final decision to proceed with the voyage (
A centurion was in charge of the execution of our Lord (
Police duties such as these and the routine guarding of prisoners (
As Galilee was not a Rom. province in the time of our Lord, the centurion of Capernaum (
E. Birley, Roman Britain and the(1953), 104-124; A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman (1963), 123f., 156, 160f.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
sen-tu’-ri-un: As the name implies, hekatontarches or hekatontarchos, kenturion, Latin centurio, was the commander of a hundred men, more or less, in a Roman legion. Matthew and Luke use the Greek word while Mark prefers the Latin form, as he does in the case of other words, seeing that he wrote primarily for Roman readers. The number of centurions in a legion was 60, that being at all epochs the number of centuries, although the number varied in the cohort or speira. The ordinary duties of the centurion were to drill his men, inspect their arms, food and clothing, and to command them in the camp and in the field. Centurions were sometimes employed on detached service the conditions of which in the provinces are somewhat obscure. Men like Cornelius and Julius (
See Augustan Band.