Commonwealth

COMMONWEALTH.

1. The term used to designate the two distinctive historical periods of ancient Israel’s political independence and the governmental establishments in authority, First Commonwealth (King Saul—King Jehoiachin) 1075-597 b.c., Second Commonwealth (return under Zerubbabel to the fall of Jerusalem) 537 b.c.-a.d. 70.

2. The rendering of two Gr. terms in the NT, for πολιτεία, G4486, (RSV, Eph 2:12) following the KJV, “citizenship” would be more precise. In Acts 22:28 the same term is read “citizenship” by RSV, but “freedom” by KJV. To render πολίτευμα, G4487, in the RSV of Philippians 3:20, KJV reads “conversation.” This term, rather than the preceding, is more precisely “commonwealth”; it is, however, a hapax legomenon.

The proper exegesis and explanation of these expressions in the NT have been the subject of a long historical debate. The majority of commentators have applied the Hebraic concept to the NT usage while some few expositors have contended that the terms are given new and precise meanings on the basis of purely NT usage. More recently a notion of eschatological intent has been applied. With the renewal of interest in the social impact of the Gospel, the term will be undoubtedly studied more extensively. The central point in all NT usage of the Gr. words is the communal aspect of the Christian Church. The Christian is redeemed to serve his Lord in the corporate entity of the Church. The Church is the commonwealth of the Christian.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Spoken of theocracy (Eph 2:12). The same word is rendered "freedom," the King James Version; "citizenship" the Revised Version (British and American). Also in the sense of commonwealth in the Apocrypha (2 Macc 4:11; 8:17; 13:14); in the sense of citizenship (3 Macc 3:21,23).

See Citizenship.