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GODLINESS (Gr. eusebeia, theosebeia). The piety toward God and the proper conduct that springs from a right relationship with him. It is not belief in itself, but the devotion toward God and love toward man that result from that belief. Religious faith is empty without godliness, for it is then but an empty form (2Tim.3.5). The Greek eusebeia is found fifteen times in the NT. It is the sum total of religious character and actions, and it produces both a present and future state of happiness. It is not right action that is done from a sense of duty, but is the spontaneous virtue that comes from the indwelling Christ and reflects him.

GODLINESS (εὐσέβεια, G2354). In non-Biblical Gr. lit. this term connotes an attitude of due respect either toward gods or toward men. In the Bible it nearly always concerns an attitude toward God.

Right attitude toward men.

In 1 Timothy 5:4, eusebeia is rendered “religious duty” (RSV), “piety” (KJV) and refers to proper concern and provision for one’s own family.

Toward God.

In most NT occurrences eusebeia is tr. “godliness,” though once in KJV as “holiness” (RSV “piety”; Acts 3:12). The word occurs several times in Paul’s Pastoral Epistles. The corresponding adjective εὐσεβής, G2356, is used in Acts 10:2 to describe the character of the centurion Cornelius (tr. “devout”), which illustrates the meaning in the NT. The related Gr. term which includes the word for God is θεοσέβεια, G2537, which occurs but once in the NT (1 Tim 2:10) and is tr. “who profess religion” (RSV); “professing godliness” (KJV).

Hypocritical godliness.

A merely formal profession of godliness is contrasted with true godliness (2 Tim 3:5): “the form of religion” (RSV); “a form of godliness” (KJV).

Basic idea.

Godliness means more than morality and more than mere religious profession. The power and reality of a vital union with God are implied. See Godly; Godless.


HBD (1923), II, 221, 222; ISBE (1929), II, 1270.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)