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Soter was commonly used among the Greeks as a divine appellation. They, as did the Hebrews, used the term for the mighty men, of philosophers such as Epicurus, of rulers such as Ptolemy I. The Romans used it for their emperors from Nero’s time.

Additional words associated with “Savior” in the NT give insight into its significance in early Christianity. Jesus was described by John as “Savior of the world” in his record of the encounter with the Samaritan woman. Jesus’ significance was such as could not be confined to any single race or people. In the Pastoral Epistles, “the appearing of our Savior” is used (2 Tim 1:10; Titus 2:13), which testifies both to His supernatural origin and glory. The term is also associated with “loving kindness” (philanthropia) in Titus 3:4. Such associations of soter were common in the usage of the Greeks also.

Jesus Himself interpreted His mission as one of salvation, saying “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The term presupposes a danger, a disaster, from which the rescuer snatched the one whom he helped. The term in both the OT (Isa 53) and the NT suggests deliverance from the worst affliction and trouble known to mankind—deliverance from sin. There is an emphasis also (as in the declaration of the angel) in Jesus’ ministry regarding the recipients of His deliverance; He was the Savior not only of the mighty and the rich or of the learned, but also of shepherds and outcasts such as Zacchaeus.