Force or excellence of mind or body; ability; moral worth.
Philippians 4:8 and 2 Peter 1:3 (ἀρετή, G746) are rendered “excellence” in RSV; but the same Gr. word is rendered “virtue” (agreeing with KJV) in 2 Peter 1:5. The moral aspect of the term seems most clear in these three references. Robertson regards the Philippian occurrence as synonymous with “praise”; and in connection with the 2 Peter usage (partly quoting Bengel) he spoke of “moral worth, moral power, moral energy, vigor of soul.” (Cf. also Wisd Sol 4:1; 2 Macc 6:31; 15:12.)
In the three cases (Mark 5:30; Luke 6:19; 8:46) where δύναμις, G1539, is found, RSV trs. “power” in each case. These passages refer to Jesus’ power to perform miracles. (Cf. Wisd Sol 19:20.)
In 2 Timothy 1:9 (twice) and Titus 3:5 where KJV has “according to,” RSV has “in virtue of.” The Gr. word here is κατά, G2848.
Lists of moral virtues can easily be compiled from the Bible, but there is no place where these are specifically called virtues.
There are passages in the Apoc. where virtue seems to pertain to the natural properties of the object; e.g., water, Ecclesiasticus 38:5; roots, Wisdom of Solomon 7:20; fire, water, et al., Wisdom of Solomon 13:2; 19:20.
The above represents all the cases where “virtue” or its cognates are found in KJV, ASV, or RSV.
TDNT, TWNT, Crem; A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT, IV (1931), 460; VI (1933), 99, 149, 151.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
vur’-tu: This word has two quite distinct meanings in the King James Version: (1) It was formerly often used in the now obsolete sense of "manly power," "valor," "efficacy" (Latin, virtus, "manly strength" or "excellence," from vir, "man"):
"Trust in thy single virtue; for thy soldiers
All levied in thy name, have in thy name
Took their discharge."
--Shakespeare, King Lear, V, iii, 103 ff.
The adjective "virtuous" occurs in the King James Version, the English Revised Version Ru 3:11; Pr 12:4; 31:10 (the American Standard Revised Version "worthy"), and the adverb "virtuously" in Pr 31:29 (the American Standard Revised Version "worthily"), in each case for chayil, "strength," "force" (whether of body or of mind), then in a moral sense of "worth," "virtue."
D. Miall Edwards