Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: fo-be’-ō
  • Strongs Concordance: #5399
    • to put to flight by terrifying (to scare away)
      • to put to flight, to flee
      • to fear, be afraid
        • to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm
          • of those startled by strange sights or occurrences
          • of those struck with amazement
        • to fear, be afraid of one
        • to fear (i.e. hesitate) to do something (for fear of harm)
      • to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience
  • Appears 95 times in 92 verses in the New Testament
  • Common translations
    • they were afraid (1x)
    • they were awestruck (1x)
    • * (1x)
    • Fear (4x)
    • God-fearing (1x)
    • Him were afraid (1x)
    • I am fearful (1x)
    • I fear (2x)
    • I was afraid (2x)
    • One to fear (1x)
    • They became afraid (1x)
    • They were afraid (1x)
    • They were fearful (1x)
    • afraid (2x)
    • be afraid (24x)
    • because he feared (1x)
    • being afraid (1x)
    • fear (8x)
    • feared (2x)
    • fearing (3x)
    • frightened (1x)
    • he feared (1x)
    • he was afraid (2x)
    • is the One to fear (1x)
    • is to respect (1x)
    • let us fear (1x)
    • one who fears (1x)
    • person who fears (1x)
    • re afraid (1x)
    • they feared (2x)
    • they were afraid (11x)
    • they were terrified (3x)
    • was alarmed (1x)
    • was in awe (1x)
    • were terrified (1x)
    • what they fear (1x)
    • who fear (5x)
    • with fear (1x)

Where and how phobeō is used in the New Testament


John 6:19-20 HCSB – “After they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they were afraid. But He said to them, “It is I. Don’t be afraid[G5399]! “”

John 9:22 HCSB – “His parents said these things because they were afraid of the Jews, since the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him as Messiah, he would be banned from the synagogue.”

John 12:15 HCSB – “Fear no more, Daughter Zion. Look, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt. “

John 19:8 HCSB – “When Pilate heard this statement, he was more afraid than ever.”

Acts 5:26 HCSB – “Then the commander went with the temple police and brought them in without force, because they were afraid the people might stone them.”

Acts 9:26 HCSB – “When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to associate with the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple.”

Acts 10:2, 22, 35 HCSB – “He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God. … They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing  man, who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you to his house and to hear a message from you.” … but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.”

Acts 13:16, 26 HCSB – “Then Paul stood up and motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen! … “Brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and those among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us.”

Acts 16:38 HCSB – “Then the police reported these words to the magistrates. They were afraid  when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens.”

Acts 18:9 HCSB – “Then the Lord said to Paul in a night vision, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent.”

Acts 22:29 HCSB – “Therefore, those who were about to examine him withdrew from him at once. The commander too was alarmed when he realized Paul was a Roman citizen and he had bound him. “

Acts 23:10 HCSB – “When the dispute became violent, the commander feared that Paul might be torn apart by them and ordered the troops to go down, rescue him from them, and bring him into the barracks. “

Acts 27:17, 24, 29 HCSB – “After hoisting it up, they used ropes and tackle and girded the ship. Then, fearing  they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the drift-anchor, and in this way they were driven along. … and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. And, look! God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you.’ … Then, fearing we might run aground in some rocky place, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight to come. “

Romans 11:20 HCSB – “True enough; they were broken off by unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid

Romans 13:3-4 HCSB – “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid  of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid , because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.”

2 Corinthians 11:3 HCSB – “But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a complete and pure devotion to Christ.”

2 Corinthians 12:20 HCSB – “For I fear that perhaps when I come I will not find you to be what I want, and I may not be found by you to be what you want; there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.”

Galatians 2:12 HCSB – “For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party.”

Galatians 4:11 HCSB – “I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted. “

Ephesians 5:33 HCSB – “To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband. “

Colossians 3:22 HCSB – “Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.”

Hebrews 4:1 HCSB – “Therefore, while the promise to enter His rest remains, let us fear that none of you should miss it.”

Hebrews 11:23, 27 HCSB – “By faith, after Moses was born, he was hidden by his parents for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they didn’t fear the king’s edict. … By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible.”

Hebrews 13:6 HCSB – “Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? “

1 Peter 2:17 HCSB – “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor. “

1 Peter 3:6, 14 HCSB – “just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming. … But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed,”

1 John 4:18 HCSB – “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.”

Revelation 1:17 HCSB – “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. He laid His right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last,”

Revelation 2:10 HCSB – “Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have affliction for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. “

Revelation 11:18 HCSB – “The nations were angry, but Your wrath has come. The time has come for the dead to be judged and to give the reward to Your servants the prophets, to the saints, and to those who fear Your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth. “

Revelation 14:7 HCSB – “He spoke with a loud voice: “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. Worship the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” “

Revelation 15:4 HCSB – “Lord, who will not fear and glorify Your name? Because You alone are holy, for all the nations will come and worship before You because Your righteous acts have been revealed. “

Revelation 19:5 HCSB – “A voice came from the throne, saying: Praise our God, all His slaves, who fear Him, both small and great! “


My observations and perspective

In the 90+ verses above, there are diverse uses of the word fear (phobeō). Many are describing man fearing God, and men fearing other men. In nearly every case of phobeō describing a person fearing another person, it is a pejorative use of the word and not at all instructional. The single exceptions to this where a person is exhorted to be fearful of another person is Paul’s admonishment from Romans 13:3-4 where he encourages a healthy fear of civic authorities. Much has been written elsewhere on this blog about the distinction between civic authority and authority in the local assemblies (see the authority studies for more). The other is Paul’s exhortation for wives to show reverence to their husbands.

Interestingly, Paul even offers a means of escaping the fear of civic authority with an exhortation to not engage in activities that would make such fear necessary!

The overwhelming majority of uses where phobeō is used in any sort of instructional sense, it is in the negative when referring to fearing people (“do not fear”) otherwise, it is geared toward fearing God, which is appropriate.

There is no use of phobeō where any member of the Ekklesia is instructed or demonstrated to fear a church leader as an authority figure based on their role or position.