Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: fo’-bos
  • Strongs Concordance: #5401
    • fear, dread, terror
      • that which strikes terror
    • reverence for one’s husband
  • Appears 45 times in 42 verses in the New Testament
  • Common translations
    • “terrifying sights” (1x)

Where and how phobos is used in the New Testament

Matthew 14:26 HCSB – “When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost! ” they said, and cried out in fear “

Matthew 28:4, 8 HCSB – “The guards were so shaken from fear of him that they became like dead men. … So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell His disciples the news.”

Luke 1:12, 65 HCSB – “When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. … Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea.”

Luke 5:26 HCSB – “Then everyone was astounded, and they were giving glory to God. And they were filled with awe and said, “We have seen incredible things today! ” “

Luke 7:16 HCSB – “Then fear came over everyone, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited His people.””

Luke 8:37 HCSB – “Then all the people of the Gerasene region asked Him to leave them, because they were gripped by great fear. So getting into the boat, He returned. “

Luke 21:26 HCSB – “People will faint from fear and expectation of the things that are coming on the world, because the celestial powers will be shaken.”

John 7:13 HCSB – “Still, nobody was talking publicly about Him because they feared the Jews. “

John 19:38 HCSB – “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus — but secretly because of his fear of the Jews — asked Pilate that he might remove Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took His body away.”

John 20:19 HCSB – “In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you! ” “

Acts 2:43 HCSB – “Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.”

Acts 5:5, 11 HCSB – “When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. … Then great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things. “

Acts 9:31 HCSB – “So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers. “

Acts 19:17 HCSB – “This became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. Then fear fell on all of them, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.”

Romans 3:18 HCSB – “There is no fear of God before their eyes. “

Romans 8:15 HCSB – “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father! “”

Romans 13:3, 7 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 itsapproval. … Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor. “

1 Corinthians 2:3 HCSB – “I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.”

2 Corinthians 5:11 HCSB – “Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people. We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your consciences as well.”

2 Corinthians 7:1, 5, 11, 15 HCSB – “Therefore, dear friends, since we have such promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, completing our sanctification in the fear of God. … In fact, when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way: conflicts on the outside, fears inside. … For consider how much diligence this very thing — this grieving as God wills — has produced in you: what a desire to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what deep longing, what zeal, what justice! In every way you showed yourselves to be pure in this matter. … And his affection toward you is even greater as he remembers the obedience of all of you, and how you received him with fear and trembling.”

Ephesians 5:21 HCSB – “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. “

Ephesians 6:5 HCSB – “Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.”

Philippians 2:12 HCSB – “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

1 Timothy 5:20 HCSB – “Publicly rebuke those who sin, so that the rest will also be afraid.”

Hebrews 2:15 HCSB – “and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.”

1 Peter 1:17 HCSB – “And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence.”

1 Peter 2:18 HCSB – “Household slaves, submit with all fear to your masters, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.”

1 Peter 3:2, 14, 16 HCSB – “when they observe your pure, reverent lives. … But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, … However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.”

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.”

Jude 1:23 HCSB – “save others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. “

Revelation 11:11 HCSB – “But after 3 1/2 days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet. So great fear fell on those who saw them.”

Revelation 18:10, 15 HCSB – “They will stand far off in fear of her torment, saying: Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in a single hour your judgmenthas come. … The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand far off in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning,”

My observations and perspective

When we evaluate the many uses of phobos, we find many uses where people were fearing God, responding to His work or actions with awe and reverence. Other places, we have leaders like Paul describing their own fear in coming to the Ekklesia (the opposite of people fearing their leaders). When used to describe fear of one person to another, it is often pejorative. When it is not, and when it is instructional, it describes our dutiful posture toward civic authority, and in one instance, how a slave should fear (show reverence) to their master.

Included in the above are several verses from the story of Ananias and Saphira. Some might want to point this out as an example of a church leader showing some sort of power and the flock responding in fear. However, Peter clearly indicates that it was the Holy Spirit who was transgressed (not himself – Acts 5:3, 5:9), and that Ananias and Saphira had authority and free will over their own possessions (Acts 5:4) and were not required to pledge any money from the sale of their land.

When they dropped dead, the response of the people was not fear of Peter, or fear of the Apostles (fear of leaders or power they possessed), but fear of God and more specifically, fear of the possible judgement of proclaiming an outward life while living differently inwardly.

In summary, while we should fear God, and the power of God, there is no demonstration in the above verses, nor teaching, that believers should fear, or show fearful reverence to leaders in the local assembly.