Smote in the New Testament

Smote in the New Testament

The Greek word translated as smote is “patasso” (Strong’s G3960):

probably prolongation from 3817; TDNT-5:939,804; {See TDNT 607 } v

AV-smite 9, strike 1; 10

1) to strike gently: as a part or a member of the body
2) to stroke, smite: with the sword, to afflict, to visit with evils, etc. as with a deadly disease
3) to smite down, cut down, to kill, slay

An observant reader of scripture might notice that, in the same chapter describing the death of Herod, verse 7 says that “the angel of the Lord … smote Peter …” That is from the same Greek word and Peter did not die from it. Perhaps we should examine the meaning of the word “smote.” Often, the best way to understand the meaning of a word in a particular verse is to see how scripture itself uses the same word in other cases. So let’s carefully look at all of the ten verses using “patasso.”

1. Matt 26:31 This verse could be understood as the Father killing His Son:

“Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite <3960> the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” (Matt 26:31)

But He only smote His Son in the permissive sense. In fact, Isaiah said:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” (Isa 53:4)

We thought God had smitten His Son when, in fact, He did not. Jesus gave up the ghost, He gave His life, the Jewish leaders were labelled as the ones who killed Him (Acts 3:15). There are no verses that clearly say that the Father personally killed His Son.

2. Matt 26:51 Peter did not kill the servant of the high priest:

“And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck <3960> a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.” (Matt 26:51)

“Patasso” does not mean to kill in that verse. See comments on 4 and 5 below.

3. Mark 14:27 Same as in Matt 26:31

“And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite <3960> the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mark 14:27)

4. and 5. Luke 22:49-50 This was Jesus’ followers proposing that they smite with the sword:

“When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite <3960> with the sword?” (Luke 22:49)

They did not wait for an answer but:

“… one of them smote <3960> the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.” (Luke 22:50)

The word “smote” does not refer to killing in that verse either although that may have been Peter’s intent. An important point is that Jesus did not endorse the action, in fact, He immediately reversed it:

“And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.” (Luke 22:51)

Of course, the high priest’s servant was not killed.

6. Acts 7:24

“And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote <3960> the Egyptian:” (Acts 7:24)

In this case, Moses did kill the Egyptian:

“And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. 13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?” (Exo 2:11-13)

The words translated “smiting,” “slew” and “smitest” above are all from the same Hebrew word (“nakah,” Strong’s H5221). The uses in verses 11 and 13 are not clearly acts of killing (although they may have been). The “slew” of verse 12 is from the same original word so it may, in the original, mean that Moses smote or struck the Egyptian. The result, of course, is that he died but that may not have even been Moses intent. It was, of course, not an act of God, but of Moses who had been trained in the ways of Egypt, no doubt including in military skills. There is no indication that Moses’ action was endorsed by God.

7. Acts 12:7

“And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote <3960> Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.” (Acts 12:7)

The angel “smote” Peter to wake him up and, essentially, to get his attention. I tend to put greater weight in word studies on uses of the same word by the same author. Luke’s intent with both uses of the word in this chapter may have been that the angel was getting the attention of the one he smote.

8. Acts 12:23

“And immediately the angel of the Lord smote <3960> him [Herod], because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.” (Acts 12:23)

See a detailed study of the death of King Herod. Could the angel have been just trying to get Herod’s attention as to the gravity of what he had done?

9. Rev 11:6

“These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite <3960> the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” (Rev 11:6)

This is not to kill the earth but to get the attention of the people of the earth who are the ones that feel the effects of the plagues.

10. Rev 19:15

“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite <3960> the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Rev 19:15)

Again, this smiting is not to kill but to get attention. You don’t kill someone and then, after killing, “rule them.” Besides, the smiting is done with the sword coming out of His mouth which is clearly a symbol of the Word of God.

Did God Smite Paul?

There may be more examples of this in scripture than we first realize. Paul himself (then Saul) was going the wrong direction:

“And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:2)

Although, the word “smote” is not used, God definitely got his attention on the way to Damascus:

“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:” (Acts 9:3)

The difference between Saul and King Herod (Acts 12) was the direction they went after God got their attention. Herod could have repented at that point but he chose not to (or did he?). Saul did repent, changed the direction of his life and became the great apostle Paul. If God ever smites you trying to get your attention and urging repentance or a change in direction be sure to make the right choice.


“Smote,” as the Bible most commonly uses it, is not always in reference to an act of killing. In no cases where it could be understood to mean that in the New Testament is killing commanded by or endorsed by God.

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