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Greek Word Study - Take Captive

To the victors belong the spoils” was the slogan of Andrew Jackson and his party after he won the presidency of the United States. As winner of the election, why shouldn’t he use every opportunity to give political plums to his friends and benefactors? If the others objected, just let them remember: they were the losers.

The right of the victor to strip the spoils of war from the defeated enemy was certainly a standard practice in antiquity. Homer told how Odysseus saw a man coming to “strip the corpses” after a battle. Homer also told of the hero Hector who saw his cousin fall in battle and tried to prevent the enemy from “stripping him of his armor.”

In a similar fashion it was right and proper to plunder the ships of a defeated navy. For years after a war, it was also acceptable to plunder the merchant ships of the enemy. (The line between noble warfare and greedy piracy was often blurred.) A marauding captain could steal the goods, kidnap the crew, and sell his captives into slavery.

The word for this kind of plundering was sule (SOO lay). The thing that made sule different from outright theft was the pretext that it was justified. Those who practiced it would rationalize their deed, claiming it was the right thing to do. To kidnap a person as sule was called sulagogeo (soo lah go GEH oh), literally, “I bring away as plunder.”

This is the word Paul used when he warned his readers, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Colossians 2:8). Such a false teacher was no better than a pirate. He was capturing people whom the truth had set free, only to sell them back into slavery to error. Every Christian needs to watch out such pirate/philosophers who strip, rob, kidnap and plunder. We are not spoils for the enemy; we are soldiers for the victorious Christ!