KERUX: A JOURNAL
Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: David L. Roth and Jack L. Smith
KERUX is a publication of Kerux, Inc. and appears three times each year. Editorial offices are located at 1131 Whispering Highlands Dr., Escondido, CA 92027. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $15.00 (U.S. and Canada); $20.00 (elsewhere). Costs per issue are: $5.00 (U.S. and Canada); $7.50 (elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U.S. Funds.
ISSN 0888-8513 Vol. 5, Number 3
A Sermon on I Corinthians 5:7
The Old Testament feasts had, among other important features, this one peculiarity—that they brought to the remembrance of Israel the great underlying facts and principles of their covenant-relation to Jehovah. They invited the pious Israelite at stated seasons to collect his thoughts and fix them upon those things which were fundamental in his religious life. Thus the feast of tabernacles reminded them of their dwelling in tents in the wilderness, and of the wonderful guidance and deliverance through which they had been enabled to overcome the perils of their journey and enter upon the possession of the promised land. In a similar manner, the feast of weeks, by requiring them to bring the first loaves of bread prepared from the new harvest to the sanctuary of Jehovah, reminded them that all the fruits of the land, all the blessings of their life, were on the one hand the free gift of God, on the other hand designed to be consecrated to God.
The Backward Glance of Passover
But it was especially in connection with the Passover that this peculiarity in the purpose which the feasts were intended to serve
became most apparent. The Passover was preeminently a historical feast. It pointed back to the deliverance of the people from Egypt, a deliverance through sacrifice, a deliverance from the slaying angel, a deliverance in which manifestly the grace of God alone had made a distinction between them and their persecutors. Each time this feast was celebrated in the families of Israel, it proclaimed anew that redemption through blood and by grace and by sovereign choice was the great fact which lay at the basis of their historic existence; the source from which everything that Israel was and had or could ever hope to be and have ultimately flowed. And how significant it was that to this great feast there was immediately joined the feast of unleavened bread which marked the beginning of the harvest, and therefore gave a religious consecration to the tillage of the soil, on which the prosperity of Israel so largely depended.
All the gifts of God, which under the blessing of heaven were poured into the people's lap, were thus each year by a conjunction of these two feasts represented afresh as the fruit of a blood-bought redemption [and] the whole covenant-life was placed on the basis of the saving grace of God. Of course in a dispensation like that of the old covenant (in which there was a large and complex system of religious duties and ceremonies through which the mind of the believer might so easily be distracted and led to lose sight of the central facts and the central truths), there was more than ordinary need for such outstanding observances which compelled the church to center her mind on the one great provision of God and the one great need of her own life, the realization of which was absolutely necessary, if she was to fulfill her calling in the world.
The Backward Glance of the Lord's Supper
Now brethren it occurred to me, that on a day like this, a day on which we have sat at the Lord's table to commemorate his death, it might be well for us to observe how the Lord (knowing our weakness, our forgetfulness, our tendency to look away from that which is most vital and essential in our religion, and to let ourselves be absorbed and
distracted by a multitude of surface-duties and surface-experiences); how the Lord, I say, knowing this weakness, has made gracious provision in the institution of the Supper for recalling us ever again to a sense of what is the center and core of our relation to him, in order that we might not lose our contact with the heart of the gospel in which lie the issues of all true Christian life and activity. What the feasts were to Israel, that the sacraments are to us [and] that the Lord's Supper especially ought to be to us. Our Passover also has been sacrificed and each time that we repeat its observance, the Lord himself invites us that we shall call our thoughts home to the contemplation of that one thing on which our very life as believers depends, his atoning death.
But not only does the sacrament point us to the most fundamental fact of our religion, it is like unto the Passover also in this other respect—that it places before our minds in a condensed form the whole compass of what we have and are in Christ, the entire range of the salvation he has purchased for us, in its length and breadth and depth and height. Precisely because what it commemorates is so fundamental, it cannot help being comprehensive, for in the root of our redemption lies everything that this redemption can possibly embrace.
We may well, therefore, adore the wisdom of our Lord who has given us this ordinance. First of all, for the reason that it comes to meet our human weakness, that it brings his own person and grace within the reach of our senses, so that symbolically our eyes can see, our hands can handle, our mouth can taste the word of life. Secondly it leads us, as I have already said, to seize upon the center of the gospel. And thirdly because it has served through the ages, wherever the ordinance has been observed in obedience to our Lord's command, a perpetual proclamation of the great, comprehensive principle of salvation through Christ. It was certainly more than an appeal inspired by personal sentiment when he implored them in the night of his betrayal: "Do this in remembrance of me." He knew how often occasion would arise in the subsequent history of the church for his
followers to forget if not his person, yet to forget the true purport of his work and of that final act in which it was about to reach its climax. In many a period when the spirit of the gospel was obscured, has the table of the Lord continued to be an eloquent witness on its behalf—sometimes perhaps the sole witness proclaiming to men the truth of salvation (and who shall say how many souls may have been saved through its ministry). And similarly the apostle's words—"As often as ye eat of this bread and drink of this cup, ye proclaim the Lord's death until He come"—obtain a new significance to us when we regard the sacrament in this light as an epitome of the gospel of redemption.
Present Witness of the Sacrament
Nor can we say, brethren, that at the present time there is no need for such a witness of the sacrament because the ministry of the word always and everywhere proclaims the central truth of the gospel with sufficient clearness and emphasis. It is true that there ought to be no need of this, for the church of the Reformation is preeminently a church of the word, just as the Catholic Church is preeminently a church of the sacrament (for the very reason that in it, the ministry of the word is kept in the background). But I am sure there are churches in the land in which a great many other things can be heard, yet where one could listen in vain for the plain preaching of the cross as the God-appointed means for the salvation of sinners. It may happen to a man to attend a church where not the preacher's word and the preacher's prayer, but only the hymns that are sung embody the elements of the gospel of grace and breathe the spirit of true evangelical piety; where the tradition of the past must fulfil the functions which the ministry of the present fails to perform, and where in consequence a powerful contrast is felt between the voice of the singing and that of the pulpit. And so it is possible to have a kind of preaching and an atmosphere of church-life and a type of ministry which enter as discordant elements into the true observance of the Lord's Supper simply because they are not keyed to the high spiritual and evangelical note that is struck in this sacrament of the Savior's
Now I do not mean to affirm that in all such cases there need be the preaching of false doctrine such as involves an open and direct denial of the evangelical truth. It is quite possible that both to the intention and the actual performance of the preacher any departure from the historical faith of the church may be entirely foreign. And yet there may be such a failure in the intelligent presentation of the gospel with the proper emphasis upon that which is primary and fundamental as to bring about a result well-high equally deplorable—as in a case where the principles of the gospel are openly contradicted or denied. There can be a betrayal of the gospel of grace, brethren, by silence. There can be disloyalty to Christ by omission as well as by positive offense against the message that he has entrusted to our keeping. It is possible Sabbath after Sabbath and year after year to preach things of which none can say that they are untrue and none can deny that in their proper place and time they may be important, and yet to forego telling people plainly and [to forego] giving them the distinct impression that they need forgiveness and salvation from sin through the cross of Christ.
Christ the Center
I sometimes feel as if what we need most is a sense of proportion in our presentation of the truth; a new sense of where the center of gravity in the gospel lies; a return to the ideal of Paul who determined not to know anything among the Corinthians save Jesus Christ and him crucified. This does not mean that every sermon which we preach must necessarily be what is technically called an evangelistic sermon. There may be frequent occasions when to do that would be out of place and when a discourse on some ethical or apologetic or social topic is distinctly called for. But whatever topic you preach on and whatever text you choose, there ought not to be in your whole repertoire a single sermon in which from beginning to end you do not convey to your hearers the impression that what you want to impart to them, you do not think it possible to impart to them in any other way
than as a correlate and consequence of the eternal salvation of their souls through the blood of Christ, because in your own conviction that alone is the remedy which you can honestly offer to a sinful world.
And in order to assure yourselves whether or not you are doing this, whether your preaching meets this requirement or not, a good test to apply is the frequent comparison of the purport of your sermon with the purport of the sacrament. The word and the sacrament as means of grace belong together: they are but two sides of the same divinely instituted instrumentality. While addressing themselves to different organs of perception, they are intended to bear the one identical message of the grace of God—to interpret and mutually enforce one another. If in the individual spiritual life of a Christian, the Lord's Supper comes as something for which he is unprepared, something which requires a spiritual state of mind which he feels he cannot bring to it, something from which he shrinks because he realizes that it is so sadly unrelated to the usual tone and temper of his religious experience—then we would not hesitate to say that there is something wrong in the relation of that Christian to his God and his Savior. And yet I think we shall be all willing to confess that such has been frequently the case with ourselves. Is it not likely that a similar experience may be in store for us not as common believers but as preachers of the gospel? Let us therefore be careful to key our preaching to such a note that when we stand as ministrants behind the table of our Lord to distribute the bread of life, our congregation shall feel that what we are doing then is but the sum and culmination of what we have been doing every Sabbath from the pulpit.
Symbolism of the Lord's Table
It surely would be unnecessary, even if there were time for it, to do more than enumerate the great guiding principles which stand out prominently in the symbolism of the Lord's table and which ought to be constantly in the preacher's mind that he may secure the result indicated. They are four in number. In the first place, there is the plain, emphatic recognition of the fact of sin; not of any special,
occasional form of sin, but of sin in its broad general sense as an ingredient of all human life in this world. Though the people entrusted to your pastoral care may be all professing Christians, remember that you are to deal with them as sinners and that you ought to have no false delicacy about that because the Lord himself does not receive them on any other footing at his own table. In the second place, there is the positive and clear affirmation that the vicarious suffering and death of the Son of God, his body broken, his blood poured out [and] appropriated by faith are the only and all-sufficient means of obtaining the remission of sin, peace of conscience and the title to eternal life. It will be impossible for us to hold out any other hope to man so long as we have clearly before our minds the picture of the Savior himself who pointed his disciples to this and this alone as the great saving factor in his ministry. In the third place, there is the eloquent reminder that there can be no true participation in the merits which flow from Christ's atoning death except through such a faith as effects a personal union with him; a faith consisting not merely in the mental acceptance of his sacrifice as a historic fact, but a faith which mystically feeds upon him, the living sacrifice, as he now exists in heaven. If we were to hold up Christ as a mere example to be followed by us in our own strength to the exclusion of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, would we not be silently corrected by our Lord's own voice speaking to us at his table: "Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, ye have no life in yourselves"? And lastly we have here impressed upon us the solemn obligation of everyone who receives Christ as his sacrifice and enters upon the communion of his sanctified life, to abandon sin and walk in holiness. You will observe it is specifically this fourth principle which Paul has in mind when he says to the Corinthians—"For our Passover also has been sacrificed, Christ"—and derives from this the injunction: "Therefore let us keep the feast not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
Thus we see that the Lord's Supper spans the whole breadth of our Christian religion. Besides being what it must always primarily be,
the means for strengthening our faith, it may also render us the additional service of becoming to us an occasion for self-examination, a spiritual ideal by which we measure ourselves and ascertain in which respects, either as personal believers or as ministers of God, we may have failed perhaps to reach the normal standard prescribed for us by Christ himself.
Princeton Theological Seminary
Princeton, New Jersey
October 1, 1902
The Rider of the Red Horse
Meredith G. Kline
III. Present in the Midst of the Myrtles
In our previous comments on the symbolism of Zechariah 1:8, we have treated the deep in connection with the figure of the rider of the red horse. In the text, it is the myrtles that are explicitly identified as being by the deep. The Angel-rider is by the deep because he comes and takes up a position in the midst of the myrtles. And that is the main point of this symbolic disclosure. While his people are in the world wilderness facing the satanic deep, while they are in the throes of their historic earthly struggle, Immanuel, mighty God, is present with them.
A. Myrtles as Paradise Trees in the Wilderness: Though a shrub, myrtles are sometimes listed in the Bible with trees. (Facilitating this is the fact the Hebrew 'es signifies wood as well as tree.) Myrtles grow to some nine feet and thus as seen here probably stood at the height of the mounted horseman. With their delicate, star-like, white flowers and fragrant, bright green leaves the hardy evergreen myrtle naturally appears in idyllic pictures of the fertility and luxuriance of the earth in
the messianic age (cf. Isa. 41:18,19a; 55:13). Also suggesting that the myrtles by the deep are a paradisaical image is the fact that paradise by the deep is a feature of those historical episodes of creation, exodus, and Jordan crossing which we have noted as the background for understanding the symbolism of theophany by the deep.
At creation, the Glory-Spirit brought forth paradise out of the primordial deep and darkness to be mankind's dwelling place. The dead deep itself was transformed into the river of Eden that watered the garden with its trees, including the very tree of life, beneath the mountain of the Glory-theophany. From the beginning, luxuriant trees, in association with theophany by waters, are a conspicuous feature of paradise, and trees of life, flourishing on either side of a river of life, appear in apocalyptic visions of Eden's paradise at last redemptively restored and perfected (Ezek. 47:12; Rev. 22:1,2).
Paradise by the deep is also found to be an element of the exodus re-creation event. After recording the song of Yahweh's triumph over the deep (Exod. 15:1-21), the narrative hastens to tell of Israel under the directing hand of the Glory-theophany coming to Elim and encamping there by the twelve springs of water among the seventy palm trees (Exod. 15:27). As part of the larger Mosaic context in which the exodus wilderness experience is represented as a creation event, and in particular the wilderness is identified with the tohu-deep (cf. Deut. 32:10,11), the description of the Elim oasis in Exodus 15:27 at once evokes the paradisaical waters and trees of the garden of Eden. Also suggestive of Elim's equivalency to Eden is the linkage with the mountain of theophany of the covenant Lord (cf. Exod. 16:1).
Glory-theophany over Jordan's flooding deep in the days of Joshua was again the prelude to paradise, the paradise of the promised land flowing with milk and honey (cf. Josh. 5:6), with the oasis of Jericho and its perennial spring, the city of palm trees (Deut. 34:3), as an identification sign at the border. In the passage of Jordan's deep, Israel moved from the sphere of wilderness into a paradise realm (cf. Josh. 5:12).
It thus appears that the myrtles by the deep in Zechariah 1:8 reinforce the other creation and exodus motifs already observed in the imagery of this vision. They do so by adding the element of the paradise land which the Creator-Redeemer provides as the dwelling for his people and as the site of his theophanic Presence. In his lordship over the deep the Lord God transforms it into a fructifying source for the arboreal blessings of his holy garden, the homeland of his people.
More particularly, the myrtle trees point to Eden's tree of life. Being evergreens, the myrtles were a natural symbol of everlasting life. Moreover, since the eternal paradisaical life they represent is a life which in redemptive re-creation the Lord brings forth from the sea of death, the myrtles represent life from the grave, resurrection.
As to the precise picture in Zechariah 1:8, it is difficult to determine whether the Angel-rider stands between two myrtles or in the midst of a larger group. Eden contained two special trees and paired trees of life flank the river of life in prophetic pictures of paradise restored. Also, visions corresponding to the first vision of Zechariah in the literary arrangement of the night visions contain symbolic pairs. In the seventh vision, the agents of Glory emerge from between two mountains (which evidently led the LXX translators to read "between the mountains" [instead of myrtles] in Zech. 1:8). And in Zechariah 4:2,3, we read of the lampstand (menora) with an olive tree on either side. Further, a deity standing between two trees is a common Near Eastern image. It may well be then that the Zechariah 1:8 imagery is that of the Glory-theophany flanked by two paradise trees of life. The messianic Glory-Angel would thereby be identified as the Resurrection and the Life, as the divine Savior of Psalm 18, who raises up his suppliant people from death's deep waters.
If the myrtles between which the messianic Angel stands allude specifically to the original two special trees of Eden in their two distinct identities, then Zechariah's imagery would be informed not only by the tree of life symbolism but by the significance of the tree of judicial discerning between good and evil (cf. Gen. 2:9). That tree
represented the dominical authority with which man was invested as image of the sovereign Glory-Spirit. A claim was made by the Son of man to what both the trees of Eden symbolized when he said that it was given to him by the Father to have life in himself and authority to execute judgment (John 5:26,27). This twofold messianic endowment with life and judicial authority was also represented by the two symbolic items associated with the two tables of the covenant in the ark of the covenant—the manna, heavenly bread of everlasting life (cf. John 6:32ff.), and the budded rod of Aaron, the sign of his authority in God's courts (cf. Zech. 3:7; Heb. 9:4; Num. 17:10). Significantly, these symbols were located within the paradisaical decor of the holy of holies, beneath the Glory, flanked by cherubim, themselves peculiarly identified with life and holy authority.
Of the several instances of paradise by the deep that we have cited as background for the symbolism of Zechariah 1:8, Israel's encampment at the Elim oasis brings out most vividly the truth that the presence of God's Glory, the source and provider of the life and beatitude of holy paradise, may be enjoyed by his people while they are still in the wilderness, not yet arrived at their promised inheritance. The wilderness setting is mentioned just before and just after the Elim episode (Exod. 15:27). From the sea of the exodus salvation to Elim was the journey through the wilderness of Shur (Exod. 15:22-26). Then leading from Elim to Sinai was the journey through the wilderness of Sin (Exod. 16:1ff.). Likewise in Zechariah 1:8, the wilderness is the setting of the myrtles of paradise and the Angel-rider's appearance there. This becomes evident when it is recognized that in the figure of the myrtles there is an allusion to the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, that graphic memorial of Israel's life in the wilderness. We shall trace the intricate web of this myrtles-Tabernacles connection, observing in advance that the wilderness, the common context of the Elim paradise, the Tabernacles experience, and the myrtles by the deep in Zechariah 1:8, is an appropriate metaphor for the political-eschatological situation confronting not only Zechariah but the church to the end of this present world.
B. Myrtles and Tabernacles—Consummation Glory: When the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated in the days of Israel's return from exile, myrtles were designated along with olive and palm trees as meeting the requirement written in the Law of Moses for the construction of the shelters in which the people lived during the week of celebration (Neh. 8:14ff., esp. 15; cf. Lev. 23:39ff., esp. 40). One criterion in the Law for the selection of trees for this purpose was their practical suitability for constructing the huts; with this in view, trees with broad fronds of leafy branches were specified. The second criterion was ornamental appearance indicated by the phrase, "trees of hadar (glory or beauty)." Of the several designated trees, the flowered myrtle would best serve this function. The choice of the myrtle for the Zechariah 1 imagery might then be to direct attention primarily to the glory aspect of the tabernacles, while their protective function remained secondary. Highlighting this connection and further prompting the selection of the myrtles here would be a word play that obtains between hadar (glory) and hadas (myrtle).
To catch the full force of the myrtles image in Zechariah 1, we must then inquire into the topological meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles. It was celebrated at the close of the agricultural year when all the fruit of the land had been harvested and was accordingly called the Feast of Ingathering (Exod. 23:16; 34:22). Its date in the seventh month and its seven day duration, initiated and concluded (on a crowning eighth day) with days of solemn rest, emphasized its sabbatical-consummatory significance. Tabernacles was thus a typological prophecy of the completion of God's kingdom through the final universal ingathering of the elect of all nations to worship the Lord with joy as the King over all the earth, the Lord of hosts. Agreeably, Zechariah at the close of the book, returning to this theme of his opening vision, declares that in the eternal day the redeemed remnant of all the national families of the earth will from year to year come before God's throne to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16). Employing the customary prophetic idiom of Old Testament typology, he thus indicated that beyond the final eschatological conflict (Zech. 14:1ff.) what Tabernacles had adumbrated will be realized. This would
also be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah's contemporary, Haggai, dated on the last day of the most recent Tabernacles feast, shortly before Zechariah's visions (cf. Hag. 2:1; Zech. 1:7), declaring that the Lord would bring the glory of the nations into his house (Hag. 2:6-9). Similarly, the apostle John saw the universal harvest of the worshippers of the Lamb (cf. Rev. 14:14-16), an innumerable multitude out of every people and nation, with palms in hand engaged in Tabernacles celebration before God's throne (Rev. 7:9), covered there by the tabernacle of God (Rev. 7:15). The three annual festivals all featured pilgrimage of God's people to his house, but the connection of Tabernacles with the final completion of harvest made the Tabernacles pilgrimage to Jerusalem the premier sign of the final universal pilgrimage and permanent assembling of the covenant people of all ages at the heavenly Zion.
C. Myrtles and Tabernacles—Present Glory in the Wilderness: A curious feature of the Feast of Tabernacles is that while its place in the annual and agricultural calendars made it a sign of the consummation of the kingdom, the situation to which it pointed as a historical memorial and which it dramatized by the peculiar manner of its observance identified it with an earlier, emphatically preconsummation stage in the redemptive process. This intriguing combination of contrasting concepts finds expression in the two names of the festival—Ingathering and Booths. The former, as we have seen, speaks of the final harvesting into the heavenly assembly (cf. Rev. 14:14-16). The latter refers to the preconsummation condition of God's people. The name Booths reflects of course the requirement that during the festival the pilgrims were to dwell in structures of leafy branches in imitation of the Israelites' mode of life while they were on the move in the wilderness between the salvation event at the Egyptian sea and their entrance into Canaan, the prototype of the sabbath-paradise to come (Lev. 23:43). The rough simplicity of the booths underscored the unsettled, impermanent character of the wilderness situation. The huts occupied during the Tabernacles festival were only a temporary arrangement, like the booths that used to be set up in the fields by harvesters. This comparison suggests the possibility
that an original connection of the two names, Ingathering and Booths, is to be found in some old harvest festival celebrated in such temporary shelters in the field. If the Mosaic ordinance of the Feast of Tabernacles is an adaptation of such a harvest festival, it has invested the old form with a totally new, redemptive-historical significance.
The transient nature of Israel's experience in the wilderness was further reflected in the kind of dwelling the Lord prescribed for himself at Sinai. As a gracious expression of his Immanuel-Presence with his people, the Lord adopted a form of residence similar to their own. The temporary nature of even this more elaborate tabernacle of the Lord is emphasized in the narrative of David's proposal to build a permanent house for the ark of God (2 Sam. 7:1ff.). From what the Lord says on that occasion about his continuing use of the tabernacle-form of sanctuary, it is evident that the transitory character of Israel's existence extended beyond the wilderness journeying into the tumultuous days of their penetration of the land and the troubled period of the judges, down to the emergence of the Davidic dynasty and the obtaining of rest from all the enemies round about. A wilderness-like, impermanent state of affairs continued all the while God's dwelling place retained its temporary tent-form, until this very time when the Lord was arranging through covenant with David for the constructing of a temple-house by David's son (2 Sam. 7:13).
Of course even under Israel's theocratic kings the kingdom of God did not yet attain its true permanence. After all, Canaan was not the true Sabbath land but only a prototype, and Jerusalem was not the heavenly city but only a foreshadowing of it. Celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in those days would have been a reminder of this. There in Jerusalem, on the roofs and in the open court of the city of the Great King, the Israelites had to set up and reside in the temporary booths—a declaration that this was not the eternal city itself and this was not the time or place for the saints' everlasting mansions of glory. Did not the (apparent) preservation of the portable wilderness tabernacle within Solomon's temple (cf. 1 Kgs. 8:4) serve as a similar reminder, as a sign that even this more durable structure on fixed
foundations was only a typological prefiguration of the truly permanent temple to be built by the Greater than Solomon? Though Israel enjoyed a privileged position in the typological order of things they were not thereby prematurely transported out of the basic circumstances of this present world. From the Fall until the inauguration of the world to come at the Consummation, life for the people of God is always a pilgrim journey through an alien wilderness under the shadow of death. So it was in Zechariah's day. So it is in ours.
Two different moments in the redemptive journey are symbolized in the Feast of Tabernacles, signified by the two names, Booths and Ingathering. It reminded God's people that they were pilgrims and aliens in this world (Booths) and simultaneously promised them that they were the heirs of heaven (Ingathering). But the symbolism of this festival was even more richly complex in its portrayal of the eschatological nature of the existence of God's people in this world. It did not simply declare that the promised goal of the consummation of redemption would at last be reached; it said something too about a present realization of that eschatological hope.
The actual character of the process of redemptive eschatology is such that heaven breaks into the history of this world beforehand, particularly in the reality of the presence of the Spirit, re-creatively fashioning God's people in the image of his Glory. It is especially (though not for the first time) in the present age of the church that this semi-eschatological situation obtains, the Consummation being already experienced in the inner glory of the supernatural presence and renewing power of the Spirit, even while the Consummation in its external dimensions of glory is not yet attained. And this realized eschatology of the inner glory of the Spirit, experienced even in the time of our tabernacling in the wilderness of this present age, we find to have had a place in the rich symbolism of the Feast of Tabernacles. (Of interest here is the way Paul combines the teaching of the gift of the Spirit as a present earnest of glorification with the representation of our temporal, mortal condition by the figure of a tabernacle [2 Cor.
5:1-5; cf. 2 Pet. 1:13,14]). To see how it was that the Feast of Tabernacles signified this additional feature of a present participation in the promised future glory, we must explore further the symbolism of the booths. In the process, we will also discover further confirmation of our interpretation of the myrtles in Zechariah 1 as containing an allusion to these booths.
D. Myrtles and Tabernacles—Replicas of the Glory Spirit: Crude in form, hastily set up, and thus apt symbols of the impermanence of the wilderness era, the booths were nevertheless designed to be replicas of the theophanic Glory itself. Materials prescribed for construction of the booths are described in Leviticus 23:40-42 (cf. Neh. 8:15) by terms that call attention to their likeness to the Glory-cloud. Trees of splendor (hadar), or majestic trees, were to be used. The term hadar is a synonym of kabod, "glory", repeatedly serving as its poetic parallel in descriptions of the majestic radiance and beauty of the theophanic appearance of the heavenly King (cf. Pss. 90:16; 96:6; 104:1; 145:5; Isa. 2:10,19,21; 35:2). God's kingship over all the earth is dominant in these contexts. Of special interest in connection with the symbolism of Zechariah 1:8 is Psalm 104:1, where the hadar is identified with the theophanic light of the Lord (v. 2), who is pictured as riding on his cloud chariot (v. 3). Other than Leviticus 23:40, hadar is applied to trees only in Isaiah 35:2. There it refers to the splendor of Carmel's wooded range and Sharon's dense vegetation, in parallelism with the kabod of Lebanon's majestic cedars. And significantly the verse concludes by paralleling this kabod and hadar of majestic trees to the kabod and hadar of Yahweh, our God. It is in the wilderness that this divine glory and arboreal splendor are said to appear. This forecast of the renewal of paradise in the wilderness is also found in Isaiah 41:19, which mentions the myrtle along with the cedar and other trees that will characterize the once dry wilderness now turned into springs and pools of water (v. 18) by the Lord's re-creating hand (v. 20, cf. bara'). Such, we have seen, was the promise of the imagery of the myrtles by the deep in Zechariah 1:8, another link in the connection between these myrtles and the booths of Leviticus 23:40-42 (cf. Neh. 8:15).
In light of this usage of hadar, the requirement that the booths of the Tabernacles festival be made of trees of hadar apparently had in view their serving as symbolic images of the Glory-Spirit. To the same effect is the stipulation in Leviticus 23:40 that the wood for the booths be selected from leafy trees, trees of densely interwoven foliage ( 'abot ). Here again, this time more subtly through the device of paronomasia, a connection is made with the Glory-cloud. For 'abot also appears as plural of 'ab ("dark cloud mass," also a "wood thicket"), which is the term found in Exodus 19:9 for the theophanic cloud of Sinai. It is similarly used elsewhere, and in particular for the clouds as the chariot on which the Lord rides (Job 22:14; Ps. 18:11,12 [12,13]; 104:3; Isa. 19:1). The Psalm 18 example is of special importance because of its close relationship to the Zechariah 1:8 imagery of the mounted divine warrior who comes to deliver his people from the deep (cf. Ps. 18:10,16[11,17]).
The connection between the booths of glory-wood and the Glory theophany is also made from the other side. That is, not only are the booths described in Glory-cloud terms, but the Glory theophany is referred to as a booth (sukka the plural of which, sukkot, is the name of the festival). One instance is the very verse (v. 11) in Psalm 18 just cited in illustration of the usage of 'ab, ("thick cloud"). Here God's sukka ("covert," cf. the parallel seter, "hiding place") is in fact identified as those dark water-clouds of the sky (cf. Job 36:29). Psalm 31:20(21) extols the Lord whose Presence is the hiding place (seter), the sukka for those who take refuge in him (v. 20). In the preview of the day of Zion's consummation in Isaiah 4:2-6, it is said that when Yahweh engages anew in creation (cf. bara', v. 5) the Shekinah pillar of cloud and fire (v. 5), the Spirit (cf. ruah, v. 4) of the original creation, will overshadow the mountain of God and the assembly of the redeemed. Over everything the Glory (kabod) will be a canopy (v. 5) and a covert (sukka, v. 6).
We can further demonstrate the identification of the shelters of the Tabernacles festival as replicas of the Glory theophany and at the same time clarify the choice of the myrtle in Zechariah 1:8 as a
symbolic cipher for these booths by tracing the matter to its ultimate roots. Hovering over the mountain of God in Eden, the Glory-cloud was a shelter, a shade by day and light by night, a roof and a lamp. God was man's original dwelling place. This is the picture that informs prophetic views of the paradise of the new creation (Isa. 4:5,6; Rev. 22:5). A natural replica of this supernatural shelter was at hand in the trees the Lord made and among which he placed man in the garden. Trees, especially those with dense foliage, afforded a covering, a lodging place protected from the elements, a shade from the heat and a covert in the storm (cf. the cosmic tree of Daniel 4:10-12, a dwelling place for all the creatures of the earth). And trees in their kindled state provided the light and warmth of fire, the benefits of the sun captured from the air and embodied in the living tree and then released into the air again in the tree sacrificed in the flames. Like the luminous, overshadowing Glory-cloud, trees were a house, a protecting roof and an illuminating torch-lamp. In other respects too there was likeness. Like the Glory-theophany in its majestic beauty, the trees were a delight to the eyes. Like the Glory-Spirit, the source of life, the trees provided the fruit of life; they were good for food. Indeed God invested one tree with special symbolic meaning as a tree of life, and another tree with the significance of the judgment tree, reflecting the judicial dominion of the Glory-Spirit. These two trees were sacramental means facilitating the full development of man as the image of God, the likeness of the Glory-Spirit.
The character of trees as natural poetic images of the Glory-canopy may explain the significance of the frequent appearance of trees as cultic objects at places of worship. But here we want to note that what the Lord prescribed by way of dwellings en route to the promised land and in the commemoration of this in the Feast of Booths was essentially an adaptation of the native role and simile-value of trees.
The tents in which the Lord and the Israelites tabernacled in the wilderness and the huts provided for the Feast of Booths are structurally quite similar. They are alike impermanent, wooden frame
construction with non-rigid coverings. In so far as the tent coverings were made of cotton or linen cloth, as in the case of the inner curtains of the Lord's tabernacle, they were like the booths of the festival in having coverings of plant material. The wood and foliage of the trees were incorporated in ruder form in the huts, while the tree and other plant products used as material in the tents underwent more processing by the artisans. But that difference is simply disregarded as insignificant when booths are appointed for the feast as equivalents of the tent-dwellings occupied by God's people in the wilderness (Lev. 23:40). The booths and tents were much the same, and both were in form and material essentially modified tree shelters. That being so, the myrtle trees of the Zechariah 1:8 vision were all the more a natural symbol to evoke the Feast of Tabernacles and in particular the booths, revealing behind them a more fundamental level of symbolism in the trees of Eden and so illuminating their nature as replicas of the divine Glory, for such were the trees of the garden of God.
Moreover, the fundamental structural equivalency of the booths and the particular tent that the Lord prescribed as his own dwelling in the midst of the tents of Israel brings into still clearer focus the nature of the booths as replicas of the Glory-canopy. For the holy tabernacle was precisely and on a most elaborate scale the ectypal earthly replica of the archetypal heavenly Glory-temple that appeared on the mountain of God. It was the Council Tent ('ohel mo'ed), so named as symbolic copy of the heavenly council (mo'ed) of the Lord of hosts. Because of the presence of this divine council on the mountain (har) of God, the latter was called har mo'ed (cf. harmagedon), Council Mountain. Har-magedon is the mountain of God's enthronement and the mountain of judgment. The likeness of the booths of the Tabernacles festival to the holy tabernacle, therefore, reinforces the evidence previously presented identifying the booths as symbolic replications of the Glory-Spirit (namely, the shared designations of the booths and the Glory-theophany as alike canopies of royal beauty and their common relation to the trees of Eden). The picture that emerges in the Tabernacles festival is then one of the Glory-Spirit re-creatively overshadowing the redeemed Israelite community in the wilderness,
fashioning them in his own glory-likeness. Consequently, the exodus typology depicts the mission of the coming Christ as a work of new creation, especially the creation of the new humanity in the image of God, a transformation perfected at last in their glorification and reception into the heavenly tabernacle.
E. Myrtles and Tabernacles—Transfiguration and Tabernacles: A foretaste of the ultimate restoration of the Glory-image and at the same time a dramatic exposition of the meaning of the Tabernacles festival along these lines was given in the episode of our Lord's Transfiguration. Various features of the Transfiguration relate that event to the Feast of Tabernacles, even while others identify it as a messianic counterpart to the encounter of Moses with the Glory theophany on Sinai. The Transfiguration was a wilderness event, apart on a high mountain. Redolent of the wilderness too were both the visitors seen with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Also, there is the possibility that the introductory time detail, "after six days" (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2; cf. Luke 9:28, "about 8 days"), refers to the time leading from the Day of Atonement to the Feast of Tabernacles. The exodus context of Tabernacles is echoed in the topic of conversation, the exodos ("decease" or "departure") about to be accomplished by Jesus (Luke 9:31). Above all, the mention of the booths, which Peter suggested be constructed for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, recalls the wilderness shelters of the Israelites and the imitative reconstructions thereof prescribed in the Feast of Tabernacles. (On the rendering of skene as "booths", cf. the LXX use of it for sukka in Lev. 23:42f. and the LXX use of skenopegia to designate the Feast of Tabernacles in, e.g., Zech. 14:16.) Especially important for the understanding of the festival booths as images of the Glory-cloud is the way the booths and the overshadowing cloud are brought together in the Transfiguration narrative. Peter's suggestion about the booths was made as Moses and Elijah were departing (Luke 9:33a). So far as it made sense at all (cf. Mark 9:6; Luke 9:33c), the idea apparently was that these two might be persuaded to stay on, continuing this "good" arrangement, if only shelter were made available—a thought possibly prompted by the darkening threat of the approaching fearful cloud. In any case, the
cloud overshadowed them while he spoke (Matt. 17:5; Luke 9:34) and thus the booths of Peter's recommendation and the Glory-cloud, the proposed man-made shelter and the divine covering, were brought into closest proximity. In this combination of booths and the divine cloud, the Transfiguration answers to the Israelite booths and the Glorycloud in the wilderness and to the imitative commemoration of that wilderness situation in the Feast of Tabernacles.
That the Transfiguration was indeed antitypal to the Tabernacles symbolism becomes plain once we have recognized that the festival booths were designed to be images of the Glory-canopy, for the Transfiguration itself consists in precisely such a replication of the divine Glory. The physical glorification of Jesus was a fashioning in the likeness of the bright theophanic cloud (cf. Matt. 17:5) that overarched the holy mountain. This majesty of Jesus was a revelation of him as the Son, the image-likeness of the Father, as the voice from the majestic Glory declared (cf. 2 Pet. 1:16,17). In the case of the first Adam, likeness to the Glory-Spirit was never completed, the component of physical glory not having been attained. But the glory-image is perfected in the second Adam, as the firstfruits of a new humanity, and that ultimate consummating of the reproduction of the divine image in man was anticipated in the Transfiguration.
Additionally, the theme of renewal in the image of Glory is associated with both of those who appeared with Jesus in glory at the Transfiguration. As a result of his approach to the overshadowing Glory on Sinai, the countenance of Moses was transfigured. And Elijah, who had his own close encounter with the Glory on the mountain of God, also experienced a remarkable foretaste of physical glorification in his deathless exodus, borne aloft by the fiery chariots and horses of Glory. These two who participated in the Transfiguration with Jesus were the only two in the history of Israel qualified by both these credentials of theophanic encounter and physical transformation for appearance at this antitypal event of Glory replication.
So Peter spoke better than he knew in introducing the Tabernacles motif of the booths into the Transfiguration episode. Of
course the Son from heaven was here and it was therefore not a time for earthly symbols but for the heavenly reality. Nevertheless the Transfiguration was indeed a new covenant counterpart to Tabernacles. Hence in the antitypal Transfiguration event the image-relationship of the Tabernacles booths to the Glory as replicas to a divine paradigm received the bright illumination of historical fulfillment.
F. Glory Presence in the Midst of the Myrtles by the Deep: We have found that the Feast of Tabernacles as a harvest festival was a promise of the final ingathering, the hope of ultimate glorification, and that its requirement to live in rustic booths simultaneously reminded worshippers of the wilderness-like, not-yet-arrived nature of their life in the present world. These very same booths were designed, however, to be replicas of the theophanic Glory and so were affirmations of the Creator's redemptive renewal of his people in his image, a re-creation that begins here and now during the wilderness journey, even if the perfecting of the Glory-likeness awaits arrival at the heavenly destination. The booths thus portray the complex eschatological character of the present existence of the saints as both already and not yet. By symbolizing the believers' present participation in the heavenly glory in the Spirit, the booths indicate that their life on earth, awaiting the future consummation of glory, is already in measure one of realized eschatology.
What is true of the Tabernacles booths will also be true of the imagery of the myrtles in Zechariah 1:8. The myrtles by the deep recall the Elim oasis in the wilderness and like it give promise of the glorious paradise inheritance at the end of the journey. As a promissory sign of the restoration of paradise at the Consummation, they correspond to the prophetic ingathering aspect of the Feast of Tabernacles. But they also correspond to the booths as symbolic replicas of the Glory-covering. When we were tracing a common footage for the symbolism of the booths and the myrtles in the trees of the garden of Eden, we reflected on the character of these trees as natural images (and, in the case of the two special trees, as
sacramental images) of the Glory-canopy over paradise. So perceived, the myrtles by the deep emerge as signs of God's redemptive re-creating of his image in the new humanity. Like the booths of Tabernacles, the myrtles teach an already/not yet eschatology of the anticipation of heaven in the course of the earthly pilgrimage of the redeemed, a realized eschatology of the Spirit's renewing of the glory within before the parousia of the Glory without. They tell of a glory experienced by God's children even while laboring on through the wilderness over against the deep.
By portraying the replication of the divine image in the symbolism of the booths, the Feast of Tabernacles was a reminder of the presence of the Glory-Spirit himself, the archetypal Shekinah-shelter which hovered above the community in the wilderness. Tabernacles was thus a celebration of God's presence in the midst of his people. In the case of the equivalent symbolism of the myrtles in Zechariah 1:8, that reality of the divine presence took visible form in the appearance of the Lord of Glory in the figure of the Angel of the Presence, the rider of the red horse, seen by Zechariah as accompanied by the other agents of the divine council and stationed in the midst of the myrtles. This presence of the Lord himself among his myrtle-people is the glory of the covenant, the secret of all life and beatitude, a guarantee that the Glory within will be followed by the Glory without. For the people of God, the bearers of the Father's image, this Presence is an earnest of the transfiguration change awaiting them in the Sabbath-land beyond the wilderness at the Parousia-revelation of God's Glory.
G. Glory-Angel in the Midst of the Myrtles and in the Burning Bush: Zechariah's opening vision answers in its imagery and message to the inaugural revelation of the old covenant order by which Moses was called to lead Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness, to its promised inheritance (Exod. 3). Zechariah saw the Angel of the Lord, commander of the fiery heavenly beings, in the midst of the myrtle shrubs by the deep. Moses saw the theophanic fire, identified with the Angel of the Lord, in the midst of the desert shrub in the wilderness over against the Egyptian sea. These two episodes are linked through
their mutual relationship to the appearance of the Angel to Joshua near Jericho, recounted in Joshua 5. We have observed above the interrelation of the Zechariah 1 and Joshua 5 appearances. The connection between the encounters of Moses and Joshua with the divine Angel is strengthened by the common feature of the divine command to each man to remove his footwear because the site of the Angel's presence was holy (Exod. 3:5; Josh. 5:15). A closer look at the theophany of Exodus 3 should open another window on the message of the vision of Zechariah 1:8.
Clear direction for understanding the significance of the theophany of the burning-but-unconsumed bush emerges from a comparison of that event (narrated in Exod. 3) and the Sinai theophany witnessed by Israel (as reviewed in Deut. 4 and 5). Both events involve a fiery theophany and both transpire at Horeb, the mountain of God (Exod. 3:1; Deut. 4:10; 5:23). Possibly there is a word play on Sinai in the term seneh, "bush," in Exodus 3. In any case, both the bush and Sinai are described by the same phrase, "burning with fire" (Exod. 3:2; Deut. 4:11; 5:23), and both passages speak of people "approaching" (Exod. 3:5; Deut. 5:23) to "this great sight/fire" (Exod. 3:3; Deut. 5:25; 18:16). Certainly, then, the fire in the burning bush is not symbolic of the fiery trials of oppressed Israel, but is the manifestation of the presence of the Lord, who is a consuming fire (Exod. 19:18; 24:17; Deut. 4:24; cf. Deut. 33:16). This is stated explicitly in Exodus 3:2 if we translate: "The Angel of Yahweh appeared to him as [beth essentiae] a flame of fire." And this leads to the meaning of the bush and the wonder of its not being consumed. At Sinai a covenant was established between Yahweh and Israel as a nation, a covenant that brought the consuming fiery Presence of the Lord of Glory into the midst of the covenant community. In the Exodus 3 anticipation of Sinai, the bush in which the flaming theophany appears must then represent God's people. What depicts the afflicted condition of the Israelites is not the fire in the bush, but the nature of the bush itself: a lowly desert shrub. If, as often conjectured, it is a thorny type of bush, that fact and its wilderness location might be suggestive of the sin-cursed world outside Eden, in which God's people, along with all the rest of mankind, have
their existence until the end of the days (cf. Gen. 3:17-19,23,24).
But the key question of interpretation concerns the great wonder that the bush is aflame, yet not consumed by the flames. It is the meaning of this, in particular, that is clearly explained by the comparison of Exodus 3 and the Deuteronomy 4 and 5 account of Sinai. It turns out that the main problem was not how the Israelites could manage to endure in the face of the world tyrant. Rather, the fundamental issue was the ultimate religious question of how sinners can survive in the Parousia-Glory presence of God and his consuming holiness. Israel's election to privileged covenant relationship, by bringing the Glory of the Lord into their very midst, seemed to threaten them with fiery destruction. Yet they were not consumed. That was the wonder, a mystery of redeeming love and grace. They expressed it in fearful amazement: "Behold, Yahweh our God has showed us his Glory and his Greatness and we have heard his voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen today that God can speak with man and he can still live" (Deut. 5:24)! The Glory-flame descends upon the bush but does not consume it. The bush still lives. This miracle of grace was not to be presumed upon as a covenant guarantee regardless of Israel's covenant keeping or covenant breaking. Alert to the continuing threat of the holy Presence, the Israelites hastened to request some distancing of themselves from it through the provision of a mediator. They plead: "Why should we die? This great fire will consume us" (Deut. 5:25).
After Israel's rebellion in the matter of the golden calf, the Lord expressed a reluctance to expose Israel to this danger inherent in the presence of his Glory-theophany in their midst. He proposed instead to send with them his Angel unattended by the Glory (Exod. 33:2,3). For if God were to go with them in the Shekinah Glory, he might destroy them (v. 5). At the intercession of Moses, the Lord relented and promised: "My Presence will go with you" (Exod. 33:14). However, precisely what Israel feared and God warned would happen did happen. One such divine judgment came in response to Israel's further rebellion against the covenant on their departure from Sinai,
an episode that was memorialized by naming the site Taberah ("consuming," a designation that embodies the verbal root b'r, used for the burning bush in Exod. 3:2,3). The blessing of the covenant, the wonder of grace, is that the bush burns (b'r), but is not consumed or devoured ('kl). Describing the curse of the covenant against repudiators of grace at Taberah, the biblical narrative employs the terminology of Exodus 3:2 in an ironic reversal. Number 11:1 relates that fire from the Lord burned (b'r) among the Israelites and devoured ('kl) some of them.
The old covenant canon closes not long after Zechariah's night visions with this theme of the crisis of the divine fire in the thorn bush. Malachi predicts the advent of the Angel of the covenant as a refiner's fire, a day that burns (b'r) like a furnace, and raises again the ancient, cardinal question facing the sinner: Who can survive at his fiery parousia (Mal. 3:1,2; 4:1[3:19])? As for the arrogant who do not fear the Lord, the prophet warns the fire will totally consume them (4:1[3:19]). But he knows that the fiery Glory-Spirit is the executor of the blessings as well as the curses of the covenant. He has not forgotten the sign at the inauguration of the old covenant, the miracle of the Glory-flame in the bush that still lived. Accordingly he likens the Parousia-Glory not only to the burning furnace but to the sun of righteousness which rises with healing in its wings for those who fear God's name (4:2[3:20]). The imagery of the winged sun-disc belongs to an ancient iconographic tradition that represented the majesty of the divine presence as a luminous glory between winged or other objects. It is a prominent motif in the symbolism of Zechariah's night visions, with a form of it, as noted above, possibly in the opening vision of the Glory Angel between the myrtles.
Present in the midst of the myrtles, the Angel-Commander of the fiery horses of heaven promises life and peace, vindication over against the satanic forces of the deep, and exaltation from wilderness existence into the glory of the consummated city of God. Like the burning bush, these myrtles are aflame with the presence of divine glory, but they are not consumed. This wonder seen by Zechariah is a sign confirming
God's faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham and his seed, the covenant of promise not disannulled by the Law (Gal. 3:17). It speaks of the Immanuel-mystery, which is most fully revealed in the new covenant, whose mediator is the Glory-Angel become God-man, the incarnate rider on the red horse.
John, the seer of the New Testament Apocalypse, also saw a version of the sign of the burning bush (Rev. 1:12-20), a version adapted from another Zecharian form of it (cf. Zech. 4)—the transfigured-glorified Jesus, the light of the world, standing among the seven lamps, burning but not consumed, symbol of the church renewed in the luminous image of Christ, blessed by the presence of Glory within even during its present existence in the wilderness, bound for the Glory of the New Jerusalem. The Angel of fire in the bush, the Angel-rider in the midst of the myrtles, the glorified Christ in the midst of the lampstands—each represents the already/not yet stage in the process of the formation of the eternal temple-city, the stage of the covenant people's life in the present world wilderness.
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
South Hamilton, Massachusetts
The Righteous King—The Just Kingdom
James T. Dennison, Jr.
Orphans exploited and their inheritance plundered. Widows robbed and their pleas for redress unheeded. The poor oppressed and their hopes crushed. The blind afflicted and the deaf abused. Rich who became richer via greed and corruption. Rulers and political leaders who ruled through bribes and violence. Theologians and priests who resorted to prostitutes and encouraged religious syncretism.
It was an era of shadows—ominous shadows of deep and pervasive darkness—approaching darkness, threatening darkness, present darkness. A darkness which might be felt. Felt in the gate where judges took bribes from wealthy special interest groups in order to defraud
the helpless of their rights. A darkness which might be felt—felt in the palace, where kings and rulers demanded kick backs for political favors and promoted injustice by patronizing the wicked. A darkness which might be felt—felt in the market place where fat cat landlords racked the rents of the poor even while they attended all the proper religious activities. Felt in the commercial centers, where merchants extorted unjust profits through false weights and measures. Felt in the community, where the wealthy added house to house and field to field, where sumptuous living produced lavish homes and palaces trimmed with ivory in-lay, where the real estate market was cornered by seizing homes and land—even by violence if necessary—so that land development could advance at over-inflated prices. A darkness which might be felt. Felt in the temple and cult centers, where father and son used the same sacred whore; where prophets divined—for the proper donation; where drunken revelry provided the expected counsel—if the price was right. A darkness which might be felt. A pall of darkness infected this culture.
Prophets to the Darkness
Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah—the 8th century B.C. prophets—witnessed this darkness—felt this darkness—prophesied to this darkness. How vacuous their words seemed—how irrelevant to the practical concerns of their day—how far removed from the "needs" of their contemporaries. These bold nebiim chronicled the injustice and unrighteousness, the greed and covetousness, the abominable lewdness and sacred pornography—the hypocrisy and duplicity of an era of unbounded prosperity. The common motif of injustice and unrighteousness runs like a thread through the record of each of the 8th century prophets.
For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment because they sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample the head of the helpless in the dust and turn aside the way of the humble (Amos 2:6,7).
Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a
tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn" stone, you will not live in them; For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great. You who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate (Amos 5:11,12).
Ephraim is a merchant in whose hands are false balances; he loves to oppress (Hos. 12:7).
Woe to those who scheme iniquity, who work out evil on their beds (Mic. 2:1).
Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field until there is no more room. Who chase after rewards and love a bribe; who do not defend the orphan nor does the widow's plea come before them (Is. 5:8; 1:23).
Present Darkness as Harbinger
This is but a partial catalogue of the darkness which hung over 8th century B.C. Palestine. This darkness within Israel was the harbinger of the darkness from without. From the north, a little cloud—like a man's hand—rolling westward—enveloping every land in its path. From the land beyond the river, from the plains of Mesopotamia, from the halls of a palace on the Tigris—a cloud—a dust-cloud of troops—ruthless, brutal soldiers—relentless, unstoppable—swirling westward—enclosing Syria, Lebanon, Phoenicia, Palestine. A dark cloud of military might—a war machine from Iraq—an 8th century B.C. Iraq. At the center of this advancing cloud, Tiglath Pileser III, "the Great King, the King of Assyria, the King of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four rims of the earth, king of the universe."
The long shadow of Assyrian vengeance was stretching over Palestine. Vengeance which would remove the wicked, the oppressor, the corrupt, the debauched. The day of the Lord was at hand and it would be darkness, not light. Not more avarice, more revelry, more lechery, but darkness—pitch darkness—death, destruction, judgment—darkness! Palestine would look for light to Egypt—to the land of the Pharaohs they would go seeking light in the face of the
approaching darkness from Assyria. They would look for light to the Baals and Asherah—to the groves and high places. Palestine would look for light to the throne rooms of the palace halls. To Uzziah—whose leprosy cursed his flesh even as his presumption clouded his judgment (2 Chron. 26:16-23). To Jotham—who never entered the Temple of the Lord (2 Chron. 27:2). To Ahaz—bloody Ahaz who burned his children in fire (2 Kgs. 16:3,4). And that brood of assassins—monarchs who sat upon the throne of Samaria in the northern kingdom—Shallum, Menahem, Pekah (2 Kgs. 15:10,14,25).
A City of Righteousness and Justice
A city set on a hill—a nation placed as a beacon to the cosmos. Righteousness and justice were to distinguish her; tsedek and mishpat were to be her badge. Under her wings, the widow and the orphan were to find refuge in the shelter of the law of the Lord and the charity of a just society. The blind were to be lead and the deaf beckoned by the kind and tenderhearted. The poor were to find justice in the gate; the needy to find just weights and measures. The oppressed were to be covered by their advocate, the righteous king. The pious were to be fed the word of God as they experienced the worship of the thrice Holy One on his holy hill.
The Burden of Isaiah
The vision which Isaiah announces—from the very first verse of his great prophetic book—the burden-vision of Isaiah is the vision of coming darkness. Assyria to rout the northern kingdom and reduce her to silence and lamentation—the silence of death and the lamentation of exile. And poised on the prophetic horizon, the heir apparent to Assyria—a nation which would reduce Judah in like manner. The purview of the prophet perceives this successor in the panorama of darkness—this drama of the kingdom of death: Babylon, her name—great Babylon of the nations. Isaiah's burden is the nations rising in conspiracy—a conspiracy of dread darkness—a conspiracy against Zion, city of the great king, king of the universe—a conspiracy
against Zion and her renegade kings. Night about to fall on Israel. Dusky shadows approaching Judah.
The Eschatology of Isaiah
"Behold, a king will reign righteously, And princes will rule justly. And each will be like a refuge from the wind, And a shelter from the storm, Like streams of water in a dry country, Like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land" (Is. 32:1,2).
The eschatology of Isaiah is the eschatology of the ideal king in the ideal Zion. It is an eschatology of reversal—the reversal of the present evil age—the dawn of the better age to come. An age in which the eschatological king will reign in righteousness and justice. An age in which the eschatological Zion will be a city of righteousness and justice for the poor, the oppressed, the outcast. The king who appears in Isaiah 32 is a king whose rule is the counterpart of God's rule. As God himself reigns in righteousness and justice, so this coming one will rule in righteousness and justice. As God himself is a refuge from the storm, a covert from the wind (Is. 25:4); as the Lord himself is a refreshing stream in a dry and thirsty land, so Isaiah's coming one is a shelter from the storm, a shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land. This eschatological king inaugurates a kingdom in which the shadows are shadows of grace—the shelters are shelters of mercy—the clouds are clouds of refreshing.
In this 32nd chapter, the eschatological king and his messianic reign are graphically portrayed by Isaiah's language. The prophet's inspired words contain dramatic literary devices which enrich the imagery of his eschatological vision. Within the first three verses, we find: assonance (vowel repetition); alliteration (consonant repetition); word play; simile (a "like" or an "as" comparison); metaphor (verbal analogies); rhythmic sound; paronomasia (repetition of words close but not identical in sound); terrace pattern (stair-step ascendancy of imagery); and finally, what I believe to be, a remarkable sound inclusio.
Listening to the Text
Identification of these literary devices requires the use of the Hebrew text. The one who cannot read Hebrew or the pastor who does not use his Hebrew Bible will not discover these powerful literary devices. That pastor will reduce this passage to a topical moralistic message about the pursuit of justice and righteousness in our daily lives. He will exhort us to be just and righteous—all salient enough, but not at all what Isaiah is talking about. You see, it is possible to have all the right doctrinal positions and miss what the Bible is saying because you do not listen to the text as it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is possible to have impeccable credentials of orthodoxy and prostitute the word of God to your own superficial agenda. Isaiah 32 is a passage to which you must listen—you must listen to it as it was inspired of the Spirit—listen to it as it flowed from Isaiah's pen as he was moved and carried along by the Holy Ghost. Listen . . .hen letsedeq yimlak melek
ulesarim lemishpat yasoru
wehayah ish kemachabe ruach
refalgay mayi betsayon
ketsel sela kavedh
welo tishenah ene roim
weazne shomeim tiqshavnah
Hearing the Word of God
As you listen to the sounds, as you listen to the roots, you begin to hear the Word of God.
yimlak melek ulesarim yasoru
Paired words with their rhythmic word play. A word play on the royal imperium of the eschatological messianic king. Literally—"he will king, the king, and rulers will rule." With the alliterative letsedeq and lemishpat, this coming king will king "in righteousness" and his holy entourage will rule "in justice." The word play repetition enforces the just and righteous purpose of this coming royal figure. How will he king? In graphic contrast to the monarchy of Isaiah's day, this coming one will be king in righteousness (tsedeq) and his rule will be the rule of justice (mishpat). The eschatological kingdom of the messiah is where the widow finds justice, the orphan finds righteousness, the poor find relief and the oppressed find redress. This One will not judge by what his eyes see, nor make a decision by what his ears hear, but with righteousness will he judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth (Is. 11:3,4).
Verse 2 continues the pattern of alliteration: we...ke...we...ke...be...ke...be. The threefold ke introduces a series of terraced similes: "like a refuge"..."like streams"..."like the shade." This terraced sequence encompasses the vivid comparisons of rest, refuge, shelter—from the wind or storm, from the parched wilderness, from the searing sun. With sensation which stirs the emotions, Isaiah projects an eschatological messianic reign in which the needy will find refuge—like a shelter from the storm; the thirsty will be refreshed—like streams of cooling water in a desert; the weary will be relieved—like the shadow of a might rock within a weary land. These shadows—these glorious shadows of the approaching messianic era—are not the ominous shadows of judgment and vengeance, death and darkness—not the shadows of the hostile world kingdoms at
enmity with the kingdom of God—these shadows are the shades of Messiah—the shelters of a kingdom in which peace, rest, quietness dwell for evermore. God himself will be a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat, a defense to the helpless, a strength to the needy (Is. 25:4). In that eschatological Zion, the glory-cloud will be the canopy, for the Lord of that heavenly Zion will stretch his glory like a shelter to give shade from the heat, a defense to the helpless, a strength to the needy (Is. 4:6). They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain (Is. 11:9)!
Verse 3 is a rhymed stanza intoning a dramatic reversal in the spiritual condition of the people of God. That spiritual condition was graphically displayed to the prophet in his temple vision of chapter 6. Preach to a people who will not hear; command a people to wake up who will not see. Render their hearts insensitive, their ears dull and their eyes dim lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and repent...(Is. 6:9,10). Isaiah's message falls on deaf ears; his pleas to behold the coming vengeance of the Lord are met with closed eyes. But with the dawn of the eschatological era
tishenah ene roim
weazne shomeim tiqshavnah
Even the Hebrew vowel pattern dramatizes the eschatological reversal. Listen...listen: ah…e…im…e…im…ah. Do you hear it? The reverse pattern of the vowels is strikingly chosen to reinforce the marvelous reversal of spiritual blindness and deafness as the Messianic era dawns. When Messiah-king comes, the eyes which have been closed will be opened to the word of the Lord; ears which have refused to listen will hear the word of God gladly. Then, then shall the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped (Is. 35:5).
The Righteous Kingdom of Messiah—Jesus
This messianic vision is not remote to us. Not a far distant ideal.
It has been a present reality—actualized provisionally in and through the person and work of Messiah-Jesus for 2000 years. This king is our Lord. And his kingdom is his church. A kingdom of righteousness and justice in process of realization: where the vulnerable find protection; the poor and oppressed find refuge; where justice is done to all; where righteousness cannot be corrupted; where the blind see the Lord of glory and the deaf hear the good news of salvation—in such churches, this kingdom is being realized.
But where the rich get richer through the exploitation of the helpless; where special interest groups in the church use their power and prestige for purposes of leverage and self-interest; where money talks in the church rather than justice and righteousness; where arrogant ecclesiastical leadership places certain persons above the rule of right; where collusion and conniving deprive the meek and humble of truth and justice; where the church's self-perception becomes so self-serving that no assessment of what is clearly right is possible; where the pastoral office is used for the purpose of sexual exploitation and tyranny—in such a kingdom, the darkness may still be felt. And against such a kingdom, the invectives of the prophet Isaiah are still leveled. The church which will not be conformed to the justice, righteousness, meekness and humility of her Lord—that church will be overshadowed with death and darkness!
But where the meek hear him gladly—where the rich are sent empty away—where the mighty are put down from their seats—where those of low degree are exalted—where the poor are raised up out of the dust, where the needy are lifted up from the ash heap (Lk. 1:51-53)—there the messianic kingdom is present in justice and righteousness. There, in that messianic kingdom, where the Spirit is poured out from on high; the wilderness becomes a fertile field and the fertile field a forest (Is. 32:15). And justice dwells in the fertile field and righteousness abides in the forest (32:16). And the fruit of righteousness is peace and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance (32:17). And the people of God dwell securely in undisturbed resting places (32:18). They behold the king in his glory,
even as Isaiah saw the thrice Holy One high and lifted up in his glory. Under the glory-canopy they dwell peacefully—justly—righteously—under the shadow of his wings.
Steven M. Baugh
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1988; Vol. 1, 843 pp., Vol. 2 (Indices), 375 pp., $20.00 cloth, ISBN: 0-8267-0340-2 (set).
I was asked to review J. P. Louw and Eugene Nida's new Greek lexicon (L&N) in light of its use as a tool for biblical-theological exegesis. Unfortunately, I must report at the outset that I have found little in it which directly advances the biblical-theological enterprise. Nevertheless, the lexicon is well worth buying, not only because of its very affordable price, but (since biblical-theological exegesis is above all exegesis), this lexicon can often be quite useful for exegesis of a NT passage.
The introduction to L&N identifies several of its features and its differences from previous lexicons. However, there are two characteristics of L&N which appear to be the most important for understanding this new tool and how it can be used to interpret the biblical text. The first is the heavy influence of the semantic domain theory of modern linguistics. This theory has not only shaped how words are treated in
the lexicon, but it has also affected the unique format of the work itself. The second key characteristic of L&N is that it was really designed to be a tool for translation of the Scriptures rather than for their interpretation.
These two characteristics of L&N are not surprising, since both editors are well-known advocates of the use of linguistic theory for Scripture translation. In addition, both have contributed significantly to the translation work of the South African (Louw) and American (Nida) Bible Societies. I will discuss the underlying linguistic theory of L&N and its features as a translation tool; then I will examine selected words in order to illustrate the use of this lexicon for exegesis, especially biblical-theological exegesis. I will offer some evaluation of the usefulness of this work in the exegetical task along the way and conclude with a summary evaluation.
Semantic Domain Theory
L&N is the first NT lexicon that is self-consciously constructed according to the theory of semantic domains. Two key assumptions of this theory are: 1) that no two words are entirely synonymous in all of their "designative or denotative meanings" (I:xvi); 2) and that a word may have more than one discrete meaning. The linguistic or historical context of a word makes clear its particular meaning in that place.
The semantic domain theory goes further in attempting to isolate the distinct meaning(s) of a word by comparing and contrasting it with words that have similar or opposite meanings. Related meanings are then grouped together into "domains."
Let me illustrate the notion of semantic domains with a NT example. The Greek word oikia has two common meanings: 1) "a building or place where one dwells—'house, home, dwelling, residence'" (L&N 1:81; sec. 7.3); and 2) "the family consisting of those related by blood and marriage, as well as slaves and servants, living in the same house or homestead—'family, household"' (L&N 1:113; sec. 10.8). Obviously, these two meanings are related. The word used to refer to a
family was transferred to the building where they lived; the same word could then refer to either.
In any one context, the particular meaning of oikia that the author intends to employ should be clear. And this meaning is discrete from the other meaning in context. For instance, in Mt. 7:24, the person who acts upon Jesus' words is likened to a wise man who built his oikia upon bedrock. Here, the idea of a building is clearly in view, not the people who occupy it. In other contexts, only the people are meant, not the building; e.g., "He (a royal official) along with his whole oikia believed" in Jesus (Jn. 4:53).
To construct semantic domains for oikia requires that we have at least two domains. One of the domains which oikia occupies relates to various kinship terms: race, nation, tribe, generation, relatives (both male and female), cousin, parents, ancestor, etc. Within this domain one may even wish to consider groups with opposite meanings of various kinds; for example, monoomai "to be left without family" used of widows in 1 Tim. 5:5, or allogenes, "a person from another family, a stranger." The second domain would consist of the various meanings designating various kinds of buildings: building, residence, palace, fortress, tent, inn, auditorium, temple, tower, prison, barn, etc.
The advantage of this type of classification is that the differences between the various words that share similar meanings can be more dearly understood, and the nuances of each word can be more fully appreciated. For example, we can distinguish a hierarchical relationship between words in the "building" domain. The word oikodome means a building in general, and it can be used to refer to various kinds of buildings: houses, temples, inns, and prisons. All houses (oikia) are buildings, but not all buildings (oikodome) are houses. Hence, an oikia is a sub-category of oikodome.
Furthermore, the sub-categories within a domain have various similarities with one another. For example, a house, a palace, a tent, an inn, and a prison are all types of dwellings. The things that distinguish them from one another might vary: a tent, an inn, and a
prison (usually) are distinguished from a house by being temporary dwellings, whereas a palace is different from a house because of the people who live in it (a ruler might dwell in a prison or a palace, but not a tent).
This sort of analysis—which is the basis of Louw and Nida's lexicon—allows us to better understand why some words were selected by a biblical author in a particular context. It is always helpful for exegesis to ask what word could the biblical author have used in place of the word he did choose, in order to more fully understand the meaning of the word in that particular passage.
In summary, semantic domains are groupings of words with similar meanings that "relate to one another in diverse ways and involve a number of different dimensions, so that they constitute complex clusters or constellations" (I:vii). Thus, by employing semantic domain theory Louw and Nida identify words that overlap in their meanings or might even have various opposite meanings, in order to map out the choice of words available to a biblical author in a given context. Such a task has never before been attempted for all Greek words of the NT, and for this reason we should credit Louw and Nida as pioneers in a new and important task.
Format of the Lexicon
As you may imagine, since Louw and Nida are interested in mapping out semantic domains, their lexicon had to employ a completely new format. Most NT lexicons list a Greek word once in alphabetical order and provide the different meanings of the word in sub-headings. L&N lists words according to domains and sub-domains. Thus the various meanings of one Greek word are often scattered throughout volume one of the lexicon (volume two contains only indices).
Domains are grouped together according to their function on a linguistic level. There are groups of: "Object Referents" (Domains 1-12); "Events" (Domains 13-57); "Abstracts" (Domains 58-91), etc.
Examples of the "Object Referents" domains are: Geographical Objects and Features, Plants, People, Supernatural Beings and Powers, etc.
Within each domain itself are various sub-domains of related words. The sub-domain includes meanings that have shared, distinctive, and supplementary features (L&N I:vi). For example, the domain "Geographical Objects and Features" includes the sub-domains: universe or creation, regions above the earth, elevated land formation, population centers, etc. A word is thus referenced in L&N according to its domain and its sub-section; for instance, "83.25" means Domain 83, sub-section 25.
As a result, the various meanings of a word might be listed under different domains. Using the example above, the first meaning of oikia ("house") is given in Domain 7 which groups together meanings related to "Constructions" under the Sub-Domain "Buildings," section 3. The other meaning of oikia is found in Domain 10 ("Kinship Terms"), with the bulky Sub-Domain title: "Groups and Members of Groups of Persons Regarded as Related by Blood but without Special Reference to Successive Generations," section 8. These two meanings are found 31 pages apart in volume one, so you will usually not find all the meanings of a Greek word on one page as in a traditional lexicon.
The organization of L&N often makes it very time-consuming and cumbersome to use if you want to find a detailed description of the various meanings, especially if the word has numerous meanings. Fortunately, the second volume contains three indices that make the work useable; you could not even attempt to use L&N without the index volume!
The first index lists the Greek words alphabetically, gives English words that correspond to the various meanings for that word, the domain section and sub-section where the meaning is discussed. For
example, the meaning of katharos as "clean" is listed in section 79.48 and as "pure" in section 53.29.
The second index is an English index used to identify the sections where various Greek words are treated in the different domains. For instance, the meaning "clean" is listed as "clean/se" and cites sections 47.8; 53.28-32; and 79.48-51. As I will indicate below, this index can be most helpful for exegesis.
The last index is a Scripture index of verses cited to illustrate the definitions in the body of the lexicon. L&N is a fairly concise lexicon and therefore is very sparing in its citation of passages in comparison with other lexicons. Usually only one or two passages are cited per meaning.
Translation Versus Exegesis
The second key characteristic of L&N, which distinguishes it from its predecessors—especially today's standard, Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, & Danker, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD), 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1979)—is that it is designed with the translator in mind rather than the exegete. Hence, L&N focuses upon definitions of meanings for Greek words rather than upon English substitutes, called "glosses." Louw and Nida explain: "the definitions are based upon the distinctive features of meaning of a particular term, and the glosses only suggest ways in which such a term with a particular meaning may be represented in English, but the definitions are the significant elements" (I:vii).
For instance, the Greek word sphragizo can be glossed as "to seal" or "to close," as in the sentence, "I sealed the envelope." However, the Greek word might include the idea of affixing a mark of ownership, since letters were often sealed with wax and the imprint of a signet ring. Thus in Rev. 7:3, God's people are "sealed" on their foreheads. The English gloss "to close" does not convey the sense of the Greek word here, whereas the definition provided in L&N does:
"to put a mark on something, primarily to indicate ownership but possibly also to mark group identity."
Therefore a better English gloss for sphragizo in Rev. 7:3 might be "to brand," since this word communicates "marking with a sign of ownership." Yet this illustrates further the problem with glosses: a modern language may not have a word that precisely duplicates the meaning of a Greek word, since "to brand" implies a more painful process than sphragizo in Rev. 7:3.
Louw and Nida intend that the definitions provided in their lexicon will help the translator choose the best possible gloss for the language in which he or she may be working. You can imagine how helpful this will be for someone translating the Greek NT into a foreign language on the mission field. A definition of a Greek word or phrase will better enable the translator to choose an appropriate word or words in the target language than would an English gloss.
As a result of this emphasis upon translation, L&N often provides tips for translators, so that it functions in part as a translator's handbook. For instance, in the article on the Greek word choiros ("pig"), L&N includes this typical observation to aid translators: "though references to pigs in the OT frequently involve very strong connotations of uncleanness and disgust, references in the NT are somewhat more neutral. However, in the story of the Prodigal Son (LK 15.15) the reference to the task of feeding swine certainly indicates the desperate condition of the younger brother. Some translators have found it necessary to indicate such a fact by a marginal note, since the language into which the translation is being made may reflect a very different cultural attitude from that which occurs in the Scriptures. For example, in certain areas of New Guinea, one who is responsible for taking care of pigs is an individual with relatively high social status" (L&N 4.36).
A glance through the lexicon shows that this type of interest in translation concern—rather than upon the theological message of the passages where the word is found—is very common; one finds this sort
of discussion in most of the articles.
Hence, one must evaluate L&N's usefulness for exegesis—or more specifically, biblical-theological exegesis—on the basis of its stated limitations and goals. However, I do not think that a focus upon the problems of translation necessarily means that their discussions are irrelevant for exegesis. For instance, in the quotation above on attitudes toward pigs, we are told that the prodigal son's association with pigs might be an indication of his desperate straights, though pigs in the NT world were not always viewed with distaste. This can aid the exegete in his task.
The translator is interested in the meaning of a word exclusively in order to choose an appropriate word or words in the target language. The main goal of the exegete, on the other hand—even though he too is interested in the meaning of individual words—is to determine the meaning of a larger linguistic unit in light of other factors beyond the linguistic context (redemptive history, systematic theology, the social values of the NT world, the genre of the document, the analogy of Scripture, etc.). The words one chooses to convey the meaning of the Greek words are important to the exegete as a means of understanding the text, but he is not limited to a concise rendering like the translator, because he has the luxury of being able to paraphrase the Greek text for his hearers or readers.
Prologue to the Examples
The following remarks on specific entries in L&N will attempt to make these points: 1) to illustrate the particular characteristics of the lexicon; 2) to evaluate how well L&N have accomplished their stated purpose, and to see if this tool is an advance upon its predecessors, primarily BAGD, as claimed; and, 3) to evaluate whether L&N can serve the purposes of an exegete, especially the biblical-theological exegete. Each example is numbered and quotes the definitions and glosses suggested in L&N minus the discussions of translational questions.
I must point out that we should grade L&N in light of the fact that the Scriptures do not usually indicate biblical-theological connections through the employment or meaning of individual words. The word "firstborn" itself does not communicate a biblical-theological message, but Paul's statement that Christ is "firstborn from the dead" (Col. 1:18), does have a biblical-theological connection (see Kerux 1 [December 1986], pp. 28-34; compare L&N 10.43; 13.79; 87.47 where three possible meanings for "firstborn over all creation" in Col. 1:15 are given).
However, I have tried to select words in the following selections which do seem clearly to carry some biblical-theological message, or at least where the theological nature of the employment of this term gives it a meaning different than that found in ordinary discourse outside the NT. As such it is a highly subjective selection of examples, and I intend it to be seen as illustrative rather than as a complete analysis.
1. amnos, "the young of sheep—'lamb' " (4.24). This entry includes two Scripture examples and two paragraphs discussing how to translate this word into languages of peoples who have other ways of saying "lamb" ("child sheep") or in cultures where sheep are unknown. The meaning of this word in John the Baptist's statement: "Behold the amnos of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) is not discussed by L&N. This is a serious omission.
Louw and Nida might reply that they are not interested in the reference of a word but with its meaning. Indeed, they criticize BAGD for a failure to distinguish "meaning and reference" based on a "tendency to divide not along semantic lines but along theological lines" (I:ix). I am not sure that I follow their distinction here.
A word may have various references, as discussed above, but the reference and the meaning of a word (not the word itself), cannot be completely severed. L&N itself demonstrates this by defining oikia in
some contexts as "the family consisting of those related by blood and marriage, as well as slaves and servants..." (10.8). The reference to which oikia points is a social group that was thought by people in the NT world to include slaves and servants; this reference determines the meaning of oikia.
Let me illustrate further. The word "lamb" in my culture has different associations than those in the NT world. If I were to say of a football player, "He's a tiger on the field, but a lamb off the field," I mean by this analogy to communicate that the person has a gentle or perhaps even a timid personality. The reason that this meaning is conveyed is because the reference to "lamb" normally is to an animal that is perceived in my culture to be gentle and timid in nature. The reference of a word does affect what meaning it might have.
Hence, the Greek word amnos means "the young of sheep" in some contexts, but because of its use in John 1:29 it also means "a person compared to a Passover or sacrificial-atoning lamb" or even "a title for Christ," because it is used to refer to Christ who took away sins like a Passover or sacrificial lamb.
The motivation for my (modest) tirade here is that I feel that Louw and Nida are often treating the NT words as if they were merely neutral, atheological "semantic" entities. (Note Louw and Nida's distinction between semantic lines versus theological lines made in the quote above.) Every word in the NT is part of a distinctly theological work. As such, the connection between the (theological) reference of NT words and their (theological) meanings is stronger than Louw and Nida appear to believe.
What is most interesting about the example of amnos, is that the compilers of L&N do recognize the meaning of one of its synonyms, arnion, as a title for Christ: "the supplementary components of meaning in arnion involve the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross" (4.26). Perhaps they unintentionally missed this meaning for amnos conveyed in John 1:29, in which case we would hope to see it included in a future revision of their lexicon.
2. phos, "light, in contrast with darkness usually in relationship to some source of light such as the sun, moon, fire, lamp, etc. — 'light' " (14.36). There follows another discussion of potential translational difficulties; e.g., "In a number of languages there is no noun for 'light,' but only verbs are employed . . ." (I:173).
Other meanings for phos provided in other places in L&N are: "fire, bonfire" (2.5) and "torch" (6.102), including idiomatic uses of the phrases tekna photos and huioi tou photos meaning "people of God" (11.14). The systematic treatment of such idiomatic phrases is one of the distinctive features of L&N, and is considered by the authors to be one of its advances beyond its predecessors (I:ix). I agree!
Do the meanings given in L&N for phos help us to understand the use of this word in John 8:12ff. where Jesus says that he is "the light of the world"? Louw and Nida might respond that the semantic meaning of phos in that passage is "light, in contrast to darkness," whereas the metaphorical reference is to Jesus. And so they have fulfilled their stated purpose to define only the meaning of the word, rather than to discuss its theological references.
My objection is that phos does not mean "light, in contrast to darkness" in John 8:12, but is probably explained later in the verse when Jesus says that his followers will not walk in darkness but that they will acquire "the light of life." We should take "of life" as an appositive genitive; thus "life" explains the meaning of "light": "the light which is life." As such, phos refers to "eternal life" in this passage, so it should be referenced under the appropriate semantic domain in L&N along with other terms referring to life (23.88-128, "Physiological Processes and States").
Another possible, distinctively Johannine, meaning of phos is also not found in L&N. In 1 John 2:8 we are told that "the darkness is passing away, because (kai) the true light is already shining." Here, in this eschatologically charged passage, John uses phos metaphorically to refer to the life-giving power of God which is destroying the current
world order (cf. 1 John 2:17; 3:8;1 Cor. 2:6; Heb. 2:14; etc.).
Hence, phos means something closer to "power" than "light" in 1 John 2:8. Why didn't John simply write dynamis ("power") here? A linguistic analysis alone will not be able to answer this question, while a biblical-theological analysis understands the New Creation association for "light" (going back to Gen. 1) especially in light of the obvious New Creation use of phos in the Prologue to John's Gospel. Such an association is part of the meaning of phos in this context, so it should have been included in Louw and Nida's lexicon.
3. petra, "bedrock (possibly covered with a thin layer of soil), rocky crags, or mountain ledges, in contrast with separate pieces of rock normally referred to as lithos (see 2.23)—'rock, bedrock' " (2.21). For some passages, this definition of petra and its distinction from lithos is quite helpful. For instance, the disciple of Christ is like a wise man who builds his home upon "bedrock" (Mt. 7:24), i.e., a large, immovable sheet of rock in contrast with a "rock" or "boulder" (lithos) which might not be a stable foundation for a house.
Yet there is one occurrence of petra in a passage that I consider a sort of "proof text," showing that the NT authors are biblical-theologians (if that were needed). In 1 Cor. 10:1-4, Paul interprets the experience of the Israelites in the Exodus as a real, though anticipatory contact with the spiritual benefits of the redemption to be accomplished by Christ, when "they were all baptized into Moses," "they all ate the spiritual food," and "they all drank from the same spiritual drink." Why? "Because they were drinking from the spiritual rock (petra) that accompanied (them); indeed, that rock was Christ" (v. 4).
The allusion is obviously to the rock at Meribah in the Wilderness of Sin. The Septuagint uses petra for the rock in both the OT texts that report this incident (Ex. 17:1-7; Num. 20:1-13). The exegete will ask what Paul means by calling Christ the "rock" here. L&N supplies no answer. BAGD says: "The rock at various places in the desert from which Moses drew water by striking it...Paul calls it pneumatike
petra 1 Cor 10:4a and identifies it with the preexistent Christ vs. 4b" (p. 654). As such, BAGD helps us to better understand this text; characteristically, L&N is more concerned with what words one will choose for translation purposes.
4. exodos, "motion from or out of a region...—'departure, the Exodus, the departure (of Israel from Egypt)' " (15.42); and "...(a figurative extension of meaning of exodos 'departure,' 15.42) . . . to depart from life, as a euphemistic expression for death—'to leave this life, to die, death, departure' " (23.101).
This Greek word occurs three times in the NT: Heb. 11:22 as a clear reference to the Exodus from Egypt; 2 Pet. 1:15 as a euphemistic reference by Peter to his own death; and in Luke 9:31 where Jesus, Moses, and Elijah "were discussing his exodos which he would have to fulfill in Jerusalem" on the Mount of Transfiguration. L&N translates and interprets the latter text as an example of the second meaning of exodus: "they talked about his dying...in Jerusalem" (23.101; emphasis added).
The biblical-theologian would look at Luke 9:31 differently. Only Luke's version of the Mount of Transfiguration includes this detail about the subject of discussion between Jesus and the two prophets (cf. Mt. 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8). Why does he say they were talking about Jesus' exodos? Why not simply use the ordinary Greek word thanatos if he meant "death"? In the 2 Peter passage it is understandable that Peter would use a euphemistic expression to refer to his own death, but why would Luke use a euphemistic expression here if he meant "death"? And why did he use this word when other euphemistic expressions for death were available (as L&N conveniently lists in section 23.101).
The answer is that Luke is making a biblical-theological point; the exodus that Jesus had to fulfill in Jerusalem was the true Exodus for God's people. The OT Exodus pointed to this event as a shadow in God's organically connected revelation. Luke makes this clear by saying that Jesus 'had to fulfill this event (pleroo), not that it 'had to
happen,' (ginomai) as one would expect if "death" were the intended meaning. Thus this event was a fulfillment of the earlier revelation in the Exodus of Israel. Jesus is the New Moses, who revealed God and his redemption in these last days more fully than Moses ever could—"This is my Chosen Son; listen evermore to him" (Luke 9:35; cf. John 1:17; Heb. 1:1-2).
In this instance also, Louw and Nida have failed to appreciate the biblica1-theological significance of a word. Nevertheless, they have provided an important service for our understanding of the biblical text by grouping together other words signifying "death" (23.99), including euphemistic expressions (23.101-105), and signifying "departure" (15.37), so that we can better understand the range of possible expressions Luke could have used in Luke 9:31 to communicate "death" or "departure" if he had wished.
5. hemera, "an indefinite unit of time (whether grammatically singular or plural), but not particularly long . . .—'time, period' " (67.142); "day" (67.178); "the daylight period between sunrise and sunset" (67.186); "daylight" (14.40); and, "a court of justice for determining guilt or innocence—'court, court of justice' " (56.1).
L&N helpfully identifies the meaning of hemera in texts like 1 Cor. 4:3, where Paul shows his lack of concern to be judged by any human hemera, i.e., court. However, the question which L&N does not address, is why should hemera have this meaning, especially since this word never meant "court" outside the NT. The answer appears to be the association of hemera with the common OT phrases "day of the Lord," "day of vengeance," etc. (Joel 2:1; Is. 13:6; et al; cf. 1 Cor. 5:5). Paul clearly has such an association in mind in 1 Cor. 3:3 where "the day" will reveal the character of a man's ministry (cf. Heb. 10:25). BAGD does refer to "the day of God's final judgment" in their article on hemera, so their lexicon seems to be more useful for exegesis on this particular point than L&N.
The lack of any discussion about the significance of such phrases as "the day of the Lord" in L&N is curious, since the editors consider
it one of the strengths of their work that they systematically treat idiomatic phrases (I:ix). (They do interpret eight phrases that include hemera such as "sons of the day" [11.14], but not "day of the Lord.") Perhaps they have unintentionally overlooked this important NT phrase, or they somehow do not regard it as an idiom, although this omission does not follow necessarily from their linguistic method. See, in comparison, Geerhardus Vos's discussion of the phrase, "last of the days," especially "the last of these days" (Heb. 1:2) in The Pauline Eschatology, pp. 1ff.
6. skenoo, "to come to dwell in a place defined psychologically or spiritually (with the possible implication in some contexts of a temporary arrangement)—'to take up residence, to come to reside, to come to dwell' " (85.75). L&N cites John 1:14, 2 Cor. 12:9, and Rev. 21:3, then adds another paragraph stating: "in all of these contexts, skenoo and episkenoo are essentially figurative in meaning, for they deal with spiritual existence and residence rather than human residence or dwelling. In translating one should, in so far as possible, try to preserve this important figurative relationship, since it expresses one of the most significant ways in which spiritual and human existence can be combined..." (I:732).
I must confess that after many readings of this passage, I do not understand exactly what Louw and Nida mean. They render John 1:14 as: "The Word became a human being and dwelt among us." How is this "spiritual existence" rather than "human residence or dwelling"? Or how is this a "figurative relationship"? Perhaps they simply mean that this is a different sort of action than that meant in the statement "The Word dwelt in a house." The theological point that the editors are making is not very clear, and I differ with their interpretation of John 1:14.
Modern linguistic treatments, beginning with James Barr's famous Semantics of Biblical Language (1961), have repeatedly warned us against relying upon etymologies to determine the meaning of a word. This is indeed a good reminder, but there certainly are times in all languages when the etymological background of a word is still a
prominent element in its meaning (e.g., "he camped out in the house"). In John 1:14, hasn't John chosen the unusual term skenoo (5 NT occurrences; 4 in Rev.) because of its reference to the skene, the tabernacle, in which God dwelt with his people in the OT (e.g., Num. 35:34; 1 Kg. 8:12)?
I hesitate to guess at Louw and Nida's motive in avoiding the etymological and OT connection of skenoo, however I suspect that they might be overly cautious in their efforts to avoid the so-called "etymological fallacy." As such, their lexicon fails to steer one to what is, at least, a possible meaning for the word, whereas BAGD (p. 754) includes it.
On the other hand, L&N, once again, does help the exegete deal with a passage like John 1:14, because it lists skenoo in the same domain with more common terms for "dwelling" such as katoikeo (44 occurrences) and oikeo (9 occurrences). Hence, we can show that John chose skenoo for its OT connection, whereas more common terms could have been chosen otherwise.
7. philos, "a male person with whom one associates and for whom there is affection or personal regard—'friend' " (34.11). This definition is useful for most occurrences of philos, although L&N seems to have missed the recognized idiomatic phrase, philos kaisaros, "friend of Caesar," as a quasi-official title for the Emperor Tiberius's political cronies.
This usage is reported in BAGD as an "official title." As such, it makes the narrative of the trial of Jesus come alive in John 19, when the Jews charged Pontius Pilate with failing to be a "friend of Caesar" if he would release Jesus. Pilate's patron, L. Aelius Sejanus, had once rivaled even Tiberius in power, but his fall from imperial favor and execution put Pilate in a sticky position with the emperor as well. He could not afford to let word of his possible disloyalty get back to Tiberius.
8. hilasmos, hilasterion,"the means by which sins are forgiven—'the means of forgiveness, expiation' " (40.12; cf. 40.13). This
(exegetical) observation follows: "though some traditional translations render hilasterion as 'propitiation,' this involves a wrong interpretation of the term in question. Propitiation is essentially a process by which one does a favor to a person in order to make him or her favorably disposed, but in the NT God is never the object of propitiation since he is already on the side of people" (I:504).
The following observations should be made:
1) Louw and Nida do not avoid discussion, though this might be assumed from what was said above and from their criticism of BAGD for concentrating on the theological versus the linguistic division of NT word meanings.
2) The editors of L&N mis-represent the meaning of the traditional, theological concept that the word "propitiation" designates, by failing to refer to God's wrath (e.g., Rom. 1:18-31). The biblical notion of propitiation involves, in part, the placation of God's righteous, judicial anger toward sinners.
3) Louw and Nida base their interpretation of the meaning of hilasterion upon the universal, theological proposition that God is "already on the side of people." Beyond the question of the verity of this assumption, it indicates that the authors' theological position does influence their interpretation of word meanings, despite their emphasis on linguistic rather than theological factors.
4) The editors have chosen a definition and glosses for hilasmos/hilasterion that are so generic as to be devoid of clear meaning. How has Christ become a "means by which sins are forgiven," and what does "expiation" mean? Why do sins need to be forgiven if God is on everyone's side? In context, and in light of the OT background of the concept to which the Greek words refer, the idea is clearly "propitiation" (cf. Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross , pp. 125-85).
All of the examples above tend to show the theological shortcomings of this new lexicon. I did not go out of my way to find these shortcomings—most of the words I chose to examine were ones that I think obviously carry biblical-theological significance. The editors of L&N do not seem to grasp the implications of biblical-theology for the meaning of these words and others that I have not mentioned ("mountain," "garden," "bread," "tree of life" [cf. L&N 3.4], etc.).
This is not to say that all the articles in L&N are theologically unreliable. For instance, I noted that the article on arnion ("lamb") does refer to the atonement of Christ (4.26), although what Louw and Nida mean by "atonement" in light of their understanding of hilasmos is not clear. In addition, the editors helpfully explain that arrabon "down payment" only refers to "the Holy Spirit as a pledge or guarantee of the blessings promised by God" in the NT (57.170). They also point out the messianic implications of the phrase "Son of Man" and warn that renderings of the phrase in some languages might imply a denial of the virgin birth (9.3). We can readily agree with their interpretations on these points.
Let me emphasize that my critique of L&N should not obscure the fact that this lexicon does represent a real advance upon its predecessors. It accomplishes this in several ways: by attempting to apply the idea of semantic domains consistently; by providing definitions of words as well as English glosses; by listing and interpreting NT idiomatic phrases; and by organizing the lexicon so that the synonyms of a Greek word can be easily compared with a word in question. It is an important and invaluable work because of these features.
The organization of L&N especially makes this lexicon a must for NT exegetes. No other tool that I know provides an English-to-Greek index and an organization that helps one to find the synonyms of a given Greek word in order to precisely understand its meaning. An
analysis of the range of lexical choices available to the biblical authors is an important part of exegesis.
Furthermore, the Greek-to-English index will quickly give the NT exegete an idea of the range of meanings for a Greek word. Bios can refer to "daily life" or "possessions" (II:46); katalambano can mean "acquire," "attack," "seize," "overpower," or "understand" (II:133-34), and so on. This makes the index volume very handy as a quick source for English glosses.
The fact that L&N provides definitions rather than glosses for Greek words is another of its major strengths. A definition will usually bring out nuances of a Greek word that are not communicated by a gloss alone. Yet one should not assume that other lexicons provide only glosses as Louw and Nida intimate (L&N I:viii-ix). BAGD does often give definitions every bit as illuminating as L&N; in addition, one can often deduce the nuances of meaning by reading a series of possible glosses for a word. However, L&N has the advantage of giving a definition and one or more glosses for every meaning listed in the lexicon.
I have argued above that the editors have missed meanings for certain terms that are revealed through biblical-theological analysis. These meanings are consistent with semantic domain theory, so we could reasonably have expected their inclusion in the lexicon.
It appears to me that Louw and Nida have avoided theological analysis of some words, such as amnos or skenoo. This is unwarranted, especially since they do engage in theological analysis for words such as hilasmos. I do not claim to be an expert in linguistics, but it is my impression that linguistic analyses of NT words tend to treat them as if they were phenomena belonging to ordinary discourse, or even belonging to spoken discourse, rather than to a unique kind of theological literature.
Isn't it obvious that the NT writings are at the very least
literature? If John 3:1-15 were ordinary discourse, we could maintain that the phrase gennao anothen must mean either "to be born again" or "to be born from above" as L&N assumes (41.53). But as a writer of literature, John can intend both meanings to be understood (one can also do this in "ordinary discourse" by the way).
But because the NT is also part of the only book written not only by human authors, but under the inspiration of a divine, primary author, it has a certain theological cohesion with all of God's revelation (OT and NT) not found in other types of speech or writings. This unity is often reflected through the choice of individual words with OT echoes. Thus, biblical-theology as a task of tracing the development of revelation is integral to understanding the meaning of many NT words.
Louw and Nida's new lexicon is designed primarily as a tool for translation of the Scriptures, but it should be found on the exegete's desk as well. It does not directly reflect the insights of biblical-theology, but it certainly can help us gain insights into God's progressive revelation of his Son.
The sketch I have given of the semantic domain theory is simplified. For a more complete description see: David Alan Black, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988); Moises Silva, Biblical Words & their Meaning (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983); or, J. P. Louw, Semantics of New Testament Greek (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1982).
Westminster Theological Seminary