KERUX: A JOURNAL
Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: Steven M. Baugh and Jack L. Smith
INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................. 2
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. 3, No. 2
At the inauguration of KERUX, we indicated our plan to publish several of the sermons of Geerhardus Vos–sermons previously unpublished. This issue contains an early sermon on Isaiah 57:15. The grandeur and impact of this scene is captured in Vos's remarks. The biblical-theology here is the theology of glory–the glory of a thrice-holy, thrice-exalted Maker of heaven and earth. How much more sweet that Isaiah knew this one to be the sender of his Servant–the Servant-Savior of sinners!
We have included a contribution from N.H. Gootjes on sermonic method. And we conclude with a major review of one of the most influential theological dictionaries of our day by Steve Baugh.
A Sermon on Isaiah 57:15
. . . is to follow of still more serious import for Israel. He begins to conceive of the world-power in the abstract, as a fixed principle in the history of redemption, whose significance is independent of its concrete embodiment in any single nation, be it Assyria or Babel. This again influences his Messianic predictions in such a way as to give them the most universalistic scope they have ever attained in any prophet. Isaiah sees not only the mountain of Jehovah's house established in the top of the mountains and exalted above the hills and all nations flowing into it (2:2-3), but includes the material universe in the regeneration of the Messianic age. The whole realm of nature will be transformed and glorified; even the mute creation will after its own manner be full of the knowledge of Jehovah (11:9) and eager to
celebrate the triumph of his kingdom.
To this wide range of Isaiah's outlook the range of his prophetic lyre perfectly corresponds. There is no kind of music for which we listen in his prophecies in vain. With almost endless variety, he adapts his style to the ever changing aspect of his discourse. "All the powers and all the beauties of prophetic speech combine in him, and yet he is distinguished even less by any special excellence than by the symmetry and perfection of all his powers." Whether in the solemn monotone of the chant of judgment or in the rising swell of the song of triumph which greets the Messiah's birth; whether in the fearful words proclaiming vengeance or in the tender tones in which he consoles his mourning people–there is always the same unmistakable note of sovereign power which betrays the prophet and poet of the grace of God.
Prophecy and Personality
Is it permitted to inquire for the secret of this power? Undoubtedly it springs from the center of Isaiah's personality and in so far belongs to a region of mystery where no human eye can penetrate. Individual character and endowment everywhere, but specially in the sphere of supernatural revelation, are products of the unsearchable working of the divine Spirit dividing to each one severally even as he will and as the conditions of his plan require. But if we cannot hope to explain how the prophet's remarkable gifts and powers were imparted as a subjective equipment for his task, it is different perhaps in regard to the nature and range of the truth proclaimed. Here we are on objective ground. Although no prophecy ever came by the will of man (2 Peter 1:21), yet the Holy Spirit has ordinarily adjusted the divine thoughts of revelation to one another and to some one central idea which was more congenial to the mind of his chosen organ. The prophet was not placed as a stranger in the midst of a mass of unassimilated material, but made at home in a world of truth where he would discover on all sides the correlates and implications of the
supreme thought that filled his soul. In this sense then, it is entirely legitimate to ask what is the dominating thought in the mind of Isaiah and whether it may not furnish some explanation of the unrivalled breadth and depth of his teaching. What is there in the prophet's peculiar point of view that will account for the grandeur and richness of the scene he unrolls for us?
The answer to this question seems to be suggested by our text. Its opening words express the thought by which more than by any other both the contents and tone of Isaiah's prophecy have been determined, the fundamental thought of his life-work. It is the profound sense of the matchless glory of Jehovah as described in the sublime words: "The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy." Isaiah is the most theological of all the prophets; not of course in the scientific meaning of that term, but in the more simple and practical sense. His God is to him the one supreme reality from whom all other things derive their significance and to subserve whose end their history is shaped. His mind is filled to overflowing with the thought of God. The whole secret of the wide extent of his vision lies in this elevation of his standpoint. But not only do we find here the explanation of what is unique in Isaiah's anthem upon the field of truth and history, the warm spiritual glow so uniformly present in all his preaching is kindled at the altar-fire of the purer and personal religion as this fire was kept for ever burning in his soul by this vision of the divine glory.
Isaiah in this respect finds his great New Testament counterpart in the apostle Paul. Notwithstanding the immense difference necessarily created by the modified conditions of time and environment, these two favored servants of God are remarkably alike in the distinctive features of their message. Isaiah is an Old Testament Paul and Paul a New Testament Isaiah. For both, there is the same deep impression of the infinite majesty and absolute sovereignty of Jehovah; the same intense realization of the awfulness of the divine justice and the inexorable nature of its claims; the unworthiness, the helplessness of sinful man; the same insistence upon the exclusive activity of God
in the work of saving his people; the same prominence of the idea of faith as the only thing whereby man can appropriate the blessings of salvation; the same abounding truth in the marvelous condescension and overflowing grace of God; the same unlimited and unlimitable faith in the world-embracing character of the divine purpose. Paul seems to have felt something of the congeniality of Isaiah's mind to his own. He quotes from him often and not seldom with that fine spiritual insight which penetrates beyond the surface meaning of a passage into the innermost mind of the author and divines the subtle shade of his momentary thought and feeling. "Isaiah is very bold" (Rom. 10:20), he exclaims with evident appreciation of a noble trait exemplified to a high degree in his own character.
Jehovah the Exalted One
In boldness of conception there is perhaps no utterance even in the prophecies of Isaiah which equals the words of our text. The thought trembles on the verge of the paradoxical: Jehovah the high and lofty one, inhabiting eternity, dwelling in the high and holy place, declares his willingness to abide with the contrite and humble. That Jehovah should dwell with individual man at all is in itself a conception sufficiently startling on the basis of the Old Testament. His presence among Israel in the most holy place was the highest distinction conferred upon the people of God, and even of this, unrestricted enjoyment was not granted to the individual Israelite. It was to Israel as a whole primarily that this privilege applied. Of the single believer, the utmost that could be predicated was his appearing before God in Zion and his dwelling in Jehovah's house. But here the customary relation is boldly reversed; instead of men dwelling with Jehovah, it is Jehovah dwelling with man. And even this does not adequately express the startling character of the conception. For we must observe that Jehovah is here represented as coming forth not from the partial seclusion of his dwelling place in Zion's temple, but from the unapproachable recesses of his heavenly sanctuary to take up his abode with man. The prophet throws upon the idea all the emphasis it can
possibly receive from the united force of the expressions in which it is his custom to describe the transcendent heavenly glory of God. And the descent is from the highest point of divinity to the lowest point of humanity. It is not with man as such only, but with those among men of a humble and contrite spirit that Jehovah consents to dwell.
But we should fail to grasp the profound meaning and to realize the great preciousness of this word of God, were we to regard it as a striking example merely of the effect that may be produced by a bold rhetorical contrast. The exaltation of Jehovah is far more than the measure of his condescension in bending down to man. It is not so much in spite of, but in virtue of God's infinite majesty that he delights to dwell with the humble spirit and the contrite heart2. Observe however that the characteristics mentioned by the prophet describe man in reference to his self-consciousness. Not the small, the insignificant, the weak, the transitory are here contrasted with the infinite and eternal, but the humble in spirit and the contrite in heart. Whatever may be the nicer distinction between spirit as heart in the Scriptural usage, both terms are at one in this that they denote those central seats of man's inner life in which the reality and mode and condition of his own existence reveal themselves to him.
The Lowly Spirit
Now the humble spirit and the contrite heart are nothing else than that specific attitude of self-consciousness which is sensitive and responsive to the loftiness, holiness, the eternal glory and divinity of God. And this is the reason why they are chosen as the conditions predisposing man for receiving the presence of God in his soul. Humility and contrition do not appear in this character as ethical dispositions having any meritorious value in themselves. It is not because through them man can in any way influence God, but simply because they enable God to impress himself upon man and to reflect in a created consciousness the infinite glory of his being that the
humble spirit and the contrite heart receive this promise. We read here the very essence of Isaiah's conception of religion and find it to correspond perfectly to the prophet's idea of God. As sublime and transcendent as is the one, so profound and pervasive is the other. The figure of the in-dwelling of Jehovah in the human heart gains a richer meaning when interpreted in the light of this correspondence and will be seen to unite in itself both elements that enter into the religious intercourse between God and man, i.e., the mystical and the material. It does not stand for a description of the subconscious presence of God in the soul alone: far beyond the limited sphere of the feelings also, it gives to Jehovah as his dwelling-place, the entire compass of man's conscious life with all its varied powers. The heavenly temple and its effulgence of the divine majesty reproduced in the spirit of man–this is the thought underlying the prophet's figure. A temple is not intended to contain God in the sense of a human habitation; it is intended to be filled with the glorious presence of God. The ideal temple in all its parts, in its ritual of sacrifice and service, with its music and incense, nay in its very construction is nothing but the receptacle and the reflector of the glory of him who inhabits it. The model of such a temple was shown to the prophet in that memorable vision which so deeply impressed itself upon his whole subsequent life and thought, the sublime reproduction of which opens with the words: "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple" (Is. 6:1). And again: "The house was filled with smoke" (v. 4). In this sense, the spirit and heart of man are to become the dwelling place of Jehovah–the high and lofty one, enthroned in eternity, whose name is holy. The created mind a temple: that is to say, not merely in its innermost shrine a holy of holies where the immediate presence of Jehovah is felt, but from its center to its farthest recesses resplendent with the light of God and reechoing the voice of one crying, "Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts"–such is Isaiah's conception of the perfect religion.
We find then in our text indirectly expressed if not explicitly formulated what must always be the governing principle of the highest worship of Jehovah. The relation here defined between Jehovah's exalted being and the humble spirits of his acceptable servants is typical of every God-centered attitude that may be properly called religious. Were we to seek an abstract name for this, we might say that it consists in the full adjustment of man's conscious life to the nature, the claims, the purposes of God; the joyful subordination of the creature to the Creator and his glorious kingdom. But it will be more profitable perhaps to look at it concretely and historically by analyzing the elements of this frame of mind as we are able to observe it in Isaiah. In doing this we perceive that whereas the prophet lifts his soul directly to God and the specifically religious chord is struck, three distinct notes make themselves heard. The first is that of amazing and enraptured contemplation of the infinite perfection of Jehovah; the second is the note of intense realization of the finiteness and imperfection of man; the third is the note of blessed self-surrender wherein the prophet, at first almost overwhelmed by the sense of the divine majesty, regains his mental poise and recognizes as the only possible, the only satisfying purpose of created existence, the glory of God. From the blending of these three impressions in Isaiah's soul results what is peculiar in the prophet's religious consciousness.
We can clearly trace this effect of the self-revelation of Jehovah upon Isaiah everywhere in the cosmical, the moral and the redemptive sphere, and in each of these it appears to have been essentially the same. First of all observe the manner in which his religious nature responds to those attributes of Jehovah whereby he is exalted above the finite conditions of time and space and nature–those called in theological language the transcendental or metaphysical attributes of God, here represented by the words: "The high and lofty one, that inhabiteth eternity." This last phrase specially gives utterance with great simplicity and directness to the profoundest thought human reflection has ever been able to reach in this unfathomable subject. Eternity
is the form of the divine existence, that in which Jehovah dwells, the atmosphere that surrounds him. Such a thought can find its full comprehension in him alone in whom it is reality. God himself is the only one able to compass its infinite content with the infinitude of his mind. But this impossibility of adequately thinking out the conception of the greatness of God, far from making it a useless element in Isaiah's experience is precisely that which imparts to it its religious significance and power to stir his soul to the deepest worship. On this point the prophet of the eighth century B.C. might have taught a lesson to the philosopher of our own day who denies the possibility of our knowing the infinite God. Isaiah would have answered him that every futile attempt to comprehend the infinite being of Jehovah contributes by its very failure towards making our knowledge of it more real and practical. Though trembling at the vision, the prophet delights to fix his gaze upon this eternity which is Jehovah's dwelling place. He is the first and the last, beside whom there is no God, the Creator of all things, the King, Jehovah of Hosts. He sitteth upon the circle of the earth and the inhabitants are as grasshoppers before him; whole nations as a drop of a bucket, as the small dust on a balance. Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient to prepare him a burnt offering.
The most striking element, however, of all the descriptions of the transcendent greatness of Jehovah lies in this–that they convey not abstractions of thought, but a sense of the living presence of a personal God. Isaiah does not shun the boldest anthropomorphic language to express this intensely personal character of his vision of the majesty of Jehovah. He speaks of his glorious eyes, his glorious voice, his glorious arm. And when the prophet thus scales Jehovah above every created being, it is not relative greatness he predicates of him. All comparisons have but in their inadequacy to impress us more strongly with the uniqueness of the divine nature and mode of existence. Isaiah knows of no gradations to fill up the distance between the Creator and the creature: it is an infinite distance which nothing can fill up however exalted. The seraphim, though themselves belonging to a higher world, worship in Jehovah's temple and cover their
faces and their feet with the same profound sense of their own insignificance as the earth-born prophet. Each time Isaiah proclaims the absolute greatness of God there follows without fail as an echo, the confession of the absolute littleness of every creature. After painting that sublime judgment scene of the terror of Jehovah as the glory of his majesty shaking the earth, the first and only thought awakened in his soul is: "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he able to be accounted of" (Is. 2:22)? And "the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit" (31:3). The excited, sometimes sarcastic language, in which the prophet speaks of the worship of idols is inspired by this keen sense of the incommensurableness of God and what is not-God, even more than by the idea of Jehovah's spiritual nature. "To whom then will ye liken me, that I should be equal to him? saith the Holy One" (40:25). "I am Jehovah: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images" (42:8). From the same source springs the prophet's belief in the absolute sovereignty of God over all created beings as expressed in his figure of the clay and the potsherd in the potter's hands (45:9). But enough has been said to show how this principle of the divine exaltation pervades and molds the prophet's thought at every point.
Worship, Dependence and Surrender
We may well pause here for a moment to reflect upon the significance of this fact. Are there not many in our day who would stigmatize all that I have enumerated as the product of philosophy, which the sooner it is eliminated from the religious consciousness the better? We are invited to conceive of God under those aspects exclusively in which he is like ourselves; that is, possessed of the communicable or so-called ethical attributes. There and there alone we can know or understand and profit by (it) in a religious sense. Now if one thing is plain from the testimony of Isaiah it is this–that these so-called metaphysical abstractions lie at the very root of all religion, that there can be no living worship worthy of that name where
these are ignored or neglected. Religion is love of God or a sense of dependence upon God but not entirely after the same manner as we cherish love for our fellow creatures or feel dependent on them in certain relations. Religion begins when we realize our dependence on the absolute, infinite being, the eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient God. What men are urged to discard, therefore, is precisely that element which differentiates a religious experience from any other state of mind. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean to say that the bare recognition of the greatness of God and the littleness of man is sufficient to produce true religion. For this the third element observed in Isaiah is indispensable–the element of joyous self-surrender to the greatness and sovereignty of God, whereby the creature feels uplifted and glorified. And this cannot enter until after the coal of fire has touched the lips and the consciousness of sin forgiven been imparted. When thus the soul inwardly delights in the infinite perfections of Jehovah, then and not until then is fear changed into reverence; or, as the prophet calls it, humility of spirit. But such worship (the highest flower of religion) it is impossible to cultivate where the perception of God's transcendent glory has been obscured. Religion may not be metaphysics, but there is a theology of the heart, the banishment of which means blight and starvation for all vital piety.
Jehovah the Holy One
This will become still more obvious when we briefly consider how the exaltation of Jehovah affects Isaiah in the moral and redemptive sphere. In our text contrition of heart corresponds to the divine holiness in the same manner as humility of spirit answers to Jehovah's inhabiting eternity. But the predicates of loftiness and highness belong to the former as much as to the latter. Indeed the peculiarity of Isaiah's teaching on the divine holiness consists precisely in this–that it unites the two elements of infinite majesty and moral excellence in a single harmonious conception. Jehovah's holiness appears to the prophet as the loftiness of ethical perfection, towering high above human sin and levelling it in judgment to the dust. This is the general conception
of holiness in all prophecy and yet here as elsewhere simplicity and grandeur go hand in hand. The fundamental belief that God is glorious over every creature applied to the moral sphere is the source of this conception. While we are accustomed to speak of holiness in terms of intensity, the prophet speaks of it in terms of dimension. By it as much as by his eternity, Jehovah is exalted above all finite being. Holiness in God has a peculiar divine glory distinguishing it from created holiness in angels or man. Even apart from the consciousness of sin, its revelation is so majestic as to fill the soul with awe. In Jehovah's holiness his divinity as it were concentrates itself. It involves not merely that his nature is stainless, empirically free from sin, but means that he is exalted above the possibility of sin–in him as the absolutely good evil cannot enter (if owing to this the sinless seraphim hide themselves while proclaiming him holy, how should sinful man endure?).
Isaiah's whole doctrine of sin shows the influence of this conception. From first to last he emphasizes that aspect of sin in which it offends against the infinite majesty of Jehovah. This may be done by human pride and wealth as power infringing upon the divine right to unique greatness. Hence there is a day of Jehovah of Hosts upon all that is proud and haughty and upon all that is lifted up, to bring down the lofty works of man. Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day. Jehovah will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria and the glory of his high looks because, although a mere tool in the hand of God, he usurped the praise of his achievements for himself. But the highest personification of sin in this sense is that king of Babel who said in his heart: "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God . . . I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High" (14:13-14). In this figure of the last representative of the world-power that came within his ken, the prophet has drawn the character of diabolical sin and we need not wonder that the name "day star, son of the morning" here borne by the king of Babel, was later (in the form "Lucifer") transferred to Satan.
Isaiah could not have framed this bold conception of sin, however, had he not first been granted the vision of the King Jehovah of Hosts in the temple of his holiness. (All the sinister grandeur that invests the figure of Satan is here as elsewhere but the reflex of the majesty of him to whose throne he aspires. God's glory is so great that the bare attempt at usurping it renders the usurper half-sublime.) From still another point of view, the unique character of the divine holiness appears in Isaiah's preaching of judgment. Being not merely holy but majestic in holiness, Jehovah upholds and asserts his ethical glory for the punishment of sin. Isaiah has felt most keenly that God would not be God, would not respect his own divinity, did he not avenge evil. Because he is the absolutely good, because his name, the essence of his being, is holy; therefore in him holiness is attended with the sovereign right to vindicate its own supremacy. Nowhere else are we taught so clearly as in Isaiah that the vindicating justice of God is but the intensity of his holiness translated into action. We see the transformation under our own eyes when the prophet represents the Light of Israel as becoming a fire and his Holy One a flame which burns and devours the thorns and briars of sin in one day (10:17).
Contrition Before the Sovereign
Do we wonder, then, that our text requires contrition of heart as the only attribute in which man can venture to approach the moral majesty of God? The same threefold reaction observed above may again be witnessed here in the prophet. First his eye is dazzled by the view of an infinite perfection. Next he realizes the contrast that exists between this divine purity and the uncleanness of a sinful creature. Fear falls upon him, the fear of absolute moral dissolution, expressing itself in the words: "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" (Is. 6:5). As this fear results from the consciousness of disharmony with an infinite holiness, there is no dread excited by any finite power in the universe worthy to be compared with it. When the sinful people tremble on account of human enemies, strangely
forgetful of their exposure to Jehovah's judgment, the prophet is instructed by a special revelation not to fear their fear, nor to be in dread thereof: "Jehovah of Hosts, him shall ye sanctify, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread" (8:13), words vividly reminding us of our Savior's admonition to fear him alone who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt. 10:28).
But even this unique fear cannot be the final thought to which the vision of Jehovah's ethical glory moves Isaiah. True contrition involves more than the sense of guilt and pollution than fear and shame continued. It is the specifically religious response to these moral perceptions, whereby the sinner abhors his unholiness not from any selfish motive, but from the stand point of God from the profound conviction that it is a slight of his purity and infringes upon the supremacy of his glory. Spiritual penitence is God-centered and by this feature may be distinguished from the purely moral self-criticism and self-condemnation which does not presuppose a change of heart. The difference between these two is clearly described by Isaiah. It is mere terror of conscience that makes the sinner in Zion speak: "Who among us can dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings" (33:14)? "Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from among us" (30:11)! But genuine contrition acknowledges the propriety that sin and the sinner and everything defiled by sin should be swept away and Jehovah of Hosts be exalted in judgment and God the Holy One be sanctified in righteousness. So powerful is this constraint of the moral majesty of God's law in the prophet's soul that he cannot conceive of any hope or future for Israel except there arise one who by vicarious suffering shall satisfy the supreme interests of the divine holiness. And in harmony with this conviction the idea of the Messianic king was deepened and enlarged in Isaiah's mind to that of the Suffering Servant, in whom perfect contrition is joined to perfect innocence, who humbles himself and opens not his mouth and makes his soul an offering for the sin of his people.
It would be interesting to trace the influence of the principle thus made supreme in the moral sphere throughout the whole range of
Isaiah's doctrine of salvation. Objectively we should here find to predominate the glory of the divine grace and love and saving power, and subjectively faith sustaining the same relation to these attributes as humility and contrition to the greatness and moral majesty of Jehovah. (This is in so far suggested by our text as God's indwelling is said to unify the spirit and the heart, and as the bestowal of life is elsewhere associated by Isaiah with the eternal being and the creative omnipotence of God, being conceived as a strictly divine act. The experience of the effect of God's life-giving presence upon spirit and heart is an experience, therefore, in which man is made conscious of the unique glory of him who alone has life in himself.)
The Practice of the Knowledge of God
As time, however, forbids our further following up this thought, permit me to point out in conclusion one or two practical inferences that may be drawn from the facts we have been considering. And first let us observe that there is in the whole history of Old Testament revelation not a second example as striking as this of the power of truth for the enrichment of religious life. The modern prejudice so widely spread that the intellect is an uninfluential if not injurious factor in the formation of spiritual experience is contradicted at well-nigh every point of the sacred record, but stands exposed in its utter folly when tested by the history of a spiritual giant like Isaiah. In his case the influence of a pure and deep knowledge of God over all the other elements that enter into a harmonious religious development is plain beyond all possibility of denial. What else but the great thought of God supernaturally introduced into the soul of this man produced that untold wealth of spiritual power which even the world hostile to divine truth cannot help honoring when it puts him with the most illustrious examples of religious genius in all ages?
But we may go further than this and confidently affirm that not only must truth from the nature of the case be the prime mover in every religious activity of the soul and in all progress of piety, but
also the more fundamental and ultimate the truth apprehended, the greater will prove the power stored up in it for fructifying and quickening spiritual life. Many, while admitting in a general way the importance of the truth for the vesture of piety, yet seem to think that truth cannot be made the truth, cannot be systematized to any extent without straightway losing this beneficent quality and becoming a barren intellectual thing. If ever we have been inclined to adopt this idea, let us learn from the prophet how little it has to recommend itself. With Isaiah the issue to view all things in the unity of the divine plan and purpose was born from the very love of God. Can we not conceive of a thirst for harmony in our knowledge of divine things so entirely the expression of identification in thought and sympathy with God as to be a worship in itself? And if we were to seek for a single point of view that is likely to impart to our study of God's word this profoundly religious character, what higher or better could be found than this of Isaiah? What could be more adapted to warm our hearts than the constant thought of God's eternal excellence and glory? It ought not to be difficult for us to assume this standpoint. I deem it wholly within the limits of historical sobriety to say that Isaiah represents among Old Testament writers most distinctly that aspect of revealed truth and religion with the embodiment of which in Christian thought and life we count it our privilege under the providence of God to be identified. Not as if the other writers could represent or did represent any view of Jehovah's relation to the world fundamentally different from his, but with Isaiah this principle bursts into the clear light of conscious recognition and acquires that intensity and fruitfulness which only the highest truths when consciously apprehended are capable of developing.
Let us not then hastily despise or think antiquated what comes to us associated by both history and the infallible word of God, in holding to which we are in company with the most princely spirits of the old and new dispensation. I urge this upon you the more since you are to be ministers of God. If the character and tone of Isaiah's preaching are partly due to his representative position as a prophet of Jehovah, ought not the same to apply to your ministry? Is there
any frame of mind more appropriate to the ambassador of God than that which is guided in its thinking and speaking and living by the supreme desire for the divine glory? Is there any consecration more entire, any inspiration more lasting, any comfort more unfailing than that derived from this principle? It would be difficult to find in the history of the church of God the record of a life more entirely consumed on the altar of service than that of Isaiah. But like everything else in this life, the cry "Send me!" was a cry uttered under the constraint of the vision of Jehovah's glory. And only because this was so, there was no recoiling when the disclosure followed that the prophet's ministry would be one of hardening and judgment. Isaiah knew that even when God does his strange work his purposes are accomplished and his honor indicated; and that the ultimate significance of service in his kingdom is to be measured by this highest standard alone. And thus believing he spoke: "I will wait for Jehovah that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him" (8:17)! It is not likely that any of us will be called to a ministry offering so little prospect of what the world calls success. But even though some of us were, if Isaiah's vision be ours, if like him we walk face to face with the glory of Jehovah, there need be no disappointment or discouragement. "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard? the everlasting God Jehovah the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding . . . They that wait upon Jehovah shall renew their strength, they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint" (40:28, 31).
Preached, December 12,
Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey
Testament. Having no rival and being no rival, it is his divine prerogative to take account of the weak and poor as much as of the strong and honorable. "For Jehovah your God, He is God of Gods and Lord of Lords, the great God, the Mighty and the terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward. He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow and loveth the stranger in giving him food and raiment" (Dt. 10:17-18).
Luke 4:16 – Redemptive-Historical or Exemplary?
A minister is reading his Bible and in the meantime, thinking of suitable texts for preaching, hits on Luke 4:16: "(Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom." His eye latches on to the expression "as was his custom" and his thoughts develop quickly. Jesus kept the custom of going to the synagogue to attend services. He did this even as a grown-up man; even as a man living in the power of the Spirit (4:14). He lived according to that custom.
Then how did this custom become established? We may assume
his father and mother inculcated the necessity of going regularly to the synagogue. And not only his father and mother would have taken care of his religious education, but also the local rabbi would have had Jesus as his pupil. They were responsible for his religious education.
And then the minister, a sermon-outline already developing in his mind, sees one further point. By going to the synagogue according to his custom, Jesus showed his gratitude towards those who educated him. He was grateful towards his parents as well as his rabbi. Yet all the while Jesus knew more than his parents and even more than his rabbi!
Thus the sermon application takes shape in his mind. The Christian religion has its own patterns and we should grow into them. Even Jesus had this custom of going to the synagogue. So we should make it our pattern to go to church regularly. Here the pastor can mention several reasons that could be used as excuses for not attending the church services. For example, the temptation to say: I am better educated than the minister; why should I go to church? This would be shown to be false by pointing to Jesus, who certainly knew God better than any rabbi and yet regularly attended the meetings in the synagogue.
Next we must consider the people who taught us to keep religious customs. Parents should teach their children to keep the traditions of the church. Ministers also should do their best to explain the meaning of the customs of the church.
Third, we should be grateful to our parents for the religious education we received from them. We should also be grateful to our minister, even if every sermon is not a masterpiece. And having thought this far, the minister already knows a suitable closing admonition for the sermon. "Did you ever thank your parents for what they did for you? And did you ever express your gratitude to the minister for a sermon? And when was the last time that you expressed in prayer your
gratitude towards God for the religious education you received?"
Actually, the preceding sermon-outline is not an example I thought up; it is a summary of a sermon I heard. Certainly a sermon worked out in this way could be called practical. It is important to attend church services on a regular basis, not just when you are in the mood. It is also important for parents to teach their children to keep the customs of the church and that ministers explain the reason why we keep these customs. And of course we must feel grateful towards those who educated us in the Christian religion. And we should express that.
But before constructing a sermon along these lines, let us return for a moment to the text for the sermon. It all started with the remark that Jesus went to the synagogue "as was his custom." The minister wanted to emphasize that we should be grateful to those who educated us in religion: yet there is no word about gratitude in the text. Whether Jesus at any time expressed his gratitude, we do not know from this text.
Then we suddenly remember that the minister assumed that Joseph and Mary taught Jesus to go to the synagogue regularly. That is not in the text! It will be true that they gave religious instruction to Jesus, but it is not expressed here. The role of the rabbi is also assumed, not mentioned as a fact. If the Bible does not think it important enough to mention these things here, how can they become central elements in a sermon on this text? Of the three main points of the projected sermon the second and the third have no basis in the text.
The first point remains–that we should go to church regularly. This surely has a basis in the text, since Luke 4:16 reads that Jesus went to the synagogue "as was his custom." It seems possible to mention this in a sermon on this text, but we may ask whether this was the intent when God had this passage written by Luke. There is no command connected with it: Luke just mentions the fact that Jesus went regularly.
But there is more to make us feel uneasy about this use of Luke 4:16 for a sermon. In sermons such as this, Jesus Christ is presented merely as an example. Just as Jesus had his religious customs and kept them, we should have our religious customs and keep them. But Jesus Christ is far more than an example for us, he is our Savior. This is dramatically emphasized in Luke 4. Jesus reads from Old Testament Scripture the passage about the Anointed of the Lord (Is. 61:1, 2). He follows that up by saying that he is that Messiah and that he has come to do the salvation-work proclaimed by Isaiah. The text does not emphasize the similarity between Jesus and us, but the difference between the one who is our Savior and ourselves who need the salvation he will bring.
In the sermon outline above, this unique position of Jesus Christ is completely neglected. God's salvation-work through Jesus Christ is also relegated to the sideline. This explains the fact that in the sermon outline there is no specific Christian element. In many religions, there are religious customs that have to be kept. Parents and others should teach these and those who receive instruction ought to show their gratitude everywhere. Therefore the sermon outline presented above cannot be called a satisfactory Christian sermon.
The salvation-historical (or redemptive-historical) method of preaching recognizes that in Scripture this salvation-work of God is central. It maintains that in sermons too this should be emphasized. That means first of all that in this salvation-work God is the first. Salvation is the work of God for man. Therefore man can never be left out, but the main emphasis is always on God–who he is, what he does, what he wants.
Second, salvation-historical preaching takes into account the fact that the history of God's salvation-work demonstrates progress. Old Testament times differ from New Testament times. Again between the apostolic period and our days, there is a difference, since we no longer have Jesus Christ and his apostles among us.
The third emphasis of salvation-historical preaching is on the fact that in Scripture we are dealing with salvation. God's work towards us centers in saving us from the sin we have committed and the misery that results from it, thus bringing us into communion with himself.
These facts are well known, but they have only recently been worked out into a preaching method. The greatest problems were felt when preaching historical texts of the Bible. Therefore the discussions in the thirties of this century in the Netherlands concentrated on the salvation-historical method of preaching, especially with respect to the preaching of historical texts. This discussion was summarized and evaluated in the doctoral dissertation of Sidney Greidanus, Sola Scriptura: Problems and Principles in Preaching Historical Texts (1970). A renewed discussion was stimulated by a book in the Dutch language by C. Trimp, Heilsgeschiedenis en Prediking: Hervatting van een onvoltooid gesprek (Kampen: Van den Berg, 1986).
How could we approach a text such as Luke 4 from the salvation-historical viewpoint? Of course I can only speak for myself here; there is no established pattern for a sermon on this text. However, I would like to mention three things.
The first is that the part of Luke 4:16 which we discussed above can never in itself be the text for a sermon. It is just an element of a story and not the center of this story. We must take our position in the center of the story and from there decide about the value of each element. Then we will see that unity of which v. 16 is only a part. That unity centers in the fact that this is Jesus' first sermon to his hometown of Nazareth. Here the emphasis is on what Jesus proclaims himself to be. A good text for a sermon would be Luke 4:16-21; or if one wanted to include the reaction of the people, Luke 4:16-30. But I think a separate sermon could be made on vss. 22-30–the result of Christ's first sermon to the congregation in his hometown.
The second thing to realize is the unique historical situation. Jesus has begun his public ministry by being baptized in the Jordan (3:21)
and by fighting Satan (4:1ff.). He is now preaching and becoming famous as a preacher (4:14,15). Then he returns to his hometown. They already know about him and what he has done in other places. He goes to the synagogue according to his custom. But then he does something that is new! He not only reads from Scripture (v. 16), but also sits down to teach. By this gesture, he indicated that he (whom they knew as Joseph's son, v. 22) was their teacher. The emphasis of the text is not on the usual–his regular going to the synagogue: but on the exceptional–he presents himself to his hometown as their teacher. They must listen to him.
Third (with respect to the content of his message), we find that the exceptional character of what happens is emphasized even more. He reads the Scripture part about the Messiah as proclaimed by Isaiah (vv. 18, 19). And he proceeds to say that he himself is this Messiah (v. 21). So this preacher presents himself not as one of the many preachers around at that time, but as the Messiah who would bring salvation to the people. We get the impression from the following (v. 23) that the citizens of Nazareth hoped to see miracles. But what Jesus wanted them to know is that he is the Messiah. Also those who have known him from childhood must recognize him as the Savior anointed by God. Here we have found what we should emphasize in a sermon on this text.
Tentatively I propose the following theme and division for a sermon on Luke 4:16-21.
PROCLAIMS HIMSELF AS THE
PROMISED MESSIAH TO HIS HOMETOWN
Korea Theological Seminary
The Rape of Tamar
2 Samuel 13
JAMES T. DENNISON, JR.
A story of love and hate; lust and disgust; conceit and deceit; potence and impotence; parricide and fratricide.
A story of beauty and the beast; a story of fathers and sons; a story of reaping what you sow–of fathers eating sour grapes and the children's teeth being set on edge; a story of what goes around comes around.
This is a story of David. Though playing only a minor role–it is his story. Though passive and relatively uninvolved–it is the story of the king and his kingdom.
It is the story of Absalom, son of David. It is the story of Amnon, son of David. It is the story of Jonadab, nephew of David, cousin to the house of Jesse. 2 Samuel 13 is a story of the house of David! We are ushered into the family–into the innermost recesses of the palace. This is a story about a family: a family torn, a family shamed, a family debauched, a family divided. 2 Samuel 13 is a story about the family of the king.
The curtain is raised in verse 1. The main characters of our narrative are introduced. Here are the dramatis personae. Absalom–son of David–third born; offspring of Maachah–Maachah of Geshur–foreign Transjordanian princess. Absalom–handsome Absalom, beautiful Absalom–Absalom is of thoroughbred royal stock–father and mother both of regal blood. Tamar–Maachah's second child to David; beautiful Tamar–sister of beautiful Absalom–daughter of a princess and beautiful David. And Amnon–Amnon, son of David; Amnon–firstborn son of David; Amnon–son of David and Ahinoam, the Jezreelitess.
Now Amnon loved his half-sister. Loved her to the point of sickness over her–loved her virgin form–sickened himself with fantasies of love. Fantasies of fixation; fantasies of obsession; fantasies of frustration–for she was a member of the family–she was part of his house–part of the house of David. She was of his blood–of the king's blood–and he could hardly complete his fantasy. Family circles proscribe certain acts; a taboo barred Amnon from fulfilling his fantasy.
But the family had its own wiseman–a shrewd and clever fellow–cousin Jonadab. And Jonadab witnessed the lust-sickness of Amnon, the unfulfilled fantasy and inquired of its cause. "I am in love with my sister." And Jonadab–clever Jonadab– suggested a way for lust to have its end. Taboos are meaningless to those with status (he suggests)–those with privilege. What is royal blood if it does not buy certain liberties, certain license? Jonadab is truly a clever fellow. We will petition the head of the family (he suggests) and devise a scheme for Tamar to visit you in your sick room. We shall suggest
an illness which needs the special attention of Tamar–a visit from your sister, your nurse. A few cakes from her hand, a few moments alone . . . your desires may be satisfied by careful arrangement. A child of the king should not fret from self-denial. What delights the royal eye should delight the royal flesh.
Now David unwittingly becomes the pawn in the game. He comes to the scene of the proleptical crime and sees no more than genuine illness and need. The ruse works perfectly and the scheme advances. The beauty is summoned to the house–to the chamber of the lecherous fantasizer. And Tamar takes the dough . . . . And she kneads the dough . . . . And she forms the cakes . . . . And she bakes the cakes . . . . And she takes the pan . . . . And she dishes out the cakes.
But there are too many eyes. Lust conceived secretly in the fantasies of the heart must be brought forth secretly. Leave–go away–close the door! But how to get her into the bedroom? Bring the food to my bedside, for I am ill dear sister. Come to me that I may eat from your hand. And Tamar comes–unsuspecting, innocent Tamar comes. No other eyes, no other taboos: all is as he had imagined it–so many times, he had imagined it. And now she comes, her beautiful virgin form approaches–the cakes in her hand. And his hand seizes her–come lie with me!
Tamar is shocked; she is alarmed; she protests; she pleads; she reasons; she resists. Amnon has said yes to his fantasy; Jonadab has said yes to Amnon's fantasy; David unwittingly has said yes to Amnon's fantasy. The servants have exited implicitly saying yes to Amnon's fantasy. Tamar says, "No!" But her pleas cannot overcome Amnon's strength. The strength of his fantasy is too powerful; the strength of his scheme is too powerful; the strength of his sin is too powerful-- he has her in his power and he rapes her. Brutally, callously, heartlessly rapes her. Fantasy has become reality.
But oh the bitter taste of that reality. "Amnon hated her with a
great hatred so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he loved her." Go! Get up! Get out! Tamar, the shamed, beseeches–Do not put me out; you have dishonored me, do not disgrace me like a common street prostitute. But the power of his disgust is now revulsion. He is sick of her for whom he had been sick. The servants he had put out are brought in. Throw her out; throw this thing out! But is she not your sister, Amnon? Throw this thing out!!
And Tamar went out; went out in her princess robes–went out in her robe of many colors; her beautiful robe of many colors. Tamar departed in her colorful princess robe–a robe that marked her as a virgin–a virgin daughter of the king's house. And Tamar tore her robe; tore her beautiful robe–beautiful Tamar tore her beautiful robe and put ashes on her head. Tamar marked herself with the signs of disgrace and went away crying. Tamar went away crying for shame and injustice.
But Absalom, her brother, urged her to keep silent. So Tamar remained silent and desolate in her brother's house. Tamar withdraws to obscurity and silence.
When David heard it, he was angry. David was very angry . . . but David did nothing. Absalom was angry. Tamar's brother was angry and Absalom began to fantasize–a scheme, a plan. And David sent Amnon to take his place in Absalom's scheme. And Absalom avenged his sister's honor–leaving Amnon desolate and silent . . . in the grave!
The inspired writer has woven a narrative masterpiece into the story of David. Called by the critics the Succession Narrative, this episode in the life of Amnon is alleged (by these Liberals) to be the ground of his disqualification from the line of succession to the throne of Israel. Such an explanation is as obtuse literarily as it is stupid theologically. The Lord in his righteousness is sovereign requiter of justice: even his own he chastens; even those after his own heart receive
payment in kind. If we have lost a sense of retributive chastisement, even for the gracious, it is because we have lost the insight of the inspired author of II Samuel.
Did David gaze upon the beauty of a woman forbidden him? So does Amnon!
Did David scheme to take her, to violate her sexually? So does Amnon!
Did David devise a scheme of deceit to trick innocent and unassuming Uriah, the Hittite? So does Amnon!
Did David murder the loyal Uriah? So does Absalom murder Amnon!
Did David have his henchman, Joab, do his dirty work? So Absalom has his servants do his!
The circle which David has drawn with Bathsheba has been drawn within his own house.
"Thus says the Lord . . . the sword will never depart from your house . . . . I will raise up evil against you from your own household. I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion . . . . You did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel" (2 Sam. 12:10-12).
The emphasis upon the family unit is unmistakable. Notice the narrator's reiteration of the familial bonds: v. 1–son, sister, son; v. 2–sister; v. 3–brother; v. 4–son, sister, brother; and on we go. In this narrative, brother is used 11 times and sister is used 8 times. The drama of the royal house is a drama of the kingdom. This kingdom is riddled with lust and murder; this kingdom is advanced by deceit and injustice. The David who could not control his own passions cannot control the passions of his sons. The David who would not deny himself discovers his sons will not deny themselves. The house of this kingdom is torn–even as Tamar's purity is torn from her. So the integrity and dignity of this kingdom is torn: raped, defiled,
dishonored. What a tragic failure is this kingdom; what a dishonorable kingdom is this house.
The central motif of this narrative is the family–the household of the king. The central theme of this narrative is love/hate. The story is a profound depiction of the love-hate relationship without the inadequacy of psychological detail–without the insufficiency of moralizing reflection. Note how the writer alerts us to the central role of this love/hate theme. He unfolds his pattern chiastically–you can see it even in your English version.
Verse 1-- Amnon loved Tamar
15a-- Amnon hated her with a great hatred
15b-- than the love with which he loved her
Verse 22-- Absalom hated Amnon
The story begins with love and ends with hate. And the climax of the story is a criss-crossing of the themes in verse 15: hate crossed with love. It is a perfect thematic chiasm. And the hatred of Absalom in verse 22–the hatred of Absalom is ominous, portentous, proleptic. For we begin to perceive that Absalom's deliberate and careful plan to murder Amnon is indicative of his own deliberate and careful plan to unseat his father and seize the throne of the house of Judah. Hatred is like a fire whipped by a Santa Ana; it consumes all in its path. The silence of Absalom in verse 22 is malevolent.
But the silence of David–the silence of David in verse 21 is impotent. He is angry, we are told; but he does nothing. Where is the king who executes justice in his kingdom? Where is the anointed of the Lord who begins at his own house to make wrong right? He is passive–a passive by-stander–silently watching life go by–life which he is unwilling and unable to control. Here is the king who came to grieving Bathsheba to comfort her on the death of the child born of their adultery. Where is he now when the desolate Tamar needs a word of comfort–yea, more, needs an act of justice? He is withdrawn, silent, passive. And as he was the unwitting tool of Amnon,
so he becomes the unwitting tool of Absalom. In verse 7, he unwittingly plays the role of Amnon's pimp! In verse 22, he unwittingly plays the role of Absalom's accomplice.
Tamar weeps in verse 19 for her shame and the injustice of her ravishment. David weeps in verse 36 for Absalom. For shame that the rank vengeance of the bloody son goes unrepaid! David shall weep for Absalom once more. But Joab will shame him with his own impotence. You love those who hate you; and hate those who love you (2 Sam. 19:6). The chiasm returns!!!
Notice also several other literary devices. The dramatic character of the plot is advanced and heightened by the pattern of request and response. Verses 1-10 contain several requests which are fulfilled in response. Until verse 12 when Tamar abruptly breaks the pattern. Her response to Amnon's request is an emphatic "No!"
The masterful technique of retarding the action in verses 7-11 serves to increase the suspense. The drawn-out description of Tamar's preparation of the cakes is slow, deliberate–we are tempted to say tedious. But delay may bring restraint; drawing it out may bring Amnon time to repent. But the abrupt proposition of verse 11 breaks the suspense.
The coaxing, then abrupt proposition of Amnon does not surprise us. But the abrupt dismissal of Tamar despite her coaxing does surprise us. She has been used and now is to be discarded: abruptly, forcefully, insensitively. Virginity lost, Tamar sits in humiliation. Beauty lost, Tamar sits in ashes. Future lost, Tamar sits in desolation.
The writer has masterfully drawn us squarely into the story by leading us through each scene–not in a leering and obscene manner, but in an openly frank and sensitive empathy for a tragic figure: Tamar the violated, manipulated, used and abused innocent sufferer. Tamar the beautiful becomes Tamar the desolate. Tamar the virgin becomes Tamar the defiled. Tamar the gentle and unassuming becomes
Tamar the ruined and rejected. Degraded, dehumanized, depersonalized: Tamar remains despondent in her brother's house. She weeps alone–with the king, her father, powerless to right the wrong; unwilling to plead her case; unwilling to daub her tears; unable to bear her sobs on his shoulders.
Who will restore Tamar? Who will bring her out of desolation into the family again? Who will draw her with the cords of love into the kingdom-family once more? Who will approach Tamar with words of comfort? Who will assure her that she may be loved? That she may be the object of compassion, not lust? Who will tell her that her dignity may be restored? Who will assure her that her integrity can never be violated? Who will let Tamar's hot tears fall upon him and say, " I do not condemn thee." Who will say to her, not "Go from me you thing!"; but "Come unto me." Come with your burdens you violated ones–come with your grief you desolate ones–come unto me and I will make you whole. I will heal your broken heart; I will bind up your wounded souls; I will take away your reproach; I will bring you into a family where you will never be violated, never be used, never be abused, never be an object–a thing–a pawn of debauchery. Come to my house–the house of the King of Kings. Come to my house–my kingdom and I will protect your dignity. I will guard your integrity. I will protect your purity.
Come to the house of my kingdom saith the Lord Jesus and I will plead your case–I will be your advocate. Do not weep! I will give you what the world can never give–I give you an undefiled heart in a house of love forever. Let me put my robe upon you. Let me put my long-sleeved robe upon you. Here, let me take away the garments of your shame. Let me cover your shame with my spotless robe. Let me hide your reproach beneath the robe I provide. Let me dress you in a robe that can never be torn–let me clothe you with a seamless garment.
He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; their robes shall be washed in the blood of the Lamb; and they shall sing "Hallelujah
to the King of Kings." In the house of David's greater Son, in his Father's house, in the house of the Son of God, they shall sing "Hallelujah" and weep no more.
Suggestions for further reading:
Kittel and Biblical Theology: A Review
It would certainly be anachronistic to write a standard book review now of Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT or Kittel), since it was translated over 20 years ago (1963-76) from a German edition begun some 30 years before that (1932-73)! Our purpose instead is to consider the TDNT's value for pastors and teachers in the specific exercise of biblical-theological exegesis for preaching and teaching ministries. This also seems a good occasion to reflect upon the role of words and phrases in the process of biblical-theological interpretation, since Kittel organizes his work around individual words rather than around theological topics like other theological dictionaries.
The Purpose of Kittel
In the original preface, Kittel explains that his Worterbuch extends the work of Hermann Cremer's Biblico-Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Greek Usage (1878). The distinctive mark of Cremer's work was not biblical-theology per se, but a controversial position that the New Testament represents a peculiar dialect of Greek invented by the biblical writers who used old (secular) Greek words to convey new, theological meanings. This was the so-called "Holy Spirit dialect" that Gustav Deissmann and Richard Moulton among others were trying to disprove.
Kittel sees the TDNT as an extension of Cremer's work in that it concentrates upon "internal" versus "external lexicography." These curious terms distinguish the usual concern of dictionaries and lexicons to provide a range of English word substitutes for a given Greek word ("external lexicography") with Kittel's focus upon the theological concepts which these words might convey ("internal lexicography"). The TDNT was intended to be a series of studies upon theological concepts (Begriffsgeschichte), rather than a traditional dictionary.
Kittel's method contains some crucial flaws which should make us cautious about accepting some of the TDNT's results uncritically. James Barr has exposed some of these flaws in his well known book, Semantics of Biblical Language (1961). His primary criticism is of Kittel's "failure to get to grips with the semantic value of words in their contexts" (Barr, 231).
Furthermore, Kittel's work is a study of theological ideas, but it is based upon individual words which are usually not the same thing. For example, the complex theological idea of Christ's propitiatory sacrifice is not fully communicated by any one word in the Bible, but by a series of words, phrases, events and institutions such as: "propitiation," "sin-offering," "cross," "to cover," "lamb," "scapegoat," etc. In Kittel's writings elsewhere, it is clear that he confuses "concept" (Begriff) with "word" (Wort). The result of Kittel's method is the possibility that "the word becomes overloaded with interpretative suggestion" (Barr, 234).
Happily though, the TDNT is a highly diverse work embodying various lexicographical methods. The first few volumes under Kittel's oversight did indeed downplay "external lexicography." For instance, the article on artos ("bread") in Vol. I has almost no discussion of this word outside the New Testament. Yet later volumes seem to include more standard lexical discussion; e.g., in Vol. VI Cullmann gives two pages to a discussion of the use of petra ("rock") in "profane" Greek, the LXX and to the Old Testament Hebrew equivalent; and in Vol. V Schneider uses a full page of small type in the article on xulon ("tree") telling us that the verb form means "to scrape," a German word is related to it, and that the noun can mean "club," "stick," "collar," "stake," etc. in Classical usage. Even Kittel himself could not resist some "external lexicography" when he discusses emeth ("truth") in Rabbinic Judaism in the article on aletheia.
The wide range of theological positions represented by the contributors to the TDNT also makes this work quite diverse; one finds everything from the existentialist Rudolph Bultmann to the more conservative Joachim Jeremias. Some of the articles are disappointing; for instance the rich, eschatological image communicated by the phrase "downpayment of the Spirit" in 2 Cor. 1:22 (cf. Eph. 1:14) deserves more than the terse one half page in Vol. I (see: arrabon). On the other hand, the TDNT can provide articles of the highest quality which are very suggestive for the biblical theologian. Examples of such articles and how they can be utilized will be included in the following discussion on word studies.
Why Do Word Studies?
Often word studies are performed without a clear purpose. I have isolated here three distinct goals of word studies, but there may be more. Let me clarify here that I am also including the study of certain word combinations which can form a distinct semantic unit. "Sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2) as a whole means something different than what "sons" and "disobedience" mean individually in other contexts.
The first and most common purpose of word study is to isolate the precise meaning of a word in a particular passage. This is especially important both for rare words whose meaning is not clear and for more common words which have several distinct and possibly unrelated meanings.
An example of a rare word is elenchos which occurs in the New Testament only in Heb. 11:1. Normally this term is given a subjective meaning: "faith is . . . being certain" (NIV) or "conviction" (NASB). Yet Buchsel in his TDNT article (Vol. II) correctly shows that this word never has a subjective sense in Greek usage, but means "proof" or "evidence" (KJV; NASB margin) of the sort entered in a law court.
An example of a common word with distinct meanings is akoe which can either mean the sense or activity of "hearing" (Mk. 7:35) or the thing that is heard, a "report," "message" or "preaching" in the New Testament (1 Thess. 2:13). One passage which requires careful study is Gal. 3:2 where the Spirit is either received through "believing hearing" (cf. NASB, RSV, TEV) or through "the 'preaching of faith,' i.e., proclamation which has faith as its content and goal" (TDNT, Vol., I; cf. NIV). Another example of distinct meanings for one word is xulon. The TDNT article in Vol. V points out its common meaning as "wood" in Luke 23:31 and 1 Cor. 3:12, or as "cudgel" in Mt. 26:47, 55, but in 1 Pet. 2:24 this word means "tree" as a reference to the cross which would normally be communicated in Greek by stauros. Therefore the word study is justified in order to identify the precise meaning of certain words in their contexts.
The second use of word studies is to gain an understanding of the nuance or connotation of certain words including technical terms. This function arises from an awareness that words are often used only in certain contexts and such words or phrases are "colored" by these contexts. For example, compare these two statements: "I spent three years in seminary" and "I did three years time in seminary." The first sentence is a plain statement of fact, but the second adds the
nuance of the speaker's negative attitude toward the experience by using a special verb formation. "To do time" carries its prison context with it wherever it goes.
An example of a New Testament Greek word group that both illustrates the type of word used in particular contexts and also the TDNT method of analysis is the agon group. I once heard a sermon on 1 Tim. 6:12 where the preacher said that the Greek word agonizomai means "to agonize," therefore the congregation was exhorted to 'agonize over the faith.' Unfortunately the English word has a different meaning and nuance than the Greek word whence it is derived. The element of emotional anguish communicated by "agonize" is not found in agonizomai which is an athletic and military term: "to contest for a prize," "to fight" also used metaphorically for engaging in a legal "contest" or "debate" (agon). Thus Paul is not exhorting Timothy to experience mental anxiety in 1 Tim. 6:12, but to struggle for Christianity like a good athlete or warrior.
The TDNT article in Vol. I does justice to the nuances in Greek of the agon word group, however it is clear that the author is discussing the concept of "fighting for the faith" in addition to the meaning of the words used. The author speaks of "five motifs of thought" communicated by "these concepts"–i.e., the words agon and agonizomai–the fight of faith has the goal of eternal life, requires self-denial, is supremely expressed in martyrdom, etc. The danger here is to read all of these things into the words agon and agonizomai which in and of themselves have simple meanings restricted to their particular contexts. The goal and nature of the Christian fight is expressed in the full sentences and contexts in which these and other words are used, but not in the words individually. Thus martyrdom is not implicit in agonizou in 1 Tim. 6:12, and the context shows that it is probably not in view in this passage.
Another example of the nuances of words relates to technical terms (cf. Silva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning , 107 et passim). The Greek word philos usually seems clear enough as the equivalent
of English "friend" as, for instance, when Jesus calls his disciples his friends (Jn. 15:14). However, there are technical uses of the Greek word which do not necessarily express personal relations as English "friend" does. For example, it is possible that Paul's philoi, the Asiarchs, in Acts 19:31 were business acquaintances, although personal friendship is not ruled out by the context.
A richer example of a technical nuance is found in John 19:12 where the Jewish leaders threaten Pontius Pilate by saying, "If you release this man, you are no 'friend of Caesar.'" Stahlin in the TDNT article on philos (Vol. IX) points out that although philos here is not a "full technical term," it is a "political term . . . associated with the common court title." The phrase 'friend of Caesar' (Lat. amicus Caesaris) denoted at that period a special inner circle of imperial confidants, so philos in conjunction with "Caesar" here is a technical, political term rather than a personal relation. Stahlin could also have pointed out that if the trial of Jesus took place in 33 A. D. as some think, Pilate would have been very sensitive to such a threat since his patron, L. Aelius Sejanus, had overstepped his power and been put to death by the Emperor Tiberius in 31 A. D. Even a rumor of disloyalty by Pilate as an associate of Sejanus would be enough for the broody, unpredictable emperor to do away with him. Here the simple Greek phrase "the friend of Caesar" takes on new meaning in this historical context.
The Word Study and Biblical Theology
The third use of word studies is in the service of biblical theology. In many cases the study of individual words is not the key technique for the discovery of biblical-theological themes. Often, a biblical motif is communicated by many words, phrases or events, so that a dictionary such as Leon-Dufour's Dictionary of Biblical Theology (see Kerux September, 1987) is well organized around theological concepts rather than around Greek and Hebrew words.
Yet biblical theology contains an important presupposition which makes the connections of individual words between passages relevant for biblical themes. Geerhardus Vos expresses this position when he says: "Biblical Theology, rightly defined, is nothing else than the exhibition of the organic progress of supernatural revelation in its historic continuity and multiformity" (original emphasis; Vos, Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation , 15). The key phrase here is "organic progress" of revelation. Biblical theology sees the biblical revelation as connected from start to finish as the revelation of the Savior and his work. It does recognize differences in form (i.e., Vos's "multiformity" above), yet all revelation is organically related just as the huge oak is related to the acorn whence it sprung and vice versa. The form varies as it grows, but the substance is the same. With this in mind, we can expect there to be a stratum of verbal references–both forward and backward looking reference–which connect one part of revelation with another.
Rock of Ages
One such reference is a passage in which Paul shows that he was a biblical theologian and gives us an example of the value and limitations of the TDNT. In 1 Cor. 10:4, Paul mentions the example of disobedience in the wilderness by Israel who "drank from the trailing, spiritual rock; and the rock was Christ." Here the word petra ("rock") is a Christological link back to a key Old Testament episode when Moses struck the rock on which Yahweh stood and life-giving water spilled out (Ex. 17:1-7; Num. 20:1-13). Other themes intertwine from here: "By his scourging we are healed" (Is. 53:5); Christ is the spiritual rock from whose belly flows the living water, the Spirit (Jn. 7:37-39), but only after the spear thrust of death (Jn. 19:34). Paul's statement, "Christ was the rock" is a pregnant statement showing the organic connection of the revelation of Christ in both Testaments.
Under petra in the TDNT, Cullmann gives a very full article upon the extra-biblical usage of the word ("external lexicography"),
including symbolic uses, then treats the New Testament occurrences separately. The lexicographical information is succinct and helpful and his discussion of figures such as Christ as the "stone of stumbling" (Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:7-8) and Peter's confession being the foundation stone of the church (Mt. 16:18) are generally very helpful. About 1 Cor. 10:4 he states:
(Paul) is not equating the rock directly with Christ, as though the latter took the form of the rock . . . . Christ is a spiritual (pneumatikos) reality. But He is not a reality of such a kind that one may allegorically abstract Him either from the concrete rock which followed in the past or from the concrete empirical gift of the Lord's Supper in the present. The same Christ, acting in history, stands over both the old covenant and the new in His pre-existence and post-existence (TDNT, Vol. VI, 97).
I doubt if anyone would seriously hold that the rock was a physical Christophany, yet Cullmann suggests a sort of sacramental connection between the wilderness rock and Christ. His statement about Christ's presence in both covenants and especially his spiritual presence in the Old Testament are key truths of value to biblical theology, however what does the "post-existence" of Christ mean? Does Jesus no longer exist except as a mystical symbol of some sort? At best "post-existence" is an unfortunate term for the heavenly life of Jesus Christ after his life "in the flesh." The TDNT will often provide suggestive material for the biblical theologian, yet the theology embodied here is not always fully reliable.
The Glory Tree
One more example will show how Kittel can be used with profit, even in spite of the opinions of the contributors. While investigating
the statement in 1 Pet. 2:24 that Christ bore our sins on the "tree" (xulon), we note that the Greek word stauros ("cross") is expected, so we look up xulon in the TDNT. Here Johannes Schneider gives us a full discussion on the extra-biblical meanings of this word: "tree," "wood," "stick," etc., some of which are represented in New Testament usage. Then he discusses the distinctive use of this word for "cross" in several Acts passages which "can be understood only against the background of the LXX," specifically the curse in Dt. 21:22 upon an executed criminal who is hung on a "tree." Then he makes a further point based upon Gal. 3:13 that Christ bore our curse upon the "tree."
Next Schneider turns to our 1 Peter passage:
This is undoubtedly based on Is. 53:4, 12. Predominant here, too, is the idea of substitution. The sins of men are laid on the body of the sinless Christ, who bears them to the cross . . . . It could be that this conception is influenced by the idea of the scapegoat in Lv. 16:21f (cf. also Jn. 1:29) (TDNT, V, 39-40).
In a few short paragraphs, Schneider has introduced us to the various theological meanings symbolized by the "tree" and fulfilled in the cross of Christ. He has given us various Old Testament and New Testament passages to explore as possible biblical-theological links joined together through the word "tree." Thus the TDNT has conveniently brought together the raw material for a biblical-theological treatment of our 1 Peter passage.
One final point in the same TDNT article on xulon concerns the use of this word in Revelation in the "tree of life" which appears in the New Heaven. Schneider himself thinks that this symbol merely goes back to "later Jewish ideas," however he reports on the view of others that the symbol of the "tree of life" in Revelation is nothing less than the cross of Christ. "Early Christian art indicates a close
relationship between the tree of life and the cross. The cross of Christ, the wood of suffering and death, is for Christians a tree of life" (TDNT, Vol. V, 40).
Careful exegetical work needs to be done. However it seems to me that the position which Schneider rejects is potentially a rich, biblical vein. This seems to be just the sort of ironic twist suited to the God who makes foolish the wisdom of the wise; the gory tree has become the tree of glory. And if the tree of life in the New Paradise is indeed the cross, what does that say about the tree of life in the original Paradise? Here again, the TDNT has provided suggestive material, even though the contributor of the article does not agree with it. Our use of the TDNT on 1 Pet. 2:24 for this week's sermon has provided material for next week's sermon as well!
Finally, the TDNT is provided with a complete and useful index volume (Vol. X) which indexes English, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic keywords and all Old Testament, Apocrypha and New Testament passages referred to throughout the dictionary. For example, we could expand our research into 1 Pet. 2:24 by seeing what other contributors say about this verse in the New Testament passage index. There we find that 1 Pet. 2:24 is mentioned in passing 20 times and discussed more fully three times–the index distinguishes fuller discussions by putting the reference in bold print. We could also reference the biblical symbol of the "stone" or "rock" by using the English, Greek and Hebrew keyword indexes.
In conclusion, Kittel's Theological Dictionary can be used profitably by a biblical theologian. It often has enough "external lexicography" so that we will not interpret words out of their contexts. We have seen that the Bible often links redemptive themes through the use of key words. The TDNT may point out such links, even when that particular contributor does not agree that the passages or theological ideas are linked. There are some methodological weaknesses in Kittel; however it is still a vast, rich resource for plundering the treasury of Christ.