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AN ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN THE WORDS OF ST. PAUL, 'For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ,' &c. (Rom. ix. 3). By the Rev. ALEXANDER GORDON, M.A.
CONSIDERABLE ambiguity rests on this passage in our version of the New Testament. The superficial reader is apt to regard the Apostle as giving utterance to a sentiment, from which every Christian mind must recoil, and which is only calculated to fill it with horror,-that for the sake of the salvation of his people he would be content to be separated from Christ, and consigned to eternal reprobation. With regard to such a sentiment, we do not say too much when we affirm, that even supposing we could find no principle of criticism which would give the words a different sense, we should be justified in rejecting it as being alien to every holy emotion in the Christian heart, and opposed to the entire spirit of the Christian religion.
The original words are, Ηὐχόμην γὰρ αὐτὸς ἐγὼ ἀνάθεμα εἶναι ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. It is not my purpose to examine the different opinions regarding the sense of this passage, but it may not be improper to glance briefly at one or two of them. The view of those who would translate the word Hixóμny, 'I did wish,' has no foundation in sound exegesis. It is manifest the Apostle speaks of his immediate feelings. Besides, there are other insuperable objections to this rendering.
Nor is the view of Dr. Waterland, as quoted by Doddridge, much more tenable, who would give to the words the following rendering,-Made an anathema after the example of Christ. The sense put upon anò in this rendering is supported by a reference to άпô Tâν πрoyovav (2 Tim. i. 3). But this solitary reference is not sufficient to establish the rendering, as the expression in Timothy might be translated with equal propriety, according to the religion or system of my forefathers.
Grotius understands the word Xporou as meaning the Church of Christ. According to his view, the expression aνáðεμ¤ àпò тоυ Xplorou has the sense of being excommunicated or separated from the fellowship of the Christian church. This view, however, does not seem to agree well with the drift of the Apostle's argument; for we cannot perceive any connection between his zeal for the salvation of the house of Israel and separation from the church of Christ. The train of thought in his mind would not naturally
have suggested such a declaration. Besides, the philological ground is not sufficient to support such an interpretation. only instance, so far as I know, of the word Xporos being used in the sense of the Church of Christ is that in 1 Cor. xii. 12; but this is not sufficient authority to ground an interpretation upon, especially when the words are capable of a sense more in harmony with the argument of the writer. The whole ambiguity turns upon the sense we put upon the words avez and anò. That the word avalua means "accursed,' in a spiritual sense, cannot be questioned; but it has a secondary meaning no less certain, -that of being devoted to destruction or death. This is the sense given in certain passages to the Hebrew word D by the LXX. See Lev. xxvii. 28, Job vi. 17, 18, Josh. vii. 1, where the word on is rendered by the word άvábɛμ. The term is not of frequent occurrence in the New Testament, and in the few instances in which it does occur it has a modification of meaning determined by the connection, somewhat different from that given above; but its usage in the Septuagint is sufficient ground for our taking it, in the passage under consideration, in the sense referred to.
I am aware that the authority of Chrysostom has been cited as against this interpretation: Εἰ τοῦτο ἔλεγε, πῶς ἀνάθεμα ἑαυτὸν ηὔχετο εἶναι ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ; ὁ γὰρ τοιοῦτος θάνατος μᾶλλον τῷ τοῦ Χριστοῦ συνήπτε χορῷ, καὶ τῆς δόξης ἀπολαύειν ἐκείνης ἐποιεῖ— If he meant so (to be devoted to death or martyrdom), how could he wish himself to be separated (¿váɛμx) from Christ? for such a death would rather have brought him into more intimate fellowship with Christ, and to the enjoyment of the felicity belonging to such a state.' Much weight, it is true, is due to the authority of this ancient writer; but the force of the above passage rests on a misconception of the meaning of the expression anò Xpioтou, an expression which I hope to be able to show is capable of a very different sense from that in the mind of Chrysostom.
The connection seems also to confirm the view, that by the expression avάleux the Apostle had in his mind the idea of temporal destruction, more especially that which appears in the form of persecution and martyrdom. He had just spoken of the trials to which the primitive preachers of the Gospel were exposed, 'tribulation, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword; and it was exceedingly natural for him, in expressing his ardent affection for his kinsmen according to the flesh,' harmonising with the train of thought in his mind, and arising naturally out of it, to express how willing he should be to submit to all the calamities he had referred to, could he in any way promote the salvation of his people. The sense of the expression anò rou Xgiorou remains
still to be determined. There are not wanting, I am well aware, in the New Testament many passages in which the preposition άπò denotes the efficient cause (see Matt. xi. 19, xvi. 21; Mark viii. 31; Luke xvii. 25, and in many other instances). According to this view, the Apostle affirms that he could wish himself to be made an ȧválɛa by Christ for his kinsmen according to the flesh. But there is something harsh in the idea of Christ as the direct author of the sufferings of his servants. I cannot but think the words capable, therefore, of a meaning more in accordance with the general views presented in Scripture of the benevolent character of the author of Christianity, and equally accordant with the genius of the language. The words ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ I would translate as meaning separation from the work of Christ, removed from his service. This would retain the original conception belonging to the particle anò, which is that of from (e.g. Xen. Anab. 1. 2. 5), Κῦρος ὡρμᾶτο ̓ΑΠΟ Σάρδεων. This view is strengthened by the words of the Apostle (Phil. i. 2), For to me to live is Christ,' that is, to live would bring him the happiness of serving Christ, and promoting his cause. We may, therefore, suppose the Apostle as declaring in the passage in question, that, in order to promote the salvation of his people, he was willing to undergo any amount of suffering, involving even death itself, and consequently the suspension of his labours, his entire removal from the service of his master, in which he so much delighted. Thus the sacrifice he was ready to make was twofold,—the sacrifice of his life and the sacrifice of the enjoyment connected with the service of his Divine Master. If this view be taken of the passage, it greatly enhances the intensity and force of the language.
The writer of these remarks is not aware that the view he has taken of the latter part of the Apostle's words has ever been propounded before. He presents it with great diffidence, his main object being to elicit inquiry. Should he be the means of stirring up any of his brethren in Christ to resolve more successfully this or any other Scripture difficulty, he shall rejoice in the thought that his labour has not been in vain in the Lord.a
a Since the above was written, I have seen an article in the Journal of Sacred Literature by the Rev. Wm. Milligan on the same subject. That writer proposes to render the word evxouai by the English expression, I boast.' Such a rendering, he remarks, would give a very interesting meaning to the whole passage, but thinks more evidence is needed to confirm such a translation of the word before it could be generally adopted. Several philological objections present themselves to such a rendering, but the connection seems to my mind quite fatal to it. The Apostle announces with a solemn averment his state of mind; he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart. As arising out of this, he refers to the state of mind indicated by the term euxoual. The particle yap plainly connects the sentiments expressed in the second and third verses. The emotions of which he was the subject were in both cases present and prevailing states of mind.
VOL. IV.NO. VIII.
A PARALLEL BETWEEN DAVID AND TITUS
By the Rev. EDWARD WILTON, B.A., Oxon.
[The writer submits the following points of resemblance between a well-known event in Roman history and a still more familiar passage of Holy Writ, without claiming for the subject any other interest than may arise from a remarkable coincidence, not only in the general circumstances, but even in the language and details. At the same time he would respectfully suggest, as neither impossible nor improbable, that Livy might have seen and read the Hebrew Scriptures, which could not in his day have been altogether unknown at Rome; and so might have (intentionally or even unconsciously) imitated the Jewish narrative, while amplifying and embellishing the popular legend of Torquatus.]
I. David was descended from an illustrious family. Abraham ... Isaac ... Jacob... Judah... Naasson ("Prince of Judah," 1 Chron. ii. 10)... Boaz ("a mighty man of wealth," Ruth ii. 1).'Matt. i. 2, 3, 4.
II. His early youth was passed in obscurity and pastoral occupations. There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep,' 1 Sam. xvi. 11. 'David thy son, which is with the sheep,' xvi. 19. David... returned. . . to feed his father's sheep,' xvii. 15. 'With whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness?' ver. 28. See also 2 Sam. vii. 8; Ps. lxxviii. 70.
III. The Israelites and Philistines were drawn up in hostile array against each other, separated only by a valley with a stream running through it. 'And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley (or brook, ver. 40; the Hebrew nachal, like wady, signifies a valley with a stream running through it) between.'1 Sam. xvii. 3.
IV. A gigantic champion from the invading army challenged any one to decide the contest by engaging
gaging with him in single combat. And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span and he stood, and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them... "Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then shall ye be our servants and serve us." And the Philistine said, "I defy the armies of Israel this day: give me a man, that we may fight together." -Ver. 4, 8-10.
V. No one dared for a long time to accept the challenge. 'When Saul and all Israel heard those words.... they were dismayed and greatly afraid. And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.'-Ver. 11, 16.
VI. David requests the king's permission to accept the challenge, and urges his qualifications for the combat. And David said to Saul, "Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine... Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock.... Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing that he hath defied the armies of the living God."– Ver. 32, 34, 36.
VII. David confidently expected success. 'The Lord... will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.'-Ver. 37.
VIII. Saul's permission and benediction. 'And Saul said unto David, "Go, and the Lord be with thee."-Ver. 37.