Preface Introduction Chapters Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Appendices Appendix I Appendix II Appendix III Appendix IV Appendix V Appendix VI Appendix VII Appendix VIII Appendix IX Appendix X Appendix XI Appendix XII Appendix XIII Appendix XIV Appendix XV Appendix XVI Appendix XVII Appendix XVIII Appendix XIX Appendix XX Appendix XXI Indexes References Names Biblical References General Bibliography
Meaning of in the New Testament.
It is, of course, hardly necessary to say that a noun formed from
a verb need not have the same basic meaning and that therefore the
verb cannot be used to prove anything about the meaning of the noun.
In the New Testament there is a recurrent phrase, "the foundation of
the world", which many writers, who view Gen. 1.2 as a description
of catastrophe, take to be an allusion. On the basis of the verbal
root they argue (as I myself have done) that the noun
means "disruption", since the verb means "to cast down". Origen
equated the verbal root of with the Latin dejicere, "to
throw down". In this he is essentially correct. And in the LXX
the verb is similarly used to substitute for the following Hebrew
words, all of which are essentially similar in meaning;
(Haras) to tear down, breakdown, devastate, over-
throw, destroy, extirpate.
(Laqah) to take, lay hold of, seize, snatch away, cap-
(Natash) to stretch or spread out, scatter abroad, re-
ject, let loose, disperse, give up.
(Naphal) to fall, fall away, fall out, fail, hurl down,
cast down, fall upon (attack).
(Nathatz) to break down, destroy, smash down.
(Paratz) to break, demolish, scatter, breakup, spread
(Satam) to lurk for, way-lay, entrap.
(Shahath) to break to pieces, destroy, ruin, lay waste,
devastate, violate, injure, corrupt.
(Shaphel) to fall or sink down, to be laid low, humiliate,
This clearly establishes the meaning of the verb, but what of the
noun formulated from it? In classical Greek it came to have the
basic meaning of "foundation" as signifying what has been cast down
or thrown down first. It is never found with the meaning of des-
truction or disruption. In II Macc. 2.29 the noun occurs in a context
which indicates that the classical sense of "foundation" is intended
In the New Testament there is little doubt that the verbal form
has the classical meaning of "casting down" or "casting out", as in
II Cor.4. 9 and Rev. 12.10 for example, or "giving birth to" in Heb.
11.11, ie., "founding" a new line.
On the basis of Heb. 6.1 which reads, "Therefore leaving the
principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, not
laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of
faith towards God", the learned commentator Olshausen argues that
we must assume the word is here being used in its most fundamental
sense of "casting down", and so of demolishing or destroying. "For",
he argues, "the apostle would assuredly not have dissuaded men from
laying again the foundation of repentance, in the case of its having
In this passage, moreover, the word for "foundation" is not
as it might have been in classical Greek, but (the-
melios) as it normally is in the New Testament. Wherever the New
Testament is speaking of a true "foundation", this word themelios
is found. The following references will make this clear:
Luke 6.48-49 I Tim. 6.19
Luke 14.29 II Tim. 2.19
Acts 12.26 Heb. 1.10 (as a verb)
Rom. 15.20 Heb. 6.1
I Cor. 3, 10, 11, 12 Heb. 11.10
Eph. 2.20 Rev. 21.14-19
Thus if there is a word in New Testament Greek, the meaning of
which is unequivocably and unambiguously "foundation", it is the
word themelios. In the recurrent phrase, "the foundation of the
world", one might reasonably, therefore, have expected to find this
word used, if the meaning really is the foundation of the world. On
the other hand, to render it, "the disruption of the world", and
thereby make it a reference back to a catastrophe implied in Gen ,1.2,
requires that the noun be given a meaning for which we have no other
precedent in Greek literature. Nor did , apparently,
come by custom to be associated with the word ("world"),
the word which follows it, as a kind of "accepted formula" for the
creation, because elsewhere (when clearly speaking of the creation)
the phrase used is , or : ie. ,
"from the beginning of the world" (as in Matt. 24.21) or "from the
beginning of the creation" (as in II Pe. 3.4). So also in Mark 10.6
and 13.19. Since the word means "order", it would not
be surprising if the writers of the New Testament had coined a new
phrase to describe the catastrophe, referring to it thereafter as the
"disruption of the world order". They may then have used it as a
reference point with respect to God's redemptive plans - for this
may well have been the first overt rebellion of the created order
against the authority of the Creator.
The great majority of Greek scholars would undoubtedly object to
any claim that the noun can ever mean "destruction" on the grounds
that "there is no evidence for it". But this is circular reasoning.
For there is no evidence only provided that we refuse to allow
to be rendered "disruption" in the New Testament. Other-
wise, the argument has no force whatever. One cannot disallow
something by merely asserting it to be unallowable to start with and
saying it cannot be allowed because there is no evidence for it!
Classical Greek and New Testament Greek do not always agree.
Some words in the New Testament are given meanings which they do
not hold in classical Greek, and Heb. 6.1 strongly supports the idea
that may be one such word.
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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved