June 2008

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From the editor: "...too wonderful for me" (Job 42.3)
J Grant

Creation's Story (18)
R W Cargill

Fundamentalism and the message of the Gospel (1)
M Browne

Book Review

"Verily, verily" (14)
P Coulson

Worry

Sticking up for Jacob (4) - Life with Laban
G Hutchinson

The Cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22.1-5)
R Dawes

Question Box

Notebook: The Enemies of Israel
J Grant

The Doxologies of the New Testament Epistles (1)
H A Barnes

Poetry: "The dayspring from on high hath visited us" (Luke 1.78)
Paul McCauley

Whose faith follow: Mr Robert McClurkin (1904-1980)
J G Hutchinson

Into All The World: The Growth of a Work - A composite picture of assembly planting in Japan
J B Currie

With Christ

The Lord’s Work & Workers

Forthcoming Meetings

Notices

The Doxologies of the New Testament Epistles (1)

H A Barnes, Bromborough

INTRODUCTION

The "Amens" of the New Testament epistles are usually preceded by desires for grace for the readers or declarations of the glory of God. The former are prayers, and the latter are praise and are usually called doxologies, there being about an equal number of prayers and doxologies. The word doxology comes from a combination of the two Greek words, doxa meaning glory, honour or praise, and logos meaning word, hence a literal rendering of doxology is a "word of glory". Glory is the visible display of true greatness; sometimes we read it was "like devouring fire" (Ex 24.17; 2 Chr 7.3), and also "gloryshone" (Lk 2.9), but often it comes in other forms of demonstration. Thus, for instance, it was the desire of the Psalmist that "Thy saintsshall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power" (Ps 145.10-11); and "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Ps 19.1). The doxologies certainly do that!

In the New Testament a doxology is a short, unique, and spontaneous ascription of praise to God. They never follow a set pattern, but usually come after the mention of a divine name and they usually end with the phrase "for ever (and ever). Amen". Doxologies appear unexpectedly within, or more expectedly at the end, of the epistles. Their final "Amen" gives the readers an opportunity to show their agreement through their responding "Amens".

If we extend the definition of doxology beyond those passages only containing the word "glory", we would then also include Romans 1.25 and 9.5, where God the Creator, and Christ who is God are said to be "blessed for ever. Amen"; 1 Timothy 6.16, where only honour and power everlasting are mentioned; and 1 Peter 4.11 where we find praise and dominion. Using this extended definition, we find that there are eighteen doxologies in the New Testament epistles, and seventeen conclude with "for ever (and ever). Amen" or (once) "world without end. Amen" (Eph 3.21). Even the one that ends otherwise concludes with "eternal might" (1 Tim 6.16, NT).

In the doxologies, according to our Authorized Version, the following are attributed to God: glory fourteen times; blessing, dominion, and honour four times; power three times, and majesty, wisdom, thanksgiving, and might once. Hence the ascription of glory is most frequent and, of course, gives the passages their description as doxologies. Other attributed features include various aspects of power dominion, power, might  whilst majesty goes with glory and is a way of speaking of divine persons (Heb 1.3; 8.1). Honour (deference, reverence), wisdom (mental excellence of the highest order), and thanksgiving (gratefulness) are other things to be ascribed to God according to the writers, who are: Paul who wrote ten, Peter three, John (in Revelation) three (one of his own and two reported in heaven), and Jude and the writer to the Hebrews one each. (James is the only epistle writer who does not contribute a doxology.) Each doxology follows or contains a mention of a divine person and in the former case usually contains the words "who, whom, or him". Lastly, we note that five, like some prayers, begin with the words "Now unto" or "Now to", calling for immediate praise.

The word "be" which precedes glory in the doxologies in the Authorized Version is always in italics (e.g. "to whom be glory", Gal 1.5), showing that it was added by the translators to give the sense as they understood it, but no verb at all actually existed in the original manuscripts. Jim Allen in his commentary on the book of Revelation (What the Bible Teachesseries) urges us to see the doxologies as attributes that really "belong" to God by right, not just devout desires that they should "be" ascribed to God; making them joyous statements of truth. Inserting the word "belong(s)" instead of "be" certainly strengthens the thoughts in the doxologies, acknowledging that the attributes actually belong to God and to Him alone, "before all time and now and forever" (Jude v.25, NT). Similarly, Albert Barnes (Notes on the New Testament) comments that a doxology gives the opportunity of "expressing the feeling that all that is great and good belongs to Him". (William Kelly suggested that the word "is" instead of "be" should be inserted.)

Some epistles have a number of doxologies, some have none; six of Paul's thirteen epistles have them, e.g. Romans has four, but there are none in the Corinthian or Colossian epistles. Paul's writings end with a doxology (2 Tim 4.18), as do those of Peter, Jude, and the writer to the Hebrews.

OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND

In the doxologies we hear echoes of the Old Testament worthies who praised God in doxology form, as, outstandingly, when "David said, Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty…Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name" (1 Chr 29.10 13; see also Gen 24.26 27; Ex 18.10; 1 Chr 16.36). The psalmists also exulted in God with such expressions as, "Give unto the

Lord the glory due unto his name" (Ps 29.2; see also Ps 96.7-8; 115.1; 1 Chr 16.28-29). It also seems fairly certain that doxologies were used in synagogue worship and their use would thus be familiar to the New Testament writers.

Doxologies are in addition to the ascription of blessing to God in the so-called eulogies (from the Greek word eulogeo, to speak well of) in the epistles, the three of which have essentially the same form, viz. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 1.3; Eph 1.3; 1 Pet 1.3). They follow the Old Testament form of blessing God, found many times, examples being, "Blessed be the Lord", "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel", and "Blessed be God". These are carried over into the New Testament, as when Zacharias said, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel" (Lk 1.68).

The praise in the doxologies is no vain repetition of a formula (Mt 6.7), but each is different, appropriate, and often unexpected! All nine attributes mentioned in the doxologies have to do with the greatest attributes of God and the highest aspirations of men, namely, glory, dominion, blessing, honour, power, majesty, wisdom, thanksgiving, and might. Any rulers, ancient or modern, would love to hear from those whom they rule that all these things were theirs, but in their fullness and permanency they only belong to God, as stated so insistently in the doxologies. If any mere man has glory, then he has obtained it from God, e.g. "O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour" (Dan 5.18).

To be continued.

 

 

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