John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 11 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 11 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

gentia," " refulgentia," " relueentia;" — " the splendour," " ray," " beam," " efful-
gency," or " shining forth of glory." Syr., ^'7':^ ' " gei'men;" so Boderius; — " the
branch." Tremellius and De Dieu, " splendor," the Arabic concurring.

Avy/j is " lux," " light," particularly the morning light: Acts xx. ll,'0^A^(7«f
uxpis ctvyTic, — " He talked until the break of day," or the beaming of the morn-
ing light. Ayyoj ifhiov, Gloss. Vet., "jubar solis," — "the sun-beam." And some-
times it denotes the day itself. It is abo sometimes used for the light that is in
burning iron. ' A's-avy-j is of the same signification ; properly " splendor lucis," —
" the brightness, shining, beauty, glory, or lustre of light." Hence is «!;y«^ii), to
"shine fortlV to "shine into," to "irradiate:" 2 Cor. iv. 4, E<V to ^53 ci.vya.axt


alrolg, — " That the light of the gospel should not inwliate" (shine) '• into ihem.''
' A'7Tot,vya,':^o3 is of the >ame importance; and from thence dTzxvyuGfAce,. The word
is nowliere used in the Ne \- Testament save in this place onlv; nor doth it occur
in the Old of the LXX. Only we have it, Wisd. vii. 26. Wisilom is said to he
u.'Ko.vyaai/.oi. (puro; ol'ioiov, — " a beam of eternal light;" to which place the margin
of our tran.-lation refers. And it is so used hy Nazianzen : 'Msya'Aov i^uro; fHKoou
d7rot.tjyccijfi», — " A little beam of a great light." It answers exactly to the lie-
brew ^i=, or ^?3 """^ ; that is, " The morning light:" Prov. iv. 18, " The path of
the righteous ^^^ "i"S3," — « ut lux splendoris," Jerome; "as the light of bright-
ness," — tliat is, "of the morning," uvyTi, Acts xx. 11. And it is also applied to
the light of fire, or fire in iron, Isa. iv. 5, "'^'S -^i^ — " The light of fire ;" and the
fiery streaming of lightning, Ilab. iii. 11.

The brightness, shining, ray, beam, t-^j loBri;, "of glory." Some look on this
expression as a Hebraism, dTruvyxa/acc t'/ji: 3o'|/ij, " the beam of glorv," for hoo^ov
ecTrKiiyxajiix, "a glorious beam;" but this will not answer the design of the
apostle, as we shall see afterwards.

Oui- translators have supplied " his," ** the brightness of his glory," by repe it-
ing uvTov from the end of the sentence; peihaps, as we shall find, not altngetiier
necessarily, — in which case alone such supplements unto the text are allowed in

Keel x^po'''''''"^?^ — " character." " Imago," " forma," " figura," " expressa
forma," "figura expressa," ^^?f, Syr.; — "the character," "image," "form,"
" figure," " express form," " express figure :" so variously is the word rendered
by translators, with little difference. It is nowhere used in the New Testa-
ment but only in this place. In other authors it hath many significations.
Sometimes they use it properly and naturally; sometimes metaphorirally ai.d
artificially, as when it denotes several forms of speech or orations. Properlv,
from ■/(^'jau or y^, to engrave with a tool or style, is ■)(,,yi/,a, and
X»pcix,T'/!p; which is firstly and properly the note or mark cut by a tool or instru-
ment into wood, or any other subjei.t capable of such impression, or the stamp
and sign that is left in the coining of money. The mai'k or scar also lelt by a
wound is by the LXX. termed )(,u.pxKr'/jp, Lev. xiii. 28. It is in general an ex-
press representation of another thing, communicated unto it by an imj)ression of
its likeness upon it, opposed unto that which is umbratile and imaginary.

T^? vTroara-aiug ainw, — " substantia," " subsistentias," " personse." Svr.,
ttrin"'S"^j "substantiae ejus ;" — "hypostasis," "substance," " subsistence," "person."
The word is four times used in the New Testament, — thrice in this epistle, in
this place, and chap. iii. 14, and chap. xi. 1, as also 2 Cor. ix. 4, — everywhere in a
different sense; so that the mere use of it in one place will afford no light unto
the meaning of it in another, but it must be taken from the context and subject
ti'eated of. Tiie composition of the word would denote "substantia," but so as
to differ from and to add something unto ovaix, "substance," or being; «hich in
the divine nature can be nothing hut a special manner of sub-^i-tence. But the
controversy that hath been about the precise signification of these words we shall
not here enter into the discussion of.

<I>sp6jv, " agens," " regens," "moderans;" — "acting," "disposing," "ruling,"
*' governing." Also " porttins," " baiulans," " sustinens ; " — " bearing," " support-
ing," " carrying," " upholding." Which of these senses is peculiarly intended we
shall afterwards inquire into.

Toi p'/i/aetTt rvig "hvuK^iuc: xvrov, — "by the Avord of his power," " by his power-
ful word." Syr., '^l??'?? ^^''Jr, — •' by the power of his word," changing the order
of the words, but not the meaning of them: "By the power of his wi-rd," or,
"the word of his power;" that is, his powerful word. Avtou; some would read
it oc'jro'O, and refer it unto the Father, — " By the pov.erlul word of him;" thai is,


of the Father, by vvho=e povvei", they say, the Son disposer! of all things. But all
copies with accents have avTov constantly, none cciirov, nor will the dispositioa
of the «ords Ijear that reference.

A/' idvTav, — " by himself," " in his own person."

Kocda-piiTfioy 'TToimBc/neuog, — " purgationein faoiens," " purgatione facta ; " —
" having purged," "cleansed," "expiated" or "purified" (us from) "our sins."
" Having made a purgation or purification of our sins."

'Ex.»6iasu. Kadi'^cj is used both neutrally and actively, answering to ^'-il,
both in Kal and Hiphil, signif^ving "to sit down," and "to cause to sit down."
Chrysostom seems to have understood the word in the latter sense, referring
it to God the Father causing the Son to sit down. But it is hard to find
any antecedent word whereby it should be regulated, but only 6V, " who," in
the beginning of the verse, — that is, he himself; and, as Erasmus observes, yivo-
/^svo;, in the following words, will not grammatically admit of this consti'uction ;
for if iKDcdtas be to be understood actively and transitively, it must have been
yiuofiivov. And tlie apostle clears the neutral sense of the word, chap. viii. 1. It
is well, then, lendered by our translators, " he sit," or " sat down."

'E;/ "hi^tx. Ps. ex. 1, T'?"'? ^V.' LXX., x-ciSov ix. os^tcou, in the plural num-
ber. So is the same thing expressed, Acts vii. 55: and by Mark, i:/ Bf|/o7j,
chap. xvi. 5. Our apostle constantly keepeth the singular number, with h,
chap. i. 13, viii. 1, xii. 2. The same thing in both expressions is intended;
only that of ex, Oi^i&iv, or iv Sg|/o;f, in the plural number, is more eminently
destructive of the folly of the Anthropomorphites; for they cannot hence pre-
tend that God hath a right hand, unless they will grant that he hath many,
which were not only to turn the glory of the invisible God into the likeness of a
man, but of a monster. And Austin well observes that in the psalm where that
expression is used, '•' Sit on my right hand," it is addeJ, ~3^'p';"'? ^P^;, " The
Lord on thy right hand," — at the right hand of him who sat on his right hand ;
wliich removes all carnal apprehensions from the meaning o( the words.

Ti}.c i^^syoiT^uavvY]?. This word is seldom used in other authors : twice in this
epistle, here, and chap. viii. 1; once by Jude, verse 25; and nowliere else in the
New Testament ; by the LXX. not at all. The apostle evidently expresseth by it
n'i33 or "^^^^; not as they are used appellatively for glory, power, or majesty, but
as they are names and denote the essential glory of God. "The glorious God." So
that y.iya.'huavvfi is God himself; not absolutely considered, but with reference
unto the revelation of his glory and majesty in heaven, God on his throne; as our
apostle declareth, chap. viii. 1.

'E» tj-^rihoig^ — " in the highest." M-iyaXuavvti iv v-^pnT^ots is v\ptaTOs ; that is,
f "?.?, " the Highest," God himself. See Luke i. 35.i

* Various Readings. — .Owen, though perhaps it is a misprint, reads oiutov after
VTroaroidioig, both in the text of the verse and in the subsequent explanation of the
words; the textus receptus has avrov. He reads ovvx/xia; avrov in agreement with
the textus receptus; Tischendorf here gives ccvrov. The words o;' sxvroZ are omit-
ted by Lachmann and Tischendorf ; who, together with Huhn, omit iif/.av also.

Exposition. — ' ATrccvy. r. o, " Ao^oe. plainly means the same as the Hebrew
""■'=3, namely, splendour, brightness. Comp. Luke ii. 9," etc. — Stuart. " The idea
that God in the Aoyog finds and reflects himself as in his counterpart is expressed by
Paul when, 2 Cor. iv. 4, Col. i. 15, he calls the Logos sixuu rol Qiou. Ac^ct de-
notes the splendour which surrounds God, Lukeii. 9." — Tholuck. " Nouns end-
ing in ^ct denote not the act as continuing, but the result of the act as finished.
^ A'TTccvy. denotes not the brightness received from another body, and thrown back
as a reflection or a mirrored image, not the light continually proceeding from a
shining body, ;is a light streaming out and loj,ing it>^elf in space; but a light radiated
from another light, in as far as it is viewed as now become an independent light. It is


Ver. o. — Who being the brightness of glory, and the ex-
press image of his person, and upholding [or, disposing
of] all things by the word of his power, having by
himseh' purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of
the Majesty on high;

The apostle proceeds in his description of the person in wliom God

more than a mere ray, more than a mere im;ige, — a sun produced from the oiiginal
lit>ht." Ac'l., " the eternal essential ^ - lory of the Father" Accordin;!- to the ex-
planation which refers it to the Shechinah, "tlie Sun would he det,'-radcd Ijeneath
the Olu TestaiDent imperfect typical form of the liiviiie manifestation; seeing that
h:' would be representt-d as an ccTcii/y. of the latter, wh ch was not even itself an
ciTrct'jy., hut a niei'e reflection." — Ebrard.

Xapux,. r. V. ct. 'T-r. plainly retains thi' more ancient meaning of substance or
essence. . . . Christ is "the development of that substance to our view, the
delineation of it. . . . Ancient Greek annotators. and atttr them most of the
modern one-:, have applied these -words t > the divine nature of Christ. In the
opinion that the verse now under ccmsideration rehues to the incarnate M; s-iah,
I find tliai Scott and Bcza concur." — Stuart. "'Tt. means being. esFence. I\Iany
expositors, offended at the Son being called only the copy of the Being, took Ctt.
in tlie sense adopted by the church, of Person." — Tholuck. A6^. .-ignifies the
essence of the Father with reference to tlie glory in which he represents himself
before the eyes of the suppliant creature: vtt., this essence as essence, and with-
out regard to its outward rannifes'atinn. Xcip. is here used "in the sense of a
form cut out or engraven." The 3&'|. represents itself in a form coniposed of ravs,
a sun ; the v'tt. stanijis itself out in a manifest figure. These appositions belong
mure properly to the Logos qua eternally pie-existent. — Ebrard.

(i>ip. corresponds to the Hebrew ^'^l, Isa. xlvi. 3, Ixvi. 9, euro, conservo, to sus-
tain, to preserve, as a mother does her ciiild. Ta p-/;y.. t. B. «., by his own power-
ful wore], the word of the Son, not the \\ord of God, as xvrov woidd mean

Stuart. According to Bleek, avTou corresponds to h^cccvrov of the first person,
ccvroii to li^ov. If the former, the emphasis being on '■ self," the phrase would be,
"By the word of his own i ower." "There is no occasion for tiiis cmpl asis
here. Avroii applies in a reflexive sense to the Son, and not to the Father." —

Kcid., purification; in Hellenistic Greek expiation, e.g.. Exod. xxix. 36,xxx. 10:
not purification i)y moral means,because it isjoined witho;' iccvrov, which isexplain-
ed in ch. ii. 14 by oii, tw ^a-jocrov; in ch. ix. 12 by 3<oi rov lotov uificcro;; and in ch.
ix. 20 h\^i!x,TVii^v(7ia,; ccvtov.— Stuart. "The puriflcation in the Biblical sense con-
sists in the atonement, the gracious covering {'f.'^. Lev. xvi. 30) of guilt." — Ebrard.

''E.Ko.L corresponds to the Hebrew -t-^; which applied to God and to kings, does
not mean simply to sit. but to sit enthroned, Ps. ii. 4. — Stuart. " As man, and
continning to be man, he was exalted to a participation in the divine government
of the world." — Ebrard

Ti!AN.sLATiO.\s. — ' ATToivy. ji. T. >. the radiance of his glory and the exact image
of his sulistance. — Stuart. An emanation of his glory and an express image of
his sulistance — Conybeare and Ilowson. The radiance of his glory and tiie im-
press of his substance. — Craik. The brightness of his glory and th- exact im-
pression of his manner of existence. — Pye Smith. The refulgence of his glory
and the impression of his essence. — De Wette. The ray of hi.s glory and the
stamp of his substance. — Turner.

f^ipuv ■/.. r. A. Controlling all things by his own powerfid word. — Stuart.

Kx^ctp. TT. After he had made expiation. — Stuart. Having made expiation.
— Bloomfield. When he had made purification. — Conybeare and Ilowson.
When he had made atcmement. — Craik. After he bad by himself purified us from
sins by making an expiation. — Turner. — Ed.


spake in the revelation of the gospel, ascending unto such a mani-
fi'station of him as that they might understand his eminency above
all formerly used in the like ministrations; as also how he was pointed
out and shadowed by sundry tyj)es and figures under the Old Tes-

Of this description there are three parts; the first declaring wliat
he is; the secoud, wliat he doth, or did; and the third, the conse-
quent of them both, in what he enjoyeth.

Of the first part of this description of the Messiah there are two
branches, or it is two ways expressed : for he affirms of him, first, that
he is the "brightest beam," or "splendour of the glory;" and, secondly,
" tlie express image," or " character of his Father's person."

In the second also there are two things assigned unto him, — the
former relating unto his power, as he is the brightness of glory, he
" sustaineth," or ruleth and disposeth of " all things by the word of
hi.s power;" — the latter unto his love and work of mediation, — "by
himself," or in his own person, he hath " purged our sins."

His present and perpetual enjoyment, as a consequent of what he
was and did, or doth, is expressed in the last words: " He sat down
at the right hand of the Majesty on high."

Some of these expressions may well be granted to contain some
of those buevorira, " things hard to be understood," which Peter affirms
to be in this epistle of Paul, 2 Epist. iii. 16; which unstable and
unlearned men have in all ages wrested unto their own destruction.
The things intended are unquestionably sublime and mysterious;
the terms wherein they are expressed are rare, and nowhere else
used in the Scripture to the same purpose, some of them not at all,
which deprives us of one great help in the interpretation of them;
the metaphors used in the words, or types alluded unto by them,
are abstruse and dark: so that the difficulty of discovering the true,
precise, and genuine meaning of the Holy Ghost in them is such as
that this verse, at least some part of it, may well be reckoned among
those places which the Lord hath left in his word to exercise our
faith, 'and diligence, and dependence on his Spirit, for a right under-
standing of tliem. It may be, indeed, that from what was known
and acknowledged in the Judaical church, the whole intention of
the apostle was more plain unto them, and more plainly and clearly
delivered than now it seemeth unto us to be, who are deprived of
their advantages. However, both to them and us the things were
and are deep and mysterious; and we shall desire to handle (as it
becometh us) both things and words with reverence and godly feaj,
looking up unto Him for assistance who alone can lead us into all

We begin with a double description given us of the Lord Christ
at, the entrance of the verse, as to what he is in himself. And here


a douule difficulty presents itself unto us; — first, In creneral unto
wliat nature in Christ, or unto what of Christ, this description doth
belong; secondly, What is the particular meaning and importance
of the words or expressions themselves.

For the first, some assert that these words intend only the divine
nature of Christ, wherein he is consubstantial with the Father.
Herein as he is said to be "God of God, and Light of Light," — an ex-
pression doubtless taken from hence, — receiving, as the Son, his nature
and subsistence from the Father, so fully and absolutely as that he
is every way the same with him in respect of his essence, and every
way like him in respect of his person ; so he is said to be " the bright-
ness of his glory," and " the character of his person" on that account.
This way went the ancients generally; and of modern expositors very
many, as Calvin, Brentius, Marlorat, Rollock, Gomar, Pareau, Estius,
Tena, a Lapide, Ribera, and sundry others.

Some think that the apostle speaks of him as incarnate, as he is
declared in the gospel, or as preached, to be " the image of God,''
2 Cor. iv. 4. And these take three ways in the explication of the
vvords and their application of them unto him: —

First, Some affirm that their meaning is, that whereas God is in
himself infinite and incomprehensible, so that we are not able to
contemplate on his excellencies, but that we are overpowered in our
minds with their glory and majesty, he hath in Christ the Son, as
incarnate, contemperated his infinite love, power, goodness, grace,
greatness, and holiness, unto our faith, love, and contemplation, they
all shining forth in him, and being eminently expressed in him. So

Secondly, Some think that the apostle pursues the description
that he was entered upon, of the kingly office of Jesus Christ as heir
of all ; and that his being exalted in glory unto power, rule, and do-
minion, expressing and representing therein the person of his Father,
is intended in these words. So Cameron.

Thirdly, Some refer these words to the prophetical office of Christ,
and say that he was the brightness of God's glory, etc., by his reveal-
ing and declaring the will of God unto us, which before was done
darkly only and in shadows. So the Socinians generally, though
Schlichtingius refers the words unto all that similitude which they
fancy to have been between God and the man Christ Jesus whilst
he was in the earth ; and therefore renders the participle wv, not by
the present, but preterimperfect tense, "who was;" that is, whilst
he was on the earth,— though, as he says, not exclusively unto what
he is now in heaven.

I shall not examine in particular the reasons that are alleged for
these several interpretations, but only propose and confirm that sense
of the place which on full and due consideration appears, as agree-


able unto the analogy of faith, so expressly to answer the design and
intendment of the apostle; wherein also the unsoundness of the two
last, branches or ways of applying the second inter[)retation, with the
real coincidence of tlie first, and first branch of the latter exposition,
will be discovered. To this end the following positions are to be
observed :—

First, It is not the direct and immediate design of the apostle to
treat absolutely of either nature of Christ, his divine or human, but
only of his person. Hence, though the things which he mentioneth
and expresseth may some of them belong unto, or be the properties
of his divine nature, some of his human, yet none of them are spoken
of as such, but are all considered as belonging unto his person. And
this solves that difficulty which Chrysostom observes in the words,
and strives to remove by a similitude, namely, that the apostle doth
not observe any order or method in speaking of the divine and
human natures of Christ distinctly one after another, but first speaks
of the one, then of the other, and then returns again to the former,
and that frequently. But the truth is, he intends not to speak
directly and absolutely of either nature of Christ; but treating ex
professo of his })erson, some things that he mentions concerning him
have a special foundation in and respect unto his divine nature, some
in and unto his human, as must every thing that is spoken of him.
And therefore the method ^ud order of the apostle is not to be in-
quired after in what relates in his expressions to this or that nature
of Christ, but in the progress that he makes in the description of
his person and offices ; which alone he had undertaken,

Secondl}^, That which the apostle principally intends in and about
the person of Christ, is to set forth his dignity, pre-eminence, and
exaltation above all; and that not only consequentially to liis dis-
charge of the office of mediator, but also antecedently, in his worth,
fitness, ability, and suitableness to undertake and discharge it, — which
in a great measure depended on and flowed from his divine nature.

These things being supposed, we observe, thirdly, That as these
expressions are none of them singly, much less in that conjunction
wherein they are here placed, used concerning any other but Cla-ist
only, so they do plainly contain and express things that are more
sublime and glorious than can, by the rule of Scripture or the ana-
logy of faith, be ascribed unto any mere creature, however raised or
exalted. There is in the words evidently a comparison with God
the Father: he is infinitely glorious, eternally subsisting in his
own person ; and the Son is " the brightness of his glory, and the
express image of his person." Angels are called " the sons of God,"
are mighty in power, and excellent in created glory; but when they
come to be compared with God, it is said they are not ])ure in his
sight; and he charged them with folly. Job iv, 18; and they cover


their faces at the brightness of his glory, Isa. vi. 2: so that tiit-y
cannot be said so to be. Man also was created in the image of God,
and is again by grace renewed thereinto, Eph. iv. 2o, 2-i: but to
say a man is the express image of the person of God the Father, is
to depress the glory of God by anthropomorphitism. So that unto
God asking that question, " Whom will ye compare unto me? and
whom will ye liken me unto?" we cannot answer of any one who
is not God by nature, that he is " the brightness of his glory, and
the express image of his person."

Fourthly, Though the design of the apostle in general be to show
how the Father expressed and declared himself unto us in the Son,
yet this could not be done without manifesting what the Son is in
himself and in reference unto the Father; which both the expressions
do in the first place declare. They express him such an one as in
whom the infinite perfections and excellencies of God are revealed
unto us. So that the first ajDplication of the words, namely, to the
divine nature of Christ, and the first branch of the second, consider-
ing him as incarnate, are very well consistent; as a Lapide grants,
after he bad blamed Beza for his interpretation. The first direction,
then, given unto our faith in these words, is by what the Son is in
respect of the Father, namely, "the brightness of his glory, and the
express image of his person ;" whence it follows that in him, beingf
incarnate, the Father's glory and his person are expressed and
manifested unto us.

Fifthly, There is nothing in these words that is not applicable
unto the divine nature of Christ. Some, as we have showed, sup-
pose that it is not that which is peculiarly intended in the words;
but yet they can give no reason from them, nor manifest any thing
denoted by them, which may not be conveniently applied there-
unto. I say, whatever can be proved to be signified by them or
contained in them, if we will keep ourselves within the bounds of
that holy reverence which becomes us in the contemplation of the
majesty of God, may be applied unto the nature of God as existing
in the person of the Son. He is in his person distinct from the
Father, another not the Father; but yet the same in nature, and

Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 11 of 70)