John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 19 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 19 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

rifice for the vpuToroKOi, " first-begotten:" so called when as yet none were be-
gotten after him, and very uncertain whether ever any should be so of the same
womb or no; and doul'tless it often fell out that none were so.

E/f T'^u oUov,u.hyi!>; 'Hv], "the habitable world," or "^? ^5^, Prov. viii., the


public place of habitation, where the creatures of God do dwell. The word is
nowhere used absolutely in Scripture in any sense but foi- tbis habitable world.
Only, sometimes it hath a restrained sense, denoting the Roman empir^•, as Luke
ii. 1, ai'cording to the usual language of those days, wherein the people of Rome,
or their emperors, were styled "rerum,"and"orbisterrarum domini;" and it some-
tinie-i indefinitely denotes any part of the world as habitable, Luke ii. 1, iv. 5,
xxi. 26; and therefore oftentimes hath cA)^ "the whole," joined with it, when it
is extended universally to the habitable earth.

TLpoaKvi/mi^ruffxu. Heb. ^'"^^'7, imperative in Hithpael, from ^v?' " ^^ '"-
cline, "to bow down." The LXX. constantly render that word by '7rpfj<jy,vviu-
And -Trpodx-vviu is probably dei-ivel from, and thence x-vvkca, " osculor,"' " to
l<iss;" which also is sometimes used for" to adore," or "worship," as Uci'jri^ yow
•KiTTrvix-cmg ifAol kvusovti 'heaTrorriv. That is, says Eustathiu^s, UpoTKvuoi/ai fn, ag
"hiaTOTYiv, — "They worship me as their lord;" for being joined with 7ri7:r-l]Korig,
" bowing," or " falling down," it expresseth the whole use and signification of
"TrpoTKVJio, How kissing was of old a sign, token, and pledge of worship, especially
to bow down and kiss the ground, I have elsewhere declai-ed. And this deriva-
tion of the word I prefer far before that which makes it primitively signify "more
canum adulari," as if taken from the crouching of dogs.

In the New Testament it is nowhere used but for that religious worship which
is due to God alone. And when it is remembered of any that they did ■TrpoaKvuiiv,
or perform the duty and homage denoted by this word unto any but God, it is
remembered as their idolatry. Rev. xiii. 12, 15. And unto this sense was it
ri'strained of old by the Spartans, who denied^ that it was iv voyM, lawful for
them cLvOpuT^ov vpoaicvussiv, — that is, to fall down to or to adore a man, Herodot.
in Polym.

And in this .'■ense it is exceedingly restrained from the use and importance of
^^'t< J^'^f '"^'i from that of ^'^'!^'^~ in Hithpael, though that always signifies a bow-
inir down with respect and reverence; for it is employed to denote civil as well
a-i religious worship. But for several sorts of religious worship, diversified by its
objects, the Scripture knows nothing. The word properly denotes to bow rlown,
and when it is referred unto God, it respects the inward reverence and subjec-
tion of our minds by a metonymy of the adjunct. See it for civil respect, Gen.
xxvii. 29, xxxiii. 6.

" KyyiKai, "-"v"?, "elohim," is rendered " angels" by the LXX., Gen. xxxi. 24
[accoriling to some Mss. only]; Job xxxviii. 7; Ps. viii. 5, xcvii. 7, cxxxviii. 1;
of which interpretation of the word we shall treat in the ensuing exposition.'

^ K«( 'TrpoGx,. — " K«( here exhibited does not appear in Ps. xcvii. 7. I regard

it as an intensive ])article here One might render the phrase thus: 'Let

all the ai;g' Is of God indeed worship him,' or 'even pay him olieisance or adora-
tion.'" It must be spiritual worship, from jhe nature of the beinars commanded
to render it. Civil homage can hardly be predicated of angels. — Mo.ies Stuart.

Bleek, Tholuck, and Ebrard hold the quotation to be from Deur. xxxii. 43.
" With respect to the absence of the words from the Masoretic text, we must, Avith
all our deference to this text, as resting on ancient and strong tradition, never for-
get that we have in the LXX., particularly in the Pentateuch, a.x\ equally ancient
recension ot the Hebrew text." — Ebrard. The difficulty in receiving the words
as a quotation from Ps. xcvii. 7, lies in the fact that the word is Elohim, " God " or
"uods;" it is employed also to denote angels. "It may be sufficient to adduce
one striking passijre from Ps. viii. 5, 'Thou hast made him a little lowe/ than
the angels;' liter:illy, than God or gods. But such a literal translation is en-
tirely out of the question, and there can be no reasonable doubt that angels is
the true meaning." The Syriac and Vulgate agree with the LXX. in tlie use of
aiigels^m Ps. xcvii.J. — Turner. — Ed.


Ver. 6. — And again, when he bringeth In the first-begot-
ten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of
God worship him.

This is the second argument used by the apostle to confirm his
assertion of the preference of the Son above angels, and is taken
from the command of God given unto them to worship him ; i'or
without controversy, he who is to be worshipped is greater than tiiey
whose duty it is to worship him.

In the words we must consider, — 1. The apostle's jj?-e/(/ce; 2.
His proof. And in the latter we must weigh, — (1.) The sense of
it ; (2.) The suitableness of it to his present purpose.

His preface, or the manner of his producing of this second testi-
mony, is this: " Orav bi iToKiv siGciydyr] Xsyti. Which words have

been exposed unto variety of interpretations: for if -rccX/i/ be joined
with iisaydyri, which immediately follows, they are to be rendered,
"And when he bringeth in again into the world;" if with 7.iyu,
which follows it after the interposition of sundry other words, then
it is to be rendered as by our interpreters, "And again when he
bringeth, he saith."

Moreover, it is not clear in what sense Christ is called T^wr&Vozog,
"the first-born," who is elsewhere termed fiovoysviig Tapa Uarpbg,
" the only-begotten Son of the Father."

We must also inquire what is the introduction or bringing in here
intended, how and when performed ; as also what is the world where-
into he was brought. The difficulties about all which must be seve-
rally considered.

1. ndXiv, "again," may be joined with sleaydyji, and then the
sense of the words must run as above intimated, — namely, " When
he bringeth in again the first-born into the world." And it is
evident that most expositors, both ancient and modern, embrace this
sense. So do Clirysostom, Theodoret, Ambrose, (Ecumeuius,
Thomas, Lyra, Ca-jetan, Ribera, Cameron, Gomarus, Estius, a Lapide,
our Meae, with many others. But about what this bringing in
again, or second bringing in, of the first-born into the world should
be, they are greatly divided.

The ancients refer it to his incarnation; affirming, somewhat
harshly, that he was brought before into the world, when all things
were made by him.

2. Others refer it to the resurrection, which was as it were a
second bringing of Christ into the world, as David was brought into
his kingdom again after he had been expelled by the conspiracy and
rebellion of Absalom.

3. Others refer it unto his coming forth in the effectual preaclilng
of the gospel after his ascension, whereby he was brouglit fortli in


another manner and with another kind of power than that in which
he appeared in the days of his flesh.

4. Some suppose the personal reign of Christ on the earth for a
thousand years witli his saints is intended in these words, when God
will bring him again with glory into the world : of which judgment
was Mede, and now many follow him.

5. Others again, and they the most, assign the accomplishment
of what is here asserted to the general judgment and the second
coming of Christ in the glory of the Father, with all the holy angels
attending him, to judge the quick and the dead.

6. Some of the Socinians refer them unto the triumphant ascen-
sion of Christ into heaven after his resurrection, he having, as thfy
fancy, once before been taken into it, there to be instructed in the
mind and will of God.

Now all these assertions concerning the bringing in of Christ into
the world have a truth in them, absolutely considered ; but whether
any of them be here intended by the apostle, we must inquire by an
examination of the common foundation that all their authors pro-
ceed upon, with the reasons given for its confirmation. Now, this
is that which we observed before, namely, that in the construction
of the words, -rdXiv, " again," is to be joined with ileaydyri, " he
bringeth in;" and so to be rendered, " When he bringeth in again,"
(or, "a second time,") "the first-born:" which must needs point to
a second coming of Christ, of one kind or another. And to this
purpose they say, —

1. That the trajection of the words in the other sense is hard and
difficult, and not to be admitted but upon very cogent reasons. It
is to suppose that the apostle by Srav di rrdX/v, " when again," in-
tends TuXiv 6's orav, "again when." And besides, the interposition
of the many words between it and Xs/w, " he saith," will not admit
that they should be conjoined in sense and construction.

But this reason is not cogent ; for, — (1 .) Most of the ancient trans-
lations acknowledge this transposition of the words. So the Syriac,
reading thus, " And again, when he biingeth in ;" so the Vulgar Latin ;
and the Arabic, omitting the term " again," as not designing any new
thing, but merely denoting a new testimony. And they are followed
by Valla, Erasmus, Beza, and the best of modern translators. (2.) Such
trajections are not unusual, and that in this place hath a peculiar ele-
gancy ; for the word tcca/v, " again," being used in the head of the
testimony foregoing, this transposition adds to the elegancy of the
words; and that there was cause for it we shall see afterwards. (3.)
The apostle having immediately before used the word -TrdXiv, " again,"
as his note of producing a second testimony, and placing it here in
the entrance of a third, it must needs be used equivocally, if the
trajection proposed be not allowed.


2. They deny that the angels worshipped Christ at liis first com-
ing into the world, — that is, that they are recorded so to liave ilone ;
and therefore it must needs be his second coming that is intended,
when he shall come in glory, with all his holy angels openly wor-
shipping him and performing his commands.

This reason is especially suited unto the fifth opinion before men-
tioned, referring the words to the coming of Christ at the general
day of judgment, and is unserviceable unto any of the rest. But
yet neither is this satisfactory; for the question is, not whether it be
anywhere recorded that the angels worshipped Christ at his first
entrance into the world, but whether the Lord Christ, upon his in-
carnation, was not put into that condition wherein it was the duty
of all the angels of God to worship him. Now this being at least
interpretatively a command of God, and the angels expressly always
doing his will, the thing itself is certain, though no particular in-
stances of it be recorded. Besides, the angels' attendance on his
birth, proclamation of his nativity, and celebrating the glory of God
on that account, seem to have been a performance of that duty which
they had received command for. And this is allowed by those of
the ancients who suppose that the second bringing of Christ into
the world was upon his nativity.

3. They say that this bringing in of the first-begotten into the
world denotes a glorious presenting of him in his rule and enjoy-
ment of his inheritance.

But, (1.) This proves not that the words must respect the coming
of Christ unto judgment, to which end this reason is insisted on;
because he was certainly proclaimed with power to be the Son, Lord,
and Heir of all, upon his resurrection, and by the first preaching of
the gospel. And, (2.) No such thing, indeed, can be rightly deduced
from the words. The expression signifies no more but an introduc-
tion into the world, a real bringing in, witjiout any intimation of the
way or manner of it.

4. It is argued in the behalf of the same opinion, from the psalm
from whence these words are taken, that it is a glorious reign of
Christ and his coming unto judgment that are set forth therein, and
not his coming and abode in the state of humiliation. And this rea-
son Cameron affirms, to prove undeniably that it is the coming of
Christ unto judgment that is intended.

But the truth is, the consideration of the scope of the psalm doth
quite reject the opinion which is sought to be maintained by it; for,
(1.) Verse 1, Upon the reign of the Lord therein set forth, both
Jews and Gentiles, the earth and the multitude of the isles, are
called to rejoice therein; that is, to receive, delight in, and be glad
of the salvation brought by the Lord Christ unto mankind, — which is
not the work of the last day. (2.) Idolaters are deterred from their


i Join try, and exhorted to worship him, verse 7, — a duty incumbent
on them before the day of judgment. (3.) Tiie church is exhorted
upon his reign to abstain from sin, and promised dehverance from
the wicked and oppressors. All wliich things, as they are unsuited
unto his coming at the day of judgment, so they expressly belong
unto the setting up of his kingdom in this world.

And liereby it appears, that that opinion which indeed seems with
any probability to assert a second coming of Christ into the world
to be intended in these words, is inconsistent with the scope of the
place from whence the testimony is taken, and consequently the de-
sign of the apostle himself.

The other conjectures mentioned will easily be removed out of the

Unto that of the ancients, assigning this bringing in of Christ into
the world unto his incarnation, we say it is true; but then that was
his first bringing in, and being supposed to be intended in this place,
the words can be no otherwise rendered but that TaX/i/, " again,"
must be esteemed only an intimation of the citation of a new tes-

Neither can the resurrection of the Lord Christ be assigned as the
season of the accomplishment of this word, which was not, indeed, a
bringing of him into the world, but rather an entrance into his leav-
ing of it; neither did he at his death leave the world utterly, for
though his soul was separated from his body, yet his bod}^ was not
separated from his person, and therein he continued on the earth.

The coming of Christ to reign here on earth a thousand years
is, it not a groundless opinion, yet so dubious and uncertain as not
to be admitted a place in the analogy of faith to regulate our inter-
pretation of Scripture in places that may fairly admit of another

The figment of the Socinians, that the Lord Christ during the
time of his forty days' fast was taken into heaven, — which they lay
as a foundation unto their interpretation of this place, — I have else-
where showed to be irrational, antiscrij^tural, Mohammedan, and de-
rogatory to the honour of our Lord Jesus, as he is the eternal Son
of God.

From what hath been spoken, it is evident that the trajectiou
proposed may be allowed, as it is by most of the ancient and mo-
dern translations. And so the word rrdXiv, " ag;ain," relatinij unto
Xsysi, " he saith," denotes only the introduction of a new proof, and
doth not intimate a second bringing in of the Lord Christ. And
imto what hath already been spoken I shall only add, that such an
intention in these words as hath been pleaded for would be so far
from promoting the apostle's design, that it would greatly weaken
and impair it ; for the matter he had in hand was to prove the pre-


eminence of the Lord Christ above the angels, not absolutely, but
as he was the revealer of the gospel; and if this was not so, and
proved to be so by this testimony, whilst he was employed in that
work in the world, it is nothing at all to his purpose.

Having cleared this difficulty, and showed that no second coming
of Christ is intended in this word, but only a new testimony to the
same purpose with them foregoing produced, the intention of the
apostle in his prelatory expression may be further opened, by con-
sidering what that world is whereinto the Father brought the Son,
with how and when he did so, and the manner of it.

There are two opinions about the world whereinto Christ is said
to be brought by the Father. 1. The one is that of the Socinians,
asserted as b}'' others of them, so by Schlichtingius in his comment
on this place, and by Grotius after them in his annotations. " O/xou-
/iscTj," saith Grotius, " est 'regio ilia superna quce ab angelis habitatur,'
ut ipse mox scriptor noster ad hsec sua verba respiciens dicet, cap.
ii. 5;" — " It is," saith he, " that region above which is inhabited by
the angels that is intended; and our author declares as much in
that respect which he hath to these words, chap, ii. 5." In like
manner Schlichtino-ius: " Per terram istam, non esse intellisfendam
banc quam mortales incolimus, sed coelestem illam quam aliquando
immortales effecti incolemus, et res ipsa, et D. auctor sequenti capite
ver. 5, aperte declarat." That is, by the earth, not the earth but tlie
heaven is to be understood ! But, —

(1.) This suits not at all with the purpose and design of the
apostle, which is plainly to prove that the Lord Christ, then wiien
he spake to us, and revealed the will of God, and in that work, was
above the angels ; which is not at all proved by showing what beleil
him after his work was accomjDlished.

(2.) It receives no countenance from that other place of chap ii. 5,
whither we are sent by these interpreters; for that the apostle is
there treating of a matter quite of another nature, without any re-
spect unto these words, shall be there declared. Neither dotli he
absolutely there mention o/xou,a£r/)i/, " the world," but with the addi-
tion of iMsXkoueav, "to come;" which what it is we shall inquire
upon the place.

(3.) Oix,oufji,hyi signifies properly the "habitable earth," and is never
used absolutely in the Scripture but for the habitable world, or men
dwelling in it; and causelessly to wrest it unto another siguificatiou
is not to interpret but to offer violence unto the text.

2. By OtKov//,hri, then, "the world," or "habitable earth," with them
that dwell therein, and nothing else is intended ; for as the word
hath no other signification, so the psalmist in the place from ndience
the ensuing testimony is taken expounds it by " the multitude of
isles," or the nations lying abroad in the wide earth. This is the


world designed, even that earth wherein the rational creatures of
God converse here below. Into this was the 'Lord Christ brought
by the Father.

We are therefore nextly to inquire wherein the Father's bringing
of the Son into this world did consist. We have seen formerly that
some have assigned it unto one thing in particular, some to another;
some to his incarnation and nativity, some to his resurrection, some
to his mission of the Spirit and propagation of his kingdom that
ensued. The opinion about his coming to reign in the world a
thousand years, as also that of his coming at the general judgment,
we have already excluded. Of the others I am apt to think that it
is not any one in particular, exclusive of the others, that the apostle
intendeth or designeth. That which was intended in the Old Tes-
tament in the promises of his coming into the tuorld, is that which
is here expressed by the phrase of bringing him in. See Mai. iii. 1 , 2,

" The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come But who may

abide the day of his coming?" Now, it was not any one special
act, nor any one particular day that was designed in that and the
like promises ; but it was the whole work of God in bringing forth
the Messiah, by his conception, nativity, unction with the Spirit,
resurrection, sending of the Holy Ghost, and preaching of the gos-
pel, which is the subject of those promises. And their accomplish-
ment it is which these words express, •' When he bringeth the first-
begotten into the world ;" that is, after he had kept his church, under
the administration of the law given by angels in the hand of Moses
the mediator, in the expectation of the coming of the Messiah, when
he bringeth him forth unto and carries him on in his work unto the
accompUshment of it, he says, " Let all the angels of God worship
him." And herein most of the former senses are comprised.

And this interpretation of the words completely answers the in-
tention of the apostle in the citation of the ensuing testimony,
namely, to prove that, in the discharge of his work of revealing the
will of God, he was such a one as, by reason of the dignity of his
person, had all religious worship and honour due unto him from
the angels themselves.

This sense, also, we are led unto by the psalm whence the ensuing*
testimony is taken, Ps. xcvii. The exultation which the first verse
of the psalm requires and calls for is not unlike that which was, in
the name of the whole creation, expressed at his nativity, Luke ii.
] 4. And the four following verses are an allegorical description of the
work that the Lord Christ sliould perform in and by the preaching
of the gospel. See Mai. iii. 1-4, iv. 1; Matt. iii. 12; Luke ii. 17.
And hereon ensues that shame and ruin which was brought upon
idols and idolaters thereby, verse 7; and the joy of the whole church
in the presence of Christ, verse 8; attended with his glorious reign


in heaven, as a consequent of the accomplishment of his work,
verse 9 ; which is proposed as a motive unto obedience, and a matter
of confidence and )-ejoicing unto the church. And this is the Father's
bringing of the Son into the world, described by tlie pisalmibt and
intended by the apostle.

It remains that we inquire why and in what sense Christ is here
called TpuToroxog, " primogenitus/' or "the first-born." The common
answer is, " Non quod post ilium alii, sed quod ante ilium nullus;"
— " Not that any was born after him" (in the same way), " but that .
none was born before him;" which, as we have showed before, will
agree well enough with the use of the word. And this is applied
both to the eternal generation of his divine person, and to the con-
ception and nativity of his human nature.

But if we suppose that his person and eternal generation may be
intended in this expression, we must make TpwroVoxr-g, or the " first-
born," to be the same with /j.ovcysv/jg, or " only-begotten ;" which may
not be allowed: for Christ is absolutely called the " only-begotten of
the Father" in his eternal generation, — his essence being infinite,
took up the whole nature of divine filiation, so that it is impossible
that with respect thereunto there should be any more sons of God, —
but TpuTOToxog, or "first-born," is used in relation unto others; and
yet, as I showed before, it doth not require that he who is so should
have any other brethren in the same kind of sonship. But because
this is by some asserted, namely, that Christ has many brethren in
the same kind of sonship whereby he is himself the Son of God,
and is on that account called t\\Q first-born (which is an assertion
greatly derogatory to his glory and honour), I shall in our passage
remove it, as a stumbling-block, out of the way.

Thus Schlichtingius on the place : " Primogenitum eum nomine
Dei Filium appellat, innuens hoc pacto plures Dei esse filios etiam
ad Christum respectu habito; scilicet ut ostenderet non ita Christum
esse Dei Filium, quin alii etiam eodem filiationis genere contine-
antur, quanquam filiationis perfectione et gradu Christo muUo
inferiores." And again : " Primogenitus dicitur Christus quod eura
Deus ante omnes filios, eos nimirum qui Christi fratres appellantur
genuerit ; eo scilicet modo quo Deus filios gignere solet; eos autera
gignit quos sibi similes efficit; primus est Christus qui Deo ea sanc-
titate si mills fuit, qualem in novo foedere prsecipit."

But these things agree neither with the truth, nor Avith the de-
sign ot the apostle in this place, nor with the principles of them by
whom they are asserted. It is acknowledged that God hath other
sons besides Jesus Christ, and that with respect unto him ; for m
him we are adopted, — the only way whereby any one may attain unto
the privilege of sonship : but that we are sons of God with or m
the same kind of sonship with Jesus Christ, is, — „


Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 19 of 70)