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401

CHAPTER XXXIII.
DOUBTFUL READINGS AND THE THEORY OF VERBAL INSPIRATION.
THREE PALMARY INSTANCES OF DIVINE VENGEANCE UPON GRIEVOUS SIN.

"Now I desire to put you in remembrance, though ye know all things once for all, how that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not. And angels which kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation, He hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, having in like manner with these given themselves over to fornication, and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire."—St. Jude 5-7.

WITH these three verses the main portion of the Epistle begins, the first three verses being introductory. These put before us three instances of Divine vengeance upon those who were guilty of grievous sin—the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness, the impure angels, and the inhabitants of the cities of the plain; and in the three verses which follow (8-10) St. Jude points out the similarity between the offences of these wicked persons and the offences of the libertines who are provoking God to execute similar vengeance upon them. It is quite possible that we have here the explanation of the words, "Who were of old set forth unto this condemnation" (ver. 4). The doom of these impious profligates has long since been written in the doom of those who sinned in a similar manner.

The Greek text of the opening verse exhibits a great 402 variety of readings, and one may suspect with Westcott and Hort that there has been some primitive error, and that none of the existing readings are correct. Of the points in which they differ from one another three require notice:—

(1) In the words, "The Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt," the authorities vary between "the Lord" (with or without the article), "God," and "Jesus." This last is far the best attested (AB, the best cursives, the Vulgate, both Egyptian Versions, both Ethiopic, the margin of the Armenian, and several Fathers); but the internal evidence against it is immense. Nowhere else in Scripture is Jesus said to be the Author of anything which took place before the Incarnation. Had St. Jude written "Christ," we might have compared "the rock was Christ" (1 Cor. x. 4). But the general adoption of the reading "Jesus" shows how completely in Christian thought and language the Man Jesus had become identified with the Eternal Son. If "Lord" be correct (κύριος, without the article), it should be understood as meaning Jehovah; and therefore "God," though not likely to be right as the reading, is right as an interpretation. In the Latin translation of the Hypotyposeis of Clement of Alexandria we have these two readings combined, Dominus Deus, and the Greek of Didymus has "Lord Jesus" combined. Possibly all three readings are insertions, and should be omitted, the true text being simply, "He who saved a people out of the land of Egypt" (ὁ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας).116116   W. & H. point out that ΟΤΙΟ = ὅτι ὁ might easily be corrupted into ΟΤΙΙC = ὅτι ἰησοῦς, or into ΟΤΙΚC = ὅτι κύριος.

403 (2) In the words, "Though ye know all things once for all," some authorities, which were followed by the translators of 1611, have "this" for "all things," while one authority makes "all" to be masculine instead of neuter (πάντας for πάντα). This last may be correct, for the final letter of the masculine might easily be lost (especially in front of ὅτι); and in that case the meaning would be, "though ye all know it," i.e., "know what I am going to point out." There is a similar confusion of reading in 1 John ii. 20, where for "Ye know all things" (οἴδατε πάντα) we should perhaps read, "Ye all know" (οἴδατε πάντες). But here the masculine has too little support to be adopted.

(3) The Sinaitic MS. transposes the "once" or "once for all" (ἅπαξ) from "know" to "saved," and makes it answer to the "afterwards," or "the second time" (τὸ δεύτερον) which follows. In this it is supported by the Armenian Version and a single cursive of the fourteenth century.117117   The Latin translation of Clement of Alexandria has the same reading: "Quoniam Dominus Deus semel populum de terra Ægypti liberans deinceps eos, qui non crediderunt, perdidit." If it were adopted, the sentence would run thus: "Now I desire to put you in remembrance, though ye know all things, how that the Lord, having once saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not." The correspondence between "once" and "afterwards"—"having a single time saved, ... the second time He destroyed"—is at first sight attractive; but it is precisely this superficial attractiveness which has caused the corruption of the text. A recent writer pleads for its adoption, but his reasons are not convincing.118118   W. S. Wood, Problems in the N.T. (Rivingtons, 1890), pp. 161-164. The 404 external evidence against the proposed transposition is enormous; and there is no strong internal evidence against the best-attested text (as there is against the reading "Jesus") to turn the scale. "Though ye know all this once for all" makes excellent sense; and so also does "He who saved a people out of Egypt, the second time (viz. in the wilderness) destroyed them that believed not."

This collection of various readings, out of which it is impossible to select the true text with anything like certainty, is worth remembering in considering the theory of verbal inspiration. If every word that St. Jude wrote was supernaturally dictated, why has not every word been supernaturally preserved? It is manifest that God has not, either miraculously or in any other way, secured that the exact words written by St. Jude should come down to us without alteration. The alterations are so ancient, so widely diffused, and so numerous, that we are unable to decide what St. Jude's exact words were. We are not even certain that among the numerous variations we have got his exact words. This is not a common case. The usual problem, when various readings occur, is to select the right reading out of several that have been handed down to us, there being no reason to doubt that one of them is the original reading of the autograph. But there are a few passages, and this is one of them, where one may reasonably doubt whether the original reading has not been altogether lost (Acts vii. 46; xiii. 32 [comp. Heb. xi. 4]; xix. 40; xxvi. 28; Rom. xv. 32; 1 Cor. xii. 2; Col. ii. 18, 23; Heb. iv. 2; x. 1; 1 Tim. vi. 7; 2 Tim. i. 13; 2 Peter iii. 10, 12; Jude 22, 23). This result might easily be produced through an error in the earliest copies made from the original 405 document, or through a slip made by the amanuensis who wrote the original document. There are minds to which this supposition is very repugnant; and there are writers who assure us that in Biblical criticism "conjectural emendation must never be resorted to, even in passages of acknowledged difficulty," or that "conjectural criticism is entirely banished from the field." But if the whole of an Apostolic Epistle may have been lost (1 Cor. v. 9; 3 John 9), why may not a word or two of an extant Epistle have been lost? And is it quite natural that there should sometimes be a doubt as to which of several existing readings is the original, and yet quite inconceivable that there should ever be a doubt as to whether any of them is original? In either case we are left in uncertainty as to the precise words which are inspired; and we are thus confronted with the perplexing result that the Almighty has specially guided a writer to use certain words and phrases, to the exclusion of all others, and yet from very early times has, in not a few cases, allowed Christians to be in doubt as to what these exact words and phrases are. Have we any right to assume that there was this special Divine care to produce a particular wording, when it is quite manifest that there has not been special Divine care to preserve a particular wording?

The theory of verbal inspiration imports unnecessary and insuperable difficulties into the already sufficiently difficult problem as to the properties of inspired writings. It maintains that "the line can never rationally be drawn between the thoughts and words of Scripture;" which means that the only inspired Word of God is the original Hebrew and Greek wording which was used by the authors of the different 406 books in the Bible. Consequently all who cannot read these are cut off from the inspired Word; for the inspired thoughts are, according to this theory, inseparably bound up with the original form of words. But if it is the thought, and not the wording, that is inspired, then the inspired thought may be as adequately expressed in English or German as in Hebrew or Greek. It is the inspired thought, no matter in what language expressed, which comes home to the hearts and consciences of men, and convinces them that what is thus brought to them by a human instrument is indeed in its origin and in its power Divine. "Never man thus spake" was said, not of the choice language that was used, but of the meaning which the language conveyed.

In the passage before us there are several points which call for attention, most of which are independent of the differences of reading.

It may be doubted whether the participle (εἰδότας) is rightly rendered "though ye know all things once for all." It makes good, and perhaps better sense to understand it in the equally possible signification of "because ye know all things once for all." Their being already in full possession of a knowledge of Old Testament history is the reason why St. Jude need do no more than remind them of one or two particulars which throw a terrible light upon the position of those whose conduct is being discussed. That "once" here does not mean "formerly," as the Authorized Version takes it, "though ye once knew this," is manifest to every one who knows the meaning of the participle and adverb here used (εἰδότας ἅπαξ). Nor is there much doubt that both here and in ver. 3 it does mean "once for all." This Greek adverb, like its Latin equivalent 407 semel, is sometimes "used of what is so done as to be of perpetual validity and never need repetition." It is twice so used in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift" (vi. 4); i.e. once for all enlightened, so that no second enlightenment is possible. And again, "Because the worshippers, having been once cleansed, would have had no more conscience of sins" (x. 2). So also in 1 Peter: "Because Christ also died for sins once" (iii. 18). The meaning is similar in both the passages here (vv. 3 and 5). The Gospel was once for all delivered by the Apostles to the Church; for there can be no second Gospel. And this Gospel Christians receive and know once for all.

Doubt has been raised as to the event or events to which St. Jude refers in the words "afterward destroyed them that believed not." Hofmann, Schott, and others, adopting the best-attested reading, "Jesus, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not," interpret the latter clause of the destruction of Jerusalem or of the overthrow of the Jewish nation. It is felt that this makes a very unnatural contrast with the deliverance of Israel from Pharaoh by the hand of Moses, and therefore "saved a people out of the land of Egypt" has to be interpreted to mean "the redemption from the bondage-house of the Law and of sin wrought in Israel and for Israel by Christ's act of salvation" (Schott, Erlangen, 1863, p. 225). This is very forced and improbable. Let us hold by Hooker's "most infallible rule in expositions of sacred Scripture, that where a literal construction will stand, the farthest from the letter is commonly the worst"(Eccl. Pol. V. lix. 2). The literal construction of "saved a people 408 out of the land of Egypt" will certainly stand here, and the words must be understood of the passage of the Red Sea and all that accompanied that event. This is the clause of which the meaning is plain, and it must be the interpreter of the clause of which the meaning is less plain: to work backwards from the latter is singularly unreasonable. The "saving" being understood of the deliverance of the Israelites from the tyranny of Pharaoh, the "destroying" is most naturally understood of the overthrow of these same Israelites in the wilderness; not of any one catastrophe, such as followed the matter of Korah (Num. xvi. 49) or of Baal-peor (xxv.), but of the gradual destruction, during the forty years of wandering, of the rebellious and unbelieving, "whose carcases fell in the wilderness. And to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that were disobedient? And we see that they were not able to enter in because of unbelief" (Heb. iii. 17-19). It is quite unnecessary to add to this, with Fronmüller, the Babylonish captivity, as if "afterward" or "the second time" (τὸ δεύτερον) referred to two destructions. It refers to two Divine acts—one of mercy, and a second of judgment.

"And angels which kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation, He hath kept in everlasting bonds." This is St. Jude's second instance of God's vengeance upon gross sin, and this and the next are common to both Epistles. For the destruction of the unbelieving Israelites 2 Peter has the Deluge. The Revised Version has several improvements here. It substitutes "principality" for "first estate," in harmony with other passages, where the same word occurs (Rom. viii. 38; Eph. iii. 10; vi. 12; Col. i. 16; ii. 10, 15), and inserts "own"—"their own principality" 409 (τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχήν); thereby marking the difference between "own" and "proper"—"their proper habitation" (τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον). Above all, it preserves St. Jude's irony in the double use of the word "kept" (τηρεῖν): "angels which kept not their own principality.... He hath kept in everlasting bonds;" which is destroyed in the Authorized Version by the substitution of "reserved" for the second "kept." The alteration of "chains" into "bonds" is of less moment; but it is worth while marking the difference between two Greek words (ἅλυσις and δεσμός), both of which are frequent in the New Testament, and of which the former is always used in a literal sense (Mark v. 3, 4; Luke viii. 29; Acts xii. 6, 7; etc.), and the other sometimes literally (Luke viii. 29; Acts xvi. 26; xxiii. 29; etc.), and sometimes metaphorically (Mark vii. 35; Luke xiii. 16; Philem. 13). It is the latter which is used here.

It may be regarded as certain that this passage does not refer to the original rebellion of the angels, and their fall from being heavenly powers to being spirits of evil and of darkness. Nor is it a direct reference to the Rabbinic interpretation of "the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose" (Gen. vi. 2, where the best texts of the Septuagint have "angels of God" for "sons of God"). Much more probably it is a reference to a topic which is very prominent in the Book of Enoch, which, however, in this particular is based upon the common interpretation of the passage in Genesis. A discussion of this most interesting and perplexing writing is reserved for a later chapter. At present it suffices to say that the work is a composite one, written at different times and by different authors, 410 and that the allusions to it here, and the quotation from it in vv. 14 and 15, are from the first portion of the Book of Enoch (chapters i.-xxxvi.), which, together with the last portion (chapters lxxii.-cv.), may safely be considered as the original writing, and undoubtedly pre-Christian. Whether any of the book was composed in the Christian era is doubtful, and that any of it was written by a Christian is very doubtful indeed. Hofmann, Philippi, and Weisse have not succeeded in persuading many people that the whole work is of Christian origin. The portion of which St. Jude makes use may, with a good deal of probability, be assigned to the latter part of the second century before Christ. A sketch of the section respecting the sin of the angels will throw much light on the passage before us. A portion of it had long been known through two considerable extracts, which the Byzantine writer Georgius Syncellus (c. A.D. 800) makes from it in his Chronographia (pp. 20-23 and 40-42, Dindorf's ed., Bonn, 1829). The quotation in our Epistle and those made by Syncellus constituted all that was known of the Book of Enoch in Europe until 1773, when the English traveller Bruce brought home three MSS. of an Ethiopic version of the whole which was still extant in the Abyssinian Church.

The section about the sin of the angels and their punishment (vii.-xxxvi.) begins very abruptly after a short introduction (i.-vi.), in which Enoch blesses the righteous, and states that he received a revelation from the angels in heaven. "And it came to pass, when the sons of men had multiplied, that daughters were born to them, very beautiful. And the angels, the sons of heaven, desired them, and were led astray after them, and said to one another, Let us choose 411 for ourselves wives of the daughters of the men of the earth." Two hundred of them then made a conspiracy, and went down to the earth, and begat an offspring of giants. They imparted a knowledge of sorcery and many baneful arts; and the corruption thus diffused, and the voracity and violence of their offspring, produced the evils which preceded the Deluge. Then the sinful angels are sentenced by the Almighty, and Enoch is commissioned to make the sentence known to them. "Then the Lord said to me, Enoch, scribe of righteousness, go tell the watchers of heaven, who have deserted the lofty sky, and their holy everlasting station, who have been polluted with women, ... that on earth they shall never obtain peace and remission of sin." The fallen angels persuade Enoch to intercede for them; but his intercession is not heard, and he is told to repeat the sentence which has been pronounced upon them. The following particulars of their punishment are of interest. Azâzêl (comp. Lev. xvi. 26, R.V.), one of the ringleaders, is to be bound hand and foot, thrown into a pit in the wilderness, and covered with darkness; there he is to remain, with his face covered, till the great day of judgment, when he is to be cast into the fire. The others, after they have seen their offspring kill one another in mutual slaughter, are to be bound for seventy generations underneath the earth, till the day of their judgment, when they shall be thrown into the lowest depths of the fire, and be shut up for ever (x. 6-9, 15, 16). "Judgment has been passed upon you: your prayer shall not be granted you. From henceforth never shall you ascend to heaven. He hath said that on the earth He will bind you, as long as the world endures" (xiv. 2). And Enoch is afterwards shown their punishment in a vision. "These are those of 412 the stars which have transgressed the commandment of the most high God, and are here bound, until the infinite number of the days of their crimes be completed.... Why art thou alarmed and amazed at this terrific place, at the sight of this place of suffering? This is the prison of the angels; and here are they kept for ever" (xxi. 3, 6).

It is specially worthy of remark that it is in these older portions of the Book of Enoch that we meet for the first time in Jewish literature with the distinct conception of a general judgment. The idea is very frequent, and is expressed in a great variety of ways. Thus, what St. Jude calls "the Judgment of the Great Day" (κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμέρας), a phrase which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, is called in the Book of Enoch "the Great Day of Judgment" (x. 9), "the Day of the Great Judgment" (xciii. 8; xcvii. 15; civ. 3), "the Day of the Great Trouble" (xcix. 5), "the Great Day" (xvi. 2); "the Great Judgment" (xxii. 5), "the General Judgment" (xxii. 9).119119   Stanton, The Jewish and the Christian Messiah (T. and T. Clark, 1886), pp. 139, 140. He seems, however, to be mistaken in saying that "the Judge is not the Messiah," but Jehovah. As in Scripture, both are represented as judging. "Then the Lord of the spirits made to sit upon the throne of His glory the Elect One, who shall judge all the works of the holy.... And when He shall lift up His countenance to judge their secret way in the word of the Name of the Lord of spirits," etc. (lx. 10-11. Comp. John v. 22). St. Jude of course need not have derived this idea from the Book of Enoch; but the fact that it is so very frequent there, especially in connexion with the sin of the impure angels, may have influenced him in writing the passage before us. At any rate all these numerous details will not leave us in much doubt as to the origin of St. Jude's statement, "angels which 413 kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation, he hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." It comes either directly from the Book of Enoch, or from a source of which both the writer of the book and St. Jude make use.

It was "in like manner with these" angels that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah sinned, going astray after unlawful and unnatural indulgences; and "in like manner with these" angels, they also "are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire." The meaning is not quite clear, but apparently it is this, that the sinful angels are in prison awaiting the day of judgment, when they will be cast into the lake of fire; and that the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire, and their perpetual submersion, are an example of the eternal fire in which the angels will be submerged. Perhaps there is also the idea that under the Dead Sea volcanic fires are burning. It is quite possible to take "of eternal fire" after "example" instead of after "punishment;" and this rendering makes the statement more in accordance with the actual facts: "are set forth as an example of eternal fire, suffering punishment." But the two last words come in rather awkwardly at the end of the sentence, and most commentators decide against this construction (comp. 3 Macc. ii. 5).

The three cases exhibit, not a climax, but great diversity, as regards persons, sin, and punishment. We have both Jews and Gentiles, and between them beings superior to both. The Israelites by unbelief rejected their promised home, and perished slowly in the wilderness. The angels left their proper home, sinned grossly, and are in banishment and in prison, 414 awaiting still worse punishment. The men of Sodom and Gomorrah sinned grossly in their home, and both they and it were suddenly, horribly, and irrevocably destroyed. This great diversity gives point to the moral. No matter who may be the sinners, or what the circumstances of the sin, outrageous offences, such as impurity and rebellion, are certain of Divine chastisement.

If fallen angels are evil spirits actively compassing the ruin of souls, how can fallen angels be "kept in everlasting bonds unto the judgment of the great day"? More than one answer might be given to this question, but the reserve of Scripture on the subject seems to warn us from unprofitable speculation. Even without Scripture the reality of spiritual powers of evil may be inferred from their effects. Scripture seems to tell us that some of these powers are personal, and some not, that some are more free than others, and that all shall be defeated at last. That is enough for our comfort, warning, and assurance. It consoles us to know that much of the evil within us is no part of ourselves, but comes from without. It makes us wary to know that such powers are contending against us. It gives us confidence to know that even Satan and his hosts can be overcome by those who resist steadfast in the faith.120120   On the fall of the angels see Hooker, Eccl. Pol. I. iv. 3, and V. Appendix i. 28. For a modern and poetical rendering of what is stated in Gen. vi. 1, 2, see Byron, Heaven and Earth: a Mystery.


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