November 24: 1 Timothy 3:16cd

The Hymn, continued

(The first couplet was discussed in the previous note)

Second Couplet (verse 16c)

w&fqh a)gge/loi$
e)jhru/xqh e)n e&qehsin
“(he) was seen by (the) Messengers,
(and) was proclaimed among (the) Nations”

The contrast in the first couplet was between the “flesh” (sa/rc) and the “Spirit” (pneu=ma); here in the second couplet the juxtaposition is between the “Messengers” (a&ggeloi, i.e., Angels) and the “Nations” (e&qnh). The connection between the Angels and the Nations is ancient, as can be seen, for example, by the tradition preserved in Deut 32:8 (4QDeutj and LXX)—the number of the nations (trad. 70) corresponds to the number of the “sons of God” (divine/heavenly beings). The book of Daniel preserved a more developed form of this correspondence, when it refers to the tradition of a heavenly/angelic “Prince” who belongs to a particular nation (10:13, 20-22; 12:1), overseeing it.

The eschatological outlook of the Qumran Community evinces a more oppositional (and antagonistic) dualism, dividing the heavenly beings between the “sons of light” and “sons of darkness”. The righteous ones of the Community (on earth) are aligned with the “sons of light” (led by Michael), while the wicked nations are aligned with the “sons of darkness” (led by Belial); expressed vividly in the War Scroll (1QM) and other texts. This basic tradition is reflected in Rev 12:7-12, and thus was part of the early Christian apocalyptic as well.

The juxtaposition here in the hymn, however, does not represent an antithetical dualism; rather, the contrast is simply between the beings dwelling in heaven (Angels) and the peoples dwelling on earth (Nations).

As in the first couplet, the verbs are aorist passive indicative forms—w&fqh (“he was seen”) and e)khru/xqh (“he was proclaimed”). The context, in both instances, is the exaltation of Jesus, building on the second line of the first couplet, which alludes to the death and resurrection of Jesus (cf. the discussion in the previous note). The heavenly beings (Angels) are witnesses to the exalted Jesus’ presence in heaven, even as Jesus’ disciples on earth were witnesses to his resurrection. Those disciples, the first believers in Christ, then proclaimed (vb khru/ssw) the message of his exaltation to the surrounding peoples and nations.

The verb khru/ssw is fundamental to the early Christian tradition, and is used throughout the New Testament (including 19 times by Paul in his letters) to refer to the preaching of the Gospel. The related noun kh/rugma (k¢¡rygma, “proclamation”) is less common, with only 9 occurrences in the New Testament, but 6 of these are in the Pauline letters, where it is essentially synonymous with the Gospel (eu)agge/lion), as the message is proclaimed (preached) by missionaries and ministers (Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 1:21, etc; cp. the short ending of Mark [16:8]); as such, it is also used twice in the Pastoral letters (2 Tim 4:17; Tit 1:3). The word has come to serve as a technical term by New Testament scholars for the earliest Christian Gospel-preaching (kerygma).

Third Couplet (verse 16d)

e)pisteu/qh e)n ko/smw|
a)nelh/mfqh e)n do/ch|
“(he) was trusted in the world,
(and) was taken up in splendor”

The contrast in the final couplet follows the same heaven-earth juxtaposition from the first two couplets (cf. above). Here the order of the pairing reverts to that in the first couplet—earthly, then heavenly. The formal pattern of the prepositional predicate also continues, using the preposition e)n (“in”). The same pattern applied in the second couplet as well, though the sense of the preposition there is more properly rendered “among”. There is no preposition specified in the first line of the second couplet, but the dative could certainly reflect e)n—i.e., “was seen among the Messengers”.

The earthly aspect here is expressed by the common word ko/smo$, typically translated “world”, but which properly signifies the order and arrangement of the world (i.e., world-order, created order). The noun do/ca is also a common term, but one which can be difficult to translate, due to its relatively wide semantic range. It fundamentally refers to how something (or someone) is regarded, especially in the positive sense of being esteemed, i.e. treated with honor. In a religious context, when applied to God, it connotes the esteem and honor which is due to God. He is deserving of this honor simply because He is the Creator and one true God, the Ruler of the universe. For this reason, do/ca (like the corresponding Hebrew word dobK*) is often used, in the more objective sense, for all that distinguishes God from all other (created) beings. Along these lines, the word is typically rendered “glory”, “splendor”, and the like. Here, it is best viewed as a comprehensive term for the entire divine/heavenly realm, in contrast to the earthly/material cosmos.

The verbs in the third couplet, again expressed in aorist passive indicative forms, have a simple and straightforward meaning. The verb pisteu/w means trust, in the specifically Christian sense of trust (pi/sti$) in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. To say that he was trusted “in the world” draws upon the context of the corresponding lines in the first two couplets: (a) Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, and (b) the post-resurrection proclamation of the Gospel. His disciples trusted in him, becoming believers, while others came to faith, in turn, through their proclamation.

The verb a)nalamba/nw (“take up”), especially in a passivum divinum sense (“taken up [by God]”), was a technical term for the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:2, 11, 22; [Mk 16:19]; cf. also the noun a)na/lhmyi$ in Lk 9:51). Implicit in this, of course, is the wider idea of Jesus’ exaltation. A central component of the early Gospel proclamation is the motif of the exalted Jesus standing “at the right hand” of God in heaven (Mk 14:62 par; [16:19]; Acts 2:33f; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Eph 1:20; Heb 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet 3:22). This motif stems largely from Psalm 110:1 (cf. Mk 12:36 par; Acts 2:34; Heb 1:13), but may be influenced by other Scriptural traditions as well, such as the ‘son of man’ passage in Daniel 7:13-14. In any case, it certainly would inform the idea of Jesus being taken up “in glory/splendor” here in the hymn.

As in the Christ hymns of Philippians and Colossians, there is a strong emphasis on the exalted Jesus’ position of rule over all creation. This is perhaps clearest in the second couplet (cf. above), in which all beings—both in heaven and on earth—recognize the exaltation of Jesus (and his divine place alongside God the Father).


In the study of each couplet, I have brought out the conjunction of the two lines; however, when considering the hymn-portion of v. 16 as a whole, it is better to present it consistently in its flowing, litany-like character:

was made to shine forth in (the) flesh,
was made right (again) in (the) Spirit,
was seen (among the) Messengers,
was proclaimed among (the) Nations,
was trusted in (the) world,
was taken up in splendor”

Clearly, the lines do not represent a chronological summary of the Gospel message. The thematic structure is better understood as being woven around the heaven-earth dualism of each couplet. The first and third couplets are in relatively close parallel, contrasting Jesus’ earthly life and ministry with his heavenly exaltation (resurrection/ascension). The second (middle) couplet emphasizes the reaction to Jesus’ exaltation, as both heavenly beings (Angels) and earthly beings (human believers) acknowledge the exalted and ruling position of Jesus. This acknowledgement (trust/faith/confession) leads to proclamation—that is, the preaching of the Gospel message. While the Angels may proclaim this message, in certain ways, it more properly refers to the work of believers on earth, the ministry and mission-work of the Gospel, in all its different forms.

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