Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hebrews 7:25—able to save....

No matter how you slice it, Hebrews 7:25 makes a glorious assertion about the Lord Jesus. On the basis of His eternal life and (therefore) untransferrable priesthood,
ὅθεν καὶ σῴζειν εἰς τὸ παντελὲς δύναται τοὺς προσερχομένους δι᾽ αὐτοῦ τῷ θεῷ, πάντοτε ζῶν εἰς τὸ ἐντυγχάνειν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν.
This phrase, εἰς τὸ παντελὲς, stands out. How to render it? The familiar KJV "to the uttermost" is one option, and it is retained by ASV, ESV and NKJ. The CSB has "always"; in fact, oddly, it uses the word twice in this verse, once for our phrase and once for πάντοτε. NAS has "forever," NET has "completely," as does NIV. Phillips (no relation) has "fully and completely."

The phrase occurs exactly in one other verse in the Greek Bible. It is Luke 13:11, speaking of the woman whom Satan had crippled:
καὶ ἰδοὺ γυνὴ πνεῦμα ἔχουσα ἀσθενείας ἔτη δεκαοκτὼ καὶ ἦν συγκύπτουσα καὶ μὴ δυναμένη ἀνακύψαι εἰς τὸ παντελές.
Here, the meaning clearly is not "forever." "Completely" or "fully" would work. But the phrase could have the nuance of "forever." When a Greek phrase is ambiguous, I like to try to find an English phrase that retains the ambiguity. Would not "all the way" keep that ambiguity?

But that still leaves us in a bind, since the syntax which is so elegant in Greek simply does not come across to English with equal elegance: "...whence also He is able to save, all the way, those who draw near to God through Him, as He always lives to make intercession for them."

What a wonderful and reassuring depiction of our Lord's priesthood and work. His salvation does not stop partway, any more than His life will stop partway, nor will His priestly intercession for His own (cf. John 17:9) stop partway. As my pastor well says, if any part of the process were left to us, that is the part we'd botch.

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