Glory (in the Bible)

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In English versions of the Bible, glory stands for various words in the original languages, but basically it construes the word kābôd in Hebrew and δόξα in Greek. This article traces the use of these words through the OT and NT.

In the Old Testament. Every OT writer knew that to see God was beyond man's capacity; as Moses had

been told, "But my face you cannot see, for no man sees me and still lives" (Ex 33.20). Yet in very primitive times God was thought by the Hebrews to manifest Himself somehow in spectacular thunderstorms.

The earth swayed and quaked; the foundations of the mountains trembled and shook when his wrath flared up. Smoke rose from his nostrils, and a devouring fire from his mouth that kindled coals into flame. And he inclined the heavens and came down, with dark clouds under his feet. He mounted a cherub and flew, borne on the wings of the wind. And he made darkness the cloak about him; dark, misty rain-clouds his wrap. From the brightness of his presence coals were kindled to flame. And the Lord thundered from heaven, the Most High gave forth his voice; He sent forth His arrows to put them to flight, with frequent lightnings he routed them (Ps 17 [18].815). Fire goes before him and consumes his foes round about. His lightnings illumine the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his justice, and all peoples see his glory (Ps 96 [97].361).

To express this awesomeness of yahweh's self-disclosure, the Hebrews favored the word kābôd in this special sense, although it originally meant weightiness or impressiveness. Some of the same lightning-storm imagery is used to describe the Lord's presence on Mt. Sinai: "On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the Lord came down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently" (Ex 19.16, 18). "After Moses had gone up, a cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled upon Mount Sinai. The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop" (Ex 24.1517).

God's glorya formless, flashing fireis always cloaked in cloud to protect man from gazing directly upon it, lest it overwhelm him. Another site of divine encounter was the tent of meeting, where God would descend to render judgment, deliver an oracle, or entertain some request: "As Moses entered the Tent, the column of cloud would come down and stand at its entrance while the Lord spoke with Moses" (Ex 33.9)."When he came down from offering the sin offering and holocaust and peace offering, Moses and Aaron went into the Meeting Tent. Then the glory of the Lord was revealed to allthe people. Fire came forth from the Lord's presence and consumed the holocaust" (Lv 9.2224).

Another ancient tradition pictured the kābôd as abiding permanently in the cloud-enveloped fire upon the ark of the covenant. The top of this wooden chest was a plate of gold surmounted by two golden cherubim, whose outstretched wings formed a throne for God's glory. The Lord came to be called "He who sits upon the Cherubim" (2 Kgs 19.15). Later when the Ark was brought to grace the sanctuary of Solomon's new Temple (see temples [in the bible]), the glory took up residence there: "And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the sanctuary, that a cloud filled the house of the Lord. And the Priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord" (1 Kgs 8.1011).

As time went on the idea of the glory was developing. I. Abrahams observes: "The clouds have gone, the earthquake, the wind. Out of the primitive storm associations the only physical feature that endured was the illumination" (56). Ezekiel adds a further insight; in his inaugural vision he sees the glory riding a heavenly chariot in fiery tumult, drawn by four chimeric creatures: "Upon it was seated, up above, one who had the appearance of a man. Upward from what resembled his waist I saw what gleamed like electrum; downward from what resembled his waist I saw what looked like fire; he was surrounded with splendor. Like the bow which appears in the clouds on a rainy day was the splendor that surrounded him. Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord" (Ez 1.2628). Thus a further step has been taken toward personalizing the glory. Some years later the author of Isaiah ch. 56 to 66, while not abandoning the ancient fire symbol for a simply spiritual kābôd, does begin to blend into it the ideas of God's power and lordly majesty:

Rise up in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; But upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance (Is 60.13).

After returning from Exile the Jews grew to realize that Yahweh's rule must somehow extend over all the earth, and the sense of "glory" overflowed more and more the bounds of the old fire-and-cloud imagery, to become a symbol for His universal triumph: "Be exalted above the heavens, O God; above all the earth be your glory!" (Ps 56 [57].12). "Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his wondrous deeds" (Ps 95[96].3). Very late in the OT period the author of Daniel foresees that the oppressed Jewish people (portrayed as "One like a son of man") would one day be invited to share in the Lord's glory:

I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Dn 7.1314)

Already in the 3d century b.c., the existing books of the OT were being translated into Greek for the numerous Jews living abroad in Greek-speaking areas. This version, called the Septuagint (LXX), proved more than a simple translation; the added resources of Greek language and thought permitted even further continuance of theological development begun in Hebrew. The word kābôd had become a highly technical term; its Greek equivalent, δόξα, became even more specialized. Δόξα, stripped of its original meaning of "opinion," served in the LXX to signify only such meanings as might be included within the span of kābôd. More and more emphasis was laid on God's power to work wonders and to save, and on His majesty as King.

In the New Testament. The term in the NT is still found in its classic sense of the radiant fire of Yahweh's presence, e.g., "my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh; who are Israelites, who have the adoption of sons, and the glory and the covenants and the legislation and the worship and the promises" (Rom 9.3,4). Yet the remarkable development in the NT is that the traditional glory of Yahweh becomes the glory of Christ; indeed, the application of δόξα to Jesus is one of the chief literary techniques used to suggest His Divinity. The synoptic gospels, recognizing that Jesus' divine radiance was concealed during His earthly ministry, observe its outburst only after the Resurrection: "His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment like snow" (Mt 28.3). See also Mk 14.6162. Yet on certain occasions the presence of the divine δόξα is suggested in a cloud or radiance: at His baptism, when Jesus was commissioned as Savior, and at the Transfiguration, when His disciples were shown the significance of His coming death. Also, Luke in his infancy narratives inserts several allusions to the δόξα designed to hint at Jesus' divine origins: "the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee" (Lk1.35); "an angel of the Lord stood by them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they feared exceedingly" (Lk 2.9; the presence of angels, perhaps reminiscent of the Ark's cherubim, and the fearful reaction are standard biblical accompaniments to the δόξα). John, on the other hand, considers that Jesus' glory is always there to be perceived, but only by those who believe. His works are not presented so much as miracles, as in the Synoptics, but as "signs," which mysteriously show forth His glory to the eyes of faith: "He manifested his glory and his disciples believed in him" (Jn 2.11). "'Have I not told thee that if thou believe thou shalt behold the glory of God?"' (Jn 11.40). Yet John also realizes that only after the Resurrection will Jesus be glorified with the glory he had with the Father before the world existed (Jn 17.5). Paul, who had been called to apostleship by a vision of Jesus surrounded with glory, makes frequent references to Ex 34.2735, where Moses has to veil his face, so dazzling is the radiance beaming from it after he has spoken with the Lord. So, too, the Apostolic life is a reception of light in order to reflect the "glory of God, shining on the face of Christ Jesus" (2 Cor 4.6). "But we all, with faces unveiled, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into his very image from glory to glory, as through the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor3.18).

See Also: shekinah; theophany.

Bibliography: g. kittel, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935) 2:236256. g. von rad, Old Testament Theology, tr. d. m. g. stalker (New York 1962) v. 1. l. h. brockington, "The Septuagintal Background to the New Testament Use of 'Doxa,"' Studies in the Gospels, ed. d. e. nineham (Oxford 1955). c. mohrmann, "Note sur 'doxa,"' Sprachgeschichte und Wortbedeutung; Festschrift Albert Debrunner (Bern 1954). i. abrahams, The Glory of God (London 1925).

[j. t. burtchaell]