joi (simchah; chara):
The idea of joy is expressed in the Old Testament by a wealth of synonymous terms that cannot easily be differentiated. The commonest is simchah (1 Sam 18:6, etc.), variously translated in English Versions of the Bible "joy," "gladness," "mirth"; from sameah, properly "to be bright," "to shine" (Prov 13:9, "The light of the righteous rejoiceth," literally, "is bright"), but generally used figuratively "to rejoice," "be glad" (Lev 23:40 and very frequent).
Other nouns are masos and sason, both from sus, properly "to spring," "leap," hence, "exult," "rejoice"; rinnah, "shouting." "joy"; gil, from verb gil or gul, "to go in a circle," hence, "be excited" (dancing round for joy), "rejoice." In the New Testament, far the commonest are chara, "joy," chairo, "to rejoice" (compare charis, "grace"). But we have also agalliasis, which expresses "exuberant joy," "exultation" (not used in classical Greek, but often in the Septuagint; in the New Testament, Lk 1:14,44; Acts 2:46; Jude 1:24; Heb 1:9), and the corresponding verb agalliaoo (-aomai), "to exult," "rejoice exceedingly" (Mt 5:12, etc.). In English Versions of the Bible we have sometimes "to joy" (now obsolete as a verb), used in an intransitive sense = "to rejoice" (Hab 3:18; 2 Cor 7:13, etc.).
2. In the Old Testament:
Besides joy in a general sense, as the response of the mind to any pleasurable event or state (1 Ki 1:40; Est 8:17, etc.), joy as a religious emotion is very frequently referred to in the Old Testament. Religion is conceived of as touching the deepest springs of emotion, including the feeling of exultant gladness which often finds outward expression in such actions as leaping, shouting, and singing. Joy is repeatedly shown to be the natural outcome of fellowship with God. "In thy presence is fullness of joy; in thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps 16:11; compare 16:8,9). God is at once the source (Ps 4:7; 51:12) and the object (Ps 35:9; Isa 29:19) of religious joy. The phrase "rejoice (be glad) in Yahweh" and similar. expressions are of frequent occurrence (e.g. Ps 97:12; 149:2; Isa 61:10; Zec 10:7). Many aspects of the Divine character call forth this emotion, such as His lovingkindness (Ps 21:6,7; 31:7), His salvation (Ps 21:1; Isa 25:9; Hab 3:18), His laws and statutes (Ps 12; 119 passim), His judgments (Ps 48:11), His words of comfort in dark days (Jer 15:15,16). The fundamental fact of the sovereignty of God, of the equity of the Divine government of the world, gives to the pious a joyous sense of security in life (Ps 93:1 f; 96:10; 97:1) which breaks forth into songs of praises in which even inanimate Nature is poetically called upon to join (Ps 96:11-13; 98:4-9). In the case of those who held such views of God, it was natural that the service of God should elicit a joyous spirit ("I will offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy," Ps 27:6; compare 1 Ch 29:9), a spirit which is abundantly manifest in the jubilant shouting with which religious festivities were celebrated, and the trumpet-sound which accompanied certain sacrifices (2 Sam 6:15; Ps 33:1-3; Nu 10:10; 2 Ch 29:27), and especially in psalms of praise, thanksgiving and adoration (Psalms 47; 81; 100, etc.). "Rejoice before Yahweh your God" is an oft-repeated phrase in Dt with reference to the sacrificial feast (e.g. 12:12). But joy is a Divine, as well as a human, emotion; for God Himself is represented in the Old Testament, not as a rigid, impassible Being, but as susceptible to pleasure and pain. God may be conceived of as "rejoicing in his works" (Ps 104:31; compare Gen 1:31), and over His people "for good" (Dt 30:9). "He will rejoice over thee (Zion) with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph 3:17). Such noble and vivid anthropomorphisms are a nearer approach to the truth than the abstract doctrine of the impassibility of God which, owing to Platonic influences, dominated theology of the early Christian centuries.
3. In the New Testament:
The element of joy in religion is still more prominent in the New Testament. It is the appropriate response of the believer to the "good tidings of great joy" which constitute the gospel (Lk 2:10). In the four Gospels, especially Luke, this element is conspicuous. It is seen in the canticles of Lk 1 and 2. It is both exemplified in the life and character, and set forth in the teaching of Jesus. There are many intimations that, in spite of the profound elements of grief and tragedy in His life, His habitual demeanor was gladsome and joyous, certainly not gloomy or ascetic: such as, His description of Himself as bridegroom, in defense of His disciples for not fasting (Mk 2:18-20); the fact that He came "eating and drinking," giving occasion to the charge that He was "a gluttonous man and a winebibber" (Mt 11:19); His "rejoicing in the Holy Spirit" (Lk 10:21); the fact that His presence was found to be congenial at social festivities (Mk 14:3; Lk 14:1; Jn 12:1), and at the wedding in Cana (Jn 2:1 ff); His mention of "my joy" (Jn 15:11; 17:13). His teaching with reference to His followers harmonizes with this. The Christian virtues confer on those who attain them not only beatitude, a calm and composed state of felicity (Mt 5:3-11), but also a more exuberant state of joy, which is in sharp contrast to the "sad countenance" of the hypocrites (Mt 6:16) ("Rejoice, and be exceeding glad", Mt 5:12). This spirit is reflected in many of the parables. The discovery of the true treasure of life brings joy (Mt 13:44). The three parables in Lk 15 reveal the joy of the Divine heart itself at the repentance of sinners (see especially 15:5-7,9,10,22-24,32). The parable of the Talents lays stress on the "joy of the Lord" which is the reward of faithfulness (Mt 25:21,23). Jesus confers on His followers not only peace (Jn 14:27; 16:33), but participation in His own fullness of joy (Jn 15:11; 16:24; 17:13), a joy which is permanent, in contrast to the sorrow which is transient (Jn 16:22). In the dark days of disappointment that succeeded the crucifixion, the joy of the disciples passed under a cloud, but at the resurrection (Lk 24:41) and still more on the day of Pentecost it emerged into light, and afterward remained a marked characteristic of the early church (Acts 2:46 f; 8:39; 13:52; 15:3). Paul speaks of joy as one of the fruits of the spirit (Gal 5:22) and of "joy in the Holy Spirit" as an essential mark of the kingdom of God (Rom 14:17). This joy is associated with faith (Phil 1:25), hope (Rom 5:2; 12:12), brotherly fellowship and sympathy (Rom 12:15; 2 Cor 7:13; Phil 2:1 f). To rejoice in the Lord is enjoined as a Christian duty (Phil 3:1; 4:4; compare 2:17 f; 1 Thess 5:16). In Christ, the Christian "rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Pet 1:8), in spite of his temporary afflictions (1 Pet 1:6). Christian joy is no mere gaiety that knows no gloom, but is the result of the triumph of faith over adverse and trying circumstances, which, instead of hindering, actually enhance it (Acts 5:41; Rom 5:3 f; Jas 1:2,12; 5:11; 1 Pet 4:13; compare Mt 5:11,12). Even our Lord Himself "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame" (Heb 12:2).
D. Miall Edwards