Bible History Online
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. In the Old Testament:
In the Revised Version (British and American) the New Testament "hope" represents the noun elpis (52 t), and the verb elpizo (31 t). King James Version, however, renders the noun in Heb 10:23 by "faith," and for the verb gives "trust" in 18 cases (apparently without much system, e.g. in Phil 2 compare 2:19 and 23; see TRUST), while in Lk 6:35 it translates apelpizo, by "hoping for nothing again" (the Revised Version (British and American) "never despairing"). But in the Old Testament there is no Hebrew word that has the exact force of "expectation of some good thing," so that in the King James Version "hope" (noun and vb.) stands for some 15 Hebrew words, nearly all of which in other places are given other translation (e.g. mibhTach, is rendered "hope" in Jer 17:17, "trust" in Ps 40:4, "confidence" in Ps 65:5). the Revised Version (British and American) has attempted to be more systematic and has, for the most part, kept "hope" for the noun tiqwah, and the verb yachal, but complete consistency was not possible (e.g. Prov 10:28; 11:23; 23:18). This lack of a specific word for hope has nothing to do with any undervaluation of the virtue among the Hebrews. For the religion of the Old Testament is of all things a religion of hope, centered in God, from whom all deliverance and blessings are confidently expected (Jer 17:17; Joel 3:16; Ps 31:24; 33:18,22; 39:7, etc.). The varieties of this hope arc countless (see ISRAEL, RELIGION OF; SALVATION, etc.), but the form most perfected and with fundamental significance for the New Testament is the firm trust that at a time appointed God, in person or through His representative (see MESSIAH), will establish a kingdom of righteousness.
2. In the New Testament:
(1) The proclamation of this coming kingdom of God was the central element in the teaching of Jesus, and the message of its near advent (Mk 1:15, etc.), with the certainty of admission to it for those who accepted His teaching (Lk 12:32, etc.), is the substance of His teaching as to hope. This teaching, though, is delivered in the language of One to whom the realities of the next world and of the future are perfectly familiar; the tone is not that of prediction so much as it is that of the statement of obvious facts. In other words, "hope" to Christ is "certainty," and the word "hope" is never on His lips (Lk 6:34 and Jn 5:45 are naturally not exceptions). For the details see KINGDOM OF GOD; FAITH; FORGIVENESS, etc. And however far He may have taught that the kingdom was present in His lifetime, none the less the full consummation of that kingdom, with Himself as Messiah, was made by Him a matter of the future (see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT; PAROUSIA).
(2) Hence, after the ascension the early church was left with an eschatological expectation that was primarily and almost technically the "hope" of the New Testament--"looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit 2:13), "unto a living hope ...., unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, .... reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet 13-5; compare Rom 5:2; 8:20-24; 2 Cor 3:12; Eph 1:18-21; Col 1:5,23,17; Tit 1:2; 3:7; 1 Jn 3:2,3). The foundations of this hope were many: (a) Primarily, of course, the promises of the Old Testament, which were the basis of Christ's teaching. Such are often quoted at length (Acts 2:16, etc.), while they underlie countless other passages. These promises are the "anchor of hope" that holds the soul fast (Heb 6:18-20). In part, then, the earliest Christian expectations coincided with the Jewish, and the "hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20; compare 26:6,7; Eph 2:12, and especially Rom 11:25-32) was a common ground on which Jew and Christian might meet. Still, through the confidence of forgiveness and purification given in the atonement (Heb 9:14, etc.), the Christian felt himself to have a "better hope" (Heb 7:19), which the Jew could not know. (b) Specifically Christian, however, was the pledge given in the resurrection of Christ. This sealed His Messiahship and proved His lordship (Rom 1:4; Eph 1:18-20; 1 Pet 3:21, etc.), so sending forth His followers with the certainty of victory. In addition, Christ's resurrection was felt to be the first step in the general resurrection, and hence, a proof that the consummation of all things had begun (1 Cor 15:23; compare Acts 23:6; 24:15; 26:6,7; 1 Thess 4:13,14, etc.). (c) But more than all, devotion to Christ produced a religious experience that gave certainty to hope. "Hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us" (Rom 5:5; compare 8:16,17; 2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14, etc., and see HOLY SPIRIT). Even visible miracles were wrought by the Spirit that were signs of the end (Acts 2:17) as well as of the individual's certainty of partaking in the final happiness (Acts 10:47; 19:6, etc.).
(3) Yet, certain though the hope might be, it was not yet attained, and the interim was an opportunity to develop faith, "the substance of the things hoped for" (Heb 11:1). Indeed, hope is simply faith directed toward the future, and no sharp distinction between faith and hope is attainable. It is easy enough to see how the King James Version felt "confession of our faith" clearer than "confession of our hope" in Heb 10:23, although the rendition of elpis by "faith" was arbitrary. So in Rom 8:20-24, "hope" is scarcely more than "faith" in this specialized aspect. In particular, in 8:24 we have as the most natural translation (compare Eph 2:5,8), "By hope we were saved" (so the King James Version, the English Revised Version, the American Revised Version margin), only a pedantic insistence on words can find in this any departure from the strictest Pauline theology (compare the essential outlook on the future of the classic example of "saving faith" in Rom 4:18-22, especially verse 18). Still, the combination is unusual, and the Greek may be rendered equally well "For hope we were saved" ("in hope" of the American Standard Revised Version is not so good); i.e. our salvation, in so far as it is past, is but to prepare us for what is to come (compare Eph 4:4; 1 Pet 1:3). But this postponement of the full attainment, through developing faith, gives stedfastness (Rom 8:25; compare 1 Thess 1:3; 5:8; Heb 3:6; 6:11), which could be gained in no other way. On the other hand this stedfastness, produced by hope, reacts again on hope and increases it (Rom 5:4; 15:4). and so on. But no attempt is made in the New Testament to give a catalogue of the "fruits of hope," and, indeed, such lists are inevitably artificial.
(4) One passage that deserves special attention is 1 Cor 13:13, "Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three." "Abideth" is in contrast to "shall be done away" in 13:8,9, and the time of the abiding is consequently after the Parousia; i.e. while many gifts are for the present world only, faith, hope and love are eternal and endure in the next world. 1 Cor 13 is evidently a very carefully written section, and the permanence of faith and hope cannot be set down to any mere carelessness on Paul's part, but the meaning is not very clear. Probably he felt that the triad of virtues was so essentially a part of the Christian's character that the existence of the individual without them was unthinkable, without trying to define what the object of faith and hope would be in the glorified state. If any answer is to be given, it must be found in the doctrine that even in heaven life will not be static but will have opportunities of unlimited growth. Never will the finite soul be able to dispense entirely with faith, while at each stage the growth into the next can be anticipated through hope.
Only adventist bodies can use all the New Testament promises literally, and the translation of the eschatological language into modern practical terms is not always easy. The simplest method is that already well developed in the Fourth Gospel, where the phrase "kingdom of God" is usually replaced by the words "eternal life," i.e. for a temporal relation between this world and the next is substituted a local, so that the accent is laid on the hope that awaits the individual beyond the grave. On the other hand, the cataclysmic imagery of the New Testament may be interpreted in evolutionary form. God, by sending into the world the supernatural power seen in the Christian church, is working for the race as well as for the individual, and has for His whole creation, as well as for individual souls, a goal in store. The individual has for his support the motives of the early church and, in particular, learns through the cross that even his own sins shall not disappoint him of his hope. But both of the above interpretations are needed if religion is fairly to represent the spirit of the New Testament. A pure individualism that looks only beyond the grave for its hope empties the phrase "kingdom of God" of its meaning and tends inevitably to asceticism. And, in contrast, the religion of Jesus cannot be reduced to a mere hope of ethical advance for the present world. A Christianity that loses a transcendent, eschatological hope ceases to be Christianity.
Burton Scott Easton
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'hope'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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