by Geerhardus Vos

Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels Vol II:552–557. [1906]

The Gospel usage of this word is closely connected with that of the OT.

The corresponding Hebrew words are derivatives of ישע and צל. Of the former, the Niphal and Hiphil are found in the verb; of noun forms ישע or ישע, ישועה, תשועה, מושעות and some proper names, of which the most important is יהושוע “Jehovah is salvation.” The root נצל occurs in the Niphal and Hiphil of the verb; its only noun-derivative is the απαξ λεγομενον, הצלה, Est. 4:14. The fundamental meaning of ישע appears to be “enlargement,” whence the notion of “deliverance” naturally springs, the same association of ideas being observed in the use of “compression,” “confinement” as figures for “distress.” So far as the verbal forms of both roots are concerned, the idea of “saving” is entirely negative, that of deliverance from some evil, no reflection being passed upon favorable, positive consequences. A negative sense is very clear in such passages as Ps. 28:9, 69:35, where the positive results of the saving act are named as something additional. From other words denoting deliverance “to save” is distinguished by the constant presence of two elements, that of a delivering agent, and that of an active interposition on his part for the removal of actual evil or peril. For mere “preservation” or mere “escape” other words are used: “healing” also is expressed by different terms; cf. Gen. 45:7, 47:25, Ex. 1:17, Jer. 48:6, Ezek. 3:18, Ps. 6:5, 41:3, Job 2:6. The evil from which salvation takes place varies; in most cases it is the oppression of Israel by its enemies; sometimes, though not frequently, it appears in the acute form of individual or national death (Ps. 68:19, 20). While the noun-forms frequently have the same negative meaning as the verb, they pass over more readily into the positive sense, so that the act of deliverance becomes the point of departure for the bestowal of favor, blessing, and prosperity. Thus ישועה and תשועה come to mean “victory” (1 Sam. 14:45, 2 Sam. 19:2, 2 Kings 5:1, Isa. 60:18). “Salvation” becomes synonymous with other positive terms like “righteousness,” “blessing,” “light” (Isa. 45:8, 46:13, 49:6, 61:10, 62:1, Ps. 24:5, 106:4). In the Prophets and the Psalter it obtains an eschatological (Messianic) sense, and stands as one of the terms for the great final deliverance and the final blessedness to follow (Isa. 12:2f., 45:17, 22, 49:8, 51:6, 8, 52:7, 56:1, Jer. 23:6, 33:16, Mic. 7:7, Hab. 3:8, 18, Ps. 14:7, 35:4, 74:12, 85:8, 98:2, 3, 109:27, 32, 118:15, 21). The religious importance of the conception in the OT springs not so much from the nature of the evil removed, or from the nature of the blessedness bestowed, as rather from the fact that salvation, of whatever nature, is a work of Jehovah for His people, a Divine prerogative; hence the frequently recurring statements that salvation belongs to Jehovah, is of Jehovah, that Jehovah is salvation, the Savior of Israel (1 Sam. 14:39, 2 Sam. 22:3, 2 Chr. 20:17, Isa. 12:2, 3, 33:22, Ps. 3:8, 62:2, 118:14, 21). In so far as salvation is valued not merely from the point of view of its benefits for man, but as a pledge of the Divine favor, the idea becomes spiritualized in principle. Besides, in so far as all national developments in the history of Israel have a religious and moral background, it is felt that every act of salvation must have for its antecedent a change in the people’s spiritual condition (Isa. 33:22, 24). In a few passages the conception is directly transferred from the national-political to the purely religious sphere, sin being named as the evil from which Israel or the individual is saved (Ezek. 36:29, Ps. 51:14).

The LXX renders the Hebrew verbs by σωζειν, the nouns by σωτηρια and σωτηριον. These words, however, are likewise used to render Hebrew terms of a different shade of meaning, and thus to a large extent the nice distinction of the original between “salvation” specifically so-called and such more general terms is obscured. Thus σωζειν stands for מלט Niphal, Piel, and Hiphil, frequently in the Passive for mere “escape,” also for forms of פלט and חיה. On the other hand, σωζειν never bears in the LXX the specific sense of “healing” (Jer. 17:14).

In the Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphical writings the usage does not vary much from that of the OT; cf. Sir. 51:12 (εξ απωλειας), Wis. 16:7, Jth. 9:11, En. 48:7 (of “the Son of Man”; “in his name are they being saved, and he is the God of their life”), 50:3 (eschatological-negative, mere salvation without glory), 63:8, 4 Ezr. 6:25, 7:131, 9:8, 12:34, 13:26, 45:6 (the righteous shall be satisfied with salvation in connection with the Messiah), Ps-Sol. 6:2, 10:8, 12:6, 18:6, Bar. 4:22, 24, 29, Test. Jud. 22, Test. Dan 5, Test. Napht. 8, Jub. 23:29, 1 Macc. 4:30, 9:9, 4 Macc. 11:7, 15:3 (“piety which saves unto eternal life”), 15:27. In most of these passages the conception is eschatological-positive, and in many of them it has reference to the issue of the Last Judgment, wherein lies a transition from the OT to the NT usage. There is also an advance in this, that in a couple of instances the act of salvation is connected with the Messiah.

In the Gospels σωζειν occurs 54 times (not counting Luke 17:33, where ζωογονησει is better attested than σωσει of the TR, nor Matt. 18:11, a verse omitted by the best authorities). The noun σωτηρια occurs 5 times (not counting αιωνιος σωτηρια in the rejected shorter conclusion of Mark)—Luke 1:69, 71, 77, 19:9, John 4:22. το σωτηριον is found twice—Luke 2:30, 3:6. Of the instances of this use of the verb 14 relate to the deliverance from disease or demoniacal possession—Matt. 9:21, 22, Mark 5:23, 28, 34, 6:56, 10:52, Luke 8:36, 48, 50, 17:19, 18:42, John 11:12; in 20 instances the reference is to the rescue of physical life from some impending peril or instant death—Matt. 8:25, 14:30, 16:25, 27:40, 42, 49, Mark 3:4, 8:35, 15:30, 31, Luke 6:9, 9:24, 56, 23:35, 37, 39, John 12:27; in the remainder of cases, 20 times, the reference is to religious salvation technically so called—Matt. 1:21, 10:22, 19:25, 24:13, 22, Mark 8:35, 10:26, 13:13, 20, 16:16, Luke 7:50, 8:12, 9:24, 13:23, 18:26, 19:10, John 3:17, 5:34, 10:9, 12:47. The noun σωτηρια is used twice in the OT sense of deliverance from the enemies of Israel—Luke 1:69, 71; and 3 times in the more specifically religious sense—Luke 1:77, 19:9, John 4:22. το σωτηριον in Luke 2:30 has the same distinctly religious associations; in 3:6 it stands in a quotation from Isa. 40:5, where the meaning is eschatological from the OT point of view.

1. First we examine the passages relating to the deliverance from diseases or demoniacal possession. The question is whether the import of σωζειν here is exhausted by the notion of “healing.” The Greek word has this meaning, being connected with σως (σαος), “whole,” “sound,” therefore σωζειν = “to render whole, sound.” The AV accordingly renders in most of these cases “to make whole” or “be whole,” in two “to heal” (Mark 5:23, Luke 8:36), in one “to do well” (John 11:12), and only once “to save” (Luke 18:42). In one instance it offers “to save” as a marginal reading for “to make whole” (Mark 10:52). RV everywhere follows the rendering of AV except that it makes the two passages where the latter has “to heal” and the one passage where it has “to save” uniform with the others; further, that it renders in John 11:12 “to recover,” and that it offers in all passages except Mark 6:56 the marginal alternative “to save.” It should be noticed that on other occasions the Evangelists use, and make Jesus use, different words, whose import is restricted to “healing” in the medical sense, and that not only where the object is some disease or disability, but also with a personal object; so θεραπευειν (Matt. 4:23, 24, 8:7, 16, 9:35, 10:1, 8, 12:10, 15, 14:14, 15:30, 17:16, 18, 19:2, 21:14, Mark 1:34, 3:2, 10, 15, 6:5, 13, Luke 4:23, 40, 5:15, 6:7, 18, 7:21, 8:2, 32, 9:1, 6, 10:9, 13:14, 14:3, John 5:10) and ιασθαι (Luke 6:19, 9:2, 11, 42, 14:4, 22:51, John 4:47). The question is not, of course, whether the element of “healing” as a connotated idea should be entirely eliminated from σωζειν. Not only would this have been impossible to a Greek speaker or writer in cases where the saving act as a matter of fact consisted in or involved healing, but it is also excluded by the observation that Jesus more than once referred to His saving work as the work of a physician, and in the instruction to His disciples spoke also of it as “healing” (Matt. 9:12, 10:1, 8, 13:15, Mark 2:17, Luke 4:18, 5:31, 9:1, 2, 10:9). The only point at issue is whether the Evangelists are aware of a difference between statements where “healing” is designated as such, and other statements where “healing” is implied, but where for a certain purpose it is characterized as “saving.”

The data above cited show that this last question must be answered in the affirmative. In view of the fact that Aramaic lies behind the Greek form of the words of Jesus or the Evangelists, we shall also have to assume a clearly marked difference between the two sets of cases. The additional element which the use of σωζειν introduces into the situation is that of deliverance from the sphere or power of death. In Mark 3:4, Luke 6:9, while speaking of His healing work, our Lord contrasts σωζειν with αποκτεινειν, which implies that He regarded it as the opposite of “killing,” i.e. as rescuing from death and restoring to life. According to Mark 5:23, the purpose of “being saved” is “to live.” In Luke 7:3 διασωζειν, the use of the preposition marks the process as a transition from death to life. It is true that in some instances the disease or infirmity from which Jesus saves is not fatal in itself, e.g. the withered hand (Mark 3:4), the issue of blood (5:28), certainly some of the diseases of 6:56, blindness (10:52). Still even here the act of saving is viewed not from a medical point of view, according to which all disease and infirmity lie on the side of death, so that it belongs to the function of one who delivers from death to work deliverance from these consequences of sin and precursors of death likewise.

This is further confirmed by the general interpretation Jesus puts upon His healing miracles as prophecies and pledges of the approaching Kingdom, in which all sin and death shall be done away with. With regard to the casting out of demons, the correctness of this view is vouched for by the explicit statement (Matt. 12:28 = Luke 11:20). But it applies equally well to the other miracles of healing. Jesus did not look upon these as works of philanthropy merely, or as signs authenticating His mission primarily. While the latter was one of the purposes for which they were intended—and this is brought out prominently in the Fourth Gospel—in the Synoptics, where Jesus’ teaching is centered in the Kingdom-idea, the miracles are before all else signs of the actual approach of the Kingdom,—proofs that the saving power of God, which calls the Kingdom into being, is already in motion, and therefore so many instances of σωζειν. Jesus’ saving power is simply the Kingdom-power applied to the individual under the influence of sin and death. Thus only can we naturally explain the fact that, where “salvation” has a direct religious reference, both in our Lord’s own and in the later Apostolic teaching, the close connection between it and the ideas of death and life is unmistakable. If this religious usage is at all dependent on the physical aspect of our Lord’s saving activity, it can be only through the common element of victory over sin and death. Jesus Himself has sufficiently indicated the connection between the two, both in the Synoptical sayings and in the Johannine discourses. In the former the physical evils, which the saving Kingdom-power removes, have a moral and spiritual background. Hence Jesus makes such physical salvation the occasion for suggesting and working the profounder change by which the bonds of sin are loosed, and the rule of God set up in the inner life of man. The external and the internal are significantly placed side by side as coordinated halves of an identical work (Mark 2:9). And in the Fourth Gospel we are explicitly told that the physical acts are intended to point to corresponding spiritual transactions; the healing of the blind, the raising of the dead, are symbolic of Jesus’ saving work in the spiritual sphere (5:14, 19–29, 9:3, 39, 12:25, 26). On three occasions our Lord has brought out the spiritual significance of the physical salvation by calling special attention to its dependence on the exercise of faith: the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:34 = Matt. 9:22 = Luke 8:48), the blind man near Jericho (Mark 10:52 = Luke 18:42), one of the lepers (Luke 17:19). The words “thy faith has saved thee” are on these occasions the same as were used in such a case of purely spiritual salvation as is recorded in Luke 7:50. They were intended as a suggestion that faith, which had yielded such results in the physical sphere, could be made equally fruitful in the sphere of spiritual salvation. Thus the external and internal are linked together by the common factor of faith.

That σωζειν has to do with the contrast of life and death becomes plain also from those instances of its natural use where deliverance from evil other than disease or demon-possession is referred to, for here everywhere the evil is that of physical death (Matt. 8:25, 14:30, 16:25, 27:40, 42, 49, Mark 8:35, 15:30, 31, Luke 9:24, 56, 23:35, 37, 39, John 12:27).

2. In connection with the directly religious use in the Gospels several questions emerge. (1) Is the saving act, when belonging to the spiritual sphere, still viewed as a translation from death into life, and what is the meaning of death and life as related to salvation in this sphere? (2) Is the deliverance conceived eschatologically, as something to be experienced in the Last Day, or is it treated as an experience already attainable in this present life? (3) Is the conception negative or positive, or both negative and positive, i.e. does it express merely the removal of spiritual evil, or also the bestowal of positive spiritual blessings, especially the gift of life in a positive, pregnant sense?

(1) The answer to the first question is that spiritual salvation still revolves around the contrast between life and death, and that in a twofold sense. Both as subjective and as objective states, death and life come under consideration here. In other words: Jesus saves from spiritual death as a condition of the soul, and He saves from eternal death as a punishment awaiting the sinner. As the object of His saving activity, our Lord names το απολωλος “that which has become lost and now is lost” (Matt. 10:6, 15:24, 18:12–14, Luke 15:4, 6, 8, 24, 19:10). From the figures used it appears that the Greek απολλυσθαι has in this connection the sense “miss,” “be missing,” not primarily the sense “destroy,” “be destroyed.” The “lost” are like sheep gone astray upon the mountains, like the coin slipped out of the hand of its owner, like the prodigal who has left the father’s home. A lost condition means estrangement from God, a missing of all the religious and moral relations man is designed to sustain towards his Maker. But this lost condition is further identified by Jesus with spiritual death, for of the prodigal the father declares: “This thy brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24, 32). Elsewhere also the state of sin is described as a state of death (Matt. 8:22, Luke 20:38). Salvation of “the lost,” therefore, is salvation from spiritual death. As such it includes both forgiveness of sin and moral-religious renewal. To the woman who had anointed Him Jesus said: “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace,” and this obviously repeats in another form the preceding statement, “Thy sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48, 50). In the case of Zacchaeus also assurance of pardon is undoubtedly implied when Jesus declares “salvation” to have come to his house (19:9). Here, however, the salvation manifests itself also in the moral transformation of the publican, issuing directly into repentance and good works. The prodigal is pardoned and restored to the privileges of sonship. But salvation is not confined to deliverance form this subjective spiritual death, just as the conception of being “lost” is not exhausted by estrangement from God. απολλυσθαι is used in a retributive sense in connection with the judgment of God to which the sinner is subject; it involves exposure to objective death as a result of condemnation. With reference to this the two senses of the verb, “to be missing” and “to be destroyed,” are used side by side. From the point of view of man the judgment may bring a “losing” or a “finding,” “keeping” of the soul or life (Matt. 10:39, 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, 25, 17:33, John 12:25). From the point of view of God as Judge it may bring “destruction.” This is the απωλεια, which is spoken of in Matt. 5:30, 7:13, 10:28, 18:14, Luke 13:3, 5, John 3:15, 16, 6:39, 10:28, 17:12, 18:9. The two aspects of απολλυσθαι—the subjective spiritual “being lost” and the objective retributive “being lost” or “perishing”—are joined together in Matt. 18:10–14, where first the sinning one is compared to a sheep gone astray and to be sought, and then, to give the motive for this search after the subjectively lost. Jesus adds: “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (αποληται); that which is already lost in the one sense must be diligently sought, lest it should be lost in the deeper, absolute sense. And the deliverance from this final απωλεια, as well as the deliverance from the other lost condition, is σωζεσθαι, σωτηρια. Thus in Mark 16:16 “to be saved” is the opposite of “to be condemned”; in John 3:16, 17 of “to be judged” and “to perish,” in 10:9, 10 of “to be destroyed,” in 12:47 of “to be judged.” This απωλεια, however, not less than the other “being lost,” is equivalent to death. It is a losing of the life (ψυχη, Matt. 10:39, 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, 25, John 12:25); its opposite is “to have eternal life” (John 3:16, 10:28), or “to be raised up at the last day” (6:39). Thus it appears that salvation in its specific religious sense is still viewed throughout as a deliverance from death and an introduction into the sphere of life.

(2) The second question was whether “salvation” is conceived eschatologically or as something experienced already in this present life. It has been answered in principle by the above, for present salvation coincides with deliverance from subjective spiritual death; eschatological salvation coincides with deliverance from objective death in the Judgment. In a number of the passages already considered the reference to the present is very plain. To the woman who anointed Him Jesus addressed the words, “Thy faith has saved thee.” Of Zacchaeus He declared: “Today is salvation come to this house”; and in the following statement—“The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost,”—the “saving” must belong to the same time as the “seeking,” i.e. to the present time of our Lord’s earthly ministry. In John 12:47 the saving of the world for which Jesus has come is a present thing as distinct from the judging of the world for which He has not come, but which is reserved for the future. In Matt. 1:21 the sins of the people being the evil from which Jesus saves, the salvation is viewed as a present one. In other passages the eschatological reference is equally obvious. “He that endures to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22, 24:13). Matt. 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24 speak of the finding or saving of life in the future Judgment as conditioned by the willingness to sacrifice one’s life here. This is clear from the context (v. 38 in Mark, v. 27 in Matt = v. 26 in Luke).

The point of the saying is not, as often interpreted, that for one kind of life, physical life, given up, another kind of life, spiritual life, will be received in return; in which case the future tenses might be purely logical, and no eschatological reference implied. The meaning is that for life, in its general sense, sacrificed by accepting physical death, life in the same general sense will be received in reward through the escape from death, when Jesus comes to judge and to render every man according to his deeds. As Zahn observes, the distinction between two kinds of “life” or “soul” is scarcely in harmony with the Hebrew point of view, according to which the “life” or the “soul” is frequently called “the only one” (Comm. on Matthew, in loco).

Eschatological is also the reference in the question of the disciples recorded in Matt. 19:25, Mark 10:26, Luke 18:26 “Then who can be saved?” The question was called forth by Jesus’ declaration, that the rich would with great difficulty enter into the Kingdom of God, which was in turn called forth by the question of the rich young man, “What shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?” Here “to be saved” = “to enter the Kingdom” = “to inherit eternal life” and the qualification of life as eternal, as well as the further context—St. Peter’s question about future rewards, and our Lord’s answer to this—prove that the whole discussion is eschatological in its scope. Matt. 24:22, Mark 13:20, “Except these days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved,” is best understood as follows: The temptation in these last times will be so severe, that, if their duration had not been kept within certain limits, all men, even the elect, would have fallen away, and so no flesh would have been ultimately saved in the Day of Judgment.

This interpretation seems to be required by the fact that the shortening of the days is for the sake of the elect. The mere preservation of physical life could have no special bearing upon the destiny of the elect, since, even when killed in the body, they would be sure to inherit the Kingdom; the whole representation concerning the possibility of none being saved, and the elect falling away and the shortening of the days, is, of course, conceived from the human point of view (cf. Zahn, Comm. on Matthew, in loco).

In the remainder of the passages there are no means of determining whether “salvation” be future or present. For Matt. 18:11 (TR only) the reference to the present is supported by Luke 19:10. In Luke 8:12 “that they may not believe and be saved,” the eschatological sense would be quite plausible, but the other view is slightly favored by the general import of the parables dealing with the present invisible aspect of the Kingdom. In general, the representation of the Kingdom as both present and future creates a presumption in favor of the view that our Lord regarded salvation as both a present and an eschatological experience. The form σωζομενοι, “those who are being saved,” in Luke 13:23, probably reflects the two-sidedness of the process, as belonging to both present and future, and therefore unfinished in this life. In the case of the Johannine sayings (John 3:16, 17, 4:22, 5:34, 10:9) we shall have to assume, in harmony with the generalization of the conception of “life,” “eternal life,” in the discourses of this Gospel—which makes out of it a conception indifferent to the distinction between present and future—that the same will be true of the synonymous conception of salvation. The future in 10:9 is purely logical in its force.

(3) The third question concerned what may be gathered from the Gospels in regard to the positive or negative context of the idea of religious salvation. The negative aspect—escape from death—stands in the foreground in Matt. 24:22, Mark 13:20: if the days had not been shortened, not even the elect would have escaped the fate of death in the Judgment; similarly in Matt. 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24: he who will sacrifice his life here shall escape the loss of life in the Judgment. Probably Matt. 10:22 and 24:13 should be interpreted on the same principle: the enduring now will save from greater calamity in the Last Day. On the other hand, in Matt. 19:25, Mark 10:26, Luke 18:26, where “salvation” is equivalent to entrance of the Kingdom and inheriting of eternal life, the emphasis rests on the positive side. In the Johannine passages the positive content of the idea is very marked.

According to John 3:16, 17, “to have eternal life” and “to be saved” are synonymous. In John 5:34 also the preceding context revolves around the idea of life (vv. 21–29), and in the sequel the same idea is again brought forward (v. 39). Again, in 10:9, 10 “salvation” and “life” appear in close conjunction; 12:47 receives its interpretation from 3:17. The same difference as is observable with reference to eschatological salvation may be observed where present salvation is spoken of. Sometimes the conception is negative (Matt. 1:21, Luke 7:50), sometimes positive as well as negative (Luke 19:10); the salvation which came to Zacchaeus’ house certainly included more than pardon, since it issued in renewal of life. The facts, therefore, do not bear out the contention of B. Weiss, who maintains that σωζεσθαι has everywhere a purely negative meaning.

In the saying of Luke 19:10 Jesus declares “saving” to be the highest category under which His Messianic activity is to be subsumed. He came to save, i.e. His entrance into the world was for this specific purpose (cf. Mark 10:45). The connection between Him and salvation consists not merely in this, that as a preacher of the gospel He proclaims it. Everywhere the supposition is that salvation is in some way bound to His Person. For the Johannine discourses this needs no proof. But it is no less true for the Synoptics. Because He lodged with Zacchaeus, salvation entered the latter’s house. The rich young man was not saved, because he refused to follow Jesus. The saving acts in the physical sphere are suspended on faith, and this faith involves trust in Jesus,—in Jesus, to be sure, as the instrument of God, but none the less so that on Jesus’ Person together with God the act of faith terminates. It is psychologically inconceivable that in those who were helped by the miracles of Jesus, faith should not have assumed the form of personal trust in Him. Faith in God and faith in Jesus here inevitable coalesce. On the occasion of the storm, Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of confidence in His presence with them as a guarantee of absolute safety (Matt. 8:26). Similarly Peter, when walking upon the water, calls upon Jesus to perform the saving act. From the close connection in which these transactions stand to the specific religious salvation, it may be safely inferred that in the latter also Jesus occupies a necessary place. This is confirmed by Luke 7:50, where the woman’s faith, which is declared to have saved her, consists in the attitude of trust she had assumed towards Jesus; the love shown the Lord is here the result of the forgiveness of sins (v. 47), and inasmuch as this love terminated on Jesus, the faith which conditioned the forgiveness must likewise have had Him for its object. Similarly in the discourse at Caesarea Philippi, “salvation” in the Last Day is made dependent on following of Jesus and sacrifice of life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s sake, and the corresponding acknowledgment by Jesus in the Judgment (Mark 8:34, 35, 38, parallels in Matt. and Luke).

It is not true, as is being frequently asserted of late, that in the gospel preached by Jesus there is no place for His own Person, it being merely a gospel about God. Though not frequently in so many words, yet in acts we find our Lord seeking to cultivate a relationship of faith between the disciple and Himself and, in Himself, with God. If only once in the Synoptics we read explicitly of faith in Jesus (Matt. 8:10), and that in a passage where the authenticity of the words εις εμε is doubtful, this is counterbalanced by the fact that not more than once God Himself is specified as the object of faith (Mark 11:22). Jesus, conscious of being the Messiah, the Judge at the Last Day, who would finally dispose of the destiny of all mankind, could not help ascribing a central soteriological position to himself. Such a figure as He was in His own view, could not be kept outside of the saving transaction, which in a certain sense forestalls the Last Judgment. The absence of more direct affirmations of this principle is simply the result of Jesus’ method of not directly proclaiming at first His Messianic dignity, but rather allowing it to be gradually inferred from the impression made by His Person and the witness of His works. On the basis of our present Gospels, apart from critical reconstructions of the teaching of Jesus, no other view is possible than that our Lord represented salvation as in some way bound to and wrapped up in His Person. He did not represent salvation as something unconditioned, flowing simply from the love of God, which would overleap every necessity of mediation. The parable of the Prodigal Son, so often quoted to the contrary, furnishes, when rightly read, the clearest demonstration of this, for it was spoken to describe not God’s attitude toward sinners in the abstract, but the historic approach of God to lost men in the appearance of His Son Jesus. It was the attitude of Jesus towards publicans and sinners that drew forth the parable, and therefore it describes God’s attitude towards them as bound to that assumed by Jesus (cf. Ernst Cremer, “Die Gleichnisse Lukas 15 und das Kreuz” in Beitr. z. Förder. Christl. Theol. 1904, Heft 4). The gospel is not a mere announcement of the love of God unpreceded and unattended by any action on His part; it is the glad message of the love of God in action, of what God does in Jesus to give His love effect in actual, substantial salvation. The unfolding of what the Person of Jesus as the bearer and worker of salvation contains could not be fully given by our Lord before His saving work had actually transpired, but had to be left to Apostolic teaching.

3. Humanly considered, salvation is dependent on faith. This is not merely explicitly announced (Mark 16:16, Luke 8:12, John 3:16, 17), it is likewise presupposed or expressed in connection with the healing acts of Jesus. It is a striking fact that in the Synoptics nearly the whole of our Lord’s teaching on faith attaches itself to the performance of miracles. This is because miracles embody that saving aspect of the Kingdom to which faith is the subjective counterpart. The miracles, almost without exception, have two features in common. Firstly, they are transactions in which the result depends absolutely on the forth-putting of the Divine supernatural powers, where no human effort could possibly contribute anything towards its accomplishment. And, secondly, the miracles are healing miracles, in which the gracious love of God approaches man for his salvation. Faith is the spiritual attitude called for by this twofold element in God’s saving work. It is the recognition of the Divine power and grace,—not, of course, in a purely intellectual way, but practically so as to carry with it the movement of the whole inner life. How faith stands related to the saving power of God is most clearly illustrated in the narrative of Mark 9:17–24. When the disciples could not heal the child with the dumb spirit, Jesus exclaimed, “O unbelieving generation!” The father says, after describing the severity of the case: “But if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” To this Jesus replies: “What, if thou canst! All things are possible to him that believeth.” Faith is omnipotent. To speak, with reference to it, of an “if thou canst” is an absurdity. Thus to faith is ascribed what can be affirmed of God alone. And elsewhere also this same principle is emphasized by our Lord (Matt. 21:21, 22, Mark 11:22, 23, Luke 17:6). The explanation lies in this, that faith is nothing else than that act whereby man lays hold of, appropriates, the endless power of God. This line of reasoning, however, is not applicable to the miracles only. The miracles, as has been shown, illustrate the saving work of God in general. All salvation partakes, humanly speaking, of the nature of the impossible: it can be accomplished by God alone (Matt. 19:25, 26, Mark 10:26, 27, Luke 18:26, 27). All genuine saving faith is as profoundly conscious of its utter dependence on God for deliverance from sin and death as the recipients of our Lord’s miraculous cures were convinced that God alone could heal their bodies from disease. Faith, however, is more than belief, more than a conviction regarding the necessity and sufficiency of the Divine power. It also involves trust, the reliance upon God’s willingness and readiness to save. Jesus never encouraged the exercise of faith as a mere theoretical belief in supernatural power. The performance of a sign from heaven, such as men might have witnessed without trust in God or Himself, He persistently refused. He who truly believes, realizes that God is loving, merciful, forgiving, glad to receive sinners. Faith transfers to God in the matter of salvation what human parents experience in themselves with reference to their own children, the desire to help and supply (Matt. 7:7–11). This reliance of faith is not confined to the critical moments of life; it is to be the abiding, characteristic disposition of the disciple with reference to his salvation as a whole. Faith, in those on whom the wonderful cures were wrought, may have manifested itself at first as a momentary act, but, as shown above, Jesus frequently called the attention of such people to what faith had done for them, thus suggesting that it was permanently available as an instrument of salvation.

4. In proper names, the conception of “saving” occurs twice in the Gospels, namely, in the name Jesus, and in the exclamation Hosanna. A reflection upon the meaning of the name Joshua is found also in Sir. 46:1, and in Philo, who explains it by σωτηρια κυριου (de Mut. Nom. 21). The meaning of Matt. 1:21 is not that Jesus will bear this name symbolically in illustration of the fact that “Jehovah is salvation,” but rather that in Him Jehovah saves, or even, He is Jehovah who saves; for thus only can we satisfactorily explain the joining together of the two statement, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus,” and “for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.” It has been held that in the cry “Hosanna,” raised by the people at Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, and by the children in the Temple (Matt. 21:9, 15), the original idea of “saving” inherent in this word as an appeal to God to bestow salvation (Ps. 118:25 “Save now, we beseech thee, Jehovah”), was no longer felt by the Evangelists, and the word meant with them simply a general shout of applause to the Messianic King, equivalent to “Vivat” or the German “Hoch.” Dalman (Die Worte Jesu, 1:180), who takes this view, couples with it the inference that the writer of the First Gospel was not a Hebraist, consequently not the Apostle Matthew, because no Hebraist could have thus misinterpreted a familiar form. He finds the same misunderstanding in Mark. Both Evangelists, according to him, make the people use the shout in the sense which it bore to the early Church, ignorant of the Hebrew meaning. Dalman therefore assumes that what the people actually exclaimed was the simple “Hosanna,” and that both “to the Son of David” and “in the highest” are unhistorical embellishments dependent on the Greek misinterpretation of the word. Zahn, on the other hand, (Comm. on Matthew, in loco), takes the view that to the common people of Jesus’ time already the old meaning of the Hebrew form may have become obliterated, so that they already used it as a shout of applause for Jesus, in which case the Evangelists would be accurate in their report of the occurrence. But Zahn does not explain what meaning, on this view, the people could have attached to the words εν τοις υψιστοις, which in a shout addressed to Jesus would remain meaningless. In view of this, only two explanations seem possible. Either we may adhere to the older opinion that ωσαννα is consciously addressed to God, “save now,” and that τω υιω Δαυιδ introduces Jesus as the object of the salvation invoked from God (הושיע, as Dalman himself observes, being sometimes construed with ל of the object—Ps. 72:4, 116:6), and that εν τοις υψιστοις designates heaven as the place from which God is called upon to bless the Son of David. That for the expression of the latter idea εξ υψιστων would have been absolutely necessary can hardly be maintained. Or we may make a distinction between the two hosannas, assuming that the former is addressed to the Son of David, the latter to God, and both not as invocations, but as ascriptions of praise. This is suggested by Luke’s version (19:38), which resolves the ωσαννα εν τοις υψιστοις into the paraphrase εν ουρανω ειρηνη, και δοξα εν υψιστοις. This would be a modification of Zahn’s view, preferable because it does not leave the εν υψιστοις unexplained.

5. To the foregoing may be added a rapid survey of the usage of σωζειν and σωτηρια in the remainder of the NT. “Salvation” in connection with healing, but at the same time projected into the specific religious sphere, reappears in Acts 4:9, 12, 14:9. That the idea in the Apostolic teaching largely revolves around the contrast between life and death, is made abundantly plain by the following passages: Acts 3:15, 5:30, 13:46, 47, Rom. 1:16, 17, 1 Cor. 5:5, 2 Cor. 2:15, 16, 7:10, Phil. 3:20, 2 Tim. 1:10, Titus 3:5, Heb. 5:7, James 5:15, 20, 1 Pet. 3:20, 21. Where the saving act is referred to a definite point of time, this is most frequently the eschatological future (Rom. 13:11, 1 Cor. 3:15, 5:5, Phil. 1:28, 1 Thess. 5:8, 2 Thess. 2:13, Heb. 1:14, 2:10, 9:28, James 5:20, 1 Pet. 1:5, 9, 10, 4:18). Instances where salvation is made a matter of the past or present are Eph. 2:5, 8, 1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Tim. 1:9, Titus 3:5, James 1:21 (?), 1 Pet. 3:21, Jude 21. In many connections, however, it is not possible to determine whether the usage is eschatological or not (Rom. 1:16, 10:1, 2 Cor. 7:10, Eph. 1:13, Heb. 2:3, James 2:16). For this peculiar indetermination of the idea the following passages are of interest: Acts 2:47, 1 Cor. 1:18, 15:2, 2 Cor. 2:15, in all of which the present participle σωζομενοι, “those who are being saved,” is found (cf. with the past participle σεσωσμενοι, “those who have been and are saved,” Eph. 2:5). The negative aspect of the deliverance is on the whole not more prominent than the positive: Acts 2:40 (from this crooked generation, i.e. from the judgment which will befall it), Rom. 5:9 (from the eschatological wrath of God), James 5:20 (from death), Jude 23 (from the fire); and, on the other hand, Acts 13:46, 47 (eternal life), 2 Cor. 2:15 (unto life), Phil. 3:20 (Savior through the resurrection), 2:3 (so great a salvation), 5:9 (eternal salvation), 1 Pet. 1:4, 5 (inheritance = salvation), Rev. 12:10 (salvation parallel with power and Kingdom), 19:1 (salvation parallel with glory and power). In 2 Tim. 1:10 the negative and the positive side are named together: “our Savior, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Salvation from sin specifically appears in Rom. 11:26 in a quotation from the LXX of Isa. 59:20.

6. It ought to be observed that σωτηρια in the NT relates to what is dogmatically called “the application of redemption” in distinction from “the impetration of redemption,” or the objective work of Christ. This is the natural result of its original eschatological significance, for what takes place in the end lies on the line of the subjective transformation of the believer.

The view has recently been advocated by Wendland (ZNTW 5:351, 1904) that the original background of the conception of σωζεσθαι is the rule and influence of evil spirits, of which death and disease would be only the peripheral manifestations. The facts cited above do not bear out this hypothesis, or even favor it. In the Gospels there is only one passage which applies σωζειν to the casting out of a demon (Luke 8:36). In all other cases of deliverance from demoniacal possession other expressions are used. It would be far more correct to say that sin and death lie at the center, demoniacal influence in the periphery of the conception. On the other hand, it creates an equally wrong distribution of the emphasis to conceive of our Lord’s σωζειν as in its primary aspect a species of “healing,” and of Jesus Himself as chiefly a spiritual physician. Against Harnack, who in his work, Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christenthums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten, goes too far in this direction, Wagner (ZNTW 6:234–235, 1905) well observes, that the NT writers do not, like the later Church Fathers, who stood under the influence of the Stoic philosophy, view sin as a disease of the soul, but as a species of death, and that Jesus is to them far more than a physician, viz. one who leads from death to life.


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