Hope From The Hebrew Scriptures

In previous entries, I have examined examples of the translators of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek used the Greek word for hope. Those Greek translations were what the early churches across Europe and Asia used as their “Scriptures” as Paul and the other writers are writing what becomes the Christian Scriptures. So, how the translators used the Greek word for hope and how modern English translators use the English word are somewhat different.

For instance, where you find the word “hope” in an English translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Greek translation often has the word for “substance” (hupostasis). This creates a strange situation in translating Hebrews 11:1, where faith is typically understood as the “substance of things hoped for”. Because of the difference in understanding hope between our culture and the Greek culture, it would sound somewhat like it was saying “faith is hope of what is hoped for”.

Frankly, who cares about the difference between the way the Greek translators understood hope and how we see it through the lens of English translations today? Well, think about “love”. I can say that I “love” pizza, my dogs, and my Jeep. But I also use the word for my love for my daughter, which is distinctly different than my love for my wife, which is distinct from my love for my Savior. Yet, in English, it’s the same word. In Greek, they are much more precise about love, and that’s what I’m getting at. They are also more precise when it comes to hope.

A glaring exception to this is Job. Ironically, one of the most depressing books of the Bible led the translators of the Hebrew into Greek to use the Greek word for hope in many of the same places later English translators used it. A good example is in Job 4 where Job’s friend Eliphaz argues that if Job is suffering, then it must be because he sinned. He makes this statement:

“Your words have helped the tottering to stand, And you have strengthened feeble knees.
“But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; It touches you, and you are dismayed.
“Is not your fear of God your confidence, And the integrity of your ways your hope?
“Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed?

Job 4:4-7 NASB

The Hebrew word is “tiqvah”, which is commonly translated into English as “hope”. In the Greek text, though, it is either the word referenced above (hupostasis) or another word, “hupomone“. Yet, the translators consistently translated it as the typical Greek word for hope used later in the Christian Scriptures, “elpis“. In other words, this place, and most of the book of Job, is an agreement between the Greek culture and our own about hope.

Again, so what? Well, look at what Eliphaz claims. He claims that Job’s hope is his own integrity. In this, both the Greek and English agree with the translation. But when we look at Job’s reply in another place we find this:

“Be silent before me so that I may speak; Then let come on me what may.
“Why should I take my flesh in my teeth And put my life in my hands?
Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.
“This also will be my salvation, For a godless man may not come before His presence.

Job 13:13-16 NASB emphasis mine

Here, the translators differ. In Hebrew, we “yachal” (wait) and in Greek, “hupomone” (endure). In English, we have “hope”. The ground that will not crumble away, the foundation that will endure, and the only secure future we can look to is with our Creator and Savior. Call it hope, call it assurance, confidence, or expectation, whatever. All else may fail, all else may fall away and crumble around us (and eventually, it all will), we may lose every other relationship on earth, but we will never be lost from our Savior.

This isn’t an argument about whether salvation can be lost once gained. This is about the confidence we can have in the One having created us, who also made it possible for us to relate to Him. This is about confidence, not in ourselves or our own ability (which is pitiful), but confidence in He who is powerful, powerful to call stars into existence with a mere word. He who forms galaxies and quarks also secures our relationship with Him, and draws us into His presence, before His throne, and into His lap. The book of Job isn’t about the disaster that Job experiences, but about the secure hope we can have in our Powerful Savior.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

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