Vol. 18 New Series December, 1956 No. 6


Mr. Otis Q. Sellers, in "The Word of Truth," is undoubtedly an expert in the art of creating exegetical novelties.

In his issue for June, 1956, he discloses to readers important discoveries he has made concerning the Greek word epouranios, hitherto understood to signify heavenly or celestial. He declares that this word does not mean heavenly places or the heavenlies. It is his positive conviction that the word signifies, in the singular, "the Mighty One," while in the plural it signifies "mighty ones."

He chides Mr. Charles H. Welch, Editor of "The Berean Expositor" (London), who has always had a healthy respect for the language of the Septuagint, because he had apparently not given attention to the usage in the Septuagint of the Greek word epouranios, claiming that had he done so, his findings concerning that word would have been quite different. It is quite true that the Index to the first twenty volumes of Mr. Welch's magazine shews no reference to any occurrence of this Greek word in the Greek Old Testament.

Mr. Sellers, however, finds one reference, at Psalm 68:14, which, in the Revised Standard Version, reads, "When the Almighty scattered kings there, snow fell on Zalmon." The Hebrew word for Almighty is Shaddai. In the Greek version, this was rendered as epouranion. Bagsters LXX therefore renders thus, "When the heavenly One scatters kings upon it, they shall be made snow-white in Selmon." Charles Thomson rendered thus: "When the Almighty scattereth kings before it, be white as the snow on Selmon."

The Hebrew text, however, seems very obscure, and the usual renderings do not fit in with the general sense of the context. Moreover, the Hebrew spelling of Shaddai is merely shdi, which could also mean "fields."

Mr. Sellers states that when one of the Septuagint translators came upon the term Shaddai in Ps. 68:14 he sought to render it more expressively and accurately. "Seeking for a Greek word that would be equal to it he laid hold of the word epouranios and translated Shaddai here by the Greek term tEn epouranion." Mr. Sellers continues, "Thus we see that a Hebrew and Greek scholar living several centuries before Christ understood the word epouranios to be a fitting and proper translation of a Hebrew word which is a descriptive title of God. Would any care to say that this man did not know Hebrew? Would any dare to say that he was not fully conversant with Greek? Certainly not! His knowledge of both these languages was what gave him a place among the seventy who are supposed to have made the Septuagint Version. And, to repeat and enlarge upon what has already been said, this man knew what epouranios meant, he knew that it was a fitting and proper title for the Supreme Being, even the Almighty. This gave a meaning to this word that neither the Lord Jesus nor Paul contravened." Mr. Sellers continues, "This is the most positive clue that can be found as to the meaning of this word."

But, unfortunately, Mr. Sellers seems to have failed to observe that the definite article in front of the word epouranios is feminine, not masculine (tEn, not ton). This would mean that his Almighty is female. Either that, or more likely, the Septuagint translator had in mind a quality which in Greek is expressed by a feminine word, such as exousia (authority, right), or dunamis (power). Thus, at Daniel 4:23, Bagster's Septuagint renders as "from the time that thou shalt know the power (exousian) of the heavens" (tEn ouranion). Here the Septuagint of Lambertus Bos (1709) shews that the Alexandrian Aldine text reads tEn epouranion, "the (feminine) celestia1." Certain MSS read thus, and Tromm's Concordance reads thus also. Mr. Sellers must have missed this reading. He has probably also missed the reading found in the Apocrypha at 2. Mac. 3:39, "For He who has (His) dwelling celestial (tEn katoikian epouranion) has His eye on that place" (Jerusalem). Here we find a celestial dwelling. Some One dwells there.

When the Greek translator made use of a feminine definite article, we must give him credit for knowing what he was doing. He could not have had in mind the Deity, who is always masculine. Perhaps the Hebrew word before him was not Shdi (Shaddai) but shmi, the construct case of the word for heavens. In Daniel 4:23 (which is v. 26 in our English Bibles) the Aramaic word which is translated ouranion or epouranion is shamaya, "heavens" (shmia).

The Hebrew name Shaddai occurs forty-eight times in the Old Testament, always in the King James 1611 Bible rendered as "Almighty." But in the Greek Old Testament there is no such consistency. There it is rendered in six of the occurrences by the word hikanos, meaning something like sufficient, the All-sufficient One. In about sixteen of the occurrences it is rendered by pantokratOr, meaning All-Wielder; in eight cases it is the equivalent of Kurios, Lord. Otherwise it is rendered by Theos, God, or by "my God."

All this greatly diminishes the likelihood that Mr. Sellers' Greek translator was correct in translating Shaddai by the word epouranios.

Because of his discoveries Mr. Sellers affirms that every occurrence of the word epouranios in the New Testament needs to be reconsidered. He adds, "Space does not permit the doing of this in this study, furthermore, it is not our subject." One would, however, think it was very much his subject, and we hope to peruse his further studies concerning this important term.

If, however, heaven is not to be our future home, there is something far wrong with Co1. 1:5. Here we read of the "expectation (or hope) laid up (or reserved) for you in the heavens," of which the Colossians had already heard. Now just what was laid up in the heavens? Their hope was already laid up in their hearts. But there was something else laid up elsewhere. The object of their hope was reserved in the heavens; that thing, or that future which they looked forward to in faith. According to Acts 28:20 Paul says it was due to the expectation of Israel that "I have lying about me this chain." Israel's expectation lay in the future. Perhaps it is mentioned in Acts 26:6-7.

Paul wanted the Ephesians to perceive what was the expectation of God's calling (Eph. 1:18). This must refer to their actual concrete expectation. In Titus 2:13 this is made even more concrete; "anticipating the happy expectation and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ." We have been called "in one expectation" of our calling (Eph. 4:4). The Hebrews were to lay hold of the expectation lying before them, an expectation "both secure and confirmed" (Heb. 6:18).

Cremer's Lexicon has some useful remarks (pages 236-7) upon the objectivity of hope or expectation. Some day faith will give way to sight, and expectations will become realized. What Heb. 11:1 tells us is that faith is, of things being expected, a firm basis. Those expectations will become concrete. That which will become concrete to us is now laid up in the heavens.

Dr. Bullinger's Lexicon briefly but closely follows Cremer's. He distinguishes between subjective hope, "a well-grounded expectation and a gladly and firmly held prospect of a future good"; and objective hope, "the expected good, that for which we hope."

Mr. Sellers declares that Enoch and Elijah are now located in "the heavens of heavens," where God has prepared His throne (Psalm 103:19). Thus he has no objection to certain human beings entering heaven. He continues, "The fact that 'heavens' is also used of heavenly beings, the angelic powers, cleared away the difficulty I had concerning the phrase 'above the heavens.' This does not refer to places, it refers to beings. In His exaltation Jesus Christ 'ascended up far above all heavens' (Eph. 4:10). If this refers to space or to places it would put Him beyond anything that could be called heaven, even a so-called super-heaven. But it does not refer to places—it refers to beings. His position is above them all"

Now there cannot be the slightest shadow of doubt that in Eph. 4 verses 8 to 10 the "ascending" and "descending". refer to space, up and down. There is not one single occurrence of these two words in the Greek (anabainO and katabainO), and they occur eighty times each, which does not refer to motion up or down in space. "He who descends is the same who ascends also, up over all the heavens, in order that He should fill everything."

As for the Greek word rendered "far above" (huperanO), found but three times in the N.T., it occurs over a dozen times in the O.T. These cases ought to have been examined. I shall cite one case, in Ezek. 8:2, which Mr. Sellers would require to understand thus: "And I looked and behold, the likeness of a man: from his loins and downwards—fire, and from his loins far above him—as the appearance of amber." Of course the true meaning here is "from his loins upwards." We really must not make the Holy Scriptures look ridiculous.

The earliest complete English Bible, that of Wycliffe (1380), reads at Eph. 4:10, "he it is that cam doun and that stied (i.e. climbed) on alle hevenes." But the Geneva Version (1557) brought out the rendering "ascended up, farre above all heavens." Some expositors still require such a rendering, in order to bolster up their system of teaching, but the concordance destroys their system, although they will not admit it.

In beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth is a physical area upon which human beings and others live. The heavens too appear to be, so far as we know, other created areas wherein live heavenly beings. Why should not some of these heavens be what we call celestial regions, or "on-heavenlies"? Although the Greeks called some celestial beings epouranioi, they also spoke of celestial buildings (epourania dOmata).

Hebrews 11:13-16 tells of some who died in faith, awaiting God's promises. These made it clear that they were seeking a paternal-home (as Rotherham renders), even a celestial paternal-home. This will be the "Zion, mountain and City of God Living, a celestial Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22). If there is one vast celestial City, there may be more. Out of our own Homeland, in the heavens, the Lord will come for us (Phil. 3:20), and it must assuredly be celestial also. It will be to the 'Church of God what the New Jerusalem will be to Israel.

In Eph. 1:10 we do not meet with the Greek word epouranios, but there is something similar. Everything is to be headed up in the Christ-everything upon (epi) the heavens and everything upon the earth. Here epi plus ouranois (heavens) can hardly be different from epouranios (uponheavenly; celestial). The everything here cannot be confined to "mighty ones." More than merely mighty ones will be headed up in the Christ.

Mr. Sellers has a firm conviction that our future service will be related to God's making Himself known through men who represent and express Him. This is indeed true. Eonian life is that we might get to know God (John 17:3), and also, in getting to know Him, make him known to others. But our making God known (something which we find very difficult in the present times) is not a "Theophany" of any kind. A theophany is a visible manifestation or appearance of God to His creatures, a shining forth in some cases. When Eve brought forth her firstborn, she exclaimed "I have gotten a man," or rather, "I acquire a man-Jehovah." There is no word "from" in the Hebrew. Who had put the idea into her head that she was to beget the Messiah? God Himself must have taught her something about the Coming One. Evidently she was impatient for the coming of the Saviour. It looks as though she had been told about the self-emptying (Phil. 2:7) of the Divine Saviour. Had Cain been the prophesied Deliverer, his birth would have been a theophany, an appearance of God in humble human form.

Finally, there is just one more point I would like to ask Mr. Sellers. On his page 122 he writes that "We are to take our place among the sons of God. We are now children. We will be sons. The word son denotes one who expresses, declares, and represents. Jesus Christ is both the Son of God and the Son of man. We are to be sons of God." All very true. He does not say that we are not yet sons of God, but some are sure to imply as much. Of the Galatians Paul writes, "For you are all sons of God through the faith in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:26).

A.T. Last updated 26.9.2005 Return to Differentiator Revisited