It is now forty years since articles appeared in the first volume of "Unsearchable Riches" dealing with "The Overthrow of the World." Later on this was referred to as the "Disruption," which word is used in the Concordant Version. I shall not say that I did not accept the theory put forward. It had the appearance of being the result of honest research into the Scriptures. That the earth became something which it was not before is evident from Gen. 1:2. The Hebrew word hayah never speaks of mere existence, but always of becoming.
We ought not, however, to speculate regarding the calamity which befell the earth, and draw the inference that Sin then invaded the universe. There may have been some kind of physical disruption of the earth at the time of Gen. 1:2, but if so, we are never told what the nature of it was.
The Disruption theory belongs exclusively to "Unsearchable Riches," and does not appear to have been supported or suggested by any other independent source. It is, in fact, one of the main doctrines of "Unsearchable Riches."
Certain shrewd and acute minds have, however, suspected that all was not quite correct in regard to this theory, and have suggested that there were difficulties. It will therefore be our present task to discuss some of these.We submit that the "Disruption" (katabolE, DOWNCASTing) was no violent event which entailed ruination, and that it did not occur in any of the obscure times which existed before Adam; that it has to do with the WORLD, not with the EARTH; and that it concerns, not geology, but the race of mankind.
Over three years ago the matter was brought suddenly to a head, during a check translation of the Hebrews Epistle in a certain version. It was impossible to get over the startling effects of reading the words "not disrupting again a foundation of repentance from dead works." What is it to disrupt a foundation? Disrupt means to break up. And how can one break up for a second time a foundation of repentance from dead works? The difficulties involved in this translation appear to have been quietly shelved. It has been stated that while themelios means foundation, kataballO (DOWN-CAST) cannot refer to the "foundation" of the world, as other versions render. Had the Authorized Version rendered with more consistency, we might have met with the following translation, "Not founding again a foundation of repentance." This we believe is very close to the sense, and most versions have, "not laying again a foundation of repentance." (Chapter 6:1)
What, after all, the writer of the epistle aims at, is that his hearers may push on to maturity, and leave behind the rudimentary things. Repentance (or change of mind for the better) from dead works can only take place once for all. It 'is impossible to be renewing again unto repentance—making them again new creatures—those who were once for all enlightened: those who had tasted of the heavenly spiritual-gift (dOrea); who were made partakers of Holy Spirit; who had tasted as ideal the divine declaration, and powers of an on coming eon,—those who have merely fallen aside (or fallen by the way.) It is impossible to make God's people once again new creatures. Why, that surely would entail crucifying the Son of God afresh! "We should carry-on to what is mature," keeping in mind that some have fallen aside, which is not a deliberate action, although they have not apostatized, which would have been a very deliberate action (apostasia; FROM STANDing; STANDing-away; very different from parapito, BESIDE-FALL; FALL-aside): There is no need for all these retrograde tendencies. Leave them behind! Go on to what is mature!
The entire passage of six verses loses its dread sting when it is properly construed and translated. The C. V. Note says "These are the six foundation stones cast down by those who fell away among the Hebrews. They should have left them for maturity. Instead, they forsake them for apostasy. Instead of going back to Judaism, they would crucify again for themselves the Son of God." This Note shews that the whole passage has been grossly misunderstood. There is not one word about falling away, or apostasy. What is "disrupting" in the text becomes only "cast down" in the Note, but we are not informed whether the stones were broken and ruined. No believer can disrupt or destroy that foundation upon which his entire spiritual life and his future is based. That foundation has been laid once for all. There is no need for it to be re-laid.
The passage, sometimes said to be one of the most difficult in the Bible, reveals a great measure of kindly grace to these Hebrews, because of the position they found themselves in, let US be sure the Holy Spirit very much more sympathized with them; The pound or the franc or the dollar may fall in value, with most disagreeable consequences to many. But God's grace is His unchanging and unchangeable expression of eternal agreeableness to us. That is His unalterable attitude to His own people.
But the writer of the Hebrews epistle was persuaded better things concerning his loveable brethren than that they would produce thorns and thistles, fit only for a burning, and almost coming to be a curse. The C. V. Note on verse 4 seems needlessly harsh. Their repentance had not vanished, but its foundations were not to be laid again, because this could not be done and was needless. If their change of mind had vanished, why were they exhorted to move on to maturity? If they had apostatized, how could they go on to maturity?
It must be evident that the meaning in verse 1 is, not laying down again a foundation of repentance. We shall now examine the meaning of the Greek word kataballO (DOWN-CAST) to see what kinds of casting are included in it. Kata means down-along. It may mean on down in a vertical sense, or it may mean down,in the sense of throughout and parallel, as when we go "down a street." BallO is used rather of a swift action than a violent one. The fig tree cast its figs. Nets are cast into the sea. Dust was cast on the head. A fisherman casts a hook. Thomas would cast his finger into the Lord's wounds. Lots are cast. The Devil cast something into the heart of Judas. Bits are cast into the horses' mouths. Occasionally the word is used of something less gentle. Stones are cast into the sea. Saints are cast into prison. Some will be cast into the lake of fire. Satan will be cast out of heaven.
It will thus be seen that the word is often little more than a gentle though quick putting in meaning. Here are the usages given in the C. V. Concordance, at page 57:—cast; drain water; spray attar; deposit with a banker; be prostrate with illness; and along with DOWN, strike. The meaning is stated as to "move forcibly away," but this seems to be exaggerated.
The Hebrew word shalak bears very much the same meaning as the Greek. In English our word is similarly used. Fisherman cast flies; we speak of cast-off clothes; some animals cast their skin; even figures can be cast The only other occurrence of kataballO in addition to Heb. 6:1 is found at 2 Cor. 4:9, "cast down but not being destroyed" (or lost). Here the afflictions are in spirit. Neither ruination nor violence is hinted at. In "U.R." 1927, page 124, it is stated that the word occurs again, but this is not the case. The word used is the passive of ballO, at Rev. 12:10, and it is erroneous to render this as "the accuser of our brethren was cast down." This has been changed in the latest C. V. to "cast (out)."
As for the noun, katabolE (C.V. disruption; A.V. generally foundation), some points of interest must be noted. Heb. 11: 11 refers to Sarah obtaining power "for disruption of seed." The A. V. and R. V. render by "to conceive seed." Rotherham (5th edition) reads "for founding a seed," while Cunnington (a very shrewd translator) reads "for founding of a posterity." While these renderings may not be concordant, there is reason for believing they contain much truth. The Hebrews spoke of "building' a family. Banah means to build; ben means a son. Sarah reckoned Jehovah trustworthy. She was about to by the foundations of a great house. That DOWN-CAST is used in Greek to mean this we shall shortly demonstrate. We do not require to understand the statement only in a somatic and sexual sense.
Of the other ten occurrences of katabolE, at least nine are "from" or "before" katabolEs kosmou (DOWN-CASTing of the world). What is remarkable about this expression is that it never shews any definite articles. It is never THE DOWNCASTing of THE world. Now this fact ought to make a translator think. We would speak of certain things taking place "from Creation," or "from antiquity." Two reasons for the expression being anarthrous might be stated. Either the event referred to was one very well known, or the expression is to be taken adjectivaly, thus, "from world-down-casting." A friend has pointed out that this is the clue to the meaning of Rom. 11:12, 15 (world-riches; Gentile-riches; world~conciliation). Definite articles are never omitted in Greek where we might expect them, without a very strong reason.
If, however, it was a fact well known to the writers of the N. T. that there had been a physical disruption of the world, there is absolutely no hint in the whole Scriptures of such, elsewhere in the N. T. or the O. T. You will at once retort that Gen. 1:2 tells of this event. Does it? Gen. 1:2 tells of something that happened to the EARTH, not to the WORLD!
In profane Greek, katabolE was used of an attack of illness (which cast one down, or laid one up); the offer of a sacrifice; a paying down of money; and of foundations. Katabolos meant a dump. The word is frequently found as meaning a beginning, as of political institutions. One writer refers to "the first katabolE of human beings", as though humanity were an edifice being built.
Although the word katabolE does not occur in the Septuagint, it is found in the Apocrypha, at 2 Maccabees 2:29. The writer describes the labour required to boil down a long story into a summary. Just as the master builder of a new house must look after all the materials required, the whole DOWNCAST (holEs katabolEs), especially the foundations, so those who come after must see to the equipping and painting, and obtain proper articles to adorn the house. The first author must go into all points in detail, but he who makes an abridgement deals only with particular items as it suits him.
There is no thought of any disruption. But there is plain evidence that the finished whole will shew "adornment." It is not without significance that the writer uses not only the term katabolE but also THRU-adorning (diakosmEsin), which contains the word for WORLD (kosmos).
Any tendency to be perpetually condemning orthodox or traditional interpretations is a clear sign of spiritual pride and mental malaise. Orthodoxy is far oftener correct than it is wrong. God has called into the Ecclesia of Christ many fine scholars and wise men who did not belong to the twentieth century. We are apt to forget that. These men were no more deluded fools than we are. In the matter of the "Disruption" orthodoxy has been correct, or very nearly so, by understanding the katabolE to be a foundation of some kind. Two ancient versions of the middle of the fourth century confirm this. Jerome's Latin Vulgate uses the term constitutio, meaning that which is set in order or arranged, constituted. The ancient Gothic version of Wulfila uses at Eph. 1:4 the word gasatein, which means arrangement or furnishing, while at John, 17:24 it uses gaskaft, which is, our word "shape," which was used in Old English of creating. This very valuable old version is devoid of any idea of disrupting or ruin.
Our crowning proof, however, that kataballO does not signify ruin or disrupt comes from the Jewish, historian Flavius Josephus, who died about the year 100 A. D. In his "Antiquities of the Jews" he uses this Greek word at least on two occasions. In his Book 11, chapter 4, paragraph 4, we read that Sanabassar "came and immediately laid its foundations" (i.e. the Temple in Jerusalem). Here we find kataballO used in connection with themelios (foundation) just as in Heb. 6:1. In his Book XI, chapter XI, paragraph 3, we read, "So Herod took away the old foundations, and laid others, and erected the Temple upon them." Here again the two terms are found together. The context also proves that not disruption but the setting of foundations is meant.
We now approach an amazing fact in connection with the teaching which we are examining. Although the term used in the Greek is invariably world katabolE (rendered "the disruption of the world"), what the teachers of this strange theory always have in mind is, not the world (kosmos), but the EARTH. Not even in one single article does it appear to be explained what is meant by the disruption of the WORLD. It seems to have been taken for granted that the world is the earth. Undeniably, in English, the two terms are continually confused. We speak of "worlds" in starry space, meaning heavenly bodies or stars. We speak of sailing round the world, when we mean the earth. "When I soar to worlds unknown" is a line in a well known hymn.
In Hebrew and Greek, however, as in Latin, such terms are not confused as they are in English and German. No one needs a microscope to discover that the Greek words are not used interchangeably. While it is true that both in Hebrew and in Greek one word seems to stand for our ideas of earth and land, so that it is sometimes difficult to discover which is meant, just as the Greek word gunE has to stand for our words woman and wife, there is no such weakness as far as differentiating between gE (LAND, earth) and kosmos (SYSTEM, world) goes.
But we shall utilize the tool placed in our hands to prove our point, namely, the C. V. Concordance. At page 190 this valuable work explains Greek gE as "LAND, the solid portion of the earth, as distinguished from the heavens, . . . or a limited portion of the earth, as defined by the context, especially the LAND of Israel." The other term, kosmos, is explained on page 335 thus: "SYSTEM, world, an orderly arrangement, adornment, especially the constitution of human society in a given period of time called an eon. 'There was a world before the disruption, another was destroyed at the deluge, the present world has continued since then. The worlds and the eons synchronize." (Doubtless the word eons should also be in italics) Some of these speculations will require to vanish when it is seen that the Disruption theory is chimerical. The word "constitution" ought to be noted, as this is the word used in the Latin version.
Originally, the word world signified "man-age" (wer-eld; cf. "eldest"), that is, the age of men, a generation. About the year 1200 it begins to appear in poetry as meaning an orb.
In his fine book, "How to Enjoy the Bible" (1907) Dr. Bullinger appears to have confused world and earth. In connection with Gen. 1:2 and 2 Peter 3:16, he says (page 352) that in Gen. 1:1 "we have the record concerning what is called in 2 Peter 3:6 'the world that then was.' This earth, we are told also 'being overflowed with water perished.' This is exactly what is stated in Gen. 1:1, 2." If there was a world at the time of Gen 1:1, it was no world of human beings; it must have been a systematic arrangement of other beings, or of nature.
At this point it will be useful to summarize what Arch. bishop Trench writes in his valuable work, Synonyms of the New Testament, (1894) regarding the word kosmos (as contrasted with aiOn, eon). He points out that while there are verses which tell of the end of the kosmos or world, Suidas traces four successive significations through which kosmos has passed. First, it meant ornament, as in 1 Peter 3:3 (although there is a sense in which the world of some women consists largely of their hair and apparel). This is the main idea in the Greek Old Testament (where the stars are the kosmos of the sky or heaven (Deut. 17:3; Isa. 24:21; Jer. 4:30 etc.). That is, the stars adorn the sky. Next the word came to be used of order or arrangement, or beauty as springing out of these. Pythagoras is the first who transferred kosmos to the sum total of the material universe, although some say he meant only the heaven, as possessing well ordered arrangement. Plato uses the term as embracing in the bonds of one communion and fellowship heaven and earth, the gods and men. From this signification of kosmos as the material universe, followed that of the external framework of things wherein man lives and moves, which exists for him and of which he constitutes the moral centre; and then the men themselves, the sum total of persons living in the world. Then, following upon this, ethically, all who are not of the Ecclesia, alienated from the life of God.
Some extracts will now be made from "Unsearchable Riches" to shew how world-disruption is invariably viewed as something which happened to the earth.
1921, page 127: "The foundation of the world occurs in Gen. 1:1, and the works (Heb. 4:3) were not undertaken until after the disruption of the original creation as recorded in the second verse, where we are told that it became (not "was") waste and void." May we humbly point out that the foundation of the world is certainly not in view in Gen. 1:1. On the next page we read: "It is clear that the works from which God rested were not the works of creation in the beginning, but those of restoration, after this perfect creation had been overthrown. The foundation of the world was not laid in any of the seven days." And further: "On the other hand it is clear that they began to take place dating from the disruption which destroyed the original creation." Yet a few lines farther on: "But the grandest occurrence of our word. is in Eph. 1:4. We. were selected in Christ before the disruption of this world's system, when we were holy and without blemish in His very presence." On the same page we read of "the disruption which sin wrought."
Against these speculations we must raise a strong protest. Let us get back to the pattern of sound words. No one can arrive at truth in this fashion.
1927, page 101: The time when "the earth became waste and barren (Gen. 1:2)" is said to have been when "that great disruption" took place. Page 125: "the restoration of the earth after its disruption, not its foundation." This event is a few lines farther on called "the sinful disruption." This looks very like an unauthorized addition to Scripture, especially as the C. V. Concordance, page 59, states the disruption was "probably as the result of sin." We agree that the word "probably" is best retained.
1929, page 123: Here we are informed that the disruption is "the earliest date on the calendar of sin." Then we are cautiously told that "perhaps we have a record" of this catastrophe or disruption in the second sentence of Genesis. The earth became "a waste and barren "because of the entrance of sin and evil." We do not object to such a statement as that the katabolE is sometimes connected in the N. T. with sin. But we must protest against such an idea as that Gen. 1:2 is connected with the entrance of sin. We do not know.
At the foot of page 124 it is stated that to connect the suffering of Christ with God's work in "founding the earth borders on blasphemy." But who has claimed that the katabolE is the foundation much connected with the orderly establishment of human society in the world.
1931, pages 235 to 243. Here is a very useful article upon "What is the 'World'?" This deals largely with a Hebrew word which is often rendered vaguely as "world," but really should be understood as the habitance. It is stated that the Hebrew terms are "used with great precision and discrimination." Of such terms it is said, "Such difficult expressions should never be glossed over" as the late Dr. Bullinger did.
1938, pages 353 to 370. Here we have a fairly long article on "The World or Kosmos." The underlying thought in the word is correctly stated as system or order; adornment. On page 355 it is stated that "world has been the source of much confusion of thought and the premise of many a misleading 'argument.' " It is recognized that the word world seems to have contradictory meanings in the Scriptures. It is stated that "the social structure or system of mankind is usually put for those included in it." The disruption is stated to refer always to "the disruption of a social order," and not to the foundations of material building. On page 360 we find the statement, which ought to be noted, that "the foundation of the present world system is given us in the words which God spoke to Noah immediately after the ancient world (Gen 9) had been destroyed by the flood." Thus, it is recognized that a world-system can have a foundation.
We agree, also, with another statement on the same page, that the Lord's statement, "My kingdom is not of this world" does not exclude the fact that His kingdom will be of the world in the Thousand Years.
Unfortunately, however, this exegetical refinement will doom the attractive proposition put forward by my late friend William J. Henry, of Glasgow, in "U.R." November 1924, upon "The Prince of this World." If the Lord is to come into His kingship and kingdom only in the millennial age, how could He be "the Chief of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) when He was upon earth? Could He be the Chief of that world when He was not King of it?
With another statement on page 364 we are heartily in agreement that "World and earth are entirely distinct ideas." Why, then, confuse them? "The modern mind already thinks of the world as the earth."
We do not require to labour our point farther. Yet never once in this article of about seventeen pages is there any effort to explain the disruption of any social order at Genesis 1:2.
The speculative notion that sin entered at the "disruption" is once more introduced in "Unsearchable Riches" of September 1947, page 196. "Sin's entry into God's primeval creation occasioned that cataclysm which, in the later Scriptures, is termed a disruption. " Yet although that supposed disruption was of the WORLD, "The ruin ensuing gave rise to (1) a waste earth. . . ." On page 198 is the statement, "We may be sure that the gloom of darkness had been cast over the first earth in its disrupting. . ."
If world and earth are "entirely distinct ideas," why not be concordant with them, and keep them apart? Even in the volume for 1949, at page 86, the confusion still reigns. "The disruption of the original creation, to which all geology and geophysics attest." This, however, would be to set geology and Scripture at loggerheads, not to set them at one. A significant change is seen, however, on page 146, where we read of "a disruption of the original cosmos." That is to say EARTH and WORLD are now made equal!
We regret deeply finding it incumbent upon us to point out these absurdities and inconsistencies. But others too have discovered that there is a "screw loose" somewhere, and it can not be wrong to point out just where it is.
We would recommend a study of two articles in "Roundtable" on this subject, in the issues of May,June 1945 and July,August 1948. Both of these are very suggestive.
The "Disruption" doctrine has not edified. Yet we do not deny that some of its devotees imagine they have discovered some mystical beauties in it. The teaching is hailed as a special trophy due to the system of the Concordant Version. But other difficulties are ignored, and a process of what a friend has called "elliptic reasoning" silently skips over them. Here are some of these difficulties.
Matt. 13:35: "I shall be opening My mouth in parables, I shall be emitting what has been hid from (the) disruption." This was something "declared through the prophet." The C. V. Note says, "This refers to the disruption of the kingdom from the House of David. This is the subject of the so called 78th Psalm." The LXX has for the final words "from beginning" (ap' archEs) and the Hebrew has minni-qedem (from aforetime). Why "disruption" here should be connected with David's house is a mystery. The Sinaitic Codex reads "world-katabolE." It seems odd that secrets should be hid since David's House lost the Kingdom. Furthermore, how can we prove that this exegesis is sound? Who is to decide? If the expression world-down-casting was well known to six of the N. T. writers, as an event of tremendous importance in very ancient times, the probabilities are that Matthew in 13:35 meant the same thing.
The argument for world-disruption is weakened by making this verse refer to the disruption of the Kingdom.
Luke 11:50: "That the blood of all the prophets which is being shed from (the) disruption of (the) world may be exacted from this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zachrias." Here the C. V. Note says much about murders caused through religion, and concerning Zacharias. Strangely, how, ever, nothing is said about a very important matter—who were these prophets who were murdered since the time of Genesis 1:2? The assumption must be that the "disruption" brought about the beginning of these religious murders. Otherwise the statement becomes rather fatuous and illogical, and there are no illogical or superfluous statements in God's Revelation. Were there prophets millions of years before the creation of Adam? We believe emphatically that Adam was the first human being. There is no evidence anywhere to the contrary. It was through one human being that Sin entered into the world through Eve, or if you like, Adam (Rom. 5:12), and through sin came death.
Is it not very much more natural and satisfying to connect Abel with the establishment of human society, the down-casting, or throughout-spreading of the world of mankind? Then the passage makes excellent sense, and we do not require to postulate prophets for a period perhaps millions of years before they could be needed.
Matt. 25:34 Here we are told of a "kingdom made ready for you (individuals out of all nations) from world-down-casting." If we are supposed to lay any special emphasis upon "from the disruption of the world," or give these words special importance, this is not apparent in the Greek, where the emphasis falls upon "made ready" and "for you." It seems rather pointless to inform Gentiles that a kingdom had been prepared for them before the era of Gen 1:2, or from that time. Is it not much more natural to take the expression as referring to the original "teeming forth" (James 1: 18) of human society, from the time when humanity came to exist upon earth? Can we discover, in the same discourse of the Lord, in the same context, any parallel term? We can. Chapter 24:21 tells of that affliction, so great that none such has occurred "from the world-beginning" (ap'archEs kosmou) that is, from the beginning of human society.
John 17:24: "Seeing that Thou lovest Me before the disruption of the world." The next verse states that the world knows not the just Father. From verse 5 to verse 25, the world is mentioned no fewer than nineteen times. The rational inference ought to be that it is the same world the Lord is speaking about all the time. Here again, can we find a statement in any way parallel to verse 34? To be sure we have verse 5, "the glory which I had before the world to be, beside Thee." That is the literal rendering. "Before the world" is exactly parallel with "before world-laying down." Both mean, before humanity existed.
To read "disruption" into verse 24 upsets the equilibrium of the chapter, and is anachronistic. The Lord is speaking of that love which the righteous Father had for Him before Adam and his world of men came into being.
Eph. 1:4: "According as He chooses us in Him before the disruption of the world." The C. V. Note upon this says, "The disruption suggests the sin of celestial beings and the cataclysm of Gen. 1:2." We must not, however, frame translation of the Scriptures upon suggestions or guesses. There is nothing in the context which demands the term disruption. In the structure of Ephesians which is presented, the parallel passage is shewn as ch. 6:10-17. Here we find, in verse 12, that for us the wrestling is face to face with (among others) the world-wielders of this darkness (kosmokratoras). As no world could come into being apart from the creation of Adam and his offspring, there could consequently be no world-mights or world-wielders until that world existed. For us it is in every manner just as satisfactory and wonderful that we were chosen in Christ before the human world was established and spread abroad, as it would be were we chosen before a violent physical upheaval which ruined the earth unthinkable eons of eons ago. Furthermore, is it likely that Paul would take for granted that the Ephesians, Gentiles, would be well acquainted with a very brief statement in Gen. 1, which even the modern Gentile world does not understand, and concerning which the modern Jewish world is silent? The expression, katabolE kosmou, must have been one simple enough for any Gentile to understand, and among ancient profane Greek writers the word katabolE was generally used in the sense which we are now seeking to ascribe to it.
The suggestion that we were chosen in Christ before the future world order comes into being, human society in a state of perfection, is interesting, but such an interpretation of the words would not be suitable in other occurrences. For example, there cannot be blood of prophets shed from or after the establishment of the future world order (Luke 11:50). Nor would there be any point in the Lord saying that the Father loved Him before that world order came into existence (John 17:24).
Hebrews 4:3 : "Although the works occur from the disruption of the world." Literally this is, "although of the works from katabolE of world being-becomed." The construction is that of the Genitive Absolute. As we cannot in English say "being becomed," and as the Greek word poiO (DO or MAKE) has no passives, it would seem that the passives of BECOME (ginomai) are really passives of DO or MAKE in sense. So that we might read it thus, "Although the works, from world-down-laying (were) being done." Let us see how other versions render.
If Israel had set their trust in God, they would have been admitted into the stopping. This is clear because those individuals who did enter did so purely on account of their trust. Even although the work from which God ceased had all come into being from and with the laying down of the world system and human society, including the creation of His own likeness, Man, there was another period of cessation and rest, but into this Israel was not to enter. Yet those individuals to whom Hebrews was written were to enter into it. "As I sware in My wrath—they shall not enter into My cessation: a ban pronounced in spite of the fact that the work of which the rest here mentioned in the cessation, had all been done from the day when the foundation of the world was laid onward."The Disruption Fallacy #2
Frankly, we cannot follow the train of thought stated in "Unsearchable Riches" 1921, at pages 126-128. This passage is said to be one of the "crowning proofs" of the correctness of the Disruption theory. It is stated that the works above referred to "were not undertaken until after the disruption of the original creation" as recorded in Gen. 1:2. And a good long time after, we should imagine. Perhaps some billions of years? Scripture never talks of any disruption of "the original creation."
Hebrews 9:26: "Since then He must often be suffering from the disruption of the world. . ." As the passage has to do with the human race and their sins, what need is there to intrude a physical disruption which took place an unconscionable time before men ever lived? Perfect agreement exists if the writer is referring to the origin of human beings and human sins. Christ is a propitiation not alone for our own personal sins, but for the whole world also, writes John (1 John 2:2). But have we any right to say His blood, shed on our earth and in our world, will be effective for other beings than men and women? It may be, but if so, the Scriptures are written to shew human beings a way of deliverance from their sins and a way unto God.
Upon pages 126 and 127 of "Unsearchable Riches" 1921, we read, "It is manifest that there was no necessity for His suffering consequent upon the 'foundation' of the world. What was there in that 'which demanded His sacrifice?" Also, "It borders on blasphemy to argue that God's work in founding this world was of such a nature as to demand the suffering and sacrifice of Christ."
We are convinced these careless statements would never have been disseminated had the term "world" in the Greek language been carefully studied, in its contexts, with the aid of a concordance.
So far as Mankind is concerned—and we know of no other race created in the image of God (the Hebrew word tzelem, image, is never used of any image but a physical one)—Sin entered into the world with the Temptation and the Fall (Rom. 5:12; 17; paraptOma, BESIDE-FALL), that is, following the laying down upon earth of the human race (Gen. 1:27-28).
Christ, however, did not need to offer Himself frequently, like a chief priest entering into the holies of the holies, year by year, in blood not his own (literally, outside blood; blood of some other animal). For in that case He would require to be suffering frequently from world-establishment, from the Fall of Mankind, from the time when Sin entered the world. Yet now once for all, in view of a conclusion of the eons, for a setting aside of Sin through His sacrifice, has He been manifested. Not one word in all this context is there providing the least hint that the writer has in mind the sin of fallen angels, or beings other than human beings. The fact that he reaches forward to a future conclusion of the eons is no proof that we must find mention of a parallel event in the dim and distant past.
"God's work in founding this world" led to the introduction of temptation and sin. This demanded "the suffering and sacrifice of Christ." Why, did not Eve expect that her firstborn actually was the coming Deliverer? "I acquire a Man—Him-that-was-to-come-into-being!" (qanithi aish, ath-Yehweh).
Many years ago, walking homeward six miles across country from a Gospel meeting in a country village during the twilight, I suddenly encountered a real live ghost. And it seemed to be running quickly towards me, a silent, white, eerie phantasm. Not that I was unaccustomed to supposed ghosts, as our family lived in a large and very ancient house with walls 45 inches thick, with plenty of space to conceal any dead bodies, and rattling chains and windows. There was nothing to do but advance to the attack and boldly encounter the foe. My hair stood on end and the intolerable suspense made me sweat with dread of the unknown. Suddenly a large cow with a white head, bobbing up and down and giving the appearance of something running swiftly and yet approaching only slowly, made me swerve, while behind the ghost I beheld a cowherd. The whole adventure was due to an optical illusion.
The "Disruption" theory, so far as related to the New Testament, is another optical illusion, a mirage which disappears the closer we look at it. Yet the theory has been greedily ingurgitated by many ignorant souls who have been unable to refute the specious arguments put forward.
Every one of the passages wherein the word katabolE occurs deserts this clumsy yet alluring theory, and upon close examination reveals it as a fiction and a mirage.
This is true of 1 Peter 1:18-20, Rev. 13:8 and 17:8 for the same reasons as those above stated. So far from encountering "crowning proofs" that the word katabolE means "disruption," we find just the opposite. The theory, undeniably, contains a certain cleverness, yet is based upon illation. and is an illusion.
Our next step must be, in case someone should enquire, "Is the word kosmos never used of an orb, a starry world, a planet?" to find out just how the term is used in the New Testament. Kosmos occurs in the N. T. nearly 190 times. There is thus very ample scope to fix its true meaning and characteristics. In the LXX it is found about two dozen times.
Here are the main features and characteristics ascribed to the world. Disciples are the light of the world (Matt.5:14) but the salt of the earth (verse 13). Light came into the world, but the human beings love the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19). Christ was the light of the world; he who follows Him will not be walking in the dark (area, part, season) John 8:12. The saints should be appearing in society ("in world") as luminaries (Phil. 2:15). God's Logos or Word was "the true Light, which is enlightening every human being, (by) coming into the world" (John 1 :9). Now the light of the earth is the sun and the moon.
The world has kingdoms (Matt. 4:8; Rev. 11:15). The Lord said, "My own-personal kingdom is not out of this world" (John 18:36). Yet He will yet reign on this earth, in a new world of human beings.
Human society is found as nations (Luke 12:30), seeking after material things. The Lord's brothers pressed Him to make Himself manifest to the world (John 7:4), that is, to the world of men and women. But not to the earth. The Son of Man sowed the ideal seed in the field, and the field was the world (Matt. 13:38). Not only was human society originally sown or propagated, just as a farmer sows or DOWN-CASTS the seed, but Truth can itself be sown among men.
The world of human beings can hate (John 7:7, 15:18; 17:14; 1 John 3:13); something which earth is not capable of.
The world of men will be judged (John 12:31; 12:47; Rom. 3:6; 1 Cor. 6:2).
God's people may not be loving the world (1 John 2:15). No man who is persona grata in human society can have God's love in him. In this passage we find the dominating characteristics of the world: the excessive cravings of the flesh, the excessive cravings of the eyes, and the make-believe or imposture of human existence—people pretending to be something which they are not.
These features cannot pertain to the earth. Nor is it wrong to love the earth and nature.
The friendship of the world is opposition to God (James 4:4).
Everything begotten of God is conquering the world. And this is the conquering thing (nikE) which conquers the world—our faith (1 John 5:4). The Lord conquered the world (John 16:33).
Through the Lord, or through His cross, a world has been crucified to us, and we to a world (Gal. 6:14). Maybe a long and slow and lingering and painful process of dying for us.
James warned his ritualist brethren that they must keep themselves unspotted from the world (ch. 1:27). Garden work may be dirty work, and we cannot remain altogether unspotted by earth. But the "defilements of the world" (2 Peter 2:20) and the "corruption in the world, in excessive desires" (2 Peter 1:4) are morally contaminating to a great degree.
The world has its own wisdom (1 Cor. 1:20; 3:19), but cannot perceive that a continually changing wisdom must be only human folly.
The world has also its elementary principles or standards, to which we die (Gal. 4:3, Col. 2:8, 20).
God made the world and all in it (Acts 17:24), He, of heaven and earth all-along-being Lord. That is, long before He made the world of men and women, He existed Lord of heaven and earth. His invisible things or attributes were described "from world-creation" (Rom. 1:20) by the world of human society which He made. The world of men and women "came into being" through the Logos or Word of God, but knew not God's Son (John 1:10). This is referred to in Matt. 24:21 as "world-beginning."
Abraham is to be heir or allottee of "a world" (Rom. 4: 13). This does not mean the earth, but refers once more to human society on earth.
Not to save the earth did God send His only Son, but to save the world. It is the world that God so greatly loves (John 3:16), a world of worthless worms. Incredible thought—that God should care as much for the most worldly waster among men as for those whom He calls.
Fairly often do we read of heaven and earth together. Once, at Rev. 16:14, earth is coupled with the whole habitable or oikoumenE.
At Rev. 13:3, we might have expected "the whole world (as A. V.) wonders (or marvels) after the wild beast," instead of "the whole earth." Might this here signify only the whole Land, that is, the Land of Israel? The Greek (gE) does not (distinguish between earth and land.
We do not find heaven and world coupled together, or heaven, earth and world, or earth and world. Heaven and earth are to flee away (Rev. 20:11) but we read not of the world fleeing away.
A peculiar feature is found at Eph. 2:2, "the eon of this world." This is far too slender evidence upon which to base a theory that each eon has its own kosmos, or vice versa.
So far, we have established, we hope, the fact that WORLD in the 'New Testament always implies human society and its various features, and that it never signifies a planet or a star.
This brings us to two passages in 2 Peter which must be examined. In ch. 2:4-5, we read that God spares not sinning messengers, and spares not "an ancient world, but guards Noah. . . . bringing a deluge (kataklusmon) on a world of irreverent people. . . ." There can be no doubt as to which world is meant. Peter is referring to the well known Flood of Noah, and the world of human beings which then perished.
But what about ch. 3:5-6? Beyond a doubt this has been a passage difficult both to translate and to explain. So far we have not encountered any explanation which is wholly satisfactory. The C. V. Note senses the difficulty of explaining:Peter's statements, but does not clarify. Nay, one remark, "The great disruption chronicled in the second verse of the first of Genesis—'the earth becomes waste and sterile' (for it was not created so, Isa. 45:18)—has been well nigh forgotten," is apt to mislead. Scripture nowhere describes any "disruption" at Gen. 1:2. With a few weeks or months of neglect and total darkness, would not your garden or field become waste and sterile? Many countries even now have huge areas of moor or mountain land which are waste and sterile. Vast deserts exist in Arabia, Mongolia and North Africa, besides Australia and the Tundras of the far North.
Our aim is to discover which world is referred to in verse 6, "the then world." Was this a world prior to Gen. 1:2, or was it the world which perished in Noah's Flood?
A comparison of ch. 2:1-10 with ch. 3:1-7 will shew that Peter vehemently asserts that severe judgment will overtake the lawless and the scoffers. The former passage differs ftom the latter in shewing that the righteous are delivered (as Noah and Lot). In ch. 2, a deluge is brought upon a world of irreverent people, while in ch. 3 the then world was deluged by water and perished."
Nothing is said about a primeval earth being destroyed. Only in ch. 3:10 is the doom of the earth mentioned, by dissolution through combustion, in the Day of Jehovah.
Jewish scoffers will sneer, "Where is the promise of his presence?" (Where is his promised presence?) For from what (time) the fathers were put to repose, all thus is continuing from creation's beginning."
Observe, it is since the fathers were laid to rest. These Jews will be far more concerned with their own nation than with the history of the world. The presence (parousia) will in a very special manner affect Israel, the theocratic nation. True, they will argue, that all has continued the same since "beginning of creation." Which creation? That of Gen. 1:1? Or the creation of mankind on earth? We should imagine the latter creation is quite sufficient for the purpose of Peter's argument. Jewish scoffers will no doubt be well aware of the existence of enormous rock-faults and contorsions in earth's strata. It is not likely that they will be in ignorance of the coal seams, or fossils, or remains of animals which could not have existed upon our present earth.
Far more probable is it that these scoffers will be referring to the beginning of human creation. Chiefly, their argument must aim to blot out completely a very ugly period during the first century A. D. The last thing they will admit is that their Deity, Jehovah, was responsible for the destruction of their City, Jerusalem, in the year 70 A. D., and that He scattered their nation abroad among the Gentiles. At all costs they must hide from the idea that their murder of Jesus of Nazareth Was the cause of their long-continued misfortunes and wanderings. "Since men came to exist on earth, God has never intervened to punish them; everything goes on just the same as before" will be their argument.
"For this escapes the notice of these wishful ones," we might paraphrase the first part of verse 5. They are wishful thinkers. What they want to be the facts, they will call the truth. Unpleasant facts they will comfortably ignore and bury.
As regards the rest of this verse, after the statement, "there were heavens of old," we must bear in mind to insert a large comma if not a semi.colon, for this reason, that the Greek word for standing (sunestOsa; R. V. compacted; C. V. cohering) is feminine, and only applies to "earth."
We shall now exhibit various renderings of the difficult
part of the verse.
It is also important to examine the word rendered com' pacted, cohering, formed, or standing together (sunestOsa). Literally this is TOGETHER-STANDING. The verb occurs about a dozen times in the N. T. It is literally understood at Luke 9:32, "two men that stood with him." Otherwise it is rendered by commend or approve, while at Col. 1:17, it is "by him all things consist." What you commend you stand by and support.
Some have sought to shew that the earth consisted of water, that it was made of water, but this is hard to believe.
Here let it be stated that we are under no obligation to believe that the earth is a globe. The Scriptures never support this notion. Science does not know what the shape of earth is, beyond that eclipses shew it is round. No one has ever yet demonstrated that water anywhere possesses a camber. Holy Writ never states that the earth careers around the sun. It is the sun which "goes in" invariably, or "bursts through". Every possible statement in Scripture was carefully examined in the originals many years ago, and no term was found to support modern astronomy in these respects. Until astronomy can make room for a heaven or sky that can be "opened" (Rev. 19:11) and permit "armies" to issue forth (v. 14), or a heaven that will be recoiled like a scrollet being rolled up (Rev. 6:14), or heavens which Jehovah will roll up like a cloak (Heb. 1:12), or for the stars of the heaven to fall on to (or, unto) the earth, let it remain silent. Many things are explained, but far too many things are never explained.
Farrar found 2 Peter 3:5-6 to be "another of the problematical expressions in which the Epistle abounds." He continues, "It seems to be an allusion to water as the hulE, the material, out of which. . . the world was made; to water as the material and instrumental origin of the world. There may be a distant reference to Gen. 1:6; Psalm 24:2; 126:6."
Weymouth, whose version says the earth was "arising out of water" (as the Syriac version states), has a very suggestive footnote. He says this idea "seems to describe both the vertical and the horizontal reach of the earth — just what the word 'continent' properly signifies." Upon verse 6 he says, "By means of the heaven and earth, the ocean rising (possibly through the sinking of the whole crust of the globe) and rain falling like another ocean descending from above. See Gen. 7:11." His version reads, "by means of these, the then existing race of men was overwhelmed with water and perished."
It is significant that Peter does not here mention any katabole or "disruption." If indeed he understood this term to signify a physical disruption, here was a splendid opportunity to use it very appropriately.
Let us now endeavor to arrive at a picture of the earth as it existed between Gen. 1:2 and the Flood. In Gen. 1:2 we are told of a waste and vacant earth, and of an abyss. Their relative position is not stated. Nor is the shape of the earth described. The abyss (tehom or theum; Assyrian tiamat) is evidently a vast area of very deep water. The Greek word in the N. T. (abussos) is related to the word for deep (bathus). As the word is again found in ch. 7:11 and 8:2 in reference to what were evidently subterranean waters, it is likely this abyss corresponds to the "seas" of verse 10. In verse 6, there comes to be a separation "between waters for waters" by means of an expanse or atmosphere. The waters superior (in position) to the atmosphere are separated from those inferior to the atmosphere or heaven (sky). Those beneath the sky are then removed to one place and dry earth appears. It would thus seem as though these lower waters had completely submerged the earth, until they were removed. Whither went these waters? It would seem from Gen. 7:11 as though terrific rains lashed out of the skies for forty days and nights, while vast floods of waters gushed up from beneath the earth. All the fountains of the great abyss broke up.
If we could picture the earth like a huge biscuit or disc, with a vast body of water beneath, and another vast body of water far above, we might be able to visualize the situation in 2 Peter 3:5, "an earth out of water and through (the midst of) water standing together" or subsisting or cohering. Dia (through) is closely related to duO (two) and implies the idea of "between." A covenant is a THROUGH-PLACing (diathEkE), but better, a between-PLACing. See Gen. 31:44-51 and note the frequent word between or betwixt. According to 1 Peter 3:20, at the Flood eight souls "were through-saved through water," that is, they passed through and out of the waters and were saved.
By the fiat of God earth was thus placed between two vast bodies of water, "through which the then world, by water being deluged, perished." That world perished, but note, the earth did not perish.
We therefore conclude that Peter uses the word Kosmos in exactly the same sense as it is elsewhere found in the whole N. T. In the Greek Old Testament, we admit freely, Kosmos signifies ornament or adornment. But in the New Testament its prevailing sense is human society and all connected with it. Peter does not allude to any "Disruption" of a human world which existed millions of years before Adam was created. For his purposes, it is quite sufficient if he goes back to the well-known Flood.
A few quotations from ancient profane Greek writers will illustrate the meaning of the Greek terms we have been studying. Plutarch speaks of the "first KatabolE of human beings," referring to the beginning of mankind.
Polybius speaks of building a ship from its base or beginning as ek katabolEs naupEgein, "from DOWN-CAST to-be-shipbuilding." He tells of one who made for himself a laying down (katabolEn; a DOWN-CASTing) and a foundation (themelion) he under-placed (hupeballeto) of long duration of heavy and oppressive rule. That is, he established for himself a long and oppressive tyranny. Note the concurrence of DOWN-CASTing and foundation, which are clearly here synonyms.
Demosthenes speaks of "depositing the deposits (tas katabolas kataballein) into the council chamber." The word was often in use of the payment of monies.
Antoninus tells of "seeds being deposited (kataballomena) into land of womb."
Herodotus writes about "spreading a report" (kataballein phatin, to be DOWN-CASTing a report).
Arrianus writes of those who have the same descent or derivation as having the same katabolE.
Not one single Greek writer can be found who uses the word katabolE with reference to a primeval disruption, either of the earth or the world.
All the New Testament writers who use the term do so in connection with the introduction of human society into the world.
The only blessings brought about by the "Disruption" theory have been imaginary and illusive. No one has been genuinely edified by this theory.
We do not anticipate, however, that this teaching will be withdrawn, or that it will disappear. There are individuals who can never unlearn, and will cling to that which they have imbibed even though the doctrine is altogether spurious. Let us not be taken up too deeply with mere theories. Let us delight ourselves in God-in-Christ. In Him there is no theory, no disappointment, no will-'o-the-wisp, no mirage.
It is not for us to dabble in myths or fables or scientific speculations concerning the distant past. Let us rather, by looking to our glorious future, purify ourselves and our lives, taking hold in firm faith of the clearly revealed expectation which is set before us.
ALEXANDER THOMSON Last updated 17.8.2007