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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Adversary (2)

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ADVERSARY.—In the Gospels the word ‘adversary’ stands twice (Luke 13:17; Luke 21:15) for ἀντικείμενος, and thrice (Matthew 5:25, Luke 12:58; Luke 18:3) for ἀντίδικος. The first two passages require no comment, as they describe the opponents of the gospel in the simplest terms, as adversaries. Thus we read that when Jesus triumphantly vindicated His actions, His adversaries were ashamed and could not answer Him. Similarly Jesus assured His disciples that none of their adversaries in the approaching time of persecution should be able to gainsay or resist the words of wisdom which the Holy Spirit would put into their months.

In Matthew 5:25 (|| Luke 12:58), and again in the parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:3), the question suggests itself, ‘Who is the adversary referred to?’ The passage from the Sermon on the Mount occurs as one of a series of maxims of Christian prudence, and the key to its interpretation is suggested by that which immediately precedes it (Matthew 5:23 f.), where Christ says that reconciliation with an offended brother must go before the offering of a gift at God’s altar.

Alienation from the brother offended must operate as a hindrance to true worship. Therefore he who would be accepted of God must do justly by his brother and have all cause of difference with him removed, for if he regards iniquity in his heart, has upon his conscience the guilt of wrongdoing or ill-will, or a grudge, the Lord will not hear him (Psalms 66:16). Thus a certain order must be observed in connexion with this matter of worship. Still more, Jesus appears to suggest, does this principle of order hold in respect of the controversy between God and sinners. Reconciliation with God must be for every man the first business to be attended to. That antagonism must be removed, and he must satisfy the claim which the law of God has against him in the first place, else if he fails to avail himself of the present opportunity of ending the controversy, the law must take its course. The adversary referred to is thus the broken law, or God Himself as the Author of the law, whom the unreconciled sinner treats as an adversary (cf. Luke 14:31 f.).

In the parable of the Unjust Judge the widow’s petition against her opponent at law, and her importunity in pressing it upon the attention of the judge, are used to illustrate the prayers of God’s elect. The reference seems to be to the opposition which, in her efforts to promote the cause and kingdom of God, the Church is obliged to encounter, some adverse influence to which she has long been exposed, and against which she fears she is left to struggle alone. Here there is no special reason for identifying this adversary with Satan (cf. Alford, in loc.; Trench, Parables, 488, etc.) or with the Jewish persecutors of the Early Church (Weizsäcker, who regards the passage as a late addition; cf. Weiss in Meyer’s Commentary, in loc.). We must not forget that the word occurs in a parable which was spoken with a special didactic purpose, that being, as St. Luke is careful to explain, the encouragement not of the Church only, but especially of individual believers, to persevere in their efforts by faith and prayer to withstand the power of evil in the world, in whatever form it may assail them or thwart their endeavours. Christ’s object was to assure them that their importunity must prevail with God, who shall soon respond to their prayers and grant them the victory over all that would frustrate their efforts for the advancement of His cause. See also art. Satan.

Literature.—Cremer, Bib.-Theol. Lex. s.vv. ἀντίδικος, ἀντικείμενος; Trench, Notes on the Parables; Bruce, The Parabolic Teaching of Christ: comm. of Meyer, Alford, Bengel, etc.; Schmid, Biblical Theology of the NT, p. 175 ff.; Beyschlag, NT Theology (2nd English ed.), i. 90; H. J. Holtzmann, Lehrbuch der neutest. Theologie, i. 179 ff.; Weizsacker, Apostolic Age, ii. 61; Wernle, The Beginnings of Christianity, i. 76 ff.

H. H. Currie.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Adversary (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/a/adversary-2.html. 1906-1918.

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