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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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This word occurs three times in the Pauline Epistles, and nowhere else in the English Versions of the apostolic writings. The passages are 2 Thessalonians 1:5, Philippians 1:28, 2 Thessalonians 3:17, Authorized Version and Revised Version giving identical renderings in each. In 2 Thessalonians 1:5 the Greek ἔνδειγμα is translated by ‘manifest token’; in Philippians 1:28 ἔνδειξις is translated by ‘evident token’; in 2 Thessalonians 3:17 ‘token’ renders σημεῖον. The two first passages may conveniently be taken together, both because of their general resemblance and because the two Greek words which ‘token’ represents are closely related. In 2 Thessalonians 3:17 it represents a different word, occurring in a totally different context.

1. In 2 Thessalonians 1:5, St. Paul, speaking for himself and his associates, says to the Thessalonians: ‘We ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure; which is a manifest token of the righteous judgement of God.’ The word ἔνδειγμα (‘manifest token’) occurs only here in the Greek Bible; its general significance is ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ (not exemplum as the Vulgate, but rather indicium as Beza). The interpretation of the passage involves a two-fold question: (a) What is meant by ‘the righteous judgement of God’? (b) What is the ‘manifest token’ (ἔνδειγμα) of it? of it? The ‘righteous judgement’ is the future and final judgment referred to in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, based on the principle of compensation laid down by our Lord in Luke 16:25, that the sufferers of this world shall rest hereafter, and the persecutors shall suffer. It is not, however, suffering per se that can look forward to this future rest and joy but suffering that comes of faith, and is endured for the Kingdom of God (Luke 16:5). This suffering, inspired by faith in God and endured with the conviction that He reigns and will ultimately exhibit His ‘righteous judgement,’ is itself the ‘evidence,’ the ‘manifest token’ of the coming of that judgment.

The word ἔνδειγμα as related to ἔνδειξις indicates strictly the concrete result in contrast with the process. In meaning, however, the two words are practically indistinguishable. This becomes apparent from a consideration of the passage in which the latter word occurs.

2. In Philippians 1:28, St. Paul bids his converts be ‘nothing affrighted by the adversaries: which is for them an evident token (ἔνδειξις) of perdition, but of your salvation, and that from God’; i.e. if the Philippians do not waver before the attacks of the adversaries, but maintain their ground, this steadfast attitude in itself will be an ‘evident token,’ a ‘proof that the adversaries will suffer defeat, while the Philippians will enjoy the Divine salvation. Ἔνδειξις, like ἔνδειγμα, is a Pauline word, and does not occur in the Greek Bible apart from his Epistles. It is an Attic law term and appears to mean, more distinctively, ‘proof’ that rests on an appeal to facts, as contrasted with mere logical demonstration. ‘Token’ coupled with the adjectives ‘manifest’ or ‘evident’ is an adequate rendering of either ἔνδειγμα or ἔνδειξις.

3. In 2 Thessalonians 3:17, St. Paul, referring to the concluding salutation written by his own hand, says that it ‘is the “token” (σημεῖον) in every epistle.’ An exhaustive account of these interesting words would require a general examination of the epistolary methods of the contemporary Graeco-Roman world. It must suffice here to say that St. Paul, in accordance with the common practice of his age, probably dictated his Epistles to an amanuensis (cf. Romans 16:22), adding a few words at the end, in his own writing, to vouch for the authenticity of the document. These authenticating words might consist of the bare salutation, as in the present passage, or might contain other words in addition (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:22, Colossians 4:18, Galatians 6:11-17; Deissmann goes so far as to hold that in 2 Cor. the apostolic autograph begins at 2 Corinthians 10:1). The probability is that the Apostle would authenticate every Epistle by his autograph greeting at the end. In the cases where he calls special attention to the fact (1 Corinthians 16:21, Colossians 4:18, and the present passage; cf. too Galatians 6:11) he may have been anxious to certify the letter, as against any forgeries that might be circulating in his name. The use of the word σημεῖον here, followed by the elucidating οὕτως γράφω (almost like our English ‘signed’) is closely parallel to the σεσημείωμαι (generally contracted into σεση.) with which many papyri and ostraca close. An alternative method of certifying a letter was to give to the bearer a ‘token’ (σύμβολον) as proof of his commission (cf. S. Witkowski, Epistulae Privatae, Leipzig, 1906, no. 25).

Literature.-J. B. Lightfoot, Notes on Epistles of St. Paul, London, 1895, p. 135 f.; A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, Eng. translation 2, do., 1911, p. 153; G. Milligan, St. Paul’s Epistles to the Thessalonians, do., 1908, Note A, ‘St. Paul as a Letter-Writer,’ pp. 121-130.

Dawson Walker.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Token'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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