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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Tribulation (2)

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TRIBULATION.—The Gr. word θλίψις (which means literally ‘a pressing,’ ‘a pressing together,’ ‘pressure’) is translated in the Authorized Version by the words ‘tribulation,’ ‘affliction,’ and ‘anguish.’ In every instance of its occurrence save one, viz. John 16:21, where the Authorized Version translation ‘anguish’ is retained, the Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 uniformly employs the term ‘tribulation.’ The verb θλίβω occurs twice in the Gospels: in Mark 3:9, where it describes the action of the crowd in ‘thronging’ Jesus; and Matthew 7:14, where it represents ‘the ways that leadeth unto life’ as being ‘straitened’ (τεθλιυμένη). In his Study of Words, Trench gives a very interesting account of the history of the English word ‘tribulation.’ Derived from Lat. tribulum, the threshing instrument or harrow by means of which the corn was separated from the husks, tribulatio, the term applied to the process of separation, came to be used for the disciplinary ordeal of distress and adversity. The following grouping of passages indicates the various usages of the word in the Gospels:

1. In the Apocalyptic discourse ‘tribulation’ is declared to be in store for the Jewish nation (Matthew 24:29, cf. Mark 13:19). The necessity of this tribulation is emphasized (Matthew 24:6, Mark 13:7, Luke 21:9), and the circumstances attending it are described in terrible and pathetic detail.

2. ‘Tribulation’ is announced by Jesus as the outward lot that awaits His disciples (a) In the confusion and conflict that would sweep the nation on to the final catastrophe, the disciples were to be involved (Matthew 24:9). They would draw this relentless hostility on themselves in consequence of their testimony and activity as disciples. It behoved them to endure (ὑπομένειν, Matthew 24:13) and prove themselves ‘brethren and partakers in the tribulation, and kingdom, and patience (ὑπομονή) which are in Jesus’ (Revelation 1:9 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 , cf. Romans 5:3). (b) Similarly, but without reference to any particular ordeal, the disciples are warned about the treatment they must expect to meet with ‘in the world’ (John 16:2; John 16:33). On account of their relation to Jesus, they would be subjected to this treatment. But their attitude ought to be one of ‘good cheer’ (θαρσεῖτε). ‘The way that leadeth unto life’ was, therefore, in the case of the disciples to prove ‘straitened’ (τεθλιμμένη).

3. ‘Tribulation’ and persecution (διωγμός) ‘because of the word’ are mentioned in the parable of the Sower as the conditions which cause those ‘to stumble straightway’ that ‘hear the word, and straightway with joy receive it, and have no root in themselves’ (Matthew 13:21, Mark 4:17). A mind only emotionally interested in the ‘word,’ that is to say, as distinct from one intellectually and morally interested (Matthew 13:23, Mark 4:20), is incapable of withstanding the emotional shock occasioned by tribulation and persecution. With his feelings sustained and refreshed by no continuous and immediate experience in relation to the ‘word,’ such a person cannot resist the assault upon them of actual harassing events. See also Sorrow, Suffering.

Literature.—Trench, Study of Words; Bushnell, The New Life; Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ; W. Archer Butler, Serm. 2nd ser. (1866) 78; T. Arnold, Christian Life (1878), 217; Moulton-Geden, Gr. Concordance; Grimm-Thayer, Gr. Lex. s.vv. and Comm. on passages.

A. B. Macaulay.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Tribulation (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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