Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
The Greek word μυστηριον denotes,
1. Something hidden, or not fully manifest. Thus, 2 Thessalonians 2:7 , we read of the "mystery of iniquity," which began to work in secret, but was not then completely disclosed or manifested.
2. Some sacred thing hidden or secret, which is naturally unknown to human reason, and is only known by the revelation of God. Thus, "Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified by the Spirit," &c, 1 Timothy 3:16 . The mystery of godliness, or of true religion, consisted in the several particulars here mentioned by the Apostle; particulars, indeed, which it would never have "entered into the heart of man to conceive," 1 Corinthians 2:9 , had not God accomplished them in fact, and published them by the preaching of his Gospel; but which, being thus manifested, are intelligible, as facts, to the meanest understanding. In like manner, the term mystery, Romans 11:25 ; 1 Corinthians 15:51 , denotes what was hidden or unknown, till revealed; and thus the Apostle speaks of a man's "understanding all mysteries," 1 Corinthians 13:2 ; that is, all the revealed truths of the Christian religion which is elsewhere called the "mystery of faith," 1 Timothy 3:9 . And when he who spake in an unknown tongue is said to "speak mysteries,"
1 Corinthians 14:2 , it is plain, that these mysteries, however unintelligible to others on account of the language in which they were spoken, were yet understood by the person himself, because he hereby "edified himself," 1 Corinthians 14:4 ; Acts 2:11 ; Acts 10:46 . And though in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 , we read of the "wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which none of the princes of this world knew;" yet, says the Apostle, we speak or declare this wisdom; and he observes, 1 Corinthians 2:10 , that God had revealed the particulars of which it consisted to them by his Spirit. So when the Apostles are called "stewards of the mysteries of God," 1 Corinthians 4:1 , these mysteries could not mean what were, as facts, unknown to them; (because to them it was "given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God," Matthew 13:11 ;) yea, the character here ascribed to them implies not only that they knew these mysteries themselves, but that as faithful stewards they were to dispense or make them known to others, Luke 12:42 ; 1 Peter 4:10 . In Colossians 2:2 , St. Paul mentions his praying for his converts, that their hearts might be comforted "to the knowledge of the mystery of God, even of the Father, and of Christ;" for thus the passage should be translated. But if, with our translators, we render επιγνωσιν , acknowledgment, still the word μυστηριον can by no means exclude knowledge; "for this is life eternal," saith our Lord, John 17:3 , "that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." And, lastly, whatever be the particular meaning of the "mystery of God," mentioned Revelation 10:7 , yet it was something he had declared "to (or rather by ) his servants the prophets."
3. The word mystery is sometimes in the writings of St. Paul applied in a peculiar sense to the calling of the Gentiles, which he styles "the mystery,"
Ephesians 3:3-6 ; and "the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy Apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of Christ by the Gospel,"
Romans 16:25 ; Ephesians 1:9 ; Ephesians 3:9 ; Ephesians 6:19 ; Colossians 1:26-27 ; Colossians 4:3 .
4. It denotes spiritual truth couched under an external representation or similitude, and concealed or hidden thereby, unless some explanation of it be otherwise given. Thus, Revelation 1:20 , "The mystery," that is, the spiritual meaning, "of the seven stars: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches." So Revelation 17:5 , "And upon her forehead a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great," that is, Babylon in a spiritual sense, "the mother of idolatry and abominations;" and, Revelation 17:7 , "I will tell thee the mystery" or spiritual signification "of the woman." Compare Matthew 13:11 ; Mark 4:11 ; Luke 8:10 ; Ephesians 5:32 ; and their respective contexts.
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Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Mystery'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/m/mystery.html. 1831-2.