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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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FACE.—Of the words translation ‘face,’ ‘countenance,’ the Heb. pânîm indicates the front, that which is presented to view, while mar’eh and the NT terms πρόσωπον, ὅψις, and ἐνώπιονcorrespond to view, visage, that which can be seen.

1. Physical appearance.—Beauty of face is frequently alluded to in the Bible in connexion with both men and women as a distinguishing personal charm, and a powerful influence for good or evil. The underlying thought is that a noble and beautiful face should be the index of a noble and beautiful spirit. There is a resemblance among the children of a king (Judges 8:18). Along with this recognition there are intimations that the Lord seeth not as man seeth (1 Samuel 16:7), and that beauty is vain (Proverbs 31:30). In the mysterious personality outlined in Isaiah 53 one of the arresting features is the absence of such beauty in a face singularly marred, and according to common standards confessedly unattractive. While there is a dark type of comeliness (Song of Solomon 1:5), yet, as might be expected among a people accustomed to olive and sunburnt tones of complexion, it is the exceptional characteristic of a fair and lustrous face that marks the highest form of beauty. In the poetry of the Arabs, when beauty of face is referred to, the usual and ever-sufficient simile is that of the full moon (Song of Solomon 6:10), and in the descriptions of Paradise in the Koran the female attendants of the ‘faithful’ are called houris, ‘the white-faced ones.’ The illumination on the face of Moses is still recalled in the Jewish synagogue when the officiating Levite, in pronouncing the benediction (Numbers 6:24) at the close of the service, veils his face with the tallîth, or prayer-cloth. Similarly in the sacred art of the Church, the Transfiguration light on the face of Christ was perpetuated in the halo around the faces of the saints who suffered as His witnesses. In 2 Corinthians 4:6 the consummation of the gospel is described as the hope of beholding and sharing the manifestation of God’s glory as it had been seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

2. In the expression of character and feeling.—Although the face was understood to be only a medium or channel for the manifestation of inward thought and emotion, a more vivid impression was often gained by alluding to it as having the essentials of personality. Thus it has its own health (Psalms 42:11), it produces gladness in others (Psalms 21:6, Acts 2:28), and pronounces rebuke (Psalms 80:16), it falls (Genesis 4:6), is lifted up (Psalms 4:6), emits light (Psalms 44:3). All emotions are marked upon it: it is impudent (Proverbs 7:13). harder than a rock (Jeremiah 5:3), and may be a face of fury (Ezekiel 38:18). In Luke 12:56 the face of the sky is referred to as conveying to those who could read it a sign of its intentions. The face being thus closely identified with the person, any violence offered to the face was in the highest degree affronting (1 Samuel 11:2, 2 Samuel 10:4, Matthew 26:67). As the expression of the face was regarded as a trustworthy indication of the life within, the Pharisees cultivated an aspect of religious absorption; and Christ showed that the thought behind this device was essentially blind and irreligious, inasmuch as the true service of the Kingdom required the spirit of the Beatitudes (Matthew 6:17). As the emblem of perfected sainthood and ordered harmony, the Church in its final form is represented as having the beauty of a face without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27).

The figure of the averted or hidden face (Deuteronomy 31:17, Isaiah 53:3) that declines to meet the look of supplication, owes its origin to the fact that Orientals are largely swayed by the strongest feeling of the moment, and can be moved from their previous purpose by well directed emotional appeals. When one man is seeking to appease or persuade another, it is customary, when the right moment has been reached, to put the hand quietly and tentatively under the chin, and thus turn the face so that eye may meet eye, and more kindly feelings prevail. Not to see the face at all is to intercept such emotional persuasion of prostration, pleading, and tears, and means that all hope must be abandoned.

G. M. Mackie.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Face'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​f/face.html. 1906-1918.
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