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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Jealousy (2)

JEALOUSY.—This word is not used in the Gospels, though John 2:17 has ὅ ζῆλος τοῦ οἴκου σου = קנִאַת בֵּיתף (Psalms 69:10) = ‘jealousy for thy house’; and one of Jesus’ disciples was Simon ὁ ζηλωτής (Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13) = Simon ὅ Καναναῖος (Mark 3:18), a man who had belonged to that party in the Jewish State which was so jealous for the sole sovereignty of God in Israel that it regarded the recognition of any other (.g. by paying tribute to Caesar) as a form of treason. But the thing which the OT means by קנְאָה, in all its aspects, is everywhere present in the NT, and especially in the Gospels.

1. The jealousy of God in the OT is connected with the truth that He is God alone, and it is expressed mainly in two ways. First, in the exclusive claims which He makes for Himself: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3); ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,’ etc. (Deuteronomy 6:5); ‘I am the Lord, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images’ (Isaiah 42:8). This exclusiveness or intolerance of God—His jealousy for Himself, as it may be called—pervades the OT. It is the source of that compulsion which He puts upon the human race to learn the most important lesson which the mind is capable of receiving, that there is one only, the living and true God. This is the presupposition not only of all uplifting religion, but of all science, and of all morality which rises above caste and convention; and what we see in the OT is the jealousy of God working monotheism into the constitution of a race who should impart it to the world. In this sense the jealousy of God is represented in the mind of Christ by the exclusive claims which He makes for Himself, and in the rest of the NT by the reiteration of these claims through the lips of His disciples. Sometimes the expression of it is informal: e.g. ‘He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me’ (Matthew 10:37); or, ‘Blessed is he whosoever shall find none occasion of stumbling in me’ (Matthew 11:6). Sometimes, again, it is quite explicit: ‘No one knoweth the Son save the Father; neither doth any know the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him’ (Matthew 11:27). In the Fourth Gospel this tone predominates, and there could not be more precise and formal expressions of the jealousy of God, as God is revealed in Christ, than are found, e.g., in John 1:18; John 8:24; John 14:6 (see art. Preaching Christ). This jealousy of God for Himself is echoed in passages like Acts 4:12 (‘There is none other name,’ etc.), 1 Corinthians 3:11 (‘Other foundation can no man lay,’ etc.), Galatians 1:8 f. (‘Though we or an angel from heaven should preach unto you any other gospel,’ etc.: the peculiarity of the Pauline as opposed to the Judaizing gospel being that it ascribed the whole of salvation to Christ alone, and did not share His glory with the Law), and 2 John 1:9 f.

The second way in which the jealousy of God expresses itself in the OT is in God’s unreserved identification of Himself with His people. It is a jealousy for them, in which their cause is His, in which His honour (if such a word can be used in such a connexion) is touched if they are wronged, in which His love rises into passion, and takes on itself responsibilities for them of which they would not have dared to think. Sometimes this, too, is informally expressed: e.g. ‘He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye’ (Zechariah 2:8). Sometimes it is quite explicit: e.g. the great Messianic promises of Isaiah 9:1 ff. are sealed in Isaiah 9:7 by ‘The jealousy of Jahweh of hosts shall do this.’ Cf. also the striking passage Zechariah 8:2 ff. All this is reproduced in the mind and words of Jesus. He is jealous for His people, especially for ‘the little ones’ (who, however, are not so much a class of Christians, as Christians generally—a weak and inconsiderable folk in ordinary eyes), and nothing that concerns them is alien to Him. The very slightest service done them has a reward solemnly assured to it (Matthew 10:42); the sin of causing one of them to stumble is denounced with a passion which startles us still as we read (Matthew 18:6); cf. art. Anger, 2 (a). The most thrilling illustration of this jealousy of Jesus for His ‘little ones’ is given in the Final Judgment: ‘Inasmuch as ye did it (or, did it not) to one of these least, my brethren, ye did it (or, did it not) unto me’ (Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45). Jealous love can go no further than this.

2. Since God, especially God revealed in Christ, is in this twofold sense a jealous God, it is clear that there must be in the Christian religion and character a corresponding intensity and passion. Christians ought to be jealous for Christ, sensitive to all that dishonours Him, and especially to all that degrades Him from the place which He claims, and which belongs to Him alone. The NT gives Him what He demands, the name which is above every name; and it is inconsistent with jealousy for Him to give Him only a name alongside of other names—to classify Him, as is often done, with prophets or religious heroes or founders of religions. Jealousy, no doubt, is apt to be a turbid virtue; the OT examples of it—Phinehas, Elijah, and Jehn—all illustrate this; and even in Christian history jealousy for Jesus as sole Lord and Saviour has often been confounded with zeal for a definition of one’s own making, or for the predominance of one’s own ecclesiastical or political faction. Of all virtues, it is the one which most readily calls the old man into the field to reinforce the new, a process which always ends in disaster. Nevertheless, it is the primary virtue of a Christian, just as the keeping of the first commandment was the primary virtue of a Jew.

3. Apart from their use in the sense of an ardent and exclusive devotion to God in Christ, and to the cause of Christ in His people (2 Corinthians 11:2), the associations of the words ζῆλος, ζηλοῦν in the NT are rather repellent. Sometimes ζῆλος is anger (Acts 5:17), the Heb. קִנְאָה being at least once rendered θυμός in LXX Septuagint; often it is envy (Acts 13:45 : so the verb Acts 7:9, Acts 17:5); in this sense, too, it is frequently combined with ἔρις (Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 3:3, 2 Corinthians 12:20, Galatians 5:20); only rarely does it denote a keen and affectionate interest (2 Corinthians 7:7; 2 Corinthians 7:11). But this last sense is the one which is really congruous with the fundamental import of jealousy as the sense of self-respect and of honour in the God who is revealed in Christ as Love.

James Denney.

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

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