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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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OBSCURITY.—Those who are called from darkness to light do not perform the journey instantaneously, and so must be conscious of obscurity, in various ways and to different degrees, in their progressive apprehension of the gospel of Christ. Yet we are assured that nothing is hid, save that it should be manifested (Mark 4:22); and the Holy Spirit is promised us for guidance into all the truth (John 14:26; John 16:13). All four Gospels speak of a clouding of the eyes and dulling of the ears of the perverse (Matthew 13:13, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10, John 12:40). To the heedful and amenable the teaching will be made plainer and plainer (Luke 8:18; Luke 10:21). To the haughty and cunning nothing clear can be vouchsafed (Luke 13:32). In teaching by parables there was necessarily an element of obscurity; but this stumbling-block Christ frequently removed (Matthew 13:11), and promised the clearance of all hindrances to the perfect knowledge of God (John 16:13; John 16:25). Obscurity was not infrequently felt by the Apostles in their efforts to discern the meaning of the Lord’s other utterances. The teaching about the eternal food of His flesh and blood for the life of the world was felt to be ‘a hard saying’ (John 6:60). The foretelling of His cruel death and glorious resurrection was not at first understood (Luke 18:34). Indeed, the Apostles experienced a signal opening of mind after the Resurrection in respect of the prophecies implying His Passion (Luke 24:45). Thus in the Last Discourse they are found exclaiming, ‘We know not what he saith’ (John 16:18); and a little later they gratefully confess, ‘Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb’ (John 16:29). Obscurity there must often be when spiritual realities are expressed by the inadequate vehicle of human vocabulary. Such an instance may be: ‘This is your hour, and the power of darkness’ (Luke 22:53). The living spirit cannot be expressed by the dead letter except in similitudes and allegories (John 3:8). When the Infinite strives to find portrayal in the finite, there must be what we call obscurity. Richness of significance and application attaches to heavenly truths which might at first seem obscure (John 3:31). Obscurity must disappear more and more, for the darkness cannot confine the Light of the world within any bounds (John 1:5; John 8:12; John 9:5). The steadfast disciple will learn to understand His speech (John 8:43), and release from obscurity will convey increase of freedom (John 8:32). The gospel is not meant to remain obscure (Matthew 5:15).

Literature.—Butler, Analogy, p. 269 ff.; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, ii. p. 94 ff.; Expositor, 2nd ser. i. [1881] pp. 372–387; Ker, Sermons, 1st ser. p. 302 ff.; Wendt, Teaching of Jesus, i. 109 f.

W. B. Frankland.

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

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