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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Peace (2)

PEACE.1. The word frequently occurs in the Gospels in the idiomatic phrase ‘to hold one’s peace,’ i.e. to keep silence, representing (both in Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 and Authorized Version ) no fewer than four different verbs in the original—ἡσυχάζω, σιγάω, σιωπάω, and φιμόω. ἡσυχάζω (Luke 14:4) is the most general term (fr. ἥσυχος, ‘at rest’), denoting a state of restfulness in which silence is included (cf. Luke 23:56 τὸ μὲν σάββατον ἡσύχασαν ‘and on the sabbath they rested’). σιγάω (Luke 20:26) has been distinguished from σιωπάω (Matthew 20:31; Matthew 26:63, Mark 3:4; Mark 9:34; Mark 10:48; Mark 14:61, Luke 18:39; Luke 19:40)—the former as referring to a silence induced by mental conditions (fear, grief, awe, etc.), the latter as a more physical term denoting simply an abstinence from vocal utterance (so Schmidt in his Synon. d. gr. Sprache, quoted by Grimm-Thayer, Lex. p. 281). But in classical Gr. such a distinction between σιγάω and σιωπάω can hardly be said to be ordinarily observed (cf. Liddell and Scott, Lex. s.vv.), and in the NT ἡσυχάζω, σιγάω, and σιωπάω, when used in the sense of holding one’s peace, appear to be employed without any real discrimination.

On the other hand, φιμόω is a stronger and rougher word, which properly means ‘to muzzle’ (fr. φιμός, ‘a muzzle’). It is noticeable that our Lord addresses it only to an unclean spirit (Mark 1:25 = Luke 4:35) or to the raging sea (Mark 4:39, where Authorized and Revised Versions gives ‘Be still!’). Once Mt. uses it to describe how Jesus put the Sadducees to silence (Matthew 22:34); and in the parable of the Wedding Garment it is used (Matthew 22:12) to express the speechless condition to which the intruder was reduced when challenged by the king (cf. Twent. Cent. NT1 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , ‘the man was dumbfounded’).

2. In the ordinary sense of rest or tranquillity, in antithesis to strife and war, ‘peace’ (εἰρήνη) is found, e.g., in Matthew 10:34 = Luke 12:51 (note the contrast with μάχαιρα), Luke 14:32. Generally, however, εἰρήνη in the NT means more than this, and clearly inherits the larger suggestions of the Heb. שִׁלֹום, which primarily denoted a state of wellbeing, safety, and blessedness, of which, however, peace in the common acceptation of the term would be one of the most important conditions. It is in this way that we are to understand expressions like ‘Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace’ (Luke 2:29), ‘his goods are in peace’ (Luke 11:21), ‘the things which belong unto thy peace’ (Luke 19:42). This also is the connotation of ‘Peace!’ when used as a form of salutation (Matthew 10:12-13 = Luke 10:5-6; Luke 24:36, John 20:19; John 20:21; John 20:26); though, as employed by our Lord, and by His disciples according to His instructions, the salutation is weighted with the larger Messianic meaning (see below).

3. But in its predominating and characteristic use in the NT, εἰρήνη is distinctively a Christian word, being employed especially to describe the mission, the character, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

(1) Peace was a distinctive feature of Christ’s mission.—In prophetic anticipation the coming of the Messiah was to inaugurate a reign of peace (Isaiah 9:7, Psalms 72:3; Psalms 72:7), and He Himself was to be ‘the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). In the Gospel story of His birth, the promise of peace heralds His advent (Luke 1:79), and ‘on earth peace’ is sung by the angels on the night in which He is born (Luke 2:14). His earthly ministry was a ministry and message of peace. ‘Have peace one with another’ was one of His injunctions (Mark 9:50), while of those who not merely live in peace, but are peace-makers (εἰρηνοποιοί), He said that they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9). ‘Peace’ was the salutation which both the Twelve and the Seventy were bidden to use when sent forth on their respective missions (Matthew 10:12 f., Luke 10:5 f.); it was the word spoken by Jesus Himself in dismissing those whom He had healed of their physical or moral plagues (Mark 5:34, Luke 7:50; Luke 8:48); and again the greeting with which He met His disciples after He was risen from the dead (Luke 24:36, John 20:19; John 20:21; John 20:26). And in all these cases it seems evident that ‘Peace be unto you!’ and ‘Go in peace!’ are not merely conventional forms of salutation or farewell, but refer to the blessings guaranteed by Jesus as the Christ of God.

And yet there is a sense in which Jesus came ‘not to send peace, but a sword’ (Matthew 10:34, cf. Luke 12:51). For there is a false peace (Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11); and with that He could have nothing to do. Jesus would never compromise, or permit His followers to compromise, with falsehood or error or sin; and so, in a world where these things abound, His coming inevitably meant division and struggle and suffering (cf. Luke 2:34-35). Yet, for all that, peace was the purpose of His mission, even though it had to be attained by sending forth a sword—sharp and twoedged, as the seer saw it (Revelation 1:16)—a sword which will ultimately secure the victory of the good in the conflict with evil, and bring in the peace that rests on righteousness (cf. Psalms 72:7; Psalms 85:10).

(2) Peace was a quality of Christ’s character.—The words ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you’ (John 14:27) strike one of the fundamental notes of His personal being as that is revealed to us in the Gospels. Men have been known to make bequests when they had nothing to leave; but peace was a blessing which Jesus had power to bestow, because it was His own peculiar possession. At the very centre of His earthly life, amidst all its vicissitudes, there always lies a profound peace, which is quite different from impassivity, for it is something vital and flowing like a strong calm river (cf. Isaiah 48:18). It was, without doubt, the magnetism of this peace-possessing and peace-diffusing strength of Jesus that drew troubled hearts around Him; and it was the consciousness of having it and being able to bestow it that inspired that most characteristic invitation, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).

This personal peace of Jesus must be distinguished, of course, from the peace of outward circumstances. When He said, ‘My peace I give unto you,’ He was just about to go forth to Gethsemane and the judgment-hall and the cross. But the peace He was conscious of lay deeper than all trials and sufferings, for it came from the assurance of a perfect union in thought and heart and will with His Father in heaven (John 14:11; John 14:20; John 14:31). Christ’s peace was like that of a white water-lily—tossed to and fro by the surface waves of the lake, but unshaken from its place because its roots are buried deep in the soil beneath (cf. Wordsworth, Excursion, v. 555). All through His earthly life He realized, as no other human being ever could, the full meaning of the prophet’s word, ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee’ (Isaiah 26:3).

(3) Peace is a characteristic blessing of the gospel of Christ.—Thus we find it constantly described when we pass from the Gospels to the Apostolic teaching. So characteristic of Christ’s gospel is it that this gospel is itself described by St. Paul as ‘the gospel of peace’ (Ephesians 6:15), and St. Peter in the Acts speaks of those who publish the message of salvation as ‘preaching good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ’ (Acts 10:36). ‘Peace,’ indeed, becomes, like grace, a virtual summary for gospel blessings, and so in the benedictory salutations of nearly every Apostolic writer it is combined with ‘grace’ as the distinctive gift of ‘God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 1:3, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2, 2 John 1:3, Judges 1:2).

It is St. Paul, however, who works out most fully the place of peace in the Christian gospel and its immediate relation to Christ Himself. With him ‘peace’ has two distinct meanings, corresponding to two different facts of Christian experience. (a) First, there is an objective peace—the peace of reconciliation with God through our Lord Jesus Christ—which follows as the result of being justified by faith (Romans 5:1 [Romans 5:1-11 show that the εἰρήνη of Romans 5:1 is the same as the καταλλαγή of Romans 5:11], Ephesians 2:14-17; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). (b) Next, there is a subjective peace—the peace of conscious fellowship with God—which results from a living union with Christ the Saviour. This subjective peace finds its ground in the objective peace of reconciliation, but it is clearly distinguished from it. The other is ‘peace with God’ (Romans 5:1); this is ‘the peace of God which passeth all understanding’ (Philippians 4:7). This inward peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), it forms part of our joy in believing (Romans 15:13), it is a power that guards our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). And it is of this peace, as a glad sense of sonship and trust wrought in the soul by Jesus Christ, that the Apostle is thinking when he writes: ‘The Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times, in all ways’ (2 Thessalonians 3:16).

Literature.—The Lexx. of Grimm-Thayer and Cremer; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , art. ‘Peace’; Weiss, Bib. Theol. of NT, i. 449 ff.; Sanday-Headlam, ‘Romans’ in ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] , on 5:1; Beet, Romans, ib.; J. T. Jacob, Christ the Indweller (1902), 209; J. Martineau, Endeavours after the Chr. Life, 54; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, 3rd ser. 130, The Human Race, 305; E. B. Pusey, Par. and Cath. Ser. 1, 431; J. H. Thom, Laws of Life, 9, 159, 172; Phillips Brooks, The Law of Growth, 219; J. B. Lightfoot, Serm. in St. Paul’s Cath. 136; W. C. E. Newbolt, Penitence and Peace (1892).

J. C. Lambert.

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

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