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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Enlightenment is the intellectual and moral effect produced in the spiritual experience of believers by the reception of the Christian revelation. Objectively, it is called ‘the light (φωτισμός, Revised Version margin ‘illumination’) of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). The gospel is God calling us ‘out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9). In the Fourth Gospel Christ claims to be ‘the light of the world,’ τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμον (John 8:12; John 9:5). Even before His Incarnation, as the Divine Logos, He is said to have been the informing principle of both life and truth within humanity, ‘the true light which lighteth (φωτίζει) every man’ (John 1:9). Subjectively, specific Christian enlightenment arises in the consciousness of those who actually embrace the truth revealed in the person, teaching, and work of the historic Christ. It is no mere intellectual illumination whereby abstract or doctrinal truth is understood. St. Paul regards it as a gift of spiritual insight into the Divine nature and redemptive purposes. It is God’s bestowal of ‘a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him’; it is ‘having the eyes of your heart enlightened (πεφωτισμένους) that ye may know’ (Ephesians 1:17 f.). This spiritual insight manifests itself in action. It has ethical as well as intellectual results. ‘The fruit of the light (ὁ καρπὸς τοῦ φωτὸς) is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth;’ hence the enlightened ‘walk as children of light’ (Ephesians 5:8 f.). St. Paul calls his early converts ‘sons of light,’ υἱοί φωτός, and concludes, ‘Let us, since we are of the day, be sober’ (1 Thessalonians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:8).

Two passages in Hebrews (Hebrews 6:1-5; Hebrews 10:32), which presuppose this enlightenment, call for special attention because they have been thought to contain reference ‘to baptism on the one hand, and to the pagan Mysteries on the other. That there is some allusion to baptism in Hebrews 6:4 is quite probable, for the two expressions, ‘once enlightened,’ and ‘made partakers of the Holy Ghost,’ correspond respectively to the preceding expressions in v. 2, ‘teaching of baptisms’ and ‘laying on of hands.’ As instruction in Christian truth formed part of the preparation of catechumens for baptism, the rite itself attested the enlightenment resulting there-from. It is a well-known fact that the terms ‘baptism’ and ‘enlightenment’ soon after apostolic times became synonymous. Syriac versions of the NT render the word ‘enlightened’ in both Hebrews 6:4 and Hebrews 10:32 by ‘baptized.’ As early as Justin Martyr 150 ‘enlightenment’ had become a recognized term for baptism. In his Apology (i. 61), after speaking of baptism as a ‘new birth’ (ἀναγέννησις), Justin says: ‘And this washing is called enlightenment (καλεῖται δὲ τοῦτο τὸ λουτρὸν φωτισμός) because those who learn these things [i.e. the Christian teaching] have their understanding enlightened.’ He also, in the same passage, calls the recently baptized ‘the newly enlightened.’ Later patristic writers, understanding ‘enlightened’ in Hebrews 6:4 to mean ‘baptized,’ inferred from the expression, ‘those who were once (ἅπαξ, ‘once for all’) enlightened … it is impossible to renew,’ that it was inadmissible to rebaptize, while the Montanists and Novatians went so far as to deny the possibility of absolution for those who sinned after baptism, holding that baptism in the blood of martyrdom alone would avail in the case of flagrant sin.

In reference to the Mysteries, it may be said to be probable that the term ‘enlightened,’ occurring in these two passages, is one of the many NT words which reproduce the phraseology made current by these pagan cults. In Hebrews 6:1-5 ‘enlightened ‘occurs among quite a number of other terms or ideas which were current in connexion with the Mysteries. For instance, ‘perfection’ (τελειότης), or ‘full growth’ (Revised Version margin), was the technical term for the state of the fully initiated (οἱ τἑλειοι) into one or other of these cults. The mention of ‘baptisms’ in this connexion reminds us that the Mysteries also had lustrations among their initiatory rites. The twice-mentioned ‘tasting’ suggests the symbolic tasting and eating in the pagan ceremonies. The expressions ‘made partakers of the Holy Ghost’ and tasting ‘the powers of the age to come’ recall the fact that the ideas of a possible participation in the Divine nature and a future life were central in the symbolism of all the Mysteries, however crudely or even repulsively set forth. A. S. Carman draws attention (Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 1. [1893]) to the use made by the NT of terminology drawn from the Mysteries. G. Anrich contends (Das antike Mysterienwesen, 1893) that no direct dependence of Christianity upon the Mysteries could be established. A more complete knowledge of the nature and diffusion of mystery-cults in apostolic times, together with the recognition of additional terms in the NT vocabulary drawn from them, makes it easier to accept the recent opinion of Clemen (Primitive Christianity and its non-Jewish Sources, 1912, p. 345) concerning Hebrews 6:4 that ‘the expression φωτίζειν, which also occurs in Hebrews 10:32 and then in Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:9, 2 Timothy 1:10, is borrowed from the language of the Mysteries: and this is the more probable seeing that in the Mysteries there was also a sacred meal, and in Hebrews 6:4 “tasting” and “enlightened “are associated.’

In relation to the dependence which the NT shows in this subject, as in others, upon both the phraseology and religious ideas of earlier and lower cults, it must be borne in mind that a richer and fuller content has been poured by Christianity into those pagan forms of expression, and that here, as in the case of the Jewish Law, Christ came ‘not to destroy, but to fulfil.’

Literature.-On the relation of enlightenment to baptism in Hebrews 6:4; Hebrews 10:32 see Comm. of B. F. Westcott, F. W. Farrar, A. B. Davidson, A. S. Peake, E. C. Wickham, and article ‘Baptism (Early Christian)’ by Kirsopp Lake in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics . On the connexion between Christianity aniline Mysteries generally see, in addition to works mentioned above, S. Cheetham, The Mysteries, Pagan and Christian, 1897; R. Reitzenstein, Die hellenistischen Mysterienreligionen, 1910; P. Gardner, The Religious Experience of Saint Paul, 1911, ch. iv. on ‘The Pauline Mystery’; H. A. A. Kennedy, St. Paul and the Mystery-Religions, 1913; articles by W. M. Ramsay on ‘Mysteries’ in Encyclopaedia Britannica 9 and ‘Religion of Greece and Asia Minor’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , vol. v. p. 109; articles on ‘Mystery’ by A. Stewart in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , by G. A. Jülicher in Encyclopaedia Biblica , and by B. W. Bacon in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels . See also A. Loisy’s article ‘The Christian Mystery’ in HJ [Note: J Hibbert Journal.] , Oct. 1911.

M. Scott Fletcher.

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

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