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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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PREMEDITATION.1. There is frequent evidence of this quality in the teachings of Christ, and in the experiences of His life. Regarding Him simply on the common level of humanity, as for this faculty we necessarily must, there is little ground for the assertion so often made that He was an enthusiast, dependent on the inspiration of the moment. The occasional intuitions of the Divine are no explanation of the great body of His teaching. There is an inborn forethought, a native endowment of premeditation, that, humanly speaking, goes to the building up of His greatest thoughts, uttered or wrought. No accident or impulse gave birth to the Sermon on the Mount. Its varied teachings, the keywords of a spiritual and moral revolution yet to be effected in the world, strike one as the result of most careful observation, comparison, and imagination—all the product of patient premeditation. From His entrance into the active Gospel story, in that prelude of the Boy in the Temple, to the calm strength with which He faced the last days, it is a gift of deep insight into human probabilities that we look upon. The Saviour of men foresees His task—its glories, and its awful cost.

As a boy He is surprised that His parents have not seen this, and known that His thoughts were so fixed on Divine things that in the looked-for Jerusalem He is sure to be found about the Temple and the teachers. ‘How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?’ (Luke 2:49). He ‘cometh unto John to be baptized of him’ with the decision already thought out that ‘thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:13-17 || Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22). The choice of the passage from Isaiah as the text of His first sermon at Nazareth (Luke 4:18) is too distinctive to have been the chance of an opening of the roll. The more often we read and weigh it, sentence by sentence, word by word, the more wonderfully true do we find it as a summary of our Lord’s mission. What care, what hesitation, must have preceded the selection of the twelve Apostles, and the delivering of that high commission that rings down through the ages with a strange attraction to all set apart for ministry. Only the deepest premeditation could have given them such a full charge—to preach the Kingdom, raise the dead, and reveal the secret of life in the cross on the one hand, and on the other to recognize the disciple’s duty in the common needs of men, as in the giving of a cup of cold water (Matthew 9:37; Matthew 9:10 || Mark 3:13-15; Mark 6:7-12, Luke 9:1-6). He had found the incompleteness of the Law, and with deliberate purpose declared His mission to be one that was not to destroy but to fulfil: ‘Except your righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in nowise enter into the kingdom’ (Matthew 5:17; Matthew 5:20). He sees the divisions that will come because of the gospel (Luke 12:49), but, as One who has thought out every step of the way, it can be written of Him, ‘He set his face stedfastly to go to Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51). There He speaks of the inevitable destruction of the Temple and the officialism it had so long stood for (Matthew 24:1 || Mark 13:1, Luke 21:5); there He weeps over the lost possibilities of Jerusalem, that ancient home of faith (Luke 19:42); and there, from the midst of His own agony and sorrow, He can bid the women of the city weep for the downfall that is to come, ‘for yourselves and for your children’ (Luke 23:28). Dwelling upon prophetic visions, He portrays the signs that shall herald the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:29 || Luke 21:25).

But most notable of all His personal premeditations is that which gives expression to His passion and death. As One who walked beneath the shadow of the cross, His thoughts bear frequent witness to that silent companionship. He comes to the last Passover, and Peter and John are sent ahead with instructions that suggest a prepared understanding with the householder (Matthew 26:18 || Mark 14:13, Luke 22:7), thus giving us the beautiful and precious thought that the first of the long line of celebrations of the Lord’s Supper should have taken place in a room chosen beforehand by Christ Himself. The sufferings inherent in Messiahship are foreshadowed in His many utterances concerning the cross (Matthew 20:17-19 || Mark 10:32, Luke 18:31, Luke 9:22, Matthew 17:22-23 || Mark 9:31, Luke 9:44, John 12:23; John 16:16); the necessity for His imitators (disciples) to bear their cross (Matthew 16:24 || Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23; Luke 14:27); the certainty that He would be delivered up to His enemies (Matthew 26:21 || Mark 14:18, Luke 22:21, John 13:21); the desertion by His followers, who would leave Him alone, ‘and yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me’ (John 16:32, Matthew 26:31 || Mark 14:27, Luke 22:31, John 13:36). But He looked beyond the cross and saw the power of the risen life, and gave the promise of the Comforter, ‘the Spirit of Truth who would lead them into all truth’ (John 15:26; John 16:13). See also art. Plan.

There are occasions on which His teaching or His action seems entirely unpremeditated. The immediacy of an intuition is seen in His use of the opportunity given Him by the woman at the well (John 4:7), or in the call of Nathanael (John 1:28), or in the treatment of the woman taken in sin (John 8:1-7), or in the scene at Simon the Pharisee’s (Matthew 26:6-13 || Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50, John 12:1-8), or the freeing of the Sabbath from Rabbinic tyranny (Matthew 12:3 || Mark 2:25, Luke 6:3).

2. But Christ constantly advocates forethought, that yoke which brings ordered rest (Matthew 11:28). The builder who chooses his site carelessly may build on sand instead of solid foundations, and all the finely dreamed temple of his faith be brought to the ground (Matthew 7:24 || Luke 6:46); or he may commence a tower too great for him to finish, as a king may carelessly engage in a ruinous war (Luke 14:28 ff.). The parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price are the records of those who thoughtfully weigh all lesser things against the great adventure (Matthew 13:44-45). The parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins is obviously the story of premeditation and its worth. The Prodigal Son leaves nothing to chance when he thinks of returning: the very words with which he will meet his father are rehearsed (Luke 15:11). The first impulse of the Unjust Steward is to ask ‘What shall I do?’, and to form his plan which, though immoral in itself, shows a careful foresight that in its higher thought and morality is too often lacking in the Christian disciple; ‘The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light’ (Luke 16:1-8). The disciple who offers himself too readily is bidden to count the cost, and is reminded of the hardships: ‘The foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head’ (Matthew 8:20); and an unwearying watchfulness is demanded, that the servant may be ready whenever his Lord knocks (Luke 12:36). Strongly does Christ reprove those who watch the heavens for signs of weather and can read the skies, but cannot read the spirit of their day (Matthew 16:2 || Mark 8:12, Matthew 12:39 || Luke 11:29).

3. And yet how plainly Jesus sees that premeditation has its dangers, and may sap away the energies and effective values of a man’s life. It is easy to be over-cautious, to grow too anxious about the lesser things (Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:31 || Luke 12:22), giving all our thought to the care of these rather than of the life that is life indeed (cf. the parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:15-21). It was surely with this thought in mind that Jesus gave that command to His Apostles, ‘Get you no gold, nor silver’ (Matthew 10:9); and ‘when they deliver you up, be not anxious what ye shall speak’ (Matthew 10:19). Too calculating a spirit, too careful a measurement of possible dangers, too great a forethought as to an assured future different from that of other men, would paralyze the missionary spirit. The disciple must not be over-prudent: he must give himself ungrudgingly, and sow the seed broadcast, not being too careful about the purity and goodness of the ground in which he sows, even throwing some on the trodden pathways of the world, and on what seems the shallowest of soil (Matthew 13:1-9 || Mark 4:1-9, Luke 8:4-8).

Edgar Daplyn.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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

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