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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Punishment

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The word ‘punishment’ is employed to translate κόλασις (1 John 4:18 RV_) and τιμωρία (Hebrews 10:29). The corresponding verbs κολάζω and τιμωρέω, translated ‘punish,’ are used indiscriminately (Acts 4:21; 2 Peter 2:9; cf. Acts 22:5; Acts 26:11); so that the classical distinction, exemplified in Plato and Aristotle, between τιμωρία, which regarded the retributive suffering, and κόλασις, which regarded the correction of the offender, can hardly be pressed in the case of NT usage (for the distinction, see R. C. Trench, Synonyms of the NT8, London, 1876). Other words translated ‘punishment’ are δίκη (2 Thessalonians 1:9 RV_), ἐκδίκησις (1 Peter 2:14, ‘vengeance’ in RV_), and ἐπιτιμία (2 Corinthians 2:6).

The term ‘punishment’ (Lat. pCEna) may be defined as pain or suffering inflicted in expiation of a crime or offence by an authority to which the offender is subject. The authority inflicting it may be human or Divine. The human authority may be civil or ecclesiastical. Human authority to inflict punishment is ultimately derived from a Divine source.

1. Punishment inflicted by human authority.-Under this head may be mentioned (a) that inflicted by civil authority. Roman magistrates, under the supremacy of the Emperor, in so far as they administered just laws, are regarded as executors of the Divine wrath or vengeance against evil-doers, and submission to their jurisdiction is made imperative on members of the Apostolic Church (1 Peter 2:14; cf. Romans 13:1-5).

(b) That inflicted by ecclesiastical authority. (α) In the Jewish Church, the supreme Sanhedrin at Jerusalem and local Sanhedrins claimed and exercised the right to punish persons adjudged guilty of contumacy, schism (αἵρεσις), or seducing the people. On the basis of such charges it was sought to make the apostles and others who adhered to their doctrine and fellowship amenable to punishment (Acts 4:21; Acts 22:25; Acts 26:11). (β) In the exercise of discipline, the members of a Christian church, acting as a judicial body, were vested with the power to inflict censure, or the severer punishment of exclusion from the fellowship of the Church, on every brother who walked disorderly (1 Corinthians 5:3-5, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 2 Thessalonians 3:6). In carrying out the sentence of exclusion, the name and authority of Christ, as King and Head of the Church, were solemnly invoked. While the extreme penalty of exclusion was called punishment (ἐπιτιμία, 2 Corinthians 2:6; ἐκδίκησις, 2 Corinthians 7:11), the object of its infliction was the ultimate restoration of the offender to Church privileges (2 Corinthians 2:6 f.; cf. 2 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 13:10).

2. Divine punishment.-In passages in which the term occurs it is conceived as eschatological. (a) It is associated with the Intermediate State. (α) According to representations derived from apocalyptic literature, the fallen angels are depicted as undergoing punishment in Tartarus while awaiting the Final Judgment (2 Peter 2:9; cf. 2 Peter 2:4, Judges 1:6; 1 Peter 3:19). (β) The inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain have been continually subjected to punishment since the period when it was first inflicted upon them in the time of Lot (Judges 1:7 RV_).

(b) Punishment is associated with the Parousia. (α) At the Second Advent the heathen and unbelieving Jews who have persecuted or ill-used members of the Church are to receive the due reward of their deeds. The punishment meted out to them is more particularly defined as ‘eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might’ (2 Thessalonians 1:9 RV_). (β) Apostates from the Christian faith, being guilty of wilful sin, for which no further sacrifice is provided, are liable under the New Covenant to far severer punishment at Christ’s Return than that which overtook offenders under the Old Covenant (Hebrews 10:29 f.; cf. Hebrews 10:37).

The primary purpose of punishment, human or Divine, is to vindicate the law, and uphold the moral order of the world, which, in the absence of such sanction. would fail to command the respect of the law-breaker. Punishment may also be imposed with a view to reform the offender or to deter others from the commission of like offences by making an example of him. It must be maintained, however, that even should punishment fail to exercise a corrective or deterrent effect, its infliction as righteous retribution would still be justified (see W. N. Clarke, An Outline of Christian Theology, Edinburgh, 1898, pp. 253-255, and R. Mackintosh, Christianity and Sin, London, 1913, p. 215). Punishment is the natural correlate and consequence of guilt. It presupposes that the wrong-dcer is responsible for the acts which have exposed him to it, and justly merits its infliction. Divine punishment is the reaction of God’s holy nature against sin. It is the outward manifestation of the Divine wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. As the manifestation of God’s just resentment, it is mainly, though not exclusively (in opposition to Ritschl, see A. E. Garvie, The Ritschlian Theology2, Edinburgh, 1902, pp. 307-310), eschatological. Punishment by itself, i.e. apart from disclosures of Divine grace, leading to ‘the apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ’ (Shorter Catechism, A. 87), has no redemptive or remedial effects upon the character, and cannot produce repentance (Romans 2:4; Romans 4:15, 2 Corinthians 7:10). Doubtless it is for this reason that the future punishment of the impenitent is never regarded as tending to the purification of the sufferers. Whatever possibilities the eternal future may have in store, the NT draws a veil over the fate of those who have failed to improve the opportunity afforded by the dispensation under which men are now living.

Literature.-For theories of punishment, in addition to works referred to in art._ see F. H. Bradley, Ethical Studies, London, 1876, ch. i; J. Seth, A Study of Ethical Principles10, do., 1908, pp. 320-323; Borden P. Bowne, Principles of Ethics, New York, 1892, ch. x; G. F. Barbour, A Philosophical Study of Christian Ethics, Edinburgh and London, 1911, pp. 285-291, 409 f.

W. S. Montgomery.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Punishment'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/p/punishment.html. 1906-1918.

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