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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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1. Healing property of shadow.-The shadow of St. Peter had the property of healing the sick (Acts 5:15). Similarly, articles of clothing touched by St. Paul caused disease and evil spirits to depart from the afflicted (Acts 19:12), just as those who touched the border of Christ’s garment were healed (Mark 6:56, Luke 8:44). Even the name of Jesus was effectual in some cases (Acts 3:6; Acts 4:10). The therapeutic power of suggestion in all such instances is recognized by modern psychology.

2. The metaphysical use of the term ‘shadow.’-This use occurs in Hebrews (Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 10:1), affording an interesting link with the Epistle to the Colossians, where St. Paul declares that the Jewish ceremonial observances were but ‘a shadow of the things to come (σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων); but the body is Christ’s’ (Colossians 2:17). Here ‘shadow’ is contrasted with ‘body,’ or substantial reality. The ‘things to come’ are the Christian dispensation, which from the Jewish standpoint, was yet in the future. Christianity embodies the Divine reality, whereas Mosaism was only a ‘shadow’ cast temporarily into human history by the ‘body,’ the eternal fact of the heavenly Christ yet to be revealed. The interpretation of Calvin, that ‘shadow’ means the sketch of which Christianity is the finished picture, is unlikely when the occurrence and significance of the term in Hebrews are taken into consideration. The fundamental conception of this Epistle is the Alexandrian one that there are two worlds or orders of things, a higher and a lower-the one heavenly, eternal, and real; the other earthly, temporal, and merely phenomenal. The material, sensible world is not the real, but only the shadowy copy of the heavenly pattern. This conception the writer of Hebrews takes up and fills with a religious content. The Mosaic Law, so reverenced by the Jews, has only ‘a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things’ (Hebrews 10:1). Here ‘shadow’ (σκιά) is contrasted with ‘image’ (εἰκών). Judaism is the ‘shadow,’ Christianity is the ‘very image’ of the good things. The Christian religion gives us possession of the reality only dimly foreshadowed in the Jewish system. The Law is a shadow, inseparable indeed from the eternal image; but in comparison with that reality, it is only a dim flickering and transient outline, lacking the abiding substantiality and content of that which cast it. Furthermore, the priests of the Levitical system only ‘serve a copy’ (ὑπόδειγμα) and shadow (σκιά) of the heavenly things’ (Hebrews 8:5). The tabernacle itself was made by Moses only according to the ‘pattern’ (τύπον) of the heavenly original, the ‘true tabernacle’ pitched by God (Hebrews 8:2). Like every other part of the Levitical system, the tabernacle was only a ‘copy,’ the ‘pattern’ (τύπον) of which exists eternally in heaven. This use of the term ‘shadow’ in contrast with ‘image’ is more than an illustration taken from article It may well be that, but it seems rather an explanation of Christian truth by means of the categories of Platonic and Philonic philosophy. Plato’s famous allegory of the Cave (Rep. vii. 514), wherein men are described as seeing on the wall of the den but the shadows of real objects passing outside, illustrates his theory of Ideas. The relation of eternal realities (archetypal Ideas) to visible things is like the relation between substantial bodies and their transient shadows. This theory was taken up by the Alexandrian philosophy, and the OT is explained by Philo in terms of this Hellenistic speculation. The writer of Hebrews, who shows many signs of Alexandrian influence, uses throughout his Epistle this Philonic form of thought to show the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Judaism is but a ‘shadow,’ Christianity is the very ‘image’ embodying and expressing God’s eternal purpose concerning mankind.

M. Scott Fletcher.

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

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

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Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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