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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Voice (2)

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1. Introductory.—The Gr. word of which ‘voice’ is a rendering in the NT is φωνή. In the Authorized Version other renderings are sometimes given: as ‘sound’ (John 3:8) and ‘noise’ (Revelation 6:1) [but cf. Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 where this inconsistency is generally removed* [Note: Cf., however, Matthew 24:31 (‘sound’ both in AV and RV).] ]. The Gr. word is sometimes used of inarticulate utterance (= ‘sound’), e.g. of trumpet, Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 14:7 (‘things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp,’ etc., Authorized Version ‘sound’ here), Revelation 14:2 (‘voice of many waters,’ Authorized Version and Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ), John 3:8 of the wind (‘thou hearest the voice thereof,’ Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ), etc.; sometimes of articulate utterance, ascribed to God (Matthew 3:17 etc.), and, naturally, to men (Matthew 3:3 e.g.).

φωνή is often used in such combinations as τὴν φωνὴν αἴρειν (ἐπαίρειν) = ‘to lift up the voice’ (e.g. Luke 17:13; Luke 11:27), with the general meaning ‘to cry out,’ ‘call’; φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, ‘with a great (loud) voice,’ is often added to verbs; see the Lexx. and cf. art. Cry.

The ‘voice’ of God and the ‘voice’ of Christ are referred to in various connexions (some eschatological). Jesus compares the call which He makes to that of the shepherd to his sheep (John 10:3-5 ‘the sheep hear his voice’; cf. John 10:16; John 10:27, John 18:37); in an eschatological connexion, Revelation 3:20 (‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me’); of the resurrection cry, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (the voice of the archangel awakening the dead; cf. John 5:25; John 5:28, the voice of Christ awakening the spiritually dead). The voice of God is spoken of as admonishing in the OT Scriptures (John 5:37, Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7), and as ‘shaking the earth’ (Hebrews 12:26).

An antithesis is drawn by Gr. writers (esp. Plutarch) between φωνή and λόγος, and this was afterwards transferred by the Fathers (Origen, Augustine) to John the Baptist and Christ, ‘the first claiming for himself no more than to be “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (John 1:23), the other emphatically declared to be the Word which was with God and was God (John 1:1).’ See, further, Trench, NT Synonyms, § lxxxix., where Augustine’s interesting disquisition on this contrast is summarized.

2. The Voice from Heaven.

(a) In the NT.—A ‘voice from heaven’ is mentioned in the Synoptics in Matthew 3:17 || (φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν), in the narrative of the Baptism (‘And lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’), and again in Matthew 17:5 || in the narrative of the Transfiguration a ‘voice out of the cloud’ is spoken of (‘And behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying,’ etc.). In both cases, as Dalman (Words of Jesus, p. 204) has pointed out, the mention of the heavens and the cloud is derived from the context, and both representations are due ‘to the Evangelic narrative and not to the words of Jesus.’ In the Fourth Gospel one reference occurs, viz. in John 12:28 ‘There came therefore a voice out of heaven, saying,’ etc.; and it is mentioned several times in the Apocalypse (Revelation 10:4; Revelation 10:8; Revelation 14:2; Revelation 18:4 etc.)—in all these passages introducing a heavenly revelation.

(b) In Rabbinical literature.—The ‘Heavenly Voice’ is frequently met with in Rabbinical literature under the designation Bath Kol (‘daughter-voice’). Here also it often introduces a Divine revelation. The Bath Kol was one of the means used by God for imparting a revelation. It was heard all through Biblical times, and, in fact, oftenest during the classical period of Israel’s history before prophecy was extinguished, and while the Holy Spirit was abiding in its fulness among the people (symbolized by the Temple). Thus at the death of Moses a Bath Kol was heard saying: ‘Fear thou not, Moses! I myself will care for thy burial’ (Deut. R. on xxxiv.). But it also survived beyond the Biblical period, and was regarded as the only means of Divine revelation then operative (Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] Sota, 48b; Yoma, 9b). In time, however, it fell into disrepute, owing, perhaps, to the assiduous way in which it came to be looked for and appealed to by certain teachers as a means of further revelations; and by the Rabbis of the 2nd cent. it was decided that ‘no attention is to be paid to it when arrogating to decide against the moral conviction of the majority. The Torah is not in heaven. Its interpretation is left to the conscience of catholic Israel.’* [Note: Schechter, ‘Rabbinic Parallels to the NT,’ JQR xii. 426 (April 1900).]

A distinction must be drawn between the true Bath Kol—the Heavenly Voice which proceeded really and miraculously from God Himself directly—and the secondary Bath Kol, which was merely ‘a human utterance heard by some chance, to which was attributed the significance of a Divine intimation’ (Dalman). In the former of these senses the expression is used to denote audible speech, appealing to the faculty of hearing, uttered by God Himself. Only, the Rabbis shrank from saying baldly, ‘God said so and so,’ and made use of the phrase ‘A Bath Kol came (or was given)’ instead. The phrase, like many others, is merely precautionary, nor has it any hypostatic significance.

One striking feature about the revelations conveyed by the Bath Kol is that these were usually expressed not in original words, but in some verse or sentence taken from the Hebrew OT or (in some cases) from the Apocryphal books. Thus it is said that when the Rabbinical authorities proposed to include King Solomon among the finally lost, a Bath Kol was heard saying in the words of Job 34:33 ‘Shall his recompense be as thou wilt, that thou refusest it?’ [Note: Cited by Schechter (op. cit. ib.). There are many other instances.]

(c) Significance of the Heavenly Voice in the NT.—Parallel with the true Bath Kol, which was regarded as one of the organs of Divine revelation, is the Heavenly Voice, heard at the Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22), at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35), before the Passion (John 12:28), as well as that heard by St. Peter and again by St. Paul (Acts 9:4, cf. Acts 22:7 and Acts 26:14; Acts 10:13; Acts 10:15). It is to be noticed that the Voice at the Baptism and the Transfiguration combines two sentences of Scripture (Psalms 2:7 and Isaiah 41:1) quite in the manner of the Bath Kol spoken of in Rabbinical literature. An audible voice solemnly affirming or introducing a Divine revelation seems to be intended in every case.

The NT formula ἦλθεν εὖν φωνὴ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (John 12:28, cf. Revelation 10:4; Revelation 10:8; Revelation 18:4 etc.) is the equivalent of the Rabbinical Hebrew יצאה בח קול מן השמים and the Aram. Aramaic נפקת ברת קלא מן שמיא. In later Rabbinical literature the expression was abbreviated (‘from heaven’ being omitted), but its significance remained unaltered. For parallels in the extra-canonical literature of the OT, cf. Jub 17:15, Bk. of Enoch lxv. 4, 2 (4) Esther 6:13 f. ‘God’s. Voice,’ i.e. the Heavenly Voice, is, of course, the correlative of ‘God’s Word’ or ‘Speech’ (the Memra of J″ [Note: ″ Jehovah.] . מֵימְדָא דַיָי, דִּבּוּרָא). Cf. Bousset, Rel. d. Judges 1:2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] p. 362 f.

The attempt of Edersheim (LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Edersheim].] i. p. 285 f.) to discredit ‘any real analogy’ between the Bath Kol and the Voice from Heaven mentioned in the Gospels is unwarranted. His contention that the Bath Kol could not be represented as accompanying the descent of the Holy Spirit is shown by the facts adduced above to be baseless. On the contrary, it would only be natural to represent the revival of prophecy and the return in full power of the Holy Spirit as including also the mode of revelation expressed by the ‘Daughter-Voice.’ Only so would the scale of revelation be complete.

Literature.—The Lexx. s.v. φωνή, esp. Grimm-Thayer and Schleusner. To the important literature on Bath Kol already cited in the body of the article, add art. ‘Bath Kol’ in JE [Note: E Jewish Encyclopedia.] (with the literature cited at end) and in PRE [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] ii. 443 f. (by Dalman); Weber, Jüd. Theol.2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] (reff. in Index). The passages relating to בת קול have been collected by Pinner in his ed. of Berakhoth (Berlin, 1842), pp. 22–24; an elaborate presentment of the data with full discussion is given by E. A. Abbott in From Letter to Spirit (1903), pp. 139–460; add also Lightfoot, Hor., Heb. on Matthew 3:17.

G. H. Box.

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

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