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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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The word ‘voice’ (φωνή) is used in the NT of any tone or inarticulate sound, whether of animate beings or inanimate things, e.g. Luke 1:44, ‘the voice of thy salutation,’ or the sound of thunder, wind, water, and musical instruments. More frequently it implies the articulated utterance of a speaker, whether the speech be jargon or intelligible. The exact signification of φωνή-a very common word in early Christian literature-whether literal or metaphorical, articulate or inarticulate, is to be determined by the context.

In 1 Corinthians 14:1-19 St. Paul treats of the subject of tongues (q.v. [Note: .v. quod vide, which see.] ) and declares that mere articulation without intelligibility is of no moment. Even the sound of inanimate instruments such as the flute or the harp is useless, if there are no intervals in the music; for no air can be made out by the listener if the laws of harmony are ignored. Prophecy is superior to glossolalia because it conveys a spiritual message in language that can be understood. The Apostle adds, ‘There are ever so many kinds of language (γένη φωνῶν) in the world, every one of them meaning something’ (v. 10) (Moffatt, The NT: A New Translation, London, 1913). In his use of the word St. Paul includes both the speech of the human voice in its many languages and the notes of musical instruments.

In the Apocalypse φωνή is found very frequently. The formula ‘I heard a voice’ or ‘a great voice’ or ‘the voice that I heard’ (Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 5:11; Revelation 6:6-7; Revelation 9:13; Revelation 10:4; Revelation 10:8; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 14:2; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 16:1; Revelation 18:4; Revelation 19:1; Revelation 21:3) applies to the voice of God, or of the Lamb, or of the angel of Christ, or of one of the angels of the Presence or of the whole concourse of angels. The voice nearly always implies a personality, even when it is compared to ‘a trumpet speaking’ (Revelation 4:1); but it is applied to the utterance of the beasts (Revelation 6:5) as well as their riders (Revelation 6:8). It is to be noted that in the Apocalypse the voices of the unseen world frequently, though not invariably, convey a distinctive and intelligible message or aspiration or doxology.

In the NT φωνή θεοῦ, ‘the voice of God,’ which is equivalent to the command of God, is an expression found in Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7, all passages being quotations from the Septuagint (Psalms 94[95]:7); cf. Barn. viii. 7. The phrase ‘the voice of the Lord’ used in Psalms 29 metaphorically of thunder is quoted in Acts 7:31 by Stephen of God’s self-revelation to Moses.

For Bath Ḳol see article ‘Voice’ in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , article ‘Bat Ḳol’ in Jewish Encyclopedia , article ‘Bath Kol’ in PRE [Note: RE Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche.] 3 ii. 443 f., and G. Dalman, The Words of Jesus, Eng. translation , Edinburgh, 1902, p. 204 f.

‘The voice of God’-the command or call of God-to the soul is not in either OT or NT an audible message, but rather an inward impression wrought within the consciousness of the recipient by the operation of the Divine Spirit. The objectivity or otherwise of the accompanying phenomena, whether of vision or of sound, is to be determined by the evidence of the context. Take the classical example of the narratives of St. Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:1-22; Acts 22:3-16; Acts 26:9-18. Here we have an intense realization of the presence of the Risen Christ, of the actual words He addressed to the Apostle, and of a succeeding colloquy. To the Apostle’s consciousness the call of Christ took the form of an audible appeal and conversation, just as later on Augustine was to hear the ‘Tolle, lege,’ or authoritative command of God which resulted in his spiritual illumination. The phenomena of sound and speech were valid for the awakened soul in both cases, though the exact message was heard by each alone; cf. the statement that St. Paul’s companions ‘stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no man’ (Acts 9:7), i.e. they heard a sound, but no articulate utterance. It is easy to understand how the language of the senses-especially seeing and hearing-came to be metaphorically employed in all religious literatures to express the spiritual apprehension of the Divine and the Infinite. ‘Sometimes the symbol and the perception which it represents become fused in that [the surface] consciousness: and the mystic’s experience then presents itself to him as “visions” or “voices,” which we must look upon as the garment he has himself provided to veil that Reality upon which no man may look and live’ (E. Underhill, Mysticism2, p. 93).

Literature.-The student must consult dictionaries like Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , Thayer Grimm’s Gr.-Eng. Lexicon of the NT, and E. Preuschen’s Vollständiges griechdeut. Handwörterbuch zu den Schriften des NT, Giessen, 1908-10, for the passages where ‘voice’ occurs; but for the larger question of the relation of sensual perception to supersensual realities see E. Underhill, Mysticism2, London, 1911, passages quoted under ‘Auditions’ in the Index, p. 587.

R. Martin Pope.

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

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Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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