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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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VOWS.—A vow (votum, εὐχή) is a promise made to God (‘promissio Deo facta,’ Thom. Aquin. ii. ii. Q. 88). It is a perfectly natural, and indeed inevitable, expression of religious feeling wherever there is a conception of a personal God with whom men come into any kind of relationship. Thus vows form part of the great pre-Christian and non-Christian religious systems. They are of two kinds: (1) vows made in hope of receiving some desired good, or of delivery from some special danger; and (2) vows of devotion made in expectation of attaining closer relationship with God. In the OT we have examples of (1) in Genesis 28:22; Genesis 28:22, Judges 11:30, 1 Samuel 1:11. Such vows may involve the dedication to God of a person, an animal, a field, a house or other property. Accurate laws were made for the regulating of such vows and the defining of persons competent to make them (Leviticus 27, Numbers 30:1 ff.). Of (2) the Nazirite vow taken for life (Judges 16:17) or for a fixed period (Numbers 6:13) is an example.

In our Lord’s teaching there is only one mention of vows (Matthew 15:4 ff. || Mark 7:10 ff.). Here He rebukes in the severest manner the making of vows which interfere with the simple and obvious duties of man to man, and, as may be gathered from the Rabbinical teaching on Corban, hypocritical vows which were not meant to be kept. He says nothing about the making and keeping of justifiable and proper vows. It is therefore in accordance with a natural religious instinct and with the assumption of the rightness of making vows which underlies our Lord’s rebuke of the Pharisaical abuse of them, that the Church subsequently imposed vows upon candidates for baptism. The baptismal vow is in reality a dedication of the whole person to God, and is in harmony with the general spirit of the gospel as well as with the Apostolic teaching (Romans 5:11; Romans 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 7:16-17). The various monastic vows were supposed to be analogous to the OT Nazirite vow, and were regarded as means of attaining specially close communion with God.

Literature.—Robertson Smith, RS [Note: S Religion of the Semites.] 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 1894; Rothe, Theol. Ethik, vol. iii. [1848]; Zockler, Krit. Gesch. der Askese; Daab, Die Zulässigkeit der Gelübden, 1896; Ramsay, ‘Greek of Early Church and Pagan Ritual’ in ExpT [Note: xpT Expository Times.] x. (1899) 13.

J. O. Hannay.

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

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