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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Will; Volition

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vṓ - lish´un ( אבה , 'ābhāh , רצון , rācōn ; θέλω , thélō βούλομαι , boúlomai , θέλημα , thélēma ): "Will" as noun and verb, transitive and intrans, carries in it the idea of "wish," "purpose," "volition." "Will" is also used as an auxiliary of the future tense of other words, but the independent verb is frequent, and it is often important to distinguish between it and the mere auxiliary, especially in the New Testament.

In the Old Testament the word chiefly rendered "to will" is 'ābhāh , "to breathe after," "to long for." With the exception of Job 39:9 ; Isaiah 1:19 , it is accompanied by a negation, and is used of both man and God. Several other words are employed, but only sparsely. "Will" as noun is the translation chiefly of rācōn , "good-will," "willfulness" (Genesis 49:6 ), with emphasis on the voluntariness of action (Leviticus 1:3 ; Leviticus 19:5 ; Leviticus 22:19 , Leviticus 22:29 , etc.); also of nephesh , and a few other words. In the New Testament "will" is chiefly the translation of thelō and boulomai , the difference between the two being that thelo expresses an active choice or purpose, boulomai , "passive inclination or willingness, or the inward predisposition from which the active choice proceeds" (compare Mark 15:9 , Mark 15:12 with Mark 15:15 ). "Will," noun, is thelēma . With the exception of a few passages, it is used of the will of God (over all, Matthew 18:14 ; in all things to be done, Matthew 6:10 ; Matthew 26:42 parallel, etc.; ordering all things, Ephesians 1:11 , etc.); human will, however, may oppose itself to the will of God (Luke 23:25 ; John 1:13 ; Romans 7:18 ; here the capacity to will is distinguished from the power to do , etc.). Boulēma is properly counsel or purpose. While it is possible to oppose the will of God, His counsel or purpose cannot be frustrated (Acts 2:23 ; Acts 4:28 ; Romans 9:19 ; Ephesians 1:11 ; Hebrews 6:17 ); it may, however, be resisted for a time (Luke 7:30 ).

In Apocrypha, for "will" we have thelēma (1 Esdras 9:9 (of God); Sirach 43:16 ; 1 Maccabees 3:60 ; Sirach 8:15 , "his own will"); boulē (The Wisdom of Song of Solomon 9:13 , the Revised Version (British and American) "counsel); boúlēma ( 2 Maccabees 15:5 , "wicked will," the Revised Version (British and American) "cruel purpose"); "willful" (Sirach 30:8 ) is proalḗs , the Revised Version (British and American) "headstrong"; "willing" (The Wisdom of Song of Solomon 14:19 ), boulomai , the Revised Version (British and American) "wishing"; thelō ( Sirach 6:35 ); "wilt" (The Wisdom of Song of Solomon 12:18 ), thelō , the Revised Version (British and American) "hast the will" (compare 2 Maccabees 7:16 ).

The Revised Version (British and American) has many changes, several of them of note as bringing out the distinction between the auxiliary and the independent verb. Thus, Matthew 11:27 , "willeth to"; John 7:17 , "if any man willeth to do his will"; 1 Timothy 6:9 , the American Standard Revised Version "they that are minded to be rich," the English Revised Version "desire," etc.

The words employed and passages cited show clearly that man is always regarded as a responsible being, free to will in harmony with the divine will or contrary to it. This is further shown by the various words denoting refusal. "Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life" (John 5:40 ). So with respect to temptation. We may even choose and act deliberately in opposition to the will of God. Yet God's counsel, His will in its completeness, ever prevails, and man, in resisting it, deprives himself of the good it seeks to confer upon him.

In modern psychology the tendency is to make will primary and distinctive of personality.

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Will; Volition'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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