The Judgment-Day—When Is It? -- By: E. B. Fairfield

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 060:238 (Apr 1903)
Article: The Judgment-Day—When Is It?
Author: E. B. Fairfield


The Judgment-Day—When Is It?

E. B. Fairfield

Oberlin, Ohio

Heb. 9:27: “It is appointed to men once to die; but after this the judgment.”

IT is the object of this note to show that, if the passage quoted read, “It is appointed unto men once to die; but immediately after this their judgment,” it would more exactly and unequivocally express the meaning of the inspired writer.

I. This is proved by reference to the best Greek dictionaries. “Lid-dell and Scott is a fair representative of them all. The critical reader will find, by reference to this dictionary, that the Greek preposition which is here used (μετά) is followed by either the Genitive, Dative, or Accusative; and that it almost always expresses a close connection, but varies somewhat in its meaning, according as it is followed by one or another of the three cases. In the passage under investigation it is followed by the Accusative (μετὰ τοῦτο). And it is defined by Liddell and Scott (under No. III.) thus: 1. In order of place, after, next after, behind. … 2. In order of time, after, next to… . 3. In order of worth, rank, etc., next to, next after, after. Immediate sequence is, evidently, the ordinary meaning.

II. The usage of the New Testament writers is a strong argument in justification of the amended translation. If I have made no mistake in counting, μετά is used in the Greek Testament exactly ninety-nine times with the Accusative; and, leaving out the passage under consideration, it means “immediately after,” or “next after,” more than ninety times. In three or four cases it expresses the general fact of sequence, without indicating immediate sequence. So we come to this verse in Hebrews with μετά meaning “immediately after” about thirty times as often as it means simply “after.”

It would require more space than I have at command to refer to all the ninety odd instances; but a few of them may be taken as fair samples of the whole. Take the first verse of the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, which reads: “After six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart.” How long after six days? A week? or a month? or a year? Certainly, “immediately after” six days. All agree in this. The very object is to define the exact time. But if μετά means “after” in general, there is no exact statement of time. For any time within unnumbered years would have been “after six days.”...

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