The Doctrine of Conscience -- By: Roger Douglass Congdon

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 102:408 (Oct 1945)
Article: The Doctrine of Conscience
Author: Roger Douglass Congdon

The Doctrine of Conscience

Roger Douglass Congdon

(Continued from the July-September Number, 1945)

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed material were numbered from 10–49 but are number 1–40 respectively in this electronic edition.}

Source Material

Use of the Term in the New Testament

We now come to a study of the word suneidēsis in its various uses in the New Testament. John 8:9 is the only occurrence in the Gospels. And this, we notice, is in a passage (7:53–8:ll) which is possibly not Johannine as such. Greek scholars are almost unanimous in their opinion that this section was added by another writer (a feature not affecting inspiration, of course), not only because it is not found in the most ancient manuscripts but also because the language is unlike John’s style. Nevertheless, the passage is enlightening to study. The phrase in which the word is found is hupo tēs suneidēseōs elegchomenoi, ‘by the conscience being convicted.’ The accusers were themselves accused by the memory of their own sins, and therefore departed from Jesus.

Paul at his trial in Jerusalem is addressing the Sanhedrin. Almost the first words he uses are pasē suneidēsei agathē, ‘in all conscience good.’ We note particularly that Paul’s ‘good conscience’ was tō Theō, ‘toward God’ (Acts 23:1). In Acts 24:16 Paul is at Caesarea before Felix. He uses ‘conscience’ in the same way as in Acts 23:1, but with an added thought. Here it is aproskopon suneidēsin, ‘without-offence conscience.’, We note that Paul ‘exercised himself’ in order to keep his conscience ‘without offence,’ and that not only ‘toward God’ but toward ‘men.’ The conscience void of offence toward ‘men’ evidently referred to his performance of Jewish formalities in Jerusalem to which he knew that he owed no obligation, except for the sake of those whom he

wished to win for Christ. The common Christian would feel perfectly free in ignoring such unnecessary formalities, but Paul’s tender conscience toward ‘men,’ that is, men who were yet ignorant of the truth, led him to perform all these things.

Romans 2:15 has s...

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