Old Testament Salvation—From What? -- By: René A. López

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 16:2 (Autumn 2003)
Article: Old Testament Salvation—From What?
Author: René A. López

Old Testament Salvation—From What?

René A. López

Iglesia Bautista Las Naciones
Dallas, Texas

I. Introduction

Few would disagree that the subject of salvation is one of the most important themes in the Bible—so important that many theologians have subordinated all other themes under it.1 And yet more confusion exists over the meaning of the words save and salvation than almost any other terms in the Bible.2

Cultural influences and contextual evidence, especially in the OT, are often ignored when determining the meaning of these terms. Therefore, the purpose of this article will be to establish the meaning of the terms save (yāŝaʿ) and salvation (yes̆ûʿâ)3 from their Hebraic origins—not in light of the NT. In order to verify whether the term salvation underwent any changes in its translation from Hebrew to Greek, the

Septuagint will also be examined. Finally, extra-biblical documents will be surveyed in order to see how these terms were used in secular sources, which were contemporaneous with the OT.

II. The Old Testament Use of Salvation

To begin, one must ask if the Hebrew terms for save and salvation in the OT ever mean saved from eternal condemnation. In the OT, the covenant people were “heaven bound” by trusting in God’s promise of Messiah.4 However, they still needed to be delivered (saved) from sickness, enemies, pre-mature death, general problems or covenantal restitution due to sin (cf. Deuteronomy 28–30).5

The stem of the verb save (yāŝaʿ) originally meant “to be roomy, broad,” which is the opposite of the concepts of “oppression” or “narrowness.” As a result, “to be constricted, [and] oppressed” seems to be the “rescue” one needs by “moving out into the open.”6 This is the basic

concept behind the usages of save and salvation in the OT. That is, since sin, enemies, and calamities are restrictions that hinder, rescue is needed to release one from these restrictions.


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