Date of Award
Dr. Scott Duvall
Professor Adam Jones
Professor Autumn Mortenson
Much discussion in today's evangelical culture includes or revolves around the biblical concept of ''glory." Many faithful teachers, pastors, and writers speak of its significance by urging Christian believers to behold God's glory, to glorify him through their daily lives, and to eagerly anticipate the day of their own glorification. These exhortations originate from the New Testament use of the Greek word, δόξα, and communicate the concept English readers understand as "glory" in all of the previously mentioned contexts and more. δόξα plays a significant role throughout the New Testament, appearing over 150 times and in all but four of its books. When believers distill its sweeping semantic range into several clear, properly understood definitions, a useful biblical theology ofglory emerges. This understanding provides the church with key insights into God's nature and his final plan for redeeming Creation.
Scholars agree that despite its scriptural prominence, "glory" has not received the academic attention it merits. Often, this results in readers who rely upon "preconceived cultural notions of glory" that are destined to fall sh011 ofthe biblical reality. Thankfully, several faithful scholars provide helpful expositions of the term, and each illuminates the biblical reality of "glory" in a unique way. Some authors define glory as a revelation of God's holy nature, while others consider it a life marked by God's presence, and still others define glory as the gift of God's Word to his people. This thesis draws from a variety of scholarly assessments of δόξα to help readers resist a faulty understanding of glory that only highlights one aspect of the term's multifaceted meaning.
Additionally, this thesis helps readers avoid the practice of gathering various explanations of "glory" and weaving them into a "one-size-fits-all" definition. Merging the definitions of δόξα poses a great danger to the accurate interpretation of the term. New Testament scholar Haley Goranson Jacob warns students and scholars alike against treating the meaning of any scriptural word or phrase as "a ForceFlex trash bag that just keeps stretching." This exegetical error, which Carson describes as "illegitimate totality transfer," and Duvall and Hays describe as the "overload fallacy," occurs when readers assume that a word takes on its whole range of meaning each time it appears. Those who consolidate the range of meanings for δόξα into one holistic definition aim for a full-bodied understanding of the term's theological richness. However, falling into the "overload fallacy" neglects both the literary context and the author's careful nuance. As a result, this fallacy obscures the true sense of δόξα.
When it comes to interpreting δόξα, the two concerns mentioned above reveal the essence of the problem. One extreme occurs when believers emphasize one aspect of δόξα to the neglect of others. The other occurs when believers fuse each of "glory's" domains together until the author's intended meaning becomes nebulously blurred. These concerns reveal the great need for a treatment of δόξα that provides lay Christians with a clear understanding of glory, a working knowledge of its various definitions, and a proper means of discerning the term's intended meaning within its particular context. This thesis serves this purpose by surveying the use of δόξα in the New Testament and providing three primary categories through which its meaning can be understood: a descriptor of physical appearance, a descriptor of God's nature and presence, or an indicator of status or praise. These three categories correspond with the three main sections of the paper and address each category's domains and subdomains.
The first category, δόξα as a state of physical appearance, is fairly straightforward and consists of one central domain. However, the second and third categories -(2) δόξα as an indicator of God's presence and character and (3) δόξα as an indicator of status--carry more nuance and therefore separate into several subdomains. Each division explores scriptural examples of δόξα, regarding their treatment of glory and their textual significance. A final conclusion summarizes the findings of this analysis and draws out the practical application produced by a holistic biblical theology of glory. Immediately following this conclusion is an appendix for reference, which categorizes the 152 occurrences of δόξα in the New Testament into specific domains or subdomains.
Although categorizing δόξα into domains can be relatively straightforward, often, it is not. The term's versatility often renders its domain placement not a choice between "right and wrong," but "better and best." While readers should always avoid the overload fallacy, many occurrences of δόξα can arguably fit into multiple categories. For example, a physical display of God's glory can also appear to indicate his presence. If the surrounding context directly refers to "glory's" observable brilliance while merely implying God's presence, then the term is placed into the first category, "a state of physical appearance." The above is just one example of how domain placement can be somewhat subjective. Thus, the domain placements and scriptural examples referred to throughout this paper should not function as absolutes or diminish any valid connections one domain of δόξα may have with another.
Instead, the following discussion of domains and their comprehensive outline provide a framework for readers to develop a clearer understanding of the biblical concept of glory. A well-developed theology of glory serves as a source of Christian hope as believers seek to understand the glorious nature of God and anticipate the day when they, too, will be ultimately glorified through the saving work of Christ.
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Winterholter, Jael, "A Biblical-Theological Analysis of the Term δόξα (Glory) in the New Testament" (2022). Honors Theses. 917.