Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An odd figure of speech . . .

Out of Place?
(Image from Wikipedia)

I noticed in Hebrews 6:17-20 -- which happens to be a rather long, convoluted sentence about God's encouraging oath to back up a promise for those who have 'fled' to the hope in Jesus as High Priest who has entered the veil to the Holy of Holies in the heavenly tabernacle -- that an odd figure of speech occurs:
(17) Accordingly, when God desired to demonstrate more abundantly to those who are heirs of the promise the immutability of his will, he guaranteed (it) with an oath, (18) so that through two immutable things, in which it is impossible for one who is God to lie, we might have a strong encouragement, we who have fled so as to lay hold of the hope which lies before us, (19) which we have as an anchor of the soul, steady and firm and reaching into the interior of the veil, (20) where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, forever. (Harold Attridge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989, page 178a)
The oddity among oddities in this odd convolution is that misplaced anchor. Oh, before I forget, here's the Greek original, for those readers who like too say "It's all Greek to me!"
17 ἐν ᾧ περισσότερον βουλόμενος ὁ θεὸς ἐπιδεῖξαι τοῖς κληρονόμοις τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τὸ ἀμετάθετον τῆς βουλῆς αὐτοῦ ἐμεσίτευσεν ὅρκῳ 18 ἵνα διὰ δύο πραγμάτων ἀμεταθέτων ἐν οἷς ἀδύνατον ψεύσασθαι τὸν θεόν ἰσχυρὰν παράκλησιν ἔχωμεν οἱ καταφυγόντες κρατῆσαι τῆς προκειμένης ἐλπίδος 19 ἣν ὡς ἄγκυραν ἔχομεν τῆς ψυχῆς ἀσφαλῆ τε καὶ βεβαίαν καὶ εἰσερχομένην εἰς τὸ ἐσώτερον τοῦ καταπετάσματος 20 ὅπου πρόδρομος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν εἰσῆλθεν Ἰησοῦς κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ ἀρχιερεὺς γενόμενος εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. (GNT Morph, Blue Letter Bible)
The Greek term for anchor is "agkyra" (ἄγκυρα), which clearly has an etymological connection to our English term "anchor," but what's an anchor doing within the veil to the Holy of Holies? I realize that this is a fanciful metaphor, not an actual anchor, but the image is odd. Believers are all on a ship at sea and have let the anchor out not in the depths of the sea but in the heights of the heavens, for this Holy of Holies is located in the innermost sanctuary of the heavenly tabernacle.

Attridge himself notes that this anchor "strikes a different and somewhat incongruous note" (p. 183b) and that "[t]he nautical imagery, already strained by the note that the anchor 'enters,' is broken with the reference to the place where the anchor reaches, 'the interior of the veil'" (p. 184a).

But this does make sense, finally, of that odd line that used to puzzle me in stanze 2 of Edward Mote's hymn "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less":
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
I'm referring to the line "My anchor holds within the veil," which I always thought had a misspelling for "vale," i.e., "valley," and that was odd enough, but the spelling now makes sense.

In an odd sort of way . . .

Labels: , ,


At 6:00 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

Jesus, the Divine anchor-man.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, it was Popeye who said, "I am what I am."

So there's a precedent . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

It took me two hours to get the connection :-)

Just, the holy words were supposed to be, "I yam what I yam".

At 5:35 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I knew that, and first wrote "yam," but I wanted to make the YHWH connection stronger, so I chose not to allude dialectically to some divinely promised yam pie in the sky.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 9:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe if we look at earth as the vessel (ship) and the heavens as the ocean, then the "anchor" is our lifeline to Heaven for eternal life with God.

We "anchor" things all the time. The antenna is anchored to the roof, swingset is anchored to the ground, light fixtures are anchored to the ceiling, etc..... In that vein, and while still somewhat convoluted, the phrase makes a little more sense.


At 3:36 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Jay. That's an interesting way to put it.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home