The Recently Slain And Living Way

by A.E. Knoch

LONG before I had recognized the imperative necessity of distinguishing where God had made a difference, my attention was called to the remarkable word which the Authorized Version and the Revised Version translate "new" in Hebrews 10:20. They render four different words with "new," besides kainos, its proper equivalent. These are unshrunk, young, and recently slain (Heb.10:20). It is true that the last word is usually treated as a faded figure and rendered recent, and the adverb must actually be rendered recently (Acts 18:2). But we submit that the context in Hebrews not only makes this unnecessary, but that it demands that we take the word in its full literal significance.

The whole paragraph treats of the approach to God by entrance through the holy places, just as the Hebrews were accustomed to do when they entered the temple in worshiping Jehovah. Should they go up to Jerusalem and pass into the sacred precincts, their path would be between the bodies of recently slain victims, ready to be offered upon the altar. In the future, in Ezekiel's temple, we have this path graphically described (Ezek.40:39-43). Then there were stone tables on either side of the entrance on which the sacrifices were slain, and where their flesh was laid. It was a path of death, a recently slain and dying way into the presence of the God of Israel. Without the recently slain sacrifices, however, they could not approach at all.

Such was the approach of the Hebrew, in his shadow ritual. But now the same way--the approach to God--may be made through the One great Sacrifice. He has been slain for this, the path lies through His blood, but nevertheless it is no longer the path of death, but of life. It is a living way. Entrance by the blood of Jesus must be by death as well as life. To translate merely "a new and living way" leaves out the one essential feature of all approach to God. There is no new way to do this. It must be by death. Sacrifice is imperative. The Victim must die before the way can become a living one in resurrection.

It is not difficult to see how this word prosphaton, TOWARD-SLAY, took on the figurative usage, to give the idea of recent. In the temple sacrifices the animals were slain for or TOWARD the impending offering, hence the carcasses were always fresh or recent. Only such were to be seen. They had to be flawless, and no taint of corruption could be allowed in an animal which typified God's great Sacrifice. Hence, in a warm climate, they could not be kept. After they were slain they soon went upon the altar. This impressed itself upon the minds of the people, so that they used the word in other connections, as when Aquila had recently come from Italy (Acts 18:2). Let us never confound figurative usage with literal significance, nor insist that a word used figuratively may not also have its literal meaning in the proper context.

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