Caution Concerning 2 Cor. 3:7

THE PULPIT AND THE STUDY: Caution Concerning 2 Cor. 3:7

A discussion on the interpretation of 2 Cor. 3: 7

Editor, Philippine Publishing House

In meeting the arguments of opponents concerning the meaning of 2 Corinthians 3:7, some of our workers, both past and present, have made much of the fact that the word "stones" in this passage is a noun in the plural form. On the strength of this they have alleged that the apostle does not refer to the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God, but rather to the ceremonial law penned by Moses. In support of this allegation they point out that the noun "stone" in the plural form is never used in the Bible in reference to the Decalogue. They state that the Holy Scriptures always speak of the Ten Commandments as having been written upon "tables of stone," but never as having been written upon "tables of stones."

It is true that the Authorized Version of the Bible always speaks of the Ten Commandments as having been written upon "tables of stone," and never upon "tables of stones"'; but when we turn to the Hebrew text we find that the argument made on this fact is- not sound.

The phrase "tables of stone" is found thirteen times in the Old Testament of the English version. But only twice in those thirteen in stances does the Hebrew text use the word "stone" in the singular form (Ex. 24:12; 31: 18); in all the other instances—eleven times— the term appears in the plural form. (See Ex. 34:1, 4; Deut. 4:13; 5:22; 9:9-11; 10:i, 3; i Kings 8 -.9.)

In the Hebrew text the phrase appears as luchoth ha-‘e ben (tables of the stone) in Exodus 24:12 and 31:18 only. But in Deuteronomy 9:9-:! and i Kings 8:9 it appears as luchoth ha-abanim (tables of the stones). And in Exodus 34:1, 4; Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:22; 10:1, 3 it appears as luchoth 'abaniw, (tables of stones).

Furthermore, does not the fact that the Ten Commandments were written upon two tables clearly indicate that this law was recorded upon more than one stone?

This shows that one' cannot be absolutely sure of his ground when playing upon a word in a Bible text in English; unless he has compared the translation with the passage as it is found in the original tongue.

As a further means of refuting the argument of opponents who say that by the use of the word "stone" in the plural form in verse 7 Paul refers to the Ten Commandments, some workers, past and present, have countered that the apostle makes reference to the writing of the Mosaic law upon the plastered stones at Mount Ebal in the days of Joshua. (Deut. 27: 2-8; Joshua 8:30-35.) Those who take this position maintain that the Teri Commandments were not written upon those plastered stones. However, this is not in harmony with the following instruction from the Spirit of prophecy:

"According to the directions given by Moses, a mon- , ument of great stones was erected upon Mount Ebal. Upon these stones, previously prepared by a covering of plaster, the law was inscribed,—not only the "ten precepts spoken from Sinai and engraved on the tables of stone, but the laws communicated to Moses, and by him written in a book. . . .

"Silence was proclaimed by the s_ound of the signal trumpet; and _then in the deep stillness, and in the presence of this vast assembly, Joshua, standing beside the s_acred ark, read the blessings that were to follow obedience to God's law. All the tribes on Gerizim re sponded by an Amen. He then read the curses, and the tribes on Ebal in like manner gave their assent, thou sands upon thousands of voices uniting as the voice of one man in the solemn response. Following this came the reading of the law of God, together with the stat utes and judgments that had been delivered to them by Moses.

"Israel had received the law directly from the mouth of God at Sinai; and its sacred precepts, written by his own hand, were still preserved in the ark. Now it had been again written where all could read it. ... The law was not only written upon the memorial stones, but was read by Joshua himself in the hearing of all Israel. It had not been many weeks since Moses gave the whole book of Deuteronomy in discourses to the people, yet now Joshua read the law again."—Pa triarchs and Prophets, pp. 500-503.

Thus, it is very plain that both the Decalogue and the Mosaic law were written upon the plas tered stones at Mount Ebal. Therefore, the alle gation that Paul refers solely to the Mosaic law, in 2 Corinthians 3 :J is not sound.

We are not here attempting an interpretation of this portion of the Corinthian letter. Whether Paul was referring to Joshua's transcription of the whole law, including both the Decalogue and the Mosaic law, on the plastered stones, or solely to the Ten Commandments as written by the divine finger on two tables of stone—we leave to the reader to judge. But whatever our interpretation, let us be sure that our argument is based on a sound premise.

 

 


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Editor, Philippine Publishing House

February 1950

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