Reconciliation—"Katallage" (f)

Great words of the Bible—no 12.

WILLIAM T. HYDE, Professor of Religion. Pacific Union College

The words katallage and katallassd are noun and verb for "to make completely other." That is, to bring about a radical change. Heathen mythology is full of stories of heroes who have gotten around the hatred or jealousy of a god or ruler by some cunning trick, some great sacrifice, or the intervention of another god. In these stories that lie behind most of the famous fairy tales the angry one is changed completely from enmity to friendship. Some books of systematic theol­ogy, reflecting the strong admixture of Greek philosophy that crept into the church in the early centuries (see The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church, Edwin Hatch), suggest that a simi­lar change is brought about in God as a result of the propitiation or expiation pro­duced by the sacrifice of Christ. For ex­ample, Thiessen says that the death of Christ propitiated God, with the result that He is reconciled. Then he quotes Shedd as saying that reconciliation in Matthew 5:24 shows a process in the mind of the one offended brought about by the contrite offender. (See Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 327.) On the next page, however, we are told that God reconciled the whole world to Himself. Which is correct? Clearly the first question to be answered is Does the Bible teach that God is reconciled to man or man to God?

In this study the Septuagint and the He­brew are of no help. The words appear in the Greek Old Testament but once each. Katallage appears in Isaiah 9:5, but this verse appears quite difficult in the Hebrew; and katallasso in Jeremiah 48:39 translates chathath as "to break or ruin." Classical usage does nothing to answer the question, for the words are applied to reconciliation, whether of the offender or the offended. This is a case where the New Testament's own use of the words and the harmony of Scripture teaching are our only guides.

The idea of reconciliation dominates two important fifth chapters—Romans 5 describes the work of God in the reconcili­ation, while 2 Corinthians 5 speaks of the ministry of reconciliation committed to the servants of God. Elsewhere in the New Testament the word occurs only in 1 Co­rinthians 7:11, where Paul speaks of the duty of separated believers to remain un­married or be reconciled to each other. An­other word of the allasso family, diallasso, has a similar connotation—"change through." It appears in Matthew 5:24, "first be reconciled to thy brother," though the Codex Bezae uses katallasso.

Paul quickly answers this first question as to who is reconciled to whom. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto him­self" (2 Cor. 5:19). And the message of reconciliation is, "Be ye reconciled to God" (verse 20). It is man who must be made to­tally other, radically changed, for anyone in Christ is a "new creature ["creation"]" (verse 17).

This is the exact opposite of what Thiessen and Shedd said. It is a process in the mind of the offender and brought about by the offended! Theoretically this is all wrong. In human affairs it is the offender who must bring about a change in the one against whom he has offended before there can be reconciliation. But to follow hu­man use of language and human theory is to be misled. God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. The very God against whom mankind offended has ever since been working to bring about a change in us.

Of course, we often speak of reconcilia­tion between two people only one of whom has offended. We often speak of the inno­cent person's being reconciled to the guilty. This language is even used in theological discussion, but with the understanding that, in the strictest sense, it is the mind of the offender that needs to be changed.

But carelessness in thinking has often caused intelligent, well-informed men to reach conclusions contrary to plain Scrip­ture statements. They draw conclusions from conclusions and build theory upon theory. Since the conclusions drawn and the theories formed by uninspired men are liable to contain some error, however care­fully they may work, to use them as bases for the construction of further ideas is to run the great danger of multiplying the small errors into great ones. As the habit of reliance upon human reasoning grows there is less and less searching of the whole Bible for a "thus saith the Lord," less and less checking of conclusions against the words of Scripture, and a neglect of the original tongues. Passages that conflict with theory are pushed into the background or explained away.

The only way to avoid errors in theology is to keep close to the Written Word, and to work until one's views harmonize with ev­ery unambiguous inspired statement on the subject. While the harmony of Scripture teaching and the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead men to saving truth, through any version and in any language, the working out of a detailed understand­ing of God and His plans—which is called theology—demands a study of the very words that men spoke, being moved of the Holy Spirit, in the original tongues. Scrip­ture never contradicts scripture despite the claims of those who would move us from the firm foundation of the Word to the at­tractive but unsure ground of their own theories. It is therefore necessary to study every passage in the Inspired Record rele­vant to the subject, and to accept only those conclusions that are drawn directly from and are in harmony with the concord­ant testimony of those writings.

Paul Was Pursued by God

Like most of his fellows, the Pharisaic Jew, Paul, had been working all his life to win the favor of God. Had he met Christ might well have asked, What great thing shall I do to insure salvation? He would have expected to be told to do some great work of abnegation to bring about a change in the God whose favor he had been pursuing so long. What broke Paul's proud heart was a realization that God had pro­vided Himself a Lamb (Gen. 22:8), had slain His own Son, and had been pursuing Paul, entreating him to cease relying upon his own efforts and to accept the divine Sacrifice. When that truth gained a firm hold upon his mind the apostle no longer sought for some great work to win the favor of God; now his one thought was to win others to an understanding of the won­derful plan of grace and to an acceptance of the change that the katallage offered.

What is this reconciliation? When was it made? What is its effect upon mankind? These are the questions Paul answers in the fifth chapter of Romans, and a close, expanded translation of a key verse will give something of the dramatic impact of the staccato Greek this tremendous theme brought from the lips of the apostle as he dictated to Tertius.

We might translate Romans 5:18, the summing up of his argument, "So, there­fore, as through a falling-beside the way of one—to all men unto condemnation, like­wise also through a-worked-out-judicial­verdict-of-righteousness [dikaioma] is for­ensic, and the ending ma indicates that it is worked out] of one for all men unto an­unworked-out-judicial-verdict

 dikaiosis­the construction and the sir ending showing that this gift of righteousness has yet to be worked out] of life." That is, through the sin of Adam every person born into the world (except Christ) was already doomed to become a sinner; but, through the right­eous life of the Saviour, worked out in hu­man flesh, and by His death upon the cross all men are made potentially perfect. If they will but permit this potentiality to be worked out in their lives, all men may be saved.

The katallage, or reconciliation, is there­fore the good news that the condemnation of the broken bond has been met, that all men have been credited with the righteous­ness of Christ and need only accept that righteousness in fact to be assured of an eternity of happiness.

When was the katallage made? Before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:19, 20). What is its effect upon mankind? It offers a great hope. It is the worked-out righteousness of Christ by which we are declared righteous. When did the plan go into effect? When God said, "I will put en­mity between thee and the woman, and be­tween thy seed and her seed." The moment man sinned, the work of restoration began through the gift of a conscience—that little inner voice that struggles to be heard above the clamors of self and that can grow into an unfailing defense against the slightest possibility of another rebellion.

It is as if Christ has purchased a ticket to heaven for every child of man, and then offers a free course of instruction guaran­teed to make everyone who will take it fit to enter heaven and stand before God. Each man must accept the instruction and attain the fitness offered. That done, he is assured that when the great excursion train leaves earth for heaven, he will be on it.

But God is too loving and kind to take anyone to heaven who is unfit. That one could not live in the presence of God. If he could, for him the joys of the kingdom would be the sufferings of an eternal tor­ment. So their tickets are torn up. They are left behind in the quietness of death—the last blessed kindness of the God who is love.

No wonder Paul was moved to face hardship, toil, and disappointment in pro­claiming the katallage to the world. When we understand the wonders of redeeming love and the plan of salvation as did the apostle to the Gentiles, we shall go forth with the same selfless zeal to complete the work he and his fellow apostles began.


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WILLIAM T. HYDE, Professor of Religion. Pacific Union College

July 1962

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