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HOPE. (תִּקְוָה, H9536, expectation, hope, יָחַל, H3498, to expect, hope, wait; ἐλπίς, G1828, expectation of good, hope, ἐλπίζω, G1827, to hope. Other Hebrew and Greek terms, many of which are at least occasionally translated in English by the word “hope,” often signify attitudes that are related to hope).
Definition of hope
Hope has been defined as “desire accompanied by expectation.” Hope, however, is not always expectant. One may have hope with little or no expectation. He may recognize the possible, though not the certain or probable, fulfillment of something. On the other hand, a man goes beyond hope when he is confident of something and simply expects it to happen. A better definition of hope than desire accompanied by expectation is an interest or desire whose fulfillment is cherished. Defining it thus, distinction can be made between strong and weak hope and between great and earnest hope. Strong hope has better grounds for believing an interest or desire will be fulfilled than a weak hope. It will be more confident and expectant. Great hope may refer to the intensity rather than to the confidence with which something is cherished, whereas earnest hope may designate the seriousness with which it is contemplated.
Occurrence in the Bible
Presence and nature of hope in the Bible
In view of its important function in man’s life, it is not surprising to find hope present in many Biblical accounts long before it is mentioned by name. Eve saw that the forbidden tree was good for food and was to be desired to make her wise, and in the hope of satisfying her appetite and achieving wisdom she took of its fruit and ate (
Prominence of hope in the Bible
The main reason why hope is prominent in the Bible is its high concept of God and its strongly prevailing faith in Him. Such a God and such strong faith in Him cannot but instill great hope in man. But, a further reason is the freedom the Bible assumes man has. For it, God is ultimately in full control of things, but not in a fatalistic way. His control is one of intelligent and loving purpose, not a matter of blind, unintelligent determination. Furthermore, God leaves man a free agent. He does not force him in his deliberate choices or against his will in that in which he remains responsible, but rather indirectly and directly controls those personal factors that go to form his will freely. Along with this, the Bible also affirms that God has ordained great principles of life for man to rely on, to give meaning and stability to life in a world of vast possibilities.
With such a view of God, man, and the world there is ample room for hope on man’s part. He himself can do much to determine his own future, and an almighty, omniscient God is there to uphold and further what is right and true.
Hope in the Old Testament
Hope in the New Testament
The proclamation of the coming Kingdom of God was the central element in the teaching of Jesus, and the message of its near advent (
Foundations of hope in the New Testament
Primarily, Christian hope was based on the promises of the Old Testament, which were the basis of Christ’s teaching. Such are often quoted at length (
Devotion to Christ produced a religious experience that gave certainty to hope. "Hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the
One passage that deserves special attention is
Objects of hope in the Bible
Besides placing hope in God in seeking individual and collective blessings, the truly religious man also finds his highest longings and hopes directly fulfilled in God Himself. Of the psalms perhaps none offer a better example than
This God-centered attitude of the OT persists in the New, where in
Geerhardus Vos, in an article on “The Eschatology of the Psalter,” has very aptly expressed something of the fulfillment men find in God. He says,
The Psalmists sometimes succeed in transporting themselves into the midst of the joy and blessedness, wherewith Jehovah Himself contemplates the consummate perfection of His work. This faculty for entering into the inner spirit of God’s own share in the religious process represents the highest and finest in worship; it closes the ring of religion,...(PTR, XVIII , 19).
Fulfillment such as this makes clear why for some men God, or Christ, Himself is the highest object of hope.
A new world
According to the New Testament, Old Testament visions and promises find a special fulfillment in Jesus Christ, but a further fulfillment of some of them (as well as of new promises) awaits the future.
As Rudolph Bultmann sees it, in the Old Testament the godly man was always directed to what God will do, so that his hope for the future consisted in a wholly general trust in God’s protection and help. The time of salvation, he says, was the time of confidence. The attitude of waiting and trusting hope became more and more an expression of knowledge concerning the provisional nature of everything earthly and present, and a hope in the eschatological future (Bible Key Words, V, I, 11; cf. P. S. Minear, “Time for Hope in the,” Scottish Journal of Theology, VI , 340).
Bultmann’s stress here on what God will do is doubtless justified; but his emphasis on the provisional character of man’s present, earthly situation in comparison with the eschatological future is open to question. One may grant that man by himself is ineffective and weak, that he is a sinner in need of God’s redeeming Grace, and that his days are numbered: like a flower of the field he flourishes, for the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place knows it no more (
It is noteworthy that Bultmann interprets hope in the New Testament in a way similar to his interpretation of it in the Old. Taking hope in that sense, he holds that it will persist. In virtue of its idea of God, he says, Christian being, also in perfection, cannot be conceived apart from hope; from hope, namely, that is a trust in God that looks away from itself and the world and patiently waits for God’s gift, and that when God has granted His gift is confidently assured He will maintain what He has given (id., 37; see also TWNT, II, 529). Bultmann’s contention that hope will persist is doubtless right; but he fails to recognize that since the love of which Paul speaks is a love of man (
Implications for the Christian life
Man a hopeful being
Because man is limited in his knowledge of the future and aware of alternative eventualities, he is hopefull, for he naturally seeks fulfillment and meaning in life. The Stoics, who recommended apathy as the rational way of life still hoped to attain happiness thereby. Nietzsche held that hope was the worst of evils, because it prolongs the torment of man; but his life was largely marked by hopeful efforts to interpret the world acceptably. Man is inherently a hopeful being.
Function of hope in man’s life
Hope is not the only activating and guiding principle in man’s life; faith, thankfulness, intellectual curiosity, bodily desires and needs, moral ideals, social interests, and religious objectives and zeal also motivate man. Hope, however, is a major factor among them all and is intimately associated with the others. None of the other factors spur one to action without some measure of hope or certainty that his action will satisfy him in a given way. Dr. Karl Menninger (Pastoral Psychology, XI , 11-24) speaks of the sustaining function of hope. Animals are known to die quickly when hopeless and to revive quickly when given new hope. Furthermore, evidence shows that helplessness and hopelessness can develop organic disease in man.was not far wrong when he observed that where there is no hope there can be no endeavor.
The role of hope in Christianity
The translation of the eschatological language into modern practical terms is not always easy. The simplest method is that already well developed in gospel of John, where the phrase "kingdom of God" is usually replaced by the words "Eternal Life," i.e. for a temporal relation between this world and the next is substituted a local, so that the accent is laid on the hope that awaits the individual beyond the grave. On the other hand, the cataclysmic imagery of the New Testament may be interpreted in evolutionary form. God, by sending into the world the supernatural power seen in the Christian church, is working for all humanity as well as for the individual, and has a goal in store for His whole creation, as well as for individual souls. The individual learns through the cross that even his own sins do not rob him of his hope. But both of the above interpretations are needed if religion is to fairly represent the spirit of the New Testament. A pure individualism that looks only beyond the grave for its hope empties the phrase "kingdom of God" of its meaning and tends inevitably to Asceticism. And, in contrast, the religion of Jesus cannot be reduced to a mere hope of ethical advance for the present world. A Christianity that loses a transcendent, eschatological hope ceases to be Christianity.