If you were to ask the average church member what the word 'Glory' meant the chances are they would give a vague and fuzzy answer. Close analysis of the original Biblical texts suggests that this may be due to a weakness of the English word 'glory' rather than poor education on the part of the congregant. It is actually the case that the Biblical word 'glory' is a translation of twenty different words; twelve in the Hebrew and eight in the Greek.

That said, of the 371 verses in which 'glory' occurs in the Bible 148 of them are a rendering of the word kâbôd (H3519). The masculine noun kâbôd is an extension of the root kâbad (H3513) which means to b heavy[1]. kâbôd is thus to be heavy in the good sense of abundant or copious. The first use is given in Gen 31:1 where it is used to describe the riches acquired by Jacob. kâbôd is rendered 'glory' or a derivative on the majority of occasions; otherwise it is rendered honor(35). The root itself is rendered glory on one occasion[2] although it is more commonly rendered honour(45), heavy(16), glorify(7), glorified(6), glorious(5) or even hardened(5).

A word rendered glory on one occasion is pâ'ar (H6286). More usually rendered glorified(6) or beautify(3)[3] the word means to adorn or embellish[4]. The one occasion it is rendered 'glory' Moses is challenging Pharoah to name the time that he should ask a plague to be removed. Derived from pâ'ar, tiph'ârâh(H8597) is rendered glory on 22 occasions. It emphasizes the notion of ornamentation[5] that comes from jewels or rank[6] and is also rendered beauty(16) or honor(4).

Perhaps a word that most closely encapsulates the American perception of splendor is hâdâr (H1926). It is derived from a root (H1921) meaning 'to swell up'[7] and really means magnificence, ornamentation or splendor. The word is broadly rendered as glory(7), majesty(7), honor(5), beauty(3), comeliness(3), excellency(2), beauties(1), glorious(1) and goodly(1). Derived from the same root, heder (H1925) suggests honor and is used once figuratively of the capital city of Jerusalem[8] and is rendered 'glory' on that occasion.

A subtly different word that may have the same effect is hôd(H1935). The end effect is similar to hâdâr, an imposing or majestic figure. However the root does not imply swelling or ornamentation rather it implies the figure has grandeur as an inherent part of its character[9]. As with many of the Hebrew words in this area it is also rendered honor(8), majesty(4) and beauty.

A much more specific concept of glory is given on the one occasion 'addereth (H155) is rendered glory. The implication is that it is a cloak or mantel of glory rather than something inherent in the object itself. In fact the word is more generally rendered mantle(5), garment(4), goodly(1) or robe(1).

A different concept of glory is given by the Hebrew word hâlal (H1984) which literally means shine and thus to praise or to boast. It is usually rendered praise(101) but on sixteen occasions it is rendered as 'glory' in the sense of 'glory in His Holy Name'[10].

Continuing the theme of praise shâbach H7623, which properly means to address in a loud tone (Strong, H7623), is also rendered glory on one occasion (1Ch 16:35). Again the word is more commonly rendered praise(4).

Another word rendered glory; ṭôhar (H2892) literally means brightness. Thus it is similar to the shine meaning of hâlal except the emphasis is not upon the outward effect of the brilliance so much as its inner character. The word is rare; rendered purifying(2) and clear(1).

It is an extremely interesting reflection upon the Babylonian culture that the Aramaic word rendered glory, yeqâr (H3367) is from the Hebrew word yeqâr[11] which means wealth. Thus the only word rendered 'glory' in the Aramaic section of scripture (Dan 2-7) is purely an indicator of earthly riches. The Aramaic word is also rendered as honor twice.

We therefore see that in the Old Testament the concept of glory really falls into three main areas. Firstly, at least in terms of volume, is the sheer notion of weight. This is then extended into the concept of presence whether it is through ornamentation, 'swelling', cloaking or sheer inherent magnificence. Finally we see the notion of praise, praiseworthiness, shining or brilliance described as glory.

It is interesting that whilst the principle basis of glory in the Hebrew is the weight or immensity of something the primary Greek word rendered glory is doxa (G1391) which really speaks to the perception of something as being good[12]. The word is rendered glory 147 times also appearing as glorious(10), honor(6), praise(4) and dignities(2). The closely related word doxazō (G1392) really means to render glorious[13] and is thus usually rendered glorified(34), glorify(17) or glorifying(3) although it is rendered as glory on three occasions. The word glory also appears in the rendering of kenodoxos (G2755) although here the meaning is vain glory, or glorying when there is no reason to[14].

The Greek also has a family of words kauchaomai (2744) meaning 'boast' (verb), kauchēma (2745) meaning that which causes boasting and kauchēsis (2746) the act of boasting. The former is rendered 'glory' one twenty occasions; the others upon three and one occasions respectively. When not rendered as glory they are rendered as boasting (8,1,6) or rejoicing(4,4,4). A particularly vicious extension of this family is the word katakauchaomai (G2620) which means to glory to the detriment of another; it appears once in James 3:14. It thus appears that these words fall between the Hebrew hâlal which focuses rather more upon the positive nature of the subject and shâbach which focuses somewhat more upon the mode of communication (speech).

It may be a reflection of Greek in general or the New Testament in particular that the word for receiving praise kleos G2811 only occurs once and even then in context Peter is stating that it is not much glory to be buffeted for you faults.

We therefore see that in the New Testament the notion of Glory is much narrower and more focused than in the Old. Further that focus is in the area that is the least prominent in the Hebrew. The Hebrew focuses upon volume and presence and only begins to move into the perception of something as glorious. In the New Testament the focus is upon the perception of something as having worth with an almost tangential and relatively minor move into the field of the proclamation of something as having worth whether or not it actually does.


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