Friday, June 25, 2010

Μυστήριον, Not So Great a Mystery

It has been awhile since I have posted an entry because I have been quite preoccupied with many activities, including writing an essay on Galatians 4:21-31 to be published in a journal in the fall. My study has brought me to a crucial moment in which I am constrained to address the role of mystery as it relates to the passage, which is the only place where any New Testament writer uses the word ἀλληγορέω (cf. ἀλληγορία), the word from which we derive our English words allegorize and allegory. I may post an entry on that later. For now, I offer a brief entry on μυστήριον, the Greek word from which we derive our English, mystery.

Mystery, as biblically conceived, is akin to how a mystery novel is written to be read following the storyline’s development and progression, building toward its dramatic climax when the mystery is finally revealed. Embedded within characters, events, settings, and plotted conflict throughout the storyline of a mystery novel are hints, foreshadows, and harbingers written in such a manner as to incite expectation. Yet, at the same time, woven into this storyline are puzzling enigmas, riddles, and conundrums that tantalize and add to anticipation that builds and escalates toward the plotline’s climax so that when the mystery finally reaches its climactic point of revelation, with its multifaceted culmination, the reader smacks the forehead with the palm of the hand and says, “But, of course! There it was all along. It was right before my very eyes from the beginning. How could I have missed it? How could I not have seen it until it was made obvious to me?” Such is the way the Old Testament was written. Such is the way Scripture bears witness to Christ Jesus. Such is what dawned upon Paul during his encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. Thus, Paul writes, “Now to him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery concealed for long ages, but is now disclosed through the prophetic scriptures, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known for the obedience of faith unto all the Gentiles–to the only wise God through Jesus Christ, to him be glory forever” (Rom 16:25-27). The same Scriptures which concealed the mystery for long ages are the media through which the mystery is now revealed.