Great; Greatness

grat, grat'-nes: "Great" occurs very often in Scripture. The chief words so translated are gadhol, rabh; megas, polus.

(1) In the Old Testament many other terms are employed: (a) gadhol is used to express greatness in various senses, chiefly of magnitude, including excellence, e.g. "great lights" (Ge 1:16); "the great city" (Ge 10:12); "a great nation" (Ge 12:2); "a great sight" (Ex 3:3); "Moses was very great" (Ex 11:3); "the great God" (De 10:17; Ne 1:5); "great is Yahweh" (Ps 48:1). It is sometimes translated by "mighty" (De 4:37; 7:21, "a mighty God," the Revised Version (British and American) "great"). It is also used to designate the high priest (literally, "great," Le 21:10; Zec 3:1, etc.); also to express the "elder" of a family, e.g. Ge 27:1, "Esau his eldest son," the Revised Version (British and American) "elder"; probably also of great stature: "a great man among the Anakims," the Revised Version (British and American) "the greatest" (Jos 14:15). (b) rabh denotes, rather, quantity, number, therefore, often, "many" (Ge 21:34, etc.; Ex 2:23 the Revised Version (British and American), etc.); "abundant" (Ex 34:6, the English Revised Version "plenteous"), and similar terms; thus we have "a great people" (Jos 17:14); "His mercies are great," the Revised Version, margin "many" (2Sa 24:14; 1Ch 21:13); "Great was the company," the Revised Version (British and American) "a great host" (Ps 68:11); "great reward" (Ps 19:11); "Mine iniquity .... is great" (Ps 25:11); "exceedingly" (Ps 123:3). In the Septuagint rabh is, for the most part, translated by polus. But it is used for "great" in other senses, e.g. "the great (God)" (Pr 26:10), the Revised Version (British and American) "as an archer," margin "master worker; Hebrew text obscure"; "a saviour, and a great one," the Revised Version (British and American) "defender," margin "or a mighty one" (Isa 19:20); "Great shall be the peace" (Isa 54:13), etc. It is sometimes translated "mighty" (Ps 89:50, the Revised Version, margin "many"; Isa 63:1). (c) Other words thus translated are kabhedh, "heavy," e.g. "so great a people," the Revised Version (British and American) "thy great people," margin "heavy" (1Ki 3:9); me'odh, implying force, might, e.g. "with all his might" (2Ki 23:25). 'El and 'Elohim are sometimes used to express greatness. In Ps 36:6, we have "Thy righteousness is like the great ('El) mountains," the Revised Version (British and American) "mountains of God"; in Ge 30:8, "with great ('Elohim) wrestlings," the Revised Version (British and American) "mighty," margin "wrestlings of God"; and in 1Sa 14:15 "a very great ('Elohim) trembling," the Revised Version (British and American) "exceeding great," margin "a trembling of God."

(2) (a) Megas denotes magnitude, in its various aspects, physical, moral, etc., e.g. "great joy" (Mt 2:10); "a great light" (Mt 4:16); "the great King" (Mt 5:35); "great in the kingdom" (Mt 5:19, etc.); "Great is thy faith" (Mt 15:28); "The greatest is charity" (love), the Revised Version, margin "greater" (1Co 13:13); "a great high priest" (Heb 4:14); "the great shepherd" (Heb 13:20); "a great voice" (Re 1:10); in Rev megas is very frequent. (b) Polus denotes properly number, multitude, e.g. "great multitudes" (Mt 4:25); "a great company" (Lu 5:29, the Revised Version (British and American) "a great multitude"; frequent in the Gospels); "great possessions" (Mr 10:22). But also "great" in the sense of magnitude, e.g. "great plainness of speech," the Revised Version (British and American) "boldness" (2Co 3:12; 7:4); "a great trial of affliction," the Revised Version (British and American) "much proof" (2Co 8:2); "great love" (Eph 2:4). (c) Among other terms we have telikoutos, "so great" (in degree), "so great a salvation" (Heb 2:3); tosoutos, "so great" (in quantity), "so great faith" (Mt 8:10; Lu 7:9); "so great a cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1); hosos, "how great" (in quantity) (Mr 3:8; 5:19 f); helikos, "how great" (in degree) (Col 2:1; Jas 3:5, "how great a matter," the Revised Version (British and American) "how much wood," margin "how great a forest"); pelikos, "how great" (in degree) (Heb 7:4); posos, "how great" (in quantity) (Mt 6:23), etc.

(3) In His person and teaching, Jesus introduced into the world a new conception of greatness. It was to be found in humility and self-forgetting service: "Whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister (the Revised Version, margin "servant"); and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant (the Revised Version, margin "(Greek) bond-servant"): even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mt 20:26-28; compare also Mt 18:1-4; 23:11; Php 2:5-11 ).

W. L. Walker

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