Questions From Readers
● Matthew 24:30 states: “All the tribes of the earth will go to wailing and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Why is it claimed that the Greek word here rendered “see,” which is horáo, means “discern” when practically all the scriptures using the word horáo carry the thought of literally seeing and not merely discerning a thing or person?—J. S., U.S.A.
The endeavor to force the literal meaning that this Greek verb often has, that of literally seeing with the naked eye, into all the texts that use the term when speaking of Christ’s second presence not only goes contrary to the plain basic teaching of the Scriptures that Jesus’ second presence is to be invisible, but violates the very meaning of the Greek verb horáo itself.
The Greek verb horáo is a defective one, which means that it does not exist in all tenses and that verbs from other roots have to be used in order to supplement the thought of sight. This is true in the future tense and also in the aorist tense. The use of such supplemental verbs cannot therefore be used to argue, as some argue, that horáo always has a literal meaning. Thus A Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell and Scott, shows that horáo means not only to see with the naked eye but also to perceive, to observe, and “metaphorically, of mental sight, discern, perceive.”—1948 edition, pages 1244, 1245.
So we must consider both the context and the testimony of the rest of the Scriptures as to whether horáo refers to literal sight, seeing with one’s naked eyes, or to spiritual sight, seeing with the eyes of one’s understanding, having discernment. Because of the testimony of the rest of the Scriptures on our Lord’s coming again, horáo, when used in that connection, must refer to discernment and not physical sight. His being a spirit, it will be impossible for the naked human eye to see him directly. However, with their naked human eyes men will see outward manifestations that will betoken his invisible presence and arrival. By means of these outward manifestations, they will, metaphorically speaking, see with mental sight that he has come to the battle of the great day of God Almighty.—Rev. 1:7.
The metaphorical sense of horáo, that of discernment, is clearly proved by Romans 1:20, where the Greek horáo is used combined with the preposition katá to form the Greek verb kathoráo. The New World Translation renders this verb kathoráo, as “are clearly seen,” meaning clearly discerned. Obviously the things clearly seen in this instance are things that cannot be seen with the naked eye but only discerned, namely, God’s invisible qualities: “For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are understood by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”
In conclusion, note a scripture that proves that Jesus’ presence is to be discerned by the world only with the eyes of their understanding. It is found at John 14:19, which in the New World Translation reads: “A little longer and the world will behold me no more, but you will behold me, because I live and you will live.” The disciples, with their literal eyes, did get to behold Jesus on earth after his resurrection, and after being raised from the dead themselves they got to see Jesus literally as spirit creatures. Here it was not a case of their merely discerning him. So if, in their case, beholding meant to see Jesus with one’s literal bodily sight, then when Jesus, in the same connection, says the world will behold him no more, it means they will not see him any more directly with bodily sight, which is all they have, that of the flesh with the naked human eye. So we can see that the use of the Greek verb horáo cannot serve as an argument that at his second presence all men will behold him with their bodily, physical sight, their natural eyes.
● On page 129 of the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, it says that John was alone when Jesus came to him to be baptized. Why is this statement made?—J.B., U.S.A.
There is no scripture that specifically makes this statement, but all the Scriptural evidence points in that direction. Jehovah God commissioned John the Baptist to introduce Jesus as the Lamb of God. That John would be able to identify the Messiah when he came and so convincingly introduce him to his fellow Jews, Jehovah God told John that whoever it was upon whom he would see the spirit of God descend would be the promised Messiah, the one baptizing with holy spirit.—John 1:29-34.
It must follow, then, that since this was to be a sign given to John to qualify him to carry out his commission, others would not have witnessed it since they were not so commissioned. In fact, had a large crowd been there and seen and heard what took place—the holy spirit descending in the bodily shape of a dove and resting upon Jesus, and Jehovah’s own voice from heaven proclaiming, “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved”—it would have created such a sensation that it would have been noised abroad at once, and all Galilee and Judea would have known about it. More than that, had such been the case, certainly at least one of the Gospel writers would have recorded the effect this miracle had upon the multitude that witnessed it. Therefore, while there is no specific Scripture text stating in so many words that John and Jesus were by themselves at the time of Jesus’ baptism, such is the logical inference from the Scriptural testimony bearing on the subject.—Matt. 3:16, 17.
In this regard it is also of interest to note that when Jehovah again chose to bear like testimony about Jesus, Jesus took only three of his preferred apostles along to witness the miracle. This took place in the mount of transfiguration when Jehovah spoke similar words: “This is my Son, the Beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.”—Matt. 17:1-5.