FAITH AND WORKS
Works of the Mosaic law, which included such things as sacrificial offerings, purifications and circumcision, did not serve to declare a person righteous. (Rom. 3:20; 4:1-10; Gal. 3:2) Yet, the disciple James—who is not discussing works of Mosaic law—says “a man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone” (Jas. 2:24), for there must be practical works that demonstrate one’s faith, giving proof of it. (Compare Matthew 7:21-27; Ephesians 2:8-10; James 1:27; 2:14-17; 4:4.) For example, Abraham had works that proved his faith, such as his willingness to offer up Isaac. Rahab also proved her faith by her works of hiding the Israelite spies.—Heb. 11:17-19; Jas. 2:21-25.
This is the usual English term for translating the Greek koʹsmos in all but one of its 187 occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The King James or Authorized Version used “world” to render not only koʹsmos but also three other Greek words in some of its renderings of them, namely, ge, ai·onʹ and oi·kou·meʹne, and five different Hebrew words (ʼeʹrets; hheʹdhel; hheʹledh; ʽoh·lamʹ; te·velʹ). This produced a blurring or confused blending of meanings that made it difficult to obtain correct understanding of the scriptures involved. Later translations have served to clear up considerably this confusion, though in a number of texts many still treat certain of these terms as though they were virtually synonymous with koʹsmos.
The Hebrew ʼeʹrets and the Greek ge (whence the English “geography,” “geology”) mean “earth” “ground,” “soil” or “land” (Gen. 6:4; Num. 1:1; Matt. 2:6; 5:5; 10:29; 13:5), although in some cases they may stand metaphorically for the people of the earth, as at Psalm 66:4 and Revelation 13:3. Both ʽoh·lamʹ (Heb.) and ai·onʹ (Gr.) relate basically to a period of time of indefinite length. (Gen. 6:3; 17:13; Luke 1:70) Ai·onʹ may also signify the “system of things” characterizing a certain period, age or epoch. (Gal. 1:4) Hheʹledh (Heb.) has a somewhat similar meaning, and may be rendered by such terms as “life’s duration” and “system of things.” (Job 11:17; Ps. 17:14) Oi·kou·meʹne (Gr.) means the “inhabited earth” (Luke 21:26), and te·velʹ (Heb.) may be rendered as “productive land.” (2 Sam. 22:16) Hheʹdhel (Heb.) occurs only at Isaiah 38:11, and in the Authorized Version is rendered “world” in the expression “inhabitants of the world.” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Vol. 4, p. 874) suggests the rendering “inhabitants of (the world) of cessation,” while pointing out that most scholars favor the reading of some Hebrew manuscripts that have hheʹledh in place of hheʹdhel. The New World Translation reads “inhabitants of [the land of] cessation.”—See AGE; EARTH; SYSTEMS OF THINGS.
“KOʹSMOS” AND ITS VARIOUS SENSES
The basic meaning of the Greek koʹsmos is “order” or “arrangement.” And to the extent that the concept of beauty is bound up with order and symmetry, koʹsmos also conveys that thought and therefore was often used by the Greeks to mean “adornment,” especially as regards women. It is used thus at 1 Peter 3:3. Hence also our English word “cosmetic.” The related verb ko·smeʹo has the sense of ‘putting in order’ at Matthew 25:7 and that of ‘adorning’ elsewhere. (Matt. 12:44; 23:29; Luke 11:25; 21:5; 1 Tim. 2:9; Titus 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:5; Rev. 21:2, 19) The adjective koʹsmi·os describes that which is “well-arranged” or “orderly” at 1 Timothy 2:9 and 3:2.
Evidently because the universe manifests order, Greek philosophers at times applied koʹsmos to the entire visible creation. However, there was no real unanimity of thought among them, some restricting it to the celestial bodies only, others using it for the whole universe. The use of koʹsmos to describe the material creation as a whole appears in some apocryphal writings (compare Wisdom 9:9; 11:18), these being written during the period when Greek philosophy was making inroads in many Jewish areas. But in the inspired writings of the Christian Greek Scriptures this sense is virtually, perhaps entirely, absent. Some texts may appear to use the term in that sense, such as the account of the apostle’s address to the Athenians at the Areopagus. Paul there said, “The God that made the world [koʹsmos] and all the things in it, being, as this One is, Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in handmade temples.” (Acts 17:22-24) Since the use of koʹsmos as meaning the universe was current among the Greeks, Paul might have employed the term in that sense. Even here, however, it is entirely possible that he used it in one of the ways discussed in the rest of this article.
LINKED WITH MANKIND
Trench’s Synonyms of the New Testament (1960 printing of the ninth ed., pp. 215, 216), after presenting the philosophic use of koʹsmos for the universe, says: “From this signification of χόσμος [koʹsmos] as the material universe, . . . followed that of χόσμος as that external framework of things in which man lives and moves, which exists for him and of which he constitutes the moral centre (John xvi. 21; I Cor. xiv. 10; I John iii. 17); . . . and then the men themselves, the sum total of persons living in the world (John i. 29; iv. 42; II Cor. v. 19); and then upon this, and ethically, all not of the ἐχχλησία [ek·kle·siʹa; the church or congregation], alienated from the life of God and by wicked works enemies to Him (I Cor. 1. 20, 21; II Cor. vii. 10; Jam. iv. 4).”
Similarly, the book Studies in the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, by K. S. Wuest (p. 57), quotes Greek scholar Cremer as saying: “As kosmos is regarded as that order of things whose center is man, attention is directed chiefly to him, and kosmos denotes mankind within that order of things, humanity as it manifests itself in and through such an order (Mt. 18:7). . . .”
As to the difference between koʹsmos and ai·onʹ, Schaff-Lange’s Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical Commentary, in commenting on Ephesians 2:2, says: “χόσμος is the external appearance, the external continuance of the world of men, αιών [ai·onʹ] its course, current, impulse . . . ; the latter may change, vary, in different periods, the former remains, and as the latter is estranged from God, so is this.”
Koʹsmos or the “world” is therefore closely linked and bound up with mankind. This is true in secular Greek literature and is particularly so in Scripture. When Jesus said that the man walking in daylight “sees the light of this world [koʹsmos]” (John 11:9), it might appear that by “world” is meant simply the planet Earth, which has the sun as its source of daylight. However, his next words speak of the man walking at night who bumps into something “because the light is not in him.” (Vs. 10) It is primarily for mankind that God gave the sun and other heavenly bodies. (Compare Genesis 1:14; Psalm 8:3-8; Matthew 5:45.) Similarly, using light in a spiritual sense, Jesus told his followers they would be “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14), certainly not meaning they would illuminate the planet, for he goes on to show their illuminating would be for mankind, “before men.” (Vs. 16; compare John 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46; Philippians 2:15.) The preaching of the good news “in all the world” (Matt. 26:13) also means preaching it to mankind as a whole, even as in some languages “all the world” is the common way of saying “everybody” (compare French tout le monde; Spanish todo el mundo).—Compare John 8:26; 18:20; Romans 1:8; Colossians 1:5, 6.
In one basic sense, then, koʹsmos refers to all