15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


Additional Links

MANLINESS.—To the Christian, Jesus is the perfect man, and therefore in His character is to be found the perfect type of manliness. At the same time, when we speak of the manliness of Jesus, there is an element of challenge in the phrase, and we make an assertion that is felt to require justification. This is due partly to the fact that the conventional idea of manliness seems too poor a standard to apply to Jesus, and partly to the fact that the courage of Jesus is not often emphasized. Gentleness, meekness, and forgiveness are the qualities by which His character was pre-eminently distinguished, and it is too often assumed that these preclude the possession of courage. A somewhat complex problem is thus raised by the discussion of manliness in relation to Jesus, which involves two questions: (1) What is the conventional or worldly conception of manliness? (2) How far do the character and teaching of Jesus agree with this, and how far do they modify it?

1. The conventional or worldly conception of manliness cannot be described in a word, for a number of qualities go to make up what the world accepts as a manly man. (1) There must be a basis of adequate physical strength. Men have always admired the athlete, and they reject the claim to manliness of those who are puny and feeble in body. The vigour and energy of a strong, well-disciplined body form the substratum of the world’s idea of manliness. A proof of this is to be found in the many efforts made by Christian people to remove the prejudice that there is an opposition between Christian faith and bodily strength. The combination of Christian faith with athletic vigour has seemed and does seem to many extremely desirable (cf. ‘muscular Christianity’). (2) There must be a sufficient degree of intelligence. As, however, the standard of intelligence demanded for manliness is not very high, this element is not greatly emphasized. (3) There must be the moral qualities of courage, temperance or self-control, perseverance, and love of personal honour. Of these courage is fundamental, and it may be defined as the assertion of self against opposing influences. It is recognized by the world in many forms, from the animal quality of bold disregard of physical danger up to steadfast adherence to conscientious conviction. At the same time, however courageous a man may be, the world holds him to come short of true manliness if he is not able to control his impulses, whether of mind or body, to persevere patiently in any course of action he has adopted, and to be scrupulous in guarding his personal honour with life itself if necessary.

There are three points which may be noticed in connexion with this analysis of the conventional idea of manliness. (a) All the virtues involved are compatible with pride, and indeed are conceived as ministering to and supporting pride. This is obvious in regard to courage and love of honour. Self-control, again, is desirable largely because its opposite brings ridicule; and perseverance, because to give in is intolerable to the proud man. (b) This idea of manliness corresponds very closely to the ideal of the perfect man of the Greek and Roman moralists. The starting-point of pagan ethics is the analysis of the term ‘happiness’ (εὐδαεμσνία), regarded not as a subjective state of feeling, but as an objective form of being. Happiness is held to be found in the harmony of character and experience. Hence the qualities which give a man rule over his circumstances are to be desired as good. By Plato and Aristotle an optimistic view of the world’s capacity to satisfy the requirements of a good man is assumed. With the Stoics, and still more with the Cynics, pessimism about the world leads to strong emphasis being laid on the power of the individual to be sufficient to himself. With the Epicureans the optimistic assumption that the world will not fail to give the gratification necessary to happiness, leads to the emphasis being laid on the regulation rather than the suppression of desire. The ethics of Greek and Roman writers may be generically described as the science of the relation of man to his environment. The variations in theory are determined by the view taken of the responsiveness of the environment to man’s needs. Thus, from the practical point of view, all the various theories aim at self-development. Self is the beginning, centre, and aim of pagan ethical thought. Harmonies with Christian teaching are largely accidental. The essence and root are different. The virtues of the pagan are ‘inflated and arrogant’ (Augustine), even where they inculcate the same conduct as the Christian virtues (cf. Luthardt, Hist. of Christian Ethics, i. 25). (c) This idea or manliness corresponds very closely to the ideal of manhood to be found in the Ethics of Evolution. Phrases such as the ‘survival of the fittest’ and the ‘struggle for existence,’ which suggest that men are engaged in a constant war from which only the conquerors emerge, indicate at once an ideal of manliness of which self-assertion is the fundamental quality.

2. How far do the character and teaching of Jesus agree with the worldly conception of manliness, and how far do they modify it?—Was Jesus a manly man according to the world’s idea? To this the answer must be that His manliness can be vindicated in relation to all the qualities which go to make a manly man, but that allowance must be made for the very different ideal in relation to which these qualities were exercised. About physical strength and intellectual ability it is not necessary to say anything. There is a degree of human excellence which makes even the latter inconsiderable, and we have passed that degree when we discuss the character of Jesus. Courage, however, is on quite a different plane, and the courage of Jesus can be triumphantly vindicated. The cleansing of the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18, John 2:13-16), the attitude of Jesus towards the throng who would have made Him king (John 6:15 f.), His denunciations of the Pharisees (Matthew 23), His woes against the cities of Galilee (Matthew 11:20-24), His acts of healing upon the Sabbath, His rebuke to the people of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30), His statement about the Temple (John 2:18-22), His refusal of a sign to the scribes (Matthew 12:38-42; Matthew 16:1-4, Mark 8:11-12, Luke 11:16 f.), His last journey and entrance into Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), His demeanour before the high priest and before Pilate (Matthew 26:57 f., Mark 14:53 f., Luke 22:66 f.)—all show courage of the very first quality. He is undismayed before an unparalleled combination of adverse forces. And the overwhelming forces opposed to Him give an added lustre to His courage in dealing faithfully with those who took or were ready to take His part. His disciples are fearlessly rebuked when they are in the wrong (Luke 9:54-56, Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33, Matthew 18:1 ff., Mark 9:33, Luke 9:46; Luke 24:24 f., Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:13-15, Luke 18:15-19). He never modifies His demands in order thereby to secure influential supporters (John 3:1 ff., Matthew 19:16 f., Mark 10:17 f., Luke 18:18 f., Matthew 8:19-22, Luke 9:57-62). Moreover, the inevitable result of His faithfulness was clear to Him from an early point in His public career. So there was not lacking in His courage that element which arises from the vision of the cruel and shameful death awaiting Him. The self-control of Jesus, again, is very apparent in His life. We see it in the fact that He remained subject to His parents (Luke 2:51), and was 30 years of age before He began His ministry. It is displayed in a different relation in the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13), when neither the pangs of hunger nor the splendid prospect of worldwide dominion could overcome His resolution. And once more, before the high priest, before Pilate, and in the brutal hands of the soldiers, He never spoke one bitter or unworthy word, even though Peter denied Him and the other disciples had forsaken Him. Of His perseverance it is only necessary to say that He was ‘obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross’ (Philippians 2:8).

It is in regard to love of personal honour that the transcendent difference between the world’s idea of manliness and the manliness of Jesus becomes apparent, just as also very varying views are to be found even among worldly men as to what honour really is. However, an integral element in honour in the worldly sense is the good opinion of a man held by his fellows. To be an inconsiderable person was regarded by Aristotle as incompatible with happiness. High-mindedness is one of the virtues which go to make the perfect man, and ‘by a high-minded man we seem to mean one who claims much and deserves much’ (Nic. Ethiopic iv. 3, § 3; cf. Matthew 23:12). Even the proud indifference of the Cynic to the opinion of his neighbours by its vehemence betrayed its hollowness. It is the last refuge of pride to despise all who do not acknowledge the superiority on which it is based. In the life and teaching of Jesus the centre of morality is changed from self to God. Right conduct consists in obedience to the law of God. The essential nature of the Law is to love God and one’s neighbour (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27). The approval of God is thus the supreme practical consideration for the Christian, while his relations to others are to be governed by love and a desire for their good. There is no exception to this rule. It is to guide the conduct of Christians towards those who have injured them. Now the right and duty of avenging an affront or an injury have always seemed to men bound up with the love of honour, and the division of others into friends and enemies has seemed inevitable. But Jesus teaches that His followers are to forgive injuries, and to love their enemies (Matthew 5:39 f., Matthew 18:21-22, Luke 6:27 f., Luke 17:3-4). Moreover, they are not to meet violence with violence. And of these precepts He has given a perfect illustration (Luke 4:24-30, Matthew 26:52-56, Mark 14:65, Matthew 27:30, John 8:59; John 10:39; John 19:17).

It is in regard to this duty of forgiveness that the world has found the greatest difficulty in assimilating the views of Jesus, and has been inclined to treat them as counsels of perfection which cannot be put in practice. Three degrees of opinion on this question may be distinguished: (1) that of those who altogether ignore the teaching of Jesus as impracticable; (2) that of those who find in His teaching the condemnation of all resistance to evil, whether private or public, and so condemn alike war between States and private quarrels, whether settled by physical force or by an appeal to courts of law, the decisions of which ultimately rest on force; (3) that of those who find in the teaching of Jesus primarily the inculcation of a spirit of love the manifestation of which is determined in every case by the circumstances, and which accordingly condemns neither war nor an appeal to force, nor an appeal to courts of law, apart from the occasion which gives rise to them.

With the first of these opinions we are not concerned. The second has always been held by many Christians. It is based especially on Matthew 5:18-48; Matthew 26:52, Luke 6:27; Luke 17:3. In the early Church it led to a strong feeling against the propriety of Christians serving as soldiers (cf. Tertullian, de Idol. ch. 19—‘the Lord in disarming Peter unbelted every soldier’). In later times the Society of Friends have been the most prominent adherents of similar ideas. And Tolstoi, among modern writers of distinction, holds such views in their most extreme form. It has to be remembered, however, (a) that the illustrative sayings of Jesus cannot wisely be generalized into universal precepts. To do this is to ignore the clearly marked feature of His teaching, in which He aimed ‘at the greatest clearness in the briefest compass.’ (b) If Jesus said, ‘To him that smiteth thee on one cheek offer also the other’ (cf. Matthew 26:52, John 18:11), He also told His disciples to sell their garments and ‘buy a sword’ (Luke 22:36, cf. Matthew 10:34-35). (c) Jesus laid down a method of dealing with one who has trespassed against another which cannot be brought within the boundary of strict non-resistance, though, indeed, the motive of this dealing is undoubtedly to be a desire for the good of the offender (Matthew 18:15-17). The third opinion is that which has generally prevailed among Christians. According to it, the ruling principle of a Christian’s conduct is love towards all. This involves at once and without question or limit the forgiveness of all injuries and the crucifying of the spirit of emulation and self-esteem which so often leads to strife. But the manifestation of heart-forgiveness is to be regulated by a wise conception of the injurer’s welfare and the welfare of others. These principles, in their mutual interaction, condemn all personal vindictiveness and malice, such an appeal to violence as duelling, that litigious spirit which aims at getting the better of another in a law-court, and all wars of aggression, as well as those which spring from national or personal pride. They do not condemn, however, the establishment of just government by force of arms, nor an appeal to justice and a desire for its vindication by force, nor the use of arms in the protection of the weak.* [Note: Tolstoi, with remorseless logic, declares that a Christian should not interfere with force to prevent murder—a precept which ignores the moral nature of the murderer no less than the claim of the person attacked for protection.]

There is thus open to the Christian a sphere for the exercise of aggressive courage consecrated to the furtherance of noble ends. To right wrong and to protect the weak are the natural aims of Christian manliness. At the same time it remains true that the Christian is called upon to exercise the courage of endurance much more frequently than that of aggression. And the endurance of the martyr shows a quality of manliness which transcends all others, inasmuch as his courage is made sublime by self-sacrifice.

Literature.—Sidgwick, Hist. of Ethics; Paulsen, A System of Ethics; Knight, The Christian Ethic; Martensen, Christian Ethics; Luthardt, Hist. of Christian Ethics; Benjamin Kidd, Social Evolution; Ecce Homo, chs. 20, 21, 22; Wendt, Teaching of Jesus; Speer, The Principles of Jesus; Tolstoi, The Christianity of Christ; Hughes, The Manliness of Christ; Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 253.

Andrew N. Bogle.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Manliness'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry
Next Entry