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Saturday, December 2nd, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Ordinance

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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The word ‘ordinance’ is used in the Revised Version to translate four different Greek substantives: (1) δικαίωμα (Romans 1:32; Romans 2:26; Romans 8:4, Hebrews 9:1; Hebrews 9:10); (2) διαταγή (Acts 7:53, Romans 13:2); (3) δόγμα (Ephesians 2:15, Colossians 2:14); (4) κτίσις (1 Peter 2:13). The Latin Vulgate in these passages renders δόγμα by decretum, κτίσις by creatura, δικαίωμα by iustificatio or iustitia, διαταγή by dispositio and ordinatio. δικαίωμα is also used to signify a righteous act (Romans 5:16; Romans 5:18, Revelation 15:4; Revelation 19:8), δόγμα is translated ‘decree’ in Acts 16:4; Acts 17:7 and ‘commandment’ in Hebrews 11:23. The only Evangelist who uses either word is St. Luke (Luke 1:6; Luke 2:1). The verb δογματίζεσθε (‘submit yourselves to ordinances’ [Revised Version ], decernitis [Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] ]) is found in Colossians 2:20. Clement uses δικαίωμα three times (ad Cor. ii., xxxv., lviii.). In the first and third of these passages it is coupled with πρόσταγμα; in the second he is quoting the Greek (Septuagint ) version of Psalms 50:16. He has three other words which might be translated ‘ordinance’: (1) νόμιμα (ad Cor. i.); (2) διάταξις (ib. xxxiii.); (3) δεδογματισμένα (ib. xx.; cf. Colossians 2:20). The verb διέταξε, ‘he ordained,’ occurs once (ib. xx.). ‘The δόγμα of the Gospel’ as a practical rule of conduct occurs in the Didache, xi. Ignatius speaks of being ‘established in the δόγματα of the Lord’ (Magn. xiii.) and has the verb διατάσσομαι, ‘I ordain,’ three times (Eph. iii., Trall. iii., Rom. iv.). The substantive derived from it (διάταγμα) occurs in Trall. vii.

The conception of an ordinance seems to be primarily something which is recognized as obtaining in practice. The authority upon which it rests may be Divine, as when it is applied by Clement to the laws of nature, which earth, sea, sky, and all living creatures must obey; or it may be primarily human, albeit ultimately Divine, as in 1 Peter 2:13. The usage is not absolutely uniform, but as a rule the Divine sanction of an ordinance seems to be less direct than the immediate command of God Himself. Thus the Law is spoken of as being the ordinance of angels (Acts 7:53). An ordinance is generally a human deduction from a Divinely-revealed premise rather than the actual premise itself. When Ignatius says ‘I ordain,’ it is with reference to his personal authority, which is not irrefragable (cf. the distinction drawn by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:25).

R. H. Malden.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ordinance'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​o/ordinance.html. 1906-1918.
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