Come Out From Among Them
Two of my favorite passages from the ancient Greek Tragic Poets, both of whom wrote in the 5th century BC, express eternal truths: “The bastard is always regarded as an enemy to the true-born” (Euripides, Hippolytus, 962-963) and “Stain clear water with mud and you will never find sweet drink” (Aeschylus, Eumenides, 694-695). The citation from Euripides is indeed about relationships between people. Cain and Abel are the first historical manifestation of that in Scripture. But the second citation, from Aeschylus, is actually in relation to law. Citing the Loeb Classical Library edition of Aeschylus translated by Herbert Weir Smyth, in Eumenides the Apollo character is depicted as recalling “the first trial ever held for bloodshed” in Athens, and an appeal for its judges to judge justly. So in a poetical allegory we read “Reverence, indwelling in my burghers, and her kinsman Fear, shall withhold them from doing wrong by day and night alike, so be it they do not themselves pollute the laws with evil influences; stain clear water with mud and thou shalt never find sweet drink.”
It should not surprise us to find Christian principles imbued in certain ancient Greek literature, as we have often discussed the similarities in the ancient Greek and Hebrew cultures in other contexts. It certainly is a Christian principle, that Christians should never seek to pervert, undermine, corrupt or transgress the commandments of the law out of fear of God. So we read, for example, in Deuteronomy chapter 6: “2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.” A little further on in the chapter we read: “24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. 25 And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.” In both Deuteronomy chapters 4 and 12 there are commandments neither to add nor to remove anything from the books of the law.
The same principle of keeping the commandments out of fear of God is found in the New Testament, where for example the apostle Paul is recorded as addressing “Men of Israel, and ye that fear God”, in Acts chapter 13. He was not addressing two different parties, but rather, those of Israel who did fear God, as he continued by saying “the God of this people of Israel chose our fathers…” Likewise, in chapter 2 of his first epistle Peter admonished his readers to “17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” The only king he could have referred to in the context and historical setting of that epistle is Christ Himself. Finally, in Revelation chapter 14 we see an admonishment to “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come.”