Happiness over an unanticipated or present good. In the Old Testament joy (Heb. sama[;j;m'f])covers a wide range of human experiencesfrom sexual love ( So 1:4 ), to marriage( Pr 5:18 ), thebirth of children ( Psalm113:9 ), the gathering of the harvest, military victory ( Isa 9:3 ), anddrinking wine ( Psalm104:15 ). On the spiritual level it refers to the extreme happiness with which thebeliever contemplates salvation and the bliss of the afterlife. Unexpected benefits fromGod are expressed in terms of common experiences. The psalms express the joyous mood ofbelievers as they encounter God. Believers rejoice because God has surrounded them withhis steadfast love ( 32:11 )and brought them to salvation ( 40:16 ; 64:10 ). Davidrejoices that God has delivered him from the hand of his enemies ( 63:11 ). Joy is aresponse to God's word ( Psalm 119:14 ) andhis reward to believers ( Isa 65:14 ) andtheir strength ( Ne8:10 ).
Fundamental to the Old Testament understanding of joy are God's Acts in history, themost important of which is Israel's deliverance from Egypt ( Exod 18:9-11 ).Israel's return from the Babylonian exile ( Jer 31:1-19 ) toJerusalem is above the highest joy ( Psalm 137:6 ). Therestoration of Israel will be an occasion for joy ( Psalm 14:7 ) in whichnature shares ( Psalm98:4-6 ). Joy characterizes Israel's corporate worship life ( Deut 16:13-15 ; 2 Chron 30:21-22 )in which the individual participates: "I rejoiced with those who said to me,Let us go the house of the Lord'" ( Psalm 122:1 ).Whereas for the believer the secular joys common to human existence are distinguished fromspiritual ones, they are not separated. Spiritual joys are expressed by the metaphors offeasting, marriage, victory in military endeavors, and successful financial undertakings.The joy of the harvest is used to describe the believer's final victory over hisadversaries ( Psalm126:5-6 ). Christ's coming is described by the joy of the harvest and dividing upcaptured military booty ( Isa 9:2-7 ). Inturn, spiritual joys elevate the secular happiness of believers. Secular successes areregarded as unexpected benefits from God.
Old Testament imagery for joy is carried over into the New. Jesus joins the joys ofmarriage and spiritual ones by describing John the Baptist's reaction to his coming as thejoy (chara [carav])of the friend of the bridegroom ( John 3:29-30 ).This is accentuated by this pericope's proximity to the Cana wedding miracle where thewater changed to a superior wine relieves an embarrassed host ( John 2:1-11 ).Wine, a source of joy, anticipates eschatological joy of which Christ is an endless source( Psalm 104:15 ).Joy is associated with the nativity. The birth of John the Baptist as the forerunner ofthe Messiah is an occasion of joy for his father and others ( Luke 1:14 ). Theangel's greeting (chaire) to Mary followed by "highly favored, " a wordof the same family in Greek, may be taken as a command to rejoice as the Redeemer's mother( Luke 1:28 ).Shepherds hear that news of the birth of Christ is an occasion for great joy for allpeople ( Luke 2:10 ).Luke's cycle is completed with the disciples returning with great joy after Jesus'ascension ( 24:52 ).The Magi, upon finding the infant Jesus, are "overjoyed" ( Matt 2:10 ).
Joy belongs also to the realm of the supernatural. Angels rejoice at an unbeliever'sconversion ( Luke10:20 ). Luke places three parables together in which God, in two instances with theangels, rejoices at the redemption. Upon finding the lost sheep, the shepherd rejoices ( 15:3-7 ). The womanrejoices upon finding the lost coin ( 15:8-10 ). Theprodigal son's return brings rejoicing ( 15:11-32 ). Theparable of the man who liquifies his assets to purchase the treasure hidden in the fieldteaches us that God has joy in bringing about the atonement ( Matt 13:44 ). Thisparallels Jesus who with joy "endured the cross, scorning its shame" ( Heb 12:2 ). Also forbelievers, trials and persecution are occasions for joy ( James 1:2 ). Peterand John found their scourging an occasion for "rejoicing because they had beencounted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" ( Acts 5:41 ).Suffering brings joy as believers are united with Christ in his suffering ( 1 Peter 4:13-14 ).Paul speaks of his joy in the midst of affliction ( 2 Cor 7:4-16 ). Itis a part of faith ( Php1:25 ). Joy expresses the relationship between the apostle and his congregations and anopportunity for thanksgiving ( Rom 15:32 ; Php 2:28 ), witheach rejoicing in the other. God's kingdom is described as "righteousness, peace andjoy" ( Rom 14:17 ).Certainty of salvation is a cause for joy, as the disciples are commanded to "rejoicethat your names are written in heaven" ( Luke 10:20 ).Fellowship with Jesus brings continuous joy (John 15-17).
David P. Scaer
Bibliography. J. Moltmann, Theology and Joy; W. G. Morrice, Joy in theNew Testament.
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joi (simchah; chara):
The idea of joy is expressed in the Old Testament by a wealth of synonymous terms that cannot easily be differentiated. The commonest is simchah (1 Samuel 18:6, etc.), variously translated in English Versions of the Bible "joy," "gladness," "mirth"; from sameah, properly "to be bright," "to shine" (Proverbs 13:9, "The light of the righteous rejoiceth," literally, "is bright"), but generally used figuratively "to rejoice," "be glad" (Leviticus 23:40 and very frequent).
Other nouns are masos and sason, both from sus, properly "to spring," "leap," hence, "exult," "rejoice"; rinnah, "shouting." "joy"; gil, from verb gil or gul, "to go in a circle," hence, "be excited" (dancing round for joy), "rejoice." In the New Testament, far the commonest are chara, "joy," chairo, "to rejoice" (compare charis, "grace"). But we have also agalliasis, which expresses "exuberant joy," "exultation" (not used in classical Greek, but often in the Septuagint; in the New Testament, Luke 1:14,44; Acts 2:46; Jude 1:24; Hebrews 1:9), and the corresponding verb agalliaoo (-aomai), "to exult," "rejoice exceedingly" (Matthew 5:12, etc.). In English Versions of the Bible we have sometimes "to joy" (now obsolete as a verb), used in an intransitive sense = "to rejoice" (Habakkuk 3:18; 2 Corinthians 7:13, etc.).
2. In the Old Testament:
Besides joy in a general sense, as the response of the mind to any pleasurable event or state (1 Kings 1:40; Esther 8:17, etc.), joy as a religious emotion is very frequently referred to in the Old Testament. Religion is conceived of as touching the deepest springs of emotion, including the feeling of exultant gladness which often finds outward expression in such actions as leaping, shouting, and singing. Joy is repeatedly shown to be the natural outcome of fellowship with God. "In thy presence is fullness of joy; in thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalms 16:11; compare 16:8,9). God is at once the source (Psalms 4:7; 51:12) and the object (Psalms 35:9; Isaiah 29:19) of religious joy. The phrase "rejoice (be glad) in Yahweh" and similar. expressions are of frequent occurrence (e.g. Psalms 97:12; 149:2; Isaiah 61:10; Zechariah 10:7). Many aspects of the Divine character call forth this emotion, such as His lovingkindness (Psalms 21:6,7; 31:7), His salvation (Psalms 21:1; Isaiah 25:9; Habakkuk 3:18), His laws and statutes (Ps 12; 119 passim), His judgments (Psalms 48:11), His words of comfort in dark days (Jeremiah 15:15,16). The fundamental fact of the sovereignty of God, of the equity of the Divine government of the world, gives to the pious a joyous sense of security in life (Psalms 93:1; 96:10; 97:1) which breaks forth into songs of praises in which even inanimate Nature is poetically called upon to join (Psalms 96:11-13; 98:4-9). In the case of those who held such views of God, it was natural that the service of God should elicit a joyous spirit ("I will offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy," Psalms 27:6; compare 1 Chronicles 29:9), a spirit which is abundantly manifest in the jubilant shouting with which religious festivities were celebrated, and the trumpet-sound which accompanied certain sacrifices (2 Samuel 6:15; Psalms 33:1-3; Numbers 10:10; 2 Chronicles 29:27), and especially in psalms of praise, thanksgiving and adoration (Psalms 47; 81; 100, etc.). "Rejoice before Yahweh your God" is an oft-repeated phrase in De with reference to the sacrificial feast (e.g. 12:12). But joy is a Divine, as well as a human, emotion; for God Himself is represented in the Old Testament, not as a rigid, impassible Being, but as susceptible to pleasure and pain. God may be conceived of as "rejoicing in his works" (Psalms 104:31; compare Genesis 1:31), and over His people "for good" (Deuteronomy 30:9). "He will rejoice over thee (Zion) with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing" (Zec 3:17). Such noble and vivid anthropomorphisms are a nearer approach to the truth than the abstract doctrine of the impassibility of God which, owing to Platonic influences, dominated theology of the early Christian centuries.
3. In the New Testament:
The element of joy in religion is still more prominent in the New Testament. It is the appropriate response of the believer to the "good tidings of great joy" which constitute the gospel (Luke 2:10). In the four Gospels, especially Luke, this element is conspicuous. It is seen in the canticles of Luke 1 and 2. It is both exemplified in the life and character, and set forth in the teaching of Jesus. There are many intimations that, in spite of the profound elements of grief and tragedy in His life, His habitual demeanor was gladsome and joyous, certainly not gloomy or ascetic:
such as, His description of Himself as bridegroom, in defense of His disciples for not fasting (Mark 2:18-20); the fact that He came "eating and drinking," giving occasion to the charge that He was "a gluttonous man and a winebibber" (Matthew 11:19); His "rejoicing in the Holy Spirit" (Luke 10:21); the fact that His presence was found to be congenial at social festivities (Mark 14:3; Luke 14:1; John 12:1), and at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1); His mention of "my joy" (John 15:11; 17:13). His teaching with reference to His followers harmonizes with this. The Christian virtues confer on those who attain them not only beatitude, a calm and composed state of felicity (Matthew 5:3-11), but also a more exuberant state of joy, which is in sharp contrast to the "sad countenance" of the hypocrites (Matthew 6:16) ("Rejoice, and be exceeding glad", Matthew 5:12). This spirit is reflected in many of the parables. The discovery of the true treasure of life brings joy (Matthew 13:44). The three parables in Luke 15 reveal the joy of the Divine heart itself at the repentance of sinners (see especially 15:5-7,9,10,22-24,32). The parable of the Talents lays stress on the "joy of the Lord" which is the reward of faithfulness (Matthew 25:21,23). Jesus confers on His followers not only peace (John 14:27; 16:33), but participation in His own fullness of joy (John 15:11; 16:24; 17:13), a joy which is permanent, in contrast to the sorrow which is transient (John 16:22). In the dark days of disappointment that succeeded the crucifixion, the joy of the disciples passed under a cloud, but at the resurrection (Luke 24:41) and still more on the day of Pentecost it emerged into light, and afterward remained a marked characteristic of the early church (Acts 2:46; 8:39; 13:52; 15:3). Paul speaks of joy as one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22) and of "joy in the Holy Spirit" as an essential mark of the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). This joy is associated with faith (Philippians 1:25), hope (Romans 5:2; 12:12), brotherly fellowship and sympathy (Romans 12:15; 2 Corinthians 7:13; Philippians 2:1). To rejoice in the Lord is enjoined as a Christian duty (Philippians 3:1; 4:4; compare 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). In Christ, the Christian "rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8), in spite of his temporary afflictions (1 Peter 1:6). Christian joy is no mere gaiety that knows no gloom, but is the result of the triumph of faith over adverse and trying circumstances, which, instead of hindering, actually enhance it (Acts 5:41; Romans 5:3; James 1:2,12; 5:11; 1 Peter 4:13; compare Matthew 5:11,12). Even our Lord Himself "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame" (Hebrews 12:2).
D. Miall Edwards
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