This beautiful English word, in current use in the time of the King James Version, is found in the Old Testament as the translation of shachar, "Hast thou .... caused the dayspring to know his place?" (Job 38:12 the King James Version). This is no doubt intended literally for the dawn. The "place" of the dayspring is the particular point of the horizon at which the sun comes up on any given day. This slowly changes day by day through the year, moving northward from midwinter till midsummer, and back again southward from midsummer to midwinter. See ASTRONOMY, sec. I, 2. Also once in the New Testament for anatole, "a rising." "The dayspring from on high hath visited us" (the King James Version; the Revised Version (British and American)) "shall visit us," Luke 1:78). Also in Apocrypha, "At the dayspring pray unto thee" (AV; the Revised Version (British and American) "plead with thee at the dawning of the light," The Wisdom of Solomon 16:28). Both the Hebrew and Greek words, however, are of frequent occurrence, but variously rendered "dawn," "break of day," "morning," "sunrise," "east." Note especially "the spring of the day" (1 Samuel 9:26), "the day began to spring" (Judges 19:25). Used with heliou, "sun," for rising of the sun (Revelation 7:2; 16:12). In the Septuagint the same Greek word is used for Hebrew tsemach, "branch," to designate the Messiah (Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 6:12. But this sense of the word is wholly unknown in profane Greek The word is also employed in Septuagint to express the rising of a heavenly body, as the moon (Isaiah 60:19). This is good Greek See the kindred verb anatello, "to rise" (the Septuagint, Isaiah 60:1; Malachi 4:2).
What is the meaning of anatole in Luke 1:78? Certainly not branch; that does not fit any of the facts, unless it be rendered "branch of light" (see Reynolds, John the Baptist, 115).
It occurs in Zacharias' hymn over the birth of his son. The ode consists of two parts, "The glory and security of the Messiah's kingdom," and "The glory of the Forerunner." The expression before us is in the latter part. It naturally refers, therefore, not to the Messiah himself, but to John. He is the dayspring from on high who hath visited the people who sat in darkness and the shadow of death. With Godet we believe that the picture is borrowed from the caravan which has missed its way in the desert. The unfortunate pilgrims, overtaken by the night, are sitting down expecting death, when suddenly a star brightly beams above them. They take courage at the sight. The whole caravan leaps to its feet. It is the herald of the coming day and soon they see the great orb himself filling the east with orient pearl and gold. Is not one tempted to go a little farther and see here the morning star, herald of the coming sun to be obliterated by his rising? `He must wax, but I must wane' (John 3:30). What was John's work but, by his own testimony, to guide the benighted pilgrims into the way of peace, that is, to Him who was the Prince of Peace? If, however, as by most commentators, it be taken to refer to the Messiah, it probably implies prophetic knowledge that the conception of Jesus had already taken place, and that the Messianic era was at hand, when the Jewish world should be filled with spiritual splendor. See DAY-STAR.
G. H. Trever
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