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The down casting of the world

01-09-2016 - Posted by Andre Piet

Ten times in the New Testament we read about the “down casting of the world”. In current translations it is translated as “foundation of the world”. The used Greek word for “foundation” is ‘katabolé’, built from the preposition ‘kata’, which means ‘downward’, and ‘bolé, which points to ‘throw’. We read the verb, for example, in 2 Corinthians 4: 9. Paul writes:

cast down, but not perishing.

Cast down

This negative meaning is almost exclusively for the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Then it is meant to be demolish (Job 12: 14; Ezekiel 26: 4), cast into ruinations (Psalm 73: 18), cast down and scatter (Psalm 106: 26, 27), breached (Proverbs 25: 28), prostrate (Isaiah 26: 5) etcetera.

Why did Bible translators translate ‘down casting of the world’ with ‘foundation of the world’? Are not those two terms opposites? Does not foundation let us think about building up, and down casting about disruption? And the next question is: what is this ‘down casting of the world’ relating to? Is it the curse that is over the world and humanity since Genesis 3? Or, and that is mostly suggested, is it the world of Genesis 1: 2, chaos and vacant?

Down casting of the foundation

But, is the translation ‘foundation of the world’ completely plucked out of thin air? No, in Hebrews 6: 1 the writer says that he should not cast down again the foundation, but that he should continue his education. Here ‘cast down’ is used with the idea of ‘foundation’. Also a building process starts at the ground level where the concrete foundation is poured. Here, pouring is synonymus with ‘down casting’ (= throwing down = katabolé).

The down casting as birth

In Hebrews 11: 11 we also see a positive meaning of ‘down casting’:

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. (NIV)

For ‘to bear children’ we read literal translated ‘down casting of seed’, wich seems a bit strange, for to our concept only the man gives seed (spermatos). But that is not the complete truth. Genesis 3, for example, speaks about ‘her seed’ (Genesis 3:15). Seed does not only refer to what the man produces at the conception, but also to the contribution of the woman: the child that is begotten, carried and given birth. Sara got the power, despite she was deadened, “for the down casting of seed”. Isaak’s birth was Sara’s “down casting of seed”. This term reminds us of the way animals are born. At birth, they are thrown down on earth so to speak. In Hebrews 11: 11 ‘down casting’ is synonymous with ‘birth’.

Does it not shine a light on the meaning of “down casting of the world”? Not referring to catastrophe or demolishing, but pointing to the birth of the world. In Dutch State Translation we find Genesis 2: 4 in this way:

These are the births of heavens and earth, as these where created…

In a beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1: 1) to give it shape and content, as told in the six days of Genesis 1.

Two-faced view of things

One thing is certain: katabolé means down casting. It should be translated in that way. But it is not a foregone conclusion to explain it positively or negatively. For both seems a strong case.  And why should we have to make a choice? Why should not the two-faced view of things be with intention? Is not, by design, for the corruption the world subjected as from her birth? Like we are all are corrupted as from our birth. “Not voluntary”, Paul states in Romans 8: 20, “but because of Him who subjects it”.

On the one hand “the down casting of the world” points to her foundation, her birth. On the other hand, because that moment also corruption and demolition were introduced in this creation, there was also a ‘disruption’ in a negative sense. Corruption is inherent in this creation. That makes that the birth of this world can be explained in two ways as a “down casting”.

“down casting of the world”
Matthew 13: 15; 25: 34; Luke 11: 50, John 17: 24; Ephesians 1: 4; Hebrews 4: 3; 9: 26; 1 Peter 1: 20, Revelation 13: 8; 17: 8

1-6-2016 22-33-36 MB