Glory (religion)

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Glory (from the Latin gloria, "fame, renown") is used to describe the manifestation of God's presence as perceived by humans according to the Abrahamic religions.

Divine glory is an important motif throughout Christian theology, where God is regarded as the most glorious being in existence, and it is considered that human beings are created in the Image of God and can share or participate, imperfectly, in divine glory as image-bearers. Thus Christians are instructed to "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."[1]


"Glory" is one of the most common words in scripture. In the Old Testament, the word is used to translate several Hebrew words, including Hod (הוד) and kabod, and in the New Testament it is used to translate the Greek word doxa (δόξα). The Hebrew word kabod (K-B-D) originally means "weight" or "heaviness." The same word is then used to express importance, honor, and majesty. Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible translated this concept with the word δόξα, which was then used extensively in the New Testament as well. Doxa originally means "judgment, opinion", and by extension, "good reputation, honor". Assuming that these various words and uses should refer to a single underlying concept, St. Augustine renders it as clara notitia cum laude, "brilliant celebrity with praise".[2]

In the Bible[edit]

Old Testament[edit]

In Exodus 33:19, Moses is told that no human being can see the glory (Hebrew: כָּבוֹדkabod) of Yahweh and survive:

And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." But, he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”[3]

The prophet Ezekiel writes in his vision:

And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.

Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.[4]

New Testament[edit]

In the New Testament, the corresponding word is the Greek: δοξα, doxa, sometimes also translated "brightness". For example, at the nativity of Christ:

In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night. An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, 'Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.'[5]

In the event known as the Transfiguration of Jesus, Moses and Elijah appeared in glory with Jesus, and the disciples who witnessed this revelation, Peter, James and John, 'saw his glory'.[6]

In the gospel of John, Jesus says that His destiny begins to be fulfilled when Judas Iscariot sets out to betray Him:

Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him (John 13:31.

Jesus subsequently addresses a long prayer to His Father in which he says:

I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. Now, Father, glorify me with that glory I had with you before ever the world existed.[7]

In Catholicism[edit]

Catholic doctrine asserts that the world was created as an act of God's free will for his own glory.[8] Catholic doctrine teaches, however, that God does not seek to be glorified for his own sake, but for the sake of mankind that they may know Him.[9]

In Anglicanism[edit]

The theologian C. S. Lewis, in his essay The Weight of Glory, writes "Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity."[10] He concludes that glory should be understood in the former sense, but states that one should not desire fame before men (human glory), but fame before God (divine glory).

In Orthodox Christianity[edit]

Glorification (also referred to as canonization) is the term used in the Orthodox Christian Church for the official recognition of a person as a saint of the Church. The Orthodox Christian term theosis is roughly equivalent to the Protestant concept of glorification.

It is in this sense that the resurrected bodies of the righteous will be "glorified" at the Second Coming. As the soul was illuminated through theosis so the restored body will be illuminated by the grace of God when it is "changed" at the Parousia (1 Corinthians 15:51). This glorified body will be like the resurrected body of Jesus (John 20:19-20); similar in appearance to the body during life, but of a more refined and spiritualized nature (1 Corinthians 15:39).

In Protestantism[edit]

In his dissertation "Concerning the End for which God Created the World", Jonathan Edwards concludes, "[I]t appears that all that is ever spoken of in the Scripture as an ultimate end of God's works is included in that one phrase, `the glory of God'."

There are two events that occur during glorification, these are "the receiving of perfection by the elect before entering into the kingdom of heaven," and "the receiving of the resurrection bodies by the elect"

Glorification is the third stage of Christian development. The first being justification, then sanctification, and finally glorification. (Rom. 8:28-30) Glorification is the full realization of salvation.

Receiving of Perfection[edit]

Glorification is the Protestant alternative to purgatory, as it is "the means by which the elect receive perfection before entering into the kingdom of Heaven." Purgatory deals with the means by which the elect become perfect, glorification deals with the elect becoming perfect. The majority of Protestant denominations believe in this form of glorification, although some have alternative names.

Receiving of the Resurrection Bodies[edit]

After the final judgement, in some doctrines all the righteous dead will arise and their bodies will be perfected and become a glorified body, under which form they can enter Heaven.

In the Baha'i Faith[edit]

The Baha'i Faith claims that Baha'u'llah, whose name translates to the Glory of God, is the Messenger of God promised to Man by all the older Abrahamic religions, like Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In Bahá'í belief the Greatest Name is Bahá’ (بهاء), translated as "glory" or "splendour."

In Islam[edit]

In Islamic belief, God has 99 names, and in some Islamic traditions it is believed that there is a special hidden 100th name which is the greatest.

Human glory[edit]

In comparison to the desire for glory from God, stands the desire for glory from man. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, cautions that an inordinate desire of glory, or praise, from man is a sin. He lists vainglory as a capital vice and, in some cases, as a mortal sin, cf. quotation.[11] However, this is not to be confused with the desire for what Aquinas calls honours, which Aquinas considered a good, and embraces a moderate and reasoned pursuance of.

As stated above (24, 12; 110, 4; 112, 2), a sin is mortal through being contrary to charity. Now the sin of vainglory, considered in itself, does not seem to be contrary to charity as regards the love of one's neighbor: yet as regards the love of God it may be contrary to charity in two ways. On one way, by reason of the matter about which one glories: for instance when one glories in something false that is opposed to the reverence we owe God, according to Ezekiel 28:2, "Thy heart is lifted up, and Thou hast said: I am God," and 1 Corinthians 4:7, "What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" Or again when a man prefers to God the temporal good in which he glories: for this is forbidden (Jeremiah 9:23-24): "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me." Or again when a man prefers the testimony of man to God's; thus it is written in reproval of certain people (John 12:43): "For they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God."

In another way vainglory may be contrary to charity, on the part of the one who glories, in that he refers his intention to glory as his last end: so that he directs even virtuous deeds thereto, and, in order to obtain it, forbears not from doing even that which is against God. On this way it is a mortal sin. Wherefore Augustine says (De Civ. Dei v, 14) that "this vice," namely the love of human praise, "is so hostile to a godly faith, if the heart desires glory more than it fears or loves God, that our Lord said (John 5:44): How can you believe, who receive glory one from another, and the glory which is from God alone, you do not seek?"

If, however, the love of human glory, though it be vain, be not inconsistent with charity, neither as regards the matter gloried in, nor as to the intention of him that seeks glory, it is not a mortal but a venial sin.

According to the Book of Revelation 20.11-15, the dead in Christ will receive a perfect glorified body at the first resurrection; those saints alive will be transformed into a glorified perfect body. The second resurrection is for the white throne judgement. Those not resurrected in the first resurrection will be resurrected for judgement to include those born during the thousand-year kingdom. Those whose names do not appear in the book of life will be thrown in the lake of fire.

In art[edit]

"Saint John on Patmos" by Hans Baldung Grien, 1511

The manifestation of glory (upon a saint for example) is often depicted in iconography using the religious symbol of a halo. Other common symbols of glory include white robes, crowns, jewels, gold, and stars. The Coronation of the Virgin is one of the most common depictions of Mary in glory.

There are a number of specialised senses of "glory" in art, which all derive from French usages of "gloire". "Glory" was the medieval English word for a halo or aureole, and continues to be used sometimes in this sense, mostly for the full-body version. The subject of Christ in Majesty is also known as "Christ in Glory", and in general any depiction of a sacred person in heaven (e.g. in the clouds, surrounded by angels) can be called a "glory", although this sense is obsolete.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Matthew 5:16
  2. ^ The Catholic Encyclopedia, "Glory"
  3. ^ Exodus 33:17-23
  4. ^ Ezekiel 1:27-28
  5. ^ Luke 2:8-10
  6. ^ Luke 9:29-32 NKJV
  7. ^ John 17:4-5
  8. ^ The Catholic Encyclopedia - Glory
  9. ^ ST, II-II, Q. 132, art. 1.
  10. ^ Lewis, C.S. (2001). The Weight of Glory. HarperSanFrancisco. p. 36. 
  11. ^ ST, II-II, Q. 132, art. 4.
  12. ^ In the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (late 19th century), entry no. 9b for "glory" ("A representation of the heavens opening and revealing celestial beings") was annotated "? Obs."

External links[edit]

Orthodox Christianity[edit]


Receiving of Perfection[edit]

Receiving of the Resurrection Bodies[edit]