51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
1901 ASV Translation:
51 He hath showed strength with his arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart.
There are no textual variants between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26. The difference in the translations of "hearts/heart" is a matter of translation choice since the form can either be genitive singular or accusative plural.
Luke is recording Mary's comments about how God "typically" acts. She says He has "scattered" the "proud" in respect to the imagination of their hearts.
I. In the display of the "strength" of His arm, there is a significantly "hidden" quality: people who do not accept the "determining context" simply do not see what He has done beyond a very superficial apprehension (those who witnessed His miracles without permitting the "context" of His identity to permeate their "understanding" simply saw extraordinary works of power; they did not "see" God in action).
II. In the next statement, Mary comments that God has "scattered" the proud.
A. The imagery of the word "scattered" is general. A farmer, sowing his seed by the old method of gathering it into his hand and throwing it helter skelter in a band in front of him, is said to have "scattered" his seed. A band of sheep is "scattered" when, because of great fright, each flees in a direction determined only by the instant and the greatness of the fear. A person "scatters" his money when he spends it thoughtlessly/indulgently without considering either what he may be getting for it or whether there will be more to spend later.
B. In the statement of Mary, she views God as having done something that she calls "scattering". The question is this: what does it mean to be "scattered by God"? In other texts which use the word, there is the idea that the "scattered" are removed from the position of "close proximity" to the experience of isolation. As a judgment, this signifies a serious impact upon the soul as it is the soul that derives the greatest pleasure from being "in unity with others". In terms of the spirit, however, "scattering" frustrates the accomplishment of the objectives of actions taken. Thus, to be "scattered" is to be isolated and frustrated. When money is "scattered", it is "wasted" in that the individual small expenditures take away the ability to make effective large purchases... i.e. too much "beer and cigarettes" take away the ability to pay the rent. "Ineffectiveness" is introduced by "scattering". When wheat seeds are "scattered", they are taken out of the pile of seeds that could be used to make flour and put in a "sink or swim" environment where a "sure" result is not a "given". If the seed germinates and produces a mature head, the "scattering" has become a matter of successful enrichment; but, if it does not germinate, or it germinates and the plant dies, the risk of loss has been made real. There is "fear" in scattering.
1. The larger question here is this: what is the "determining context" for Mary's vision of God?
2. Toward an answer...
a. The things that have happened are these...
1) She has been supernaturally impregnated in a way that leaves people without any way to confirm His activity. They were not there to hear the angel's message. They did not have 24/7 access to Mary's activities to see that she "knew not a man". They did not, for the very greatest part, have sufficient exposure to Mary's particular level of godliness to have any confidence that she did not "mess up". In a word, there was only one way to "perceive" what God had done: they had to take her word for it. This is no small thing for a great deal rests upon it.
2) She has shown up at Elizabeth's home without "justification" except that Gabriel told her that Elizabeth was pregnant also. Elizabeth immediately "knows" her to be the "mother of my Lord". Thus, Elizabeth enters into the mystery of God's activities by His Spirit. She has no way of "knowing" other than the mystery of the Spirit's communication of the knowledge to her. She doesn't seem to be particularly bothered by this condition of total dependence and the "unprovability" of her knowledge.
3) In the larger scheme of things, God has brought resolution to the tension that existed in His words in reference to His promise to David and His judgment on Jeconiah.
b. The implications of these events are these...
1) That those who think they can "establish" truth apart from God's active involvement in their hearts/minds are significantly deluded by God's chosen method(s). In a word, "intellectualism" is just another method of expressing "pride".
2) That those who are "humble" have a genuine "inside track" with God in terms of the levels of their knowledge and understanding. Issues of IQ are relatively irrelevant.
C. This raises the question of the characteristics of the "proud".
1. The word translated "proud" has overtones of "standing out of the crowd" so that one is distinguished from the rest (etymology).
2. It is used of those who think they ought to be treated with greater privilege (physically, relationally, respectfully) than others.
3. Those afflicted in this way typically attempt to take advantage of others so that their own situation might be improved.
4. And, at some point, it must be noted that the "proud" approach the issues of "truth" and "knowledge" and "wisdom" and "understanding" from the vantage point of intellectualism and "superior rationality". These would never accept Mary's condition as God's Arm in action and, as a result, they would never see the arm of God. At a very fundamental level, God absolutely "resists" the proud so that they are "scattered" (rendered fruitless). It must be observed that the key issue in the strength of God's arm in respect to Mary's pregnancy was His production of the fulfillment of His promise to David without putting up with the arrogance of Jeconiah. Jeconiah becomes the "type" of all who think that they can play fast and loose with the promises of God...the "pastor" who fills his mind with pornography; the "wife" who has gotten so used to dis-respecting her husband that it is now automatic; the "husband" who "loves" his wife because she is his method of self-indulgence; the "boss" who treats his employees frugally while indulging himself on the heels of their labor; the "employee" who shirks his tasks while drawing his paycheck every week; the "doctor" who enriches himself while making no progress on his patient(s); the "patient" who takes advantage of the doctor's skills and equipment and feels no responsibility to pay his bill; etc., etc. ad infinitum.
D. Some conclusions...
1. The "proud" are those who think the world turns around them.
2. God's "scattering" is not always apparent to them (they may not even know that He is not within a hundred miles of them) and they may not even be "afraid", but their end is according to their commitments. The judgment of God, like His arm of power, is very often veiled from the sight of those whose arrogance makes them think that they "automatically" not only deserve the best, but will get it. But, there comes a time when no one can miss the reality, though it is often too late to do anything about it.
III. That brings us to "the imagination of their hearts".
A. As we noted above, the question of whether the word "heart(s)" is to be translated as a plural or a singular is not resolved by the form written. It depends upon whether one sees the word as a genitive (in which case, it is singular) or an accusative (in which case it is plural). We are not left to simply "guess", though, since a related text in the LXX (Jeremiah 31:33 uses the same two words in the same forms with a singular article preceding the construction. This strongly implies that the word "heart" should be taken as a "singular" and not as a "plural".
1. The word "imagination" is a locative, instrumental, or dative singular by form.
a. This word is used 13 times in the New Testament and translated "imagination" only once -- in the text before us. This fact raises a question as to whether it is a legitimate translation.
b. This word is chosen by Jesus in His response to the question of the "greatest commandment": you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your "mind" (the word under consideration here).
c. This word is chosen by Paul to express... [the Textus Receptus' use in Ephesians 1:18 is not supported even by Hodges].
1) In Ephesians 2:3: one of the two "sources" of the desires ("flesh" and "mind") that constituted us "children of wrath".
2) In Ephesians 4:18: "being darkened in the mind" resulting in "ignorance" because of the "hardness of the heart".
3) In Colossians 1:21: alienation from God arises out of an inimical "mind" that produces evil works.
d. This word is used by the author of Hebrews in a quotation of Jeremiah 31:33 with an interesting twist...
1) In 8:10 he quotes the LXX in its statement, "...I will give my Law into their mind and upon their heart I will write them...".
2) But in 10:16 he reverses the statement to read, "...I will give my Law upon their hearts and upon their minds I will write them...". This constitutes several aberrations from the text of the LXX...
a) The LXX uses "eis" and "epi" and while the 10:16 paraphrase uses only "epi".
b) The LXX uses the singular forms of mind and heart while the 10:16 paraphrase uses plurals (as denoted by the plural article).
c) The LXX says the Laws will be written upon the heart while this 10:16 paraphrase says they will be written "upon their minds".
3) The point the author of Hebrews is making is that both heart and mind must have the deliberate input of God in the form of "writing upon"...in other words, the depravity of humanity cannot be overcome unless significant divine input is given.
e. This word is used by Peter twice (1 Peter 1:13 and 2 Peter 3:1) to identify an aspect of our spiritual lives that needs constant attention...
1) The "mind" needs "girding" ... there is need for "protection" from sloppy thinking.
2) The "mind" needs "stirring up" by way of remembrance of truth lest it be led into false doctrines.
f. This word is used by John (1 John 5:20) to tell us that the Son of God has given to us a "mind" or "understanding" so that we may know the truth. This is a claim that the terms of the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:33 have been at least partially fulfilled.
2. The word "their" is a genitive/ablative plural.
3. The words "imagination" and "heart" are closely linked so that it is the "heart-imagination" that is the area of interest. However, since the translation "imagination" is suspect, we will use the word "mind".
a. The point here seems to be thus: Mary is speaking of the heart as the place where the system of values is found (addressing the question: What is valuable?) and the mind as the conclusion to the thinking regarding this question. The "proud" have determined that "they" are "the Valuable" in respect to all others. But this conclusion is only held by the holder; all others contradict it by putting themselves forward as the answer to the question. When the question is raised, Who here is most valuable?, the "proud" answer with a cacophony of "I am" so that everyone is at each other's throat, competing for the position of "most valuable".
b. This point is fundamental: a house divided against itself cannot stand. As long as everyone thinks himself/herself to be Most Valuable, conflict and chaos rule until destruction is complete. If, instead, everyone answered "You are more important than I am", the house would endure as a kingdom of servants, each looking out for the best interests of all others.
4. The bottom line is this: Mary claims that God "scatters" those who think and act as if they are the center of the universe so that both their security and their goals are destroyed.