Bible Studies/GLORY


numerous times in the bible it refers to God's glory. In ephesians chapt 1 it states we were made for the praise of his glorious grace. What I dont understand it that what is so special about glory. from what ive read in the ancient greek it simply means 'light' so isnt it a little superficial of God to have us worship him simply for a mere light he gives off.          
         Thank you Pete

I agree that the concept of glory is a bit mysterious in the scriptures. The OT word that is translated by the NT word doxa , Strong's #G1391, is kabowd , Strong's #H3519. You can follow those two links to look up all kinds of passages that give you a feel for the two words. My favorite passages to understand the deeper, rather than the shallower, meaning of the idea of glory are found in Exodus 33 and Exodus 34.

Exodus 33:12-23
12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

17 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.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 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. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 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. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Exodus 34:4-8
4 And Moses rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. 5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands[Or: to the thousandth generation], forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

When these two interactions happen, Moses has already been up on the mountain in the glorious cloud for 40 days, and has received the ten commandments and the instructions for the tent of meeting, and all that. Yet he wants more. He wants to know God more deeply still. So his request, "show me your glory," is another way of asking, "show me your ways" (33:13). He wants to know God's innermost character. God's innermost nature. And that is what God shows him in Exod. 34:6-7. I like to say that YHWH, conventionally rendered somewhat irrelevantly as "the LORD," but translatable as "The One who is," is God's first name, and that what Moses gets in Exod. 33:6-7 is God's full name, his first and last name: "The One who is--the One who is a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands[Or: to the thousandth generation], forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

The deepest thing that God chooses to reveal about himself to Moses is that God is forgiving and compassionate and loving. God's innermost character is to show mercy and to desire restoration, not vengeance. God adds that sin has its consequences nonetheless, and God accepts responsibility for this. God has made the world a place where personal forgiveness is always available to the repentant, yet each person (the sinner and the sinned-against) must deal for themselves with the temptation to sin. For example, if my father abused me as a child, God can and will forgive him if he asks for forgiveness; yet I will still be responsible to do my work of forgiving my father, otherwise I will pass on that abuse to my children in one form or another. So says Jesus: "Don't judge, or you yourself will be judged. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Matt. 7:1-2). God therefore promises to forgive the repentant, but does not promise to release the knock-on consequences of their actions, since this requires the free cooperation of those who have been sinned against. The reference in Exod. 34:7 to "the third and fourth generation" warns that sin can be like a cascaded fountain that spills over from one generation to another, or from one person or group to another. Yet at all times God is ready to forgive those who repent and who are willing to join him in that forgiveness. Over and over in the New Testament we hear words like those of Jesus:

For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don't forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins (Matt. 6:14).

Refusal to forgive traps us in sin and its consequences. But our lack of forgiveness does not trap those whom God has forgiven. Our freedom from that trap was purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. He, by dying on our behalf, has become our ransom, the price of our redemption from the accusations of all (whether angelic or human) who might wish to see vengeance taken on us rather than forgiveness granted to us.

I digress just slightly. We're talking about glory, and why it is more significant than just brightness. The deeper meaning of glory in the Bible is this: "the manifestation of the innermost character of a person--be it God, Jesus, a saint, or a wicked person." If you read the "glory" references in John's Gospel using the link above to Strong's #G1391, I think you'll get a big blessing. If you want to really understand who Jesus is, and what his innermost nature and character is, observe what he (and John) say about his glory. You'll also want to look at all the instances in John's Gospel of the verb "glorify."

See if it doesn't make a whole lot more satisfying sense of the concept of glory.

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J. Webb Mealy


Qualified to answer questions about the New Testament, including ones that require expert knowledge of Greek, New Testament History, and New Testament Theology. Particular area of expertise is New Testament eschatology (teachings on the end of the world), the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel and epistles of John. Questions about English translations--how they are arrived at, whether they are accurate, and whether there are alternative possibilities. Textual criticism.


Have taught the Bible and New Testament to lay people for 20 years. Translator of the Spoken English New Testament (, author of After the Thousand Years: Resurrection and Judgment in Revelation 20 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992). Senior Biblical Studies Editor, Sheffield Academic Press, 1990-1995.

Instructor, Seminary of the Street, Oakland, CA

See my online publication,, which gives an easy-to-understand but thorough introduction to the Christian Good News. See, home of the Spoken English New Testament, the most accurate available translation of the New Testament into natural contemporary English.

PhD, Biblical Studies, Sheffield, UK MA (Honors), Humanities, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY BA (Cum Laude), Religious Studies/New Testament, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA

Awards and Honors
Research Paper, "Tracing the Rise of Modalism in Rome," named best graduate paper of the year, Western Kentucky University, 1981

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