Does “All” Ever Mean “All” in Scripture?
- Friday, November 01, 2013
by Tom Hicks
Eric Hankins preached a sermon on September 26, 2013, at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in which he said, “All means all and that’s all all means.” Jump to 17:23 in the linked video to hear this claim. But is Hankins’ statement true? Does the Greek word “pas” (each, every, any, all, the whole, etc.) ever mean “all” categorically and apart from any limitation? There are over 1,200 occurrences of the word “pas;” so, it’s not practical to list them all here, but an examination of a concordance will show that the term all is almost always limited to some category. The meaning of all in Scripture is always determined by the context, and rarely, if ever, means “all without any kind of limitation.” Consider the first ten occurrences of the term “pas” in the Greek New Testament.
- Matt 1:17 – “There were fourteen generations in all”
- Matt 2:3 – “All Jerusalem”
- Matt 2:4 – “All the people’s chief priests”
- Matt 2:16 – “All the boys in Bethlehem”
- Matt 2:16 – “All that region”
- Matt 3:5 – “All Judea”
- Matt 3:5 – “All the region of the Jordan”
- Matt 3:10 – “Every tree that does not produce good fruit”
- Matt 3:15 – “Fulfill all righteousness”
- Matt 4:4 – “Every word that comes from the mouth of God”
In each of these occurrences of the word “pas,” there’s some kind of categorical limitation. In the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel, who has never been accused of having a Calvinistic agenda, outlines a number of uses of the Greek word “pas.” He states, “In particular, one may speak of a summative, implicative and distributive signification of pas as the term embraces either a totality or sum as an independent entity (summative), an inclusion of all individual parts or representatives of a concept (implicative), or extension to relatively independent particulars (distributive). If the reference is to the attainment of the supreme height or breadth of a concept, we have an elative or (amplificative) significance” (Volume 5, 887). Since the biblical writers used the word “pas” in a variety of different ways, interpreting the word requires careful attention to context. It is, therefore, inaccurate to say as Eric Hankins does that “all means all and that’s all all means.”
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