Problem

Grace (Old Testament) vs. Compassion (New Testament)

Exodus 33:19 - And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
Romans 9:15 - For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Why does Exodus say "will be gracious to whom I will be gracious" but in Romans it says "For he saith to Moses...and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" Isn't this a contradiction?


Solution

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I guess the real problem here is why doesn't the New Testament quotation match the Old Testament scripture? In Exodus we find "gracious" and "mercy", but in the New Testament Paul says "compassion" and "mercy".

That's a good question. In fact, for this very reason many modern day scholars embrace the "LXX" theory that Jesus and his disciples did not quote the Masoretic Hebrew Old Testament, but rather a Greek Old Testament supposedly translated around 200-250 B.C. in Egypt. I'm not going to go into the many problems with this theory in this solution, but please look for an article on the LXX on this site in the near future.

Now, the LXX solution may sound like a good idea. After all, it would explain why the New Testament quotations don't match the Old Testament, and all we have to do is trade in our Bibles for a pile of Greek Manuscripts and an army of Greek scholars that haven't "reconstructed the originals" yet with over 200 attempts since 1884 (See 2 Tim. 3:7)!

Well, hold that thought for a moment and let's see if the Authorized Version, the Holy Spirit, and a little common sense can shed some light on this issue.

Take any 50 scholars today and ask them the following simple question: "Who wrote the Bible?" and you will receive 50 different answers filled with conjecture, theory, hypothesis, and doubt. Take that same question and ask any 50 kids in Vacation Bible School and they will give you an altogether different answer: God. God wrote the Bible! Sure, he wrote it at the hand of over 40 men on 3 continents over a 1500 year period of time, but God wrote the Bible!

"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." - 2 Peter: 1:21

Hmm...That definitely puts this "contradiction" into a different light since it is perfectly acceptable for an author to quote himself any way that he chooses since it is expected that he knew what he meant when he wrote it the first time.

So, God wrote "gracious" and "mercy" in Exodus, and God wrote "compassion" and "mercy" in Romans. There are 3 points that I would like to make concerning these quotations:


  1. This has happened before. Notice how Jesus Christ defines "Thou shalt not kill" as "murder" when he quotes Exodus 20:13 in Matthew 19:18!

  2. The words "gracious" and "compassion" overlap in definition.

    Gracious: "Marked by kindness and warm courtesy. Merciful or COMPASSIONATE" - American Heritage Dictionaary, 3rd Ed. 1994.


  3. The Lord is both "gracious" and "compassionate." Note the following verses:

"But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth." - Psalm 86:15

"He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion." - Psalm 111:4

"Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous." - Psalm 112:4

In conclusion, if you believe that God is the author of the Bible, then the New Testament quotations don't have to match word for word since they are derived from the same author. Also, in this case the New Testament quotation identifies a relationship between the graciousness of God and his compassion.

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