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"Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from [apo] the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" - 2 Thessalonians 1:9 KJV

Most other uses of 'apo' in the concordance seem to match our normal use of 'from' in that other grammatical context is necessary for it to mean "away from", e.g. "I was born far [away] from here". What is the basis of translating it as "away from" (the presence of the Lord), "separated from", or even "and shut out from" (NIV) as opposed to simply "from", which can be read as the presence of the Lord being the source of the eternal destruction referred to?

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  • What would you interpret it to mean if it were just "from" and not "away from"?
    – eques
    May 25 at 14:09
  • @eques I would see the meaning as quite possibly being that the destruction originates from God, rather than taking place away from him, e.g. "a gift from God" May 25 at 19:52
  • But does "apo" ever have that meaning in Greek?
    – eques
    May 25 at 19:55
  • @eques Romans 1:7, "Grace and peace to you from (apo) God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ". Very similar usage to this Thessalonians passage. Other examples include Mat 3:13, Mat 5:42, Mat 17:25 May 25 at 20:04
  • @eques—Yes, in Acts 3:19, for one, as well as those cited by @Isaac Middlemiss. May 26 at 3:16

2 Answers 2

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2 Thessalonians 1:9

(ESV) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
(SBLG) οἵτινες δίκην τίσουσιν ὄλεθρον αἰώνιον ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ κυρίου καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς δόξης τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ,

There are very good arguments in favour of the usual from; and very poor in favour of "cut off, separated". Let us see the commentaries:

1. In favour of separation from or cut off from:

From H. Meyers

is decidedly to be preferred, according to which ἀπό expresses the idea of separation, of severance from something. Comp. 2Th 2:2; Rom 9:3; 2Co 11:3; Gal 5:4. According to Flatt and de Wette, the expression ἰσχύος is opposed to this explanation, which directly points to an operating cause. But τῆς ἰσχύος is to be rendered the genitive of origin, and the δόξα is to be understood, not of the glory of Christ, but of the glory which is to be imparted to believers. The meaning is: apart or separated from the face of the Lord, and apart from the glory which is a creation of His power. By this explanation πρόσωπον receives its full import; “to see the face of the Lord” is a well-known biblical expression to denote blessedness (comp. Psa 11:7; Psa 17:5; Mat 5:8; Mat 18:10; Heb 12:14; Rev 22:4), whereas distance from it is an expression of misery.

  • Rom 9:3 ἀνάθεμα εἶναι αὐτὸς ἐγὼ ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ
    I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ
  • Gal 5:4 κατηργήθητε You are severed ἀπὸ from Χριστοῦ, Christ
  • Rom 7:3 κατήργηται ἀπὸ τοῦ she is loosed from the law of her husband.
    7:4 ἐλευθέρα ἐστὶν ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου free from the law

I have just noticed that there is no separate/cut off in the original Romans 9:3. In fact, the old English versions until the AV had simply accursed from Christ. The supplication of "separation/cut off" by the modern versions is unjustified, this itself may have given a new meaning to this preposition. Only Wycliffe used "departed", but as a substitute for "curse" (anathema), while translating from the Vulgate; the idea of Paul being cursed from Christ himself might have been too gruesome for his taste. The same discomfort must be behind the new translator's mind, that they had to add a new word "separation" in the verse.

BDAG gives a few references of verbs with apo expressing the idea of separation, but all of them are the basic references of location and relation; something going from somewhere; something flying from somewhere. The preposition cannot by itself mean separation. In 2 Thess 1:9, there is nothing going, removing, flying, leaving from anywhere. Only punishment being received from God. When referring to separation, the verb of separation is clearly mentioned. Rom 7:3, Gal 5:4.

Vincent's Word Studies gives the positive, hopeful references about the face of the Lord:

From the presence [απο προσωπου] . Or face. Apo from has simply the sense of separation. Not from the time of the Lord 's appearing, nor by reason of the glory of his presence. Proswpon is variously translated in A. V. Mostly face : also presence, Act 3:13, 19; Act 5:41 : person, Mt 22:16; Luk 20:21; Gal 2:6 : appearance, 2Co 5:12; 2Co 10:1; fashion, Jas 1:11. The formula ajpo proswpou or tou proswpou occurs Act 3:19; Act 5:41; Act 7:45; Rev 6:16; Rev 12:14; Rev 20:11. In LXX, Gen 3:8; Gen 4:14, 16; Exo 14:25, and frequently.

2. In favour of from, the face and glory of God being the direct cause of punishment:

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power] Better, as in R. V., and without the comma, from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might. Language borrowed from Isaiah 2, where it occurs thrice repeated, all but identically (Isaiah 2:10; Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 2:21), in the prophet’s picture of Jehovah’s coming in judgement: “Enter into the rocks and hide yourselves in the earth from the face of the fear of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He ariseth to shake the earth.” The words of Revelation 6:15-16 are based on the same original: “They say to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” The preposition here seems, however, after the word “destruction,” to signify coming from, rather than shrinking from the face of the Lord. The sight of their Judge and His Almightiness, robed in fire and attended by His host of angels, will drive these wretched men, terror-stricken, into ruin. Their destruction proceeds “from the face of the Lord;” in His look the evildoers read their fate. So we can imagine it will be with the murderers of Jesus, and with malicious persecutors of His people. Comp. Psalm 34:16; Psalm 76:7, “The face of the Lord is against them that do evil:” “Who may stand in Thy sight, when once Thou art angry?”

While the destruction of the persecutors and the deliverance of the persecuted are contrasted in themselves (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7), they are identified in point of time. For justice will overtake the former—

These are very compelling references about the terror/fear and punishment directly caused by the face of the Lord. But the Isaiah references- (Isaiah 2:10; Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 2:21) settles the matter that it is a direct quote from Isa 2:10, and there should be no problem in accepting the wrath directed from God. So, I agree with the usual meaning of apo as the preposition of cause, location, relation, as the Cambridge Greek NT states in detail,

The preposition is most appropriate in the causal, semi-local significance it bears in 2Th 1:2 and so often—“proceeding from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His strength”—thus recalling in a striking figure, and with impressive repetition, the διδόντος ἐκδίκησιν of 2Th 1:8; cf. Act 3:20, καιροὶ ἀναψύξεως ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ κυρίου. The aptness of τῇς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ is evident on this construction. “The strength” of the Judge, glorious in itself, by supplying executive force to His decisions doubles the terror that His “face” wears for the condemned; cf. Joh 19:37, Rev 6:16.

It appears that the majority of the New Bibles are hesitating to accept the idea that the wrath and terror comes directly from the face of the Lord; the wrath of the Lamb. God must be too holy and loving to inflict destruction. The Isaiah passage is referring to the end of days, destruction and desolation, which Paul and John alludes to. The usual from sense of the preposition here is natural and does not require separation or away from translation, in fact it is wrong to insert another gloss from an interpretative presupposition and bias. You have to first abide with him in order to be cut off from him anyway. The sinners being punished are already separated from God from the time of their sinning.

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  • "But the Isaiah references... settles the matter that it is a direct quote from Isa 2:10... The sinners being punished are already separated from God from the time of their sinning." Thank you! This is why the view that the Second Death is separation from God is impossible. All sinners are already separated from God, and the unrighteous who are resurrected in a state of sin are resurrected in a state of separation from God. You can't become separated from something if you are already separated from that something. Great answer. +1 :)
    – Rajesh
    May 25 at 14:53
  • I agree... We're you disagreeing with something I said?
    – Rajesh
    May 25 at 15:00
  • oh, I thought you mentioned the resurrection of the saints, not the sinners, in the state of separation from God. I am not sure if the sinners will be resurrected, but only the righteous.
    – Michael16
    May 25 at 16:17
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First, here is the Greek text with the literal translation:

οἵτινες δίκην τίσουσιν ὄλεθρον αἰώνιον ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ Κυρίου καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς δόξης τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ = who will suffer the penalty of destruction eternal, away from [the] presence of the Lord and away from the glory of the power of Him.

Note several features of this verse:

  • the word "separated" does not appear explicitly
  • the word "apo" appears twice, (1) away from the presence of the Lord, and (2) away from the glory of His power

According to BDAG, the proposition ἀπὸ (apo) has six basic meanings, only the first and fourth of which are relevant here, as selected from its list below:

  1. a marker to indicate separation from a place, whether person, or thing, from, away from

  2. to indicate the point from which something begins, whether literally, or figuratively (a) of place, from, out from ... (b) of time: since;

  3. to indicate origin or source, from

  4. to indicate distance from a point, away from, eg, John 11;18, 21:8, Rev 14:20, 2 Thess 1:9

  5. to indicate cause, means or outcome

  6. In a few expressions, apo helps to take the place of an adverb

Thus, "away from" (#4 above according to BDAG) is an entirely appropriate translation in 2 Thess 1:9 as most translations have something similar:

  • NIV: shut out from
  • NLT: separated from
  • ESV: away from
  • BSB: separated from
  • BLB: away from
  • NKJV: from
  • NASB: away from
  • CSB: from
  • HCSB: from
  • ASV: from
  • GNT: separated from
  • LSV: from
  • ISV: being separated from
  • NET: away from

... and so forth.

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  • 3
    The passage doesn't contain eg verbs denoting motion, verbs expressing the idea of separation etc May 25 at 12:16
  • 3
    I am asking if it can (should, even) be simply left as "from", meaning originating from, without adding words such as separation, away, etc May 25 at 23:19
  • 3
    if the passage is not intended to convey separation then it is not misleading to refrain from inserting words. May 26 at 2:19
  • 1
    Someone from the annihilationist camp for example would posit that the dead are punished with destruction in God's presence, after which they no longer exist and thus are no longer with Him May 26 at 4:44
  • 3
    Downvoted due to lack of explanation/support for the usage in question - "... only the first of which is relevant here..." seems to beg the question, and "Thus, 'away from' ... is an entirely appropriate translation" seems unsupported, as the passage does not seem to fit into any of the listed situations May 26 at 4:50

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