Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but this is my one aim:
to forget everything that's behind, and to strain every nerve to go after what lies ahead.
I press on toward the finish line, where the prize waiting for me is the upward call of God
(Philippians 3:13-14)
by – Stuart H. Pouliot
February 11, 2012
We See in an Enigma
Now whenever maturity may be coming, that which is out of an instalment shall be discarded." When I was
a minor, I spoke as a minor, I was disposed as a minor, I took account of things as a minor. Yet when I have
become a man, I have discarded that which is a minor's. " For at present we are observing by means of a
mirror, in an enigma [ ainigma ], yet then, face to face. At present I know out of an instalment, yet then I shall
recognize according as I am recognized also." (1 Corinthians 13:10-12 CLV [bold italic added])
Recently, I was having some fellowship with a brother in Christ, and he shared with me that, in the above verse, the
word dimly is better translated as enigma . To me, the implications of this are profound. It is unfortunate that most
translations, avoid the word enigma , for it speaks volumes about God and His word. Most all translations use the
words darkly , cloudy , blurred , obscurely , puzzled , or similitude ; however, as noted above, the Concordant Literal
Version (CLV) actually uses the word enigma .
In Greek, the word for enigma is ainigma, which, according to Strong's Concordance , is "an obscure saying
("enigma"), that is, (abstractly) obscureness: - X darkly" (G135), and it is a derivation of ainos (G136), which refers
to a tale or story. According to the New Englishman's Greek-English Concordance & Lexicon (George Wigram),
ainigma is a "riddle, an obscure thing, dimly perceived."
Webster's Dictionary states that " enigma comes from the Greek ainigma , to speak in riddles < ainos , tale, story,"
and defines it as "a perplexing statement; riddle; hence, a perplexing, baffling, or seemingly inexplicable matter,
person, etc. synonym mystery." Further, the word riddle is defined as a "a problem or puzzle in the form of a
question, statement, etc, so formulated that some ingenuity is required to solve or answer it; conundrum; any
puzzling, perplexing or apparently inexplicable person or thing, as a difficult problem or enigmatic saying; enigma."
Given these definitions, it seems that the word dimly and the other words used by most translations do a disservice
to understanding Paul's meaning. The words enigma , riddle , tale , and mystery imply something much greater than
simply something obscure, dim, or dark, which makes it sound as if Paul was stating that in this life we could never
understand or discover the deep things or mysteries of God, and perhaps, we should not even try.
Over the years, I have met many people who actually think this way, especially when it comes to knowing the truth
or searching out God's word for the truth. It is not uncommon to hear: No one can have a lock on the truth ; or Many
say they have the truth, but they all cannot be right ; or All the truth that God wants us to know has been revealed
already ; or We will know the truth when Jesus comes ; or Jesus is the Truth; we don't need anything else . To this last
point, some commentators claim that when Paul wrote this, his understanding was dark or obscure but that the
mystery was unveiled to him later; at which time, it was no longer dim. It is like saying: End of story; no need to
search any further .
The implication is that we should not try to seek for the truth or seek to unlock as much as we can of God's secrets
or truths hidden within scripture. Unfortunately, it goes deeper, for some do not even think there is anything for
which to search out in scripture as if all truth has been revealed.
However, Solomon would not agree with this thinking. Wisdom says: Those who diligently seek me will find me
(Proverbs 8:17). Regarding discernment and understanding, he tells us: For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice
for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear
of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:3-5). Further, the prophets would not agree either, for
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We See in an Enigma
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they know: Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets (Amos
3:7). In other words, God loves to reveal His secrets to His people, especially to those who diligently seek Him in
In the Hebrew text, the word riddle appears in four settings: Samson propounded a riddle (Judges 14:12-19); David
inclined his ear to a proverb and expressed his riddle on a harp (Psalm 49:4); through Ezekiel, the Lord propounded
a riddle to the house of Israel (Ezekiel 17:1-2); and Solomon wrote: A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise
and their riddles (Proverbs 1:5-6).
The Hebrew word for riddle is chiydah , which, according to Strong's Concordance , means "a puzzle ; hence a trick ,
conundrum , sententious maxim: - dark saying (sentence, speech), hard question, proverb, riddle" (H2420). Chiydah
is made up of four Hebrew letters with a gematria of 27.
Numeric Value
Literal Meaning
Symbolic Meaning
Fence, hedge, chamber Private, to separate
Closed hand
Deed, work, to make
Pathway, to enter
Window, Fence
"the," to reveal
The letters alone give the impression of something hedged in, a private place into which one must enter. It may
require ingenious work to enter into this place; however, there is a pathway by which to enter; and once inside,
there is revelation. Putting these meanings together in a sentence yields something quite instructive: A private
work to make the way to enter into revelation , or Entering the private chamber is a work that leads to revelation .
Obviously, there are many ways to approach God's word. However, the word enigma implies that there are hidden
treasures of truth in the Bible that need to be mined like silver. Scripture is an enigma. It is a puzzle to be put
together or a riddle to be solved. The whole of the Bible is one huge riddle that stares at us saying: Search me! Solve
God wrote it this way and encourages us to search and study His written word to discover the many truths that He
has hidden within it. He wants us to search, and He wants to give us revelation. Scripture is like a puzzle with many
pieces that need to be put together or a riddle that takes ingenuity and imagination to solve. It may be baffling or
perplexing at times, but we are to diligently keep at it until He opens the eyes of our understanding. Actually, God
Himself is an enigma or riddle, hiding around every corner to see if we can find Him. He is there at every turn, but
we must seek to find Him.
Consider this; during WWII, the Germans had a cipher machine, a code breaker that was broken (decoded) by the
British, based on early work done by Polish mathematicians. Some say this achievement shortened the war by two
years because the Allies often knew German battlefield orders before the German generals did. The cipher machine
was called Enigma .
Think of the implications. We have an enigma decoder within us called the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of truth. God
is pleased when we search His word, seeking to solve His riddles, coming to know His heart and His truth, and His
plans and purpose. Don't run from the enigma; seek to solve it! And, if you cannot do it or are not inclined to do it,
do not despise those who do; learn from them.