An Alphabetical Analysis
Volume 6 - Doctrinal Truth - Page 220 of 270
'For now we see through a glass, darkly' (1 Cor. 13:12),
which Moffatt renders, 'At present we only see the baffling reflections in a
mirror' and Weymouth (3rd. Ed. 1909), 'For the present we see things as if in
a mirror, and are puzzled (lit., in a riddle)'.  The word thus translated
'darkly', 'baffling', 'puzzled' and 'riddle' is the Greek ainigma or
'enigma'.  A puzzle, derived from the French opposer, means 'a question for
solution' and then 'a state of embarrassment'.  A riddle is from the Anglo -
Saxon roedan, 'to read, to interpret'.  It is 'a proposition put in obscure
or ambiguous terms to exercise the ingenuity in discovering its meaning'.
Neither of these forms of empuzzling speech fully account for the enigma.
The Scriptures have not been written in a puzzling form in order merely to
exercise our wits.  The literal rendering of 1 Corinthians 13:12 reads, 'we
see by means of a mirror, in an enigma', namely, that there is a purposed and
necessary obscurity about revelation, and that this is characteristic of the
present life, and will only be resolved when we attain to resurrection glory,
and see 'face to face'.  While the New Testament contains no other occurrence
of ainigma, than that of 1 Corinthians 13, it is found five times in the LXX
of the Old Testament and three times in the Apocrypha, with one occurrence of
ainigmatistes to complete the tale.
The first occurrence of 'enigma' is in a context that illuminates its
essential meaning, lifting it above the idea of puzzle or riddle to something
more sublime:
'With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark
speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold' (Num. 12:8).
'Dark speeches' or enigmas are opposed to speaking 'mouth to mouth' and
'apparently'.  This constitutes an advance in perception and revelation to
which perhaps no other son of Adam of Old Testament times has attained, yet
with all that, the highest thing that can be said of this nearness and
personal contact is that 'the similitude' of the Lord shall he (Moses)
behold.  The only one who approached to this high stage of revelation was
Eliphaz, who said concerning the visions of the night that came
to him, 'A spirit passed before my face ... an image (similitude) was before
mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying ...' (Job 4:13 -
17).  In every other instance except one, the use of a 'similitude' of the
Lord is forbidden (Exod. 20:4; Deut. 4:12,15,16,23,25; 5:8).  The exception
takes us forward to the day of resurrection, when the believer shall be
satisfied, when he awakes in 'the likeness' of his Lord (Psa. 17:15).  In
Exodus 33:11 we read:
'And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his
In Numbers 12, the way in which the Lord spoke to Moses is placed in
contrast with the usual method of communicating to a prophet, namely, by
vision or dream (Num. 12:6).  In 1 Kings 10:1 we learn that the Queen of
Sheba came to prove Solomon with 'hard questions' (enigmas), and Josephus
tells us that Hiram, King of Tyre tried the skill of Solomon in the same way.
We meet the word once more in Proverbs 1:6:
'The words of the wise, and their dark sayings'.