“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt 5:9).
Pax, of course, is Latin for peace.
Yes. It’s short for hapax legomenon. It’s a transliteration from the Greek, and means, “a thing said only once.” Hapax (pronounced with an open “a” as in “hat”) denotes a term of which only one instance of use is recorded in an entire literary work or body of works. But pax (peace) and hapax (said only once) don’t seem to be related at all!
Oh yes, but they are. Let’s take a look.
Jesus pronounces on the peacemakers that wonderful blessing of Makarios, that profound blissful state of peace with God and all humanity, nature, the universe, a lasting, constantly overflowing contentment. But this term “peacemakers” is said only once in the entire New Testament! And it’s only right here in Matthew 5:9. Thus “peacemakers” is a hapax legomenon.
It’s as if one searches the entire New Testament for someone, at least one, outside of this beatitude, who would be given the qualifier of “peacemaker,” and yet no one is found. It seems no one qualifies. Granted, according to the rules of logic and persuasion, it is not quite legitimate to argue from silence. It is deemed to lead to faulty conclusions based on the absence of evidence rather than on the presence of evidence.
But yet, there it is. “Peacemakers” is a lonely noun in the New Testament. In the Greek, it is a noun made from combining two words, “peace” and “to make.”
Are there no peacemakers in the New Testament to whom the blessing of Makarios would apply? Not so fast. That indeed would be jumping to a faulty conclusion.
There is another related hapax legomenon in Colossians 1:15-20. The ending of that wonderful hymn of the early church exulting Christ contains it. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20). Did you see it? It’s right there in the last phrase, and it refers strictly to Christ. It is not a noun, but a verb in the past tense. It is literally, “having made peace.” This Greek verb is another hapax. It is found nowhere else in the New Testament, and it refers only to the work of Christ alone, through his blood alone.
Is it too much to infer that the bond between the hapax of the beatitude and the hapax of the Colossian hymn is one unique peacemaker? There is only one “peacemaker” who has made peace between humanity and God through his shed blood on the cross. There is the double hapax.
The evidence for this is the person of Christ himself.
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). “For he himself is our peace” (Eph 2:14).
We might say, “well, the two peacemaker hapax are mere coincidences.” But it is no mere coincidence that Isaiah speaks of Christ as “The prince of peace.” It is in the singular. There is none other to whom the title applies. There are no other “princes of peace.” He alone is God’s hapax, that unique word through which God spoke peace only once to humanity. We heard that voice in the person of Jesus Christ, who spoke peace to us on the cross. There he said, “It is finished,” the peace-making process is over. Your sins are forgiven, you are now at peace with God.
There are no other “peacemakers” found in the entire New Testament to whom the blessing of Makarios applies.
But what about us? Our flesh always reacts with hurt pride when Christ alone is exalted. We always want to know where we fit in.
Truth is, we are no hapax peacemakers. We are children of wrath. We only know how to make war, not peace. We are born “at-war-ment” with each other and with God. Like the Israelites of old, we need someone to make “at-one-ment” with us.
Therein enters God’s hapax, Christ in himself being God’s gospel of peace who makes atonement for us. He takes on our wrath, suffers and dies as the casualty of our war, and brings us back to life as children of peace. This is his peace, which he has made on our behalf, and it forever remains his peace, for our warring nature remains at odds even with the peace he has made for us. Faith is given to us as the olive branch of peace to which we cling ever so gingerly. But it is his faith, and thus remains unbroken.
The peace process is also unique, it is also a hapax in human history. For Christ is not a peace emissary, or a peace envoy. He was not sent from God with a list of concessions God was willing to make in exchange for a few of our own. Or with a list of good works we would have to perform in order to obtain God’s concessions. God did not even ask for us to at least offer our good will in exchange for peace. Our good will is nothing but enmity against God. God made no concessions to obtain our peace. All God demanded for our peace was required of Christ, and Christ abundantly satisfied all demands.
But what about the beatitude? Doesn’t it issue a blessing to us as peacemakers? Are we totally left out of the peace process?
As to what is required, yes. We are totally left out.
But as we retell how God in Christ became our peace, we become peacemakers. The title “peacemakers” is not ours except as we tell and retell his peacemaking story. Scripture tells us that we are “peace proclaimers,” not “peacemakers.” Yet as we proclaim the peace God has unilaterally made with us, we become peacemakers.
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isa 52:7). So is it pax or hapax? It is both in one, he who is our peace and who made peace for us once and for all.
But we are neither God’s pax (peace), nor God’s hapax (said only once). Those qualifiers belong only to Christ. Yet through faith and by grace alone, we receive and proclaim God’s eternal peace, and are thus called “the children of God.”
“The Lord bless you and keep you:
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26).