Pearls of the Word

(Back to Index)



A cloud of witnesses

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud [nephos] of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).

The Greek word nephos means 'cloud', 'cloud cluster', and in a metaphorical sense 'many' (e.g. 'a cloud of starlings'). It is different from the Greek word nephele that describes the theophanic cloud of God's presence, "While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud [nephele] overshadowed them" (Matthew 17:5).

The author of the Hebrews epistle therefore does not talk about those who have left us and are watching us from heaven as we run the race of faith. But he speaks of all those – and they are many – who have left us and let their testimonies to encourage us, like the heralds of faith in Hebrews 11.