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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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x. δειλία, φόβος, εὐλάβεια.

Of these three words the first, δειλία, is used always in a bad sense; the second, φόβος, is a middle term, capable of a good interpretation, capable of an evil, and lying indifferently between the two; the third, εὐλάβεια, is quite predominantly used in a good sense, though it too has not altogether escaped being employed in an evil.

Δειλία, equivalent to the Latin ‘timor,’ and having θρασύτης or ‘foolhardiness’ for its contrary extreme (Plato, Tim. 87 a), is our ‘cowardice.’ It occurs only once in the N. T., 2 Tim. 1:7; where Bengel says, exactly on what authority I know not, ‘Est timor cujus causae potius in animo sunt quam foris;’ but δειλιάω at John 14:27; and δειλός at Matt. 8:26; Mark 4:40; Rev. 21:8: the δειλοί in this last passage being those who in time of persecution have under fear of suffering denied the faith; cf. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. viii. 3. It is joined to ἀνανδρεία (Plato, Phoedr. 254 c; Legg. ii. 659 a), to λειποταξία (Lysias, Orat. in Alcib. p. 140), to ψυχρότης (Plutarch, Fab. Max. 17), to ἔκλυσις (2 Macc. 3:24); is ascribed by Josephus to the spies who brought an ill report of the Promised Land (Antt. iii. 15. 1); being constantly set over against ἀνδρεία, as δειλός over against ἀνδρεῖος: for example, in the long discussion on valour and cowardice in Plato’s Protagoras, 360 d; see too the lively description of the δειλός in the Characters (27) of Theophrastus. Δειλία seeks to shelter its timidity under the more honorable title of ὐλάβειαx (Philo, De Fort. 739); pleads for itself that it is indeed ἀσφάλεια (Plutarch, An. an Cor. App. Pej. 3; Philo, Quod Det. Pot. Insid. 11).

Φόβος, very often united with τρόμος (as at Gen. 9:2; Deut. 11:25; Exod. 15:6; 1 Cor. 2:3; Phil. 2:12), and answering to the Latin ‘metus,’ is, as has been said, a middle term, and as such used in the N. T. sometimes in a bad sense, but oftener in a good. Thus in a bad sense, Rom. 8:15; 1 John 4:18; cf. Wisd. 17:11; but in a good, Acts 9:31; Rom. 3:18; Ephes. 6:5; Phil. 2:12; 1 Pet. 1:17. Being this μέσον, Plato, in the Protagoras as referred to above, adds αἰσχρός to it, as often as he would indicate the timidity which misbecomes a man. On the distinction between ‘timor,’ ‘metus,’ and ‘formido’ see Donaldson, Complete Latin Grammar, p. 489.

Εὐλάβεια only occurs twice in the N. T. (Heb. 5:7 [where see Bleek]; and 12:28), and on each occasion signifies piety contemplated as a fear of God; la vigilance à l’égard du mal (GodelEtym. Note. 8). The image on which it rests is that of the careful taking hold and wary handling, the εὖ λαμβάνεσθαι, of some precious yet fragile vessel, which with ruder or less anxious handling might easily be broken (ἡ γὰρ εὐλάβεια σώζει πάντα, Aristophanes, Aves, 377), as in Balde’s sublime funeral hymn on the young German Empress—

‘Quam manibus osseis tangit,
Crystallinam phialam frangit.
O inepta et rustica Mors,
O caduca juvenculae sors!’

But such a cautious care in the conducting of affairs (the word is joined by Plutarch to πρόνοια, Marc. 9; χρησιμωτάτη Θεῶν it is declared by Euripides, Phoen. 794); springing as in part it will from a fear of miscarriage, easily lies open to the charge of timidity. Thus Demosthenes, who opposes εὐλάβεια to θράσος (517), claims for himself that he was only εὐλαβής, where his enemies charged him. with being δειλός and ἄτολμος: while in Plutarch (Fab. 17) εὐλαβής and δυσέλπιστος are joined together. It is not wonderful then that fear should have come to be regarded as an essential element of εὐλάβεια, sometimes so occupies the word as to leave no room for any other sense (Josephus, Antt. xi. 6. 9), though for the most part no dishonorable fear (see, however, a remarkable exception, Wisd. 17:8) is intended, but one which a wise and good man might fitly entertain. Cicero (Tusc. iv. 6): ‘Declinatio [a malis] si cum ratione fiet, cautio appelletur, eaque intelligatur in solo esse sapiente; quae autem sine ratione et cum exanimatione humili atque fractâ, nominetur metus.’ He has probably the definition of the Stoics in his eyes. These, while they disallowed φόβος as a πάθος, admitted εὐλάβεια, which they defined as ἔκκλισις σὺν λόγῳ (Clement of Alexandria, Strom. ii. 18), into the circle of virtues; thus Diogenes Laertius (vii. 1. 116): τὴν δὲ εὐλάβειαν [ἐνατίαν φασὶν εἶναι] τῷ φόβῳ, οὖσαν εὔλογον ἔκκλισιν· φοβηθήσεσθαι μὲν γὰρ τὸν σοφὸν οὐδαμῶς, εὐλαβηθήσεσθαι δέ: and Plutarch (De Repugn. Stoic. 11) quotes their maxim: τὸ γὰρ εὐλαβεῖσθαι σοφῶν ἴδιον. Yet after all, these distinctions whereby they sought to escape the embarrassments of their ethical position, the admission for instance that the wise man might feel ‘suspiciones quasdam etiam irae affectuum,’ but not the ‘affectus’ themselves (Seneca, De Irâ, i. 16; cf. Plutarch, De Virt. Mor. 9), were nothing worth; they had admitted the thing, and were now only fighting about words, with which to cover and conceal the virtual abandonment of their position, being ὀνοματομάχοι, as a Peripatetic adversary lays to their charge. See on this matter the full discussion in Clement of Alexandria, Strom. ii. 7–9; and compare Augustine, De Civ. Dei, ix. 4. On the more distinctly religious aspect of εὐλάβεια there will be opportunity to speak hereafter (§ 48).


1 ‘And calls that providence, which we call flight.’—Dryden.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G1167,G2124,G5401.]

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