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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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c. σκότος, γνόφος, ζόφος, ἀχλύς.

Of σκότος it needs hardly to speak. It is the largest and most inclusive word of this group; being of very frequent occurrence in the N. T., both in this its Attic form, as also in that of σκοτία, which belongs to the common dialect. It is the exact opposite to φῶς; thus in the profoundly pathetic words of Ajax in Euripides, ἰώ· σκότος ἐμὸν φάος: compare Plato, Rep. 518 a; Job 22:11; Luke 12:3; Acts 26:18.

Γνόφος, which is rightly regarded as a later Doric form of δνόφος, occurs only once in the N. T., namely at Heb. 12:18, and there in connection with ζόφος; in which same connection it is found elsewhere (Deut. 4:11; Exod. 10:22; Zeph. 1:16). There was evidently a feeling on the part of our early Translators, that an element of tempest was included in the word, the renderings of it by them being these: ‘mist’ (Wiclif and Tyndale); ‘storm’ (Cranmer); ‘blackness’ (Geneva and Authorized Version); ‘whirl- wind’ (Rheims, as ‘turbo’ in the Vulgate). Our ordinary lexicons indicate very faintly, or not at all, that such a force is to be found in γνόφος; but it is very distinctly recognized by Port (Etymol. Forsch. vol. 5, p. 346), who gives, as explanatory equivalents, ‘finsterniss,’ ‘dunkel,’ ‘wirbelwind,’ and who with the best modern scholars sees in νέφας, νέφος, γνόφος and ζόφος, a group of words having much in common, perhaps no more than different shapes of what was once a single word.Etym. Note. 39 It is joined, too, in the Septuagint, where it is of frequent use, with νεφέλη (Joel 2:2; Ps. 96:2; Exod. 34:12), and with θύελλα (Deut. 4:11; 5:22).

Ζόφος, which occurs three times in the N. T. (2 Pet. 2:4, 17; Jude 6), or four times, if we make room for it at Heb. 12:18, as it seems we should, is not found in the Septuagint; once, however, namely at Ps. 10:2, in the version of Symmachus. The ζόφος may be contemplated as a kind of emanation of σκότος; thus ὁ ζόφος τοῦ σκοτούς (Exod. 10:22; Jude 13); and signifies in its first meaning the twilight gloom which broods over the regions of the setting sun, and constitutes so strong a contrast to the life and light of that Orient where the sun may be said to be daily new-born. Ἠερόευς, or the cloudy, is in Homer the standing epithet with which ζοφός, when used in this sense, is linked. But it means more than this. There is a darkness darker still, that, namely, of the sunless underworld, the ‘nigra Tartara’ of Virgil (aen. vi. 134); the ‘opaca Tartara’ of Ovid (Met. x. 20); the κνεφαῖα Ταρτάρου βάθη of aeschylus (Prom. Vinct. 1029). This, too, it further means, namely that sunless world itself, though indeed this less often than the gloom which wraps it (Homer, Hymn. ad Cer., 338; Euripides, Hippolytus, 1434; cf. Job 10:21, 22). It is out of the ζόφος that Ahriman in the Egyptian mythology is born, as is Ormuzd out of the light (Plutarch, De Osir. et Is. 46). It will at once be perceived with what fitness the word in the N. T. is employed, being ever used to signify the darkness of that shadowy land where light is not, but only darkness visible.

Ἀχλύς occurs only once in the N. T., namely at Acts 13:11; never in the Septuagint, although once in the version of Symmachus (Job 3:5). It is by Galen defined as something more dense than ὀμίχλη, less dense than νέφος. In the single place of its N. T. use it attests the accuracy in the selection of words, and not least of medical words, which ‘the beloved physician’ so often displays. For him it expresses the mist of darkness, ἀχλὺς καὶ σκότος, which fell on the sorcerer Elymas, being the outward and visible sign of the inward spiritual darkness which should be his portion for a while in punishment for his resistance to the truth. It is by ‘mist’ that all the translations of our English Hexapla render it, with the exception of the Rheims, which has ‘dimness’; while it is rendered well by ‘caligo’ in the Vulgate. St. Luke’s use of the word in the Acts is divided by nearly a thousand years from its employment by Homer; but the meaning has remained absolutely the same; for indeed it is words with an ethical significance, and not those which express the phenomena of the outward world, that change with the changing years. Thus there is in the Odyssey a fine use of the verb ἀχλύειν (12:406), the poet describing there the responsive darkness which comes over the sea as it is overshadowed by a dark cloud (cf. ‘inhorruit unda tenebris’: Virgil, aen. iii. 195). Ἀχλύς, too, is employed by Homer to express the mist which clouds the eyes of the dying (Il. xvi. 344), or that in which the gods, for one cause or another, may envelope their favourites.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G1105,G2217,G4655,G887.]

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