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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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cii. μόχθος, πόνος, κόπος.

Μόχθος only occurs three times in the N. T., and always in closest sequence to κόπος (2 Cor. 11:27; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8). There can scarcely be a doubt of its near connection with μόγις, this last, as Curtius suggests, being a dative plural, μόγοις, which has let fall a letter, and subsided into an adverb. The word, which does not occur in Homer nor in Plato, is the homely everyday word for that labour which, in one shape or another, is the lot under the sun of all of the sinful children of Adam. It has been suggested by some that the infinitely laborious character of labour, the more or less of distress which is inextricably bound up with it, and cannot be escaped, is hardly brought out in μόχθος with the same emphasis as it is in the other words which are here grouped with it, and especially in πόνος, and that a point of difference may here be found between them; but this is hardly the case. Phrases like the πολύμοχθος Ἄρης of Euripides (Phoen. 791), and they may be multiplied to any extent, do not bear out this view.

Out of the four occasions on which πονος occurs in the N. T., three are found in the Apocalypse (16:10, 11; 21:4), and one in Colossians (4:13); for πόνος must there stand beyond all serious question, however there may be no fewer than four other readings, πόθος, κόπος, ζῆλος ἀγών, which are competitors for the place that it occupies by a right better than them all. Πόνος is labour such as does not stop short of demanding the whole strength of a man; and this exerted to the uttermost, if he is to accomplish the task which is before him Thus in Homer war is constantly regarded as the πόνος, not of mortal warriors only, but immortal, of Ares himself; πόνος ἀνδρῶν, as Theognis (985) calls it; being joined with δῆρις (Il. xvii. 158) and with πόλεμος (xvii. 718). Πόνοι is the standing word by which the labours of Hercules are expressed; μόχθοι too they are sometimes, but not nearly so often, called (Sophocles, Trach. 1080, 1150). Πόνος in Plato is joined with ἀγὼν ἔσχατος (Phoedr. 247 b), with νόσος (244 d), with κίνδυνος (2 Alcib. 142 b), with ζημία (Rep. 365 b), in the LXX. with ὀδύνη (1 Kin. 15:23), with μάστιξ (Jer. 6:7), with πληγή (2 Chr. 9:28). The cruel bondage of the children of Israel in Egypt is their πόνος (Exod. 2:11). It is nothing wonderful that, signifying this, πόνος should be expressly named as having no place in the Heavenly City (Rev. 21:4). Κόπος is of much more frequent recurrence. It is found some twenty times in the N. T., being not so much the actual exertion which a man makes, as the lassitude or weariness (see Pott, Etym. Forsch. vol. v. p. 80) which follows on this straining of all his powers to the utmost. It is well worth our while to note the frequent use which is made of κόπος and of the verb κοπιῶ, for the designating what are or ought to be the labours of the Christian ministry, containing as they do a word of warning for all that are in it engaged (John 4:38; Acts 20:35; Col. 1:29; 2 Cor. 6:5; 1 These. 3:5, and often).

It may be said in conclusion that ‘labour,’ ‘toil’ (or perhaps ‘travail’) and ‘weariness,’ are the three words which in English best reproduce the several Greek words, μόχθος, πόνος, κόπος, with which we here have to do.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G2873,G3449,G4192.]

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