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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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ciii. ἄμωμος, ἄμεμπτος, ἀνέγκλητος, ἀνεπίληπτος.

Words expressing severally absence of blemish, and absence of blame, are very easily confounded, and the distinction between them lost sight of; not to say that those which bear one of these meanings easily acquire and make the other their own. Take in proof the first in this group of words—of which all have to do with the Christian life, and what its character should be. We have in the rendering of this a singular illustration of a shortcoming on the part of our Translators of 1611, which has been often noted, the failure I mean upon their parts to render one Greek word by a fixed correspondent word in the English. It is quite true that this feat cannot always, or nearly always, be done; but what constraining motive was there for six variations such as these which are the lot of ἅμωμος on the six occasions of its occurrence? At Ephes. 1:4 it appears as ‘without blame’; at Col. 1:22, as ‘unblameable’; at Ephes. 5:27 as ‘without blemish’; at Heb. 9:14, as ‘without spot’; at Jude xxiv. as ‘faultless’; at Rev. 14:15 as ‘without fault.’ Of these the first and second have failed to seize the exact force of the word. No such charge can be brought against the other four; one may be happier than another, but all are sufficiently correct. Inaccurate it certainly is to render ἄμωμος ‘without blame,’ or ‘unblameable,’ seeing that μῶμος in later Hellenistic Greek has travelled from the signifying of blame to the signifying of that which is the subject of blame, a blot, that is, or spot, or blemish. Ἄμωμος, a rare word in classical Greek, but found in Herodotus (ii. 177), and in aeschylus (Persoe, 185), in this way became the technical word to designate the absence of anything amiss in a sacrifice, of anything which would render it unworthy to be offered (Exod. 29:2; Num. 6:14; Ezek. 43:22; Philo, De Vict. 2); or the sacrificing priest unworthy to offer it (1 Macc. 4:42).

When joined with ἄσπιλος for the designation of this faultlessness, as it is joined at 1 Pet. 1:19, ἄμωμος would indicate the absence of internal blemish, ἄσπιλος that of external spot. Already in the Septuagint it has been transferred to the region of ethics, being of constant use there to set forth the holy walking of the faithful (Ps. 118. (119. E. V.) 1; Prov. 11:5), and even applied as a title of honour to God Himself (Ps. 17:33). We find it joined with ὅσιος (Wisd. 10:15), and in the N. T. with ἀνέγκλητος (Col. 1:22), and with ἅγιος (Ephes. 1:4; 5:27), and we may regard it as affirming a complete absence of all fault or blemish on the part of that whereof it is predicated.

But if ἄμωμος is thus the ‘unblemished,’ ἄμεμπτος is the ‘unblamed.’ There is a difference between the two statements. Christ was ἄμωμος in that there was in Him no spot or blemish, and He could say “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” but in strictness of speech He was not ἄμεμπτος, nor is this epithet ever given to Him in the N. T., seeing that He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself, who slandered his footsteps and laid to his charge things that He knew not. Nor, however they may strive after this, can the saints of God lay to their account that they will certainly attain it, and that fault, just or unjust, will not be found with them. The ἄμωμος may be ἄμεμπτος (for see Luke 1:6; Phil. 2:15), but he does not always prove so (1 Pet. 2:12, 15). At the same time there is a constant tendency to regard the ‘inculpatus’ as also the ‘inculpabilis,’ so that in actual usage there is a continual breaking down of the distinct and several use of these words. The O. T. uses of ἄμεμπτος, as Job 11:4, sufficiently prove this.

Ἀνέγκλητος, which, like ἀνεπίληπτος, is in the N. T. exclusively a word of St. Paul’s, occurring five times in his Epistles, and nowhere else, is rendered ‘unreprovable’ (Col. 1:22), ‘blameless’ (1 Cor. 1:8), 1 Tim. 3:10; Tit. 1:6, 7). It is justly explained by Chrysostom as implying not acquittal merely, but absence so much as of a charge or accusation brought against him of whom it is affirmed. It moves, like ἄμωμος, not in the subjective world of the thoughts and estimates of men, but in the objective world of facts. It is an epithet by Plutarch (De Cap. ex In. Util. 5) accurately joined with ἀλοιδόρητος. In a passage cited above, namely 1 Tim. 3:10, there is a manifest allusion to a custom which still survives in our Ordinations, at the opening of which the ordaining Bishop demands of the faithful present whether they know any notable crime or charge for the which those who have been presented to him for Holy Orders ought not to be ordained; he demands, in other words, whether they be ἀνέγκλητοι, that is, not merely unaccusable, but unaccused; not merely free from any just charge, for that question is reserved, if need be, for later investigation, but free from any charge at all—the intention of this citation being, that if any present had such charge to bring, the ordination should not go forward until this had been duly sifted.

Ἀνεπίληπτος, of somewhat rare use in classical Greek, occurring once in Thucydides (v. 17) and once in Plato (Phileb. 43 c), never in the Septuagint or the Apocrypha, is found in company with κάθαρος (Lucian, Piscat. i. 8), with ἀνέγκλητος (Id. ib. 46), with τέλειος (Plutarch, Sept. Sap. Conv. 9), with ἀδιάβλητος (Id. Pericles, cf. De Lib. Ed. 7), is in our Version twice rendered ‘blameless’ (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:7), but once ‘irreprovable’ (6:14); these three being the only occasions on which it is found in the N.T. ‘Irreprehensible,’ a word not occurring in our Authorized Version, but as old as it and older; and on one of the above occasions, namely, at 1 Tim. 3:2, employed by the Rhemish, which had gotten it from the ‘irreprehensibilis’ of the Vulgate, would be a nearer translation, resting as it does on the same image as the Greek; that, namely, of affording nothing which an adversary could take hold of, on which he might ground a charge: μὴ παρέχων κατηγορίας ἀφορμήν, as the Scholiast on Thucydides has it. At the same time ‘unreprehendead,’ if such a word might pass, would be a nearer rendering still.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G273,G299,G410,G423.]

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