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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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cvi. ἀστεῖος, ὡραῖος, καλός.

Ἀστεῖος occurs twice in the N. T. (Acts 7:20, and Heb. 11:23), and on both occasions it is an epithet applied to Moses; having been drawn from Exod. 2:2, where the Septuagint uses this word as an equivalent to the Hebrew טוֹב; compare Philo, De Vitâ Mos. i. 3. The τῷ Θεῷ, which at Acts 7:20 is added to ἀστεῖος, has not a little perplexed interpreters, as is evident from the various renderings which the expression has found. I will enumerate a few: ‘gratus Deo’ (Vulg.); ‘loved of God’ (Wiclif); ‘a proper child in the sight of God’ (Tyndale); ‘acceptable unto God’ (Cranmer, Geneva, and Rheims); ‘exceeding fair’ (Authorized Version); this last rendering, which makes the τῷ Θεῷ a heightening of the high quality of the thing which is thus extolled, being probably the nearest to the truth; see for a like idiom Jonah 3:3: πόλις μεγάλη τῷ Θεῷ. At Heb. 11:23, ‘a proper child’ is the rendering of all our English Versions, nor would it be easy to improve upon it; though ‘proper,’ so used, is a little out of date.

The ἄστυ which lies in ἀστεῖος, and which constitutes its base, tells us at once what is the point from which it starts, and explains the successive changes through which it passes. He first of all is ἀστεῖος who has been born and bred, or at all events reared, in the city; who in this way is ‘urban.’ But the ‘urban’ may be assumed also to be ‘urbane’; so testifying to the gracious civilizing influences of the life among men, and converse with men, which he has enjoyed; and thus ἀστεῖος obtains a certain ethical tinge, which is real, though it may not be very profound; he who is such being implicitly contrasted with the ἀγροῖκος, the churl, the boor, the villein. Thus in an instructive passage in Xenophon (Cyrop. ii. 2. 12) the ἀστεῖοι are described as also εὐχάριτες, obliging, that is, and gracious, according to the humbler uses of that word. It is next assumed that the higher culture which he that is bred in cities enjoys, will display itself in the very aspect that he wears, which will be fashioned and moulded under humanizing influences; and thus the ἀστεῖος may be assumed as fair to look on and comely, a suggestion of beauty, not indeed generally of a high character, finding its way very distinctly into the word; thus Plutarch, De Soc. Gen. 584 c, contrasts the ἀστεῖος and the αἰσχρος, or positively ugly; and thus too Judith is ἀστεῖα (Judith 9:23) == to the εὐπρόσωπος applied to Sarah (Gen. 12:11).

Ὡραῖος is a word of constant recurrence in the Septuagint, representing there a large variety of Hebrew words. In the N. T. it appears only four times (Matt. 23:27; Acts 3:2, 10; Rom. 10:15). The steps by which it obtains the meaning of beautiful, such as in all these passages it possesses, are few and not difficult to trace. All which in this world lives submitted to the laws of growth and decay, has its ‘hour’ or ὥρα, the period, that is, when it makes fairest show of whatever of grace or beauty it may own. This ὥρα, being thus the turning point of its existence, the time when it is at its loveliest and best, yields ὡραῖος with the sense first of timely; thus ὡραῖος θάνατος in Xenophon, a timely because honourable death; and then of beautiful (in voller Entwicklung oder Blüte stehend, Schmidt).

It will be seen that ἀστεῖος and ὡραῖος arrive at one and the same goal; so that ‘fair,’ or ‘proper.’ or ‘beautiful,’ might be the rendering of either or of both; but that they arrive at it by paths wholly different, reposing as they do on wholly different images. One belongs to art, the other to nature. In ἀστεῖος the notions of neatness, symmetry, elegance, and so finally more or less of beauty, are bound up. It is indeed generally something small which ἀστεῖος implies, even when it is something proposed for our admiration. Thus Aristotle, while he admits that small persons (οἱ μικροί) may be ἀστεῖοι and σύμμετροι, dapper and well shaped, refuses them the title of καλοί. Ὡραῖος is different. There speaks out in it the sense that for all things which belong to this passing world, the grace of the fashion of them perishes, but that they have their ‘hour,’ however brief, the season of their highest perfection.

The higher moral aspects and uses of καλός are most interesting to note, above all, the perfect freedom with which it moves alike in the world of beauty and in that of goodness, claiming both for its own; but of this we are not here to speak. It is only as designating physical aspects of beauty that it could be brought into comparison with ὡραῖος here. Καλός, affirmed to be of the same descent as the German ‘heil,’ as our own ‘whole’Etym. Note. 40 (Curtius, Grundzüge, 130), as we first know it, expresses beauty, and beauty contemplated from a point of view especially dear to the Greek mind, namely as the harmonious completeness, the balance, proportion, and measure of all the parts one with another of that to which this epithet is given. Basil the Great (Hom. in Ps. xliv.) brings this out excellently well as he draws the line between it and ὡραῖος (Hom. in Ps. xliv): Τὸ ὡραῖον, he says, τοῦ καλοῦ διαφέρει· ὅτι τὸ μὲν ὡραῖον λέγεται τὸ συμπεπληρωμένον εἰς τὸν ἐπιτήδειον καιρὸν πρὸς τὴν οἰκείαν ἀκμήν· ὡς ὡραῖος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς ἀμπέλου, ὁ τὴν οἰκείαν πέψιν εἰς τελείωσιν ἑαυτοῦ διὰ τῆς τοῦ ἔτους ὥρας ἀπολαβών, καὶ ἐπιτήδειος εἰς ἀπόλαυσιν· καλὸν δέ ἐστι τὸ ἐν τῇ συνθέσει τῶν μελῶν εὐάρμοστον, ἐπανθοῦσαν αὐτῷ τὴν χάριν ἔχον. Compare Plato, Tim. 365; Rep. x. 601 b, and Stallbaum’s note.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G2570,G5611,G791.]

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