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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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xx. αἰδώς, σωφροσύνη.

These two are named together by St. Paul (1 Tim. 2:9; cf. Plato, Phoedrus, 253 d) as constituting the truest adornment of a Christian woman; σωφροσύνη occurs only on two other occasions (Acts 26:25: 1 Tim. 2:15). If the distinction which has been drown in § 19 be correct, then that which Xenophon (Cyrop. viii. 1. 31) puts into the mouth of Cyrus cannot stand: διῄρει δὲ αἰδῶ καὶ σωφροσύνην τῇδε, ὡς τοὺς μὲν αἰδουμένους· τὰ ἐν τῷ φανερῷ αἰσχρὰ φεύγοντας, τοὺς δὲ σώφρονας καὶ τὰ ἐν τῷ ἀφανεῖ. It is faulty on both sides; on the one hand αἰδώς does not merely shun open and manifest baseness, however αἰσχύνη may do this; on the other a mere accident of σωφροσύνη is urged as constituting its essence. The etymology of σωφροσύνη, as σώζουσα τὴν φρόνησιν (Aristotle, Ethic. Nic. vi. 5), or σωτηρία τῆς φρονήσεως (Plato, Crat. 411 e; cf. Philo, De Fort. 3), must not be taken as seriously intended; Chrysostom has given it rightly: σωφροσύνη λέγεται ἀπὸ τοῦ σώας τὰς φρένας ἔχειν. Set over against ἀκολασία (Thucydides, iii. 37; Aristotle, Rhet. i. 9; Philo, Mund. Opif. 16 b), and ἀκρασία (Xenophon, Mem. iv. 5), the mean between ἀσωτία and φειδωλία (Philo, De Praem. et Poen. 918 b), it is properly the condition of an entire command over the passions and desires, so that they receive no further allowance than that which the law and right reason admit and approve (ἐπικράτεια τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν, 4 Macc. 1:31; cf. Tit. 2:12); cf. Plato (Symp. 196 c): εἶναι γὰρ ὀμολογεῖται σωφροσύνη τὸ κρατεῖν ἡδονὼν καὶ ἐπιθυμιῶν: his Charmides being dedicated throughout to the investigation of the exact force of the word. Aristotle (Rhet. i. 9): ἀρετὴ δι᾽ ἣν πρὸς τὰς ἡδονὰς τοῦ σώματος οὕτως ἔχουσιν, ὡς ὁ νόμος κελεύει: Plutarch (De Curios. 14; De Virt. Mor. 2; and Gryll. 6): βραχύτης τις ἐστὶν ἐπιθυμιῶν καὶ τάξις, ἀναιροῦσα μὲν τὰς ἐπεισάκτους καὶ περιττὰς, καιρῷ δὲ καὶ μετριότητι κοσμοῦσα τὰς ἀνακαίας: Philo (De Immut. Dei, 316 e): μέση ῥᾳθυμίας δὲ ἐκκεχυμένης καὶ φειδωλίας ἀνελευθέρου, σωφροσύνη: cf. Diogenes Laërtius, iii. 57.91; and Clement of Alexandria, Strom. ii. 18. In Jeremy Taylor’s words (The House of Feasting): ‘It is reason’s girdle, and passion’s bridle. . . . it is ῥώμη ψυχῆς, as Pythagoras calls it; κρηπὶς, so Socrates; κόσμος ἀγαθῶν πάντων; so Plato; ἀσφάλεια τῶν καλλίστων ἕξεων, so Iamblichus.’ We find it often joined to κοσμιότης (Aristophanes, Plut. 563, 564); to εὐταξία (2 Macc. 4:37); to καρτερία (Philo, De Agric. 22); ἁγνεία (Clement of Rome, 1 Cor. § 58). No single Latin word exactly represents it; Cicero, as he himself avows (Tusc. iii. 8; cf. v. 14), rendering it now by ‘temperantia,’ now by ‘moderatio,’ now by ‘modestia;’ and giving this account of it: ‘ejus enim videtur esse proprium motus animi appetentes regere et sedare, semperque adversantem libidini, moderetam in omni re servare constantiam. ’ Σωφροσύνη was a virtue which assumed more marked prominence in heathen ethics than it does in Christian (δώρημα κάλλιστον θεῶν, as Euripides, Med. 632, has called it); not because more value was attached to it there than with us; but partly because there it was one of a much smaller company of virtues, each of which therefore would singly attract more attention; but also in part because for as many as are “led by the Spirit,” this condition of self-command is taken up and transformed into a condition yet higher still, in which a man does not order and command himself, which, so far as it reaches, is well, but, which is better still, is ordered and commanded by God.

At 1 Tim. 2:9 we shall best distinguish between αἰδώς and σωφροσύνη, and the distinction will be capable of further application, if we affirm of αἰδώς that it is that ‘shamefastness,’1 or pudency, which shrinks from overpassing the limits of womanly reserve and modesty, as well as from the dishonour which would justly attach thereto; of σωφροσύνη that it is that habitual inner self-government, with its constant rein on all the passions and desires, which would hinder the temptation to this from arising, or at all events from arising in such strength as should overbear the checks and barriers which αἰδώς opposed to it.


1 It is a pity that ‘shamefast’ (Ecclus. 41:16) and ‘shamefastness’ by which our Translators rendered σωφροσύνη here, should have been corrupted in modern use to ‘shamefaced,’ and ‘shamefacedness.’ The words are properly of the same formation as ‘steadfast,’ ‘steadfastness,’ ‘soothfast,’ ‘soothfastness,’ and those good old English words, now lost to us, ‘rootfast,’ and ‘rootfastness:’ to which add ‘masterfast,’ engaged to a master; ‘footfast,’ captive; ‘bedfast,’ bedridden; ‘handfast,’ affianced; ‘weatherfast,’ weatherbound. As by ‘rootfast’ our fathers understood that which was firm and fast by its root, so by ‘shamefast’ that which was established and made fast by (an honorable) shame. To change this into ‘shamefaced’ is to allow all the meaning and force of the word to run to the surface, to leave us ethically a far poorer word. It is inexcusable that all modern reprints of the Authorized Version should have given in to this corruption. So long as the spelling does not affect the life of a word, this may very well fall in with modern use; we do not want ‘sonne’ or ‘marvelie,’ when everybody now spells ‘son’ and ‘marvel.’ But where this life is assailed by later alterations, corruptions in fact of the spelling, and the word in fact changed into another, there the edition of 1611 should be exactly adhered to, and considered authoritative and exemplary for all that followed.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G127,G4997.]

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