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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

xxix. ἀλαζών, ὑπερήφανος, ὑβριστής.

These words occur all of them together at Rom. 1:30, though in an order exactly the reverse from that in which I have found it convenient to take them. They constitute an interesting subject for synonymous discrimination.

Ἀλαζών, occurring twice in the Septuagint (Hab. 2:5; Job 28:8), is found as often in the N. T. (here and at 2 Tim. 3:27); while ἀλαζονεία, of which the Septuagint knows nothing, appears four times in the Apocrypha (Wisd. 5:8; 17:7; 2 Macc. 9:8; 15:6), and in the N. T. twice (Jam. 4:16; 1 John 2:16). Derived from ἄλη, ‘a wandering about,’Etym. Note. 16 it designated first the vagabond mountebanks (‘marktschreyers’), conjurors, quacksalvers, or exorcists (Acts 19:13; 1 Tim. 5:13); being joined with γόης (Lucian, Revivisc. 29); with φέναξ (Aristophanes); with κενός (Plutarch, Quom. in Virt. Prof. 10); full of empty and boastful professions of cures and other feats which they could accomplish; such as Volpone in The Fox of Ben Jonson (Act ii. Sc. 1). It was from them transferred to any braggart or boaster (ἀλαζὼν καὶ ὑπέραυχος Philo, Cong. Erud. Grat. § 8; while for other indifferent company which the word keeps, see Aristophanes, Nub. 445–452); vaunting himself in the possession of skill (Wisd. 17:7), or knowledge, or courage, or virtue, or riches, or whatever else it might be, which were not truly his (Plutarch, Quâ quis Rat. Laud. 4). He is thus the exact antithesis of the εἴρων, who makes less of himself and his belongings than the reality would warrant, in the same way as the ἀλαζών makes more (Aristotle, Ethic. Nic. ii. 7. 12). In the Definitions which pass under Plato’s name, ἀλαζονεία is defined as ἕξις προσποιητικὴ ἀγαθῶν μὴ ὑπαρχόντων: while Xenophon (Cyr. ii. 2. 12) describes the ἀλαζών thus: ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἀλαζὼν ἔμοιγε δοκεῖ ὄνομα κεῖσθαι ἐπὶ τοῖς προσποιουμένοις καὶ πλουσιωτέροις εἶναι ἤ εἰσι, καὶ ἀνδρειοτέροις, καὶ ποιήσειν, ἃ μὴ ἱκανοί εἰσι, ὑπισχνουμένοις· καὶ τοῦτα, φανεροῖς γιγνομένοις, ὅτι τοῦ λαβεῖν τι ἕνεκα καὶ κερδᾶναι ποιοῦσιν: and Aristotle (Ethic. Nic. iv. 7. 2): δοκεῖ δὴ ὁ μὲν ἀλαζῶν προσποιητικὸς τῶν ἐνδόξων εἶναι, καὶ μὴ ὑπαρχόντων, καὶ μειζόνων ἢ ὑπάρχει: cf. Theodoret on Rom. 1:30: ἀλαζόνας καλεῖ τοὺς οὐδεμίαν μὲν ἔχοντας πρόφασιν εἰς φρονήματος ὄγκον, μάτην δὲ φυσιωμένους. As such he is likely to be a busybody and meddler, which may explain the juxtaposition of ἀλαζονεία, and πολυπραγμοσύνη (Ep. ad Diognetum, 4). Other words with which it is joined are βλακεία (Plutarch, De Rect. Aud. 18); τύφος (Clement of Rome, 1 Ep. § 13); ἀγερωχία (2 Macc. 9:7); ἀπαιδευσία (Philo, Migrat. Abrah. 24): while in the passage from Xenophon, which was just now quoted in part, the ἀλαζόνες are distinguished from the ἀστεῖοι and εὐχαρίτες.

It is not an accident, but of the essence of the ἀλαζών, that in his boastings he overpasses the limits of the truth (Wisd. 2:16, 17); thus Aristotle sees in him not merely one making unseemly display of things which he actually possesses, but vaunting himself in those which he does not possess; and sets over against him the ἀληθευτικὸς καὶ τῷ βίῳ καὶ τῷ λόγῳ: cf. Rhet. ii. 6: τὸ τὰ ἀλλότρια αὑτοῦ φάσκειν, ἀλαζονείας σημεῖον: and Xenophon, Mem. i. 7; while Plato (Rep. viii. 560 c) joins ψευδεῖς with ἀλαζόνες λόγοι: and Plutarch (Pyrrh. 19) ἀλαζών with κόμπος. We have in the same sense a lively description of the ἀλαζών in the Characters (23) of Theophrastus; and, still better, of the shifts and evasions to which he has recourse, in the treatise, Ad Herenn. iv. 50, 51. While, therefore ‘boaster’ fairly represents ἀλαζών (Jebb suggests ‘swaggerer,’ Characters of Theophrastus, p. 193), ‘ostentation’ does not well give back ἀλαζονεία, seeing that a man can only be ostentatious in things which he really has to show. No word of ours, and certainly not ‘pride’ (1 John 2:16, E. V.), renders it all so adequately as the German ‘prahlerei.’ For the thing, Falstaff and Parolles, both of them ‘unscarred braggarts of the war,’ are excellent, though marvellously diverse, examples; so too Bessus in Beaumont and Fletcher’s King and no King; while, on the other hand, Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, despite of all his big vaunting words, is no ἀλαζών, inasmuch as there are fearful realities of power by which these his μεγάλης γλώσσης κόμποι are sustained and borne out. This dealing in braggadocio is a vice sometimes ascribed to whole nations; thus an ἔμφυτος ἀλαζονεία to the aetolians (Polybius, iv. 3; cf. Livy, xxxiii. 11); and, in modern times, to the Gascons; out of which these last have given us ‘gasconade.’ The Vulgate, translating ἀλαζόνες, ‘elati’ (in the Rhemish, ‘haughty’), has not seized the central meaning as successfully as Beza, who has rendered it ‘gloriosi.’1

A distinction has been sometimes drawn between the ἀλαζών and the πέρπερος [ἡ ἀγάπη οὐ περπερεύεται, 1 Cor. 3:4], that the first vaunts of things which he has not, the second of things which, however little this his boasting and bravery about them may become him, he actually has. The distinction, however, cannot be maintained (see Polybius, xxxii. 6. 5: xl. 6. 2); both are liars alike.

But this habitual boasting of our own will hardly fail to be accompanied with a contempt for that of others. If it did not find, it would rapidly generate, such a tendency; and thus the ἀλαζών is often αὐθάδης as well (Prov. 21:24); ἀλαζονεία is nearly allied to ὑπεροψία: they are used as almost convertible terms (Philo, De Carit. 22–24). But from ὑπεροψία to ὑπερηφανία there is but a single step; we need not then wonder to meet ὑπερήφανος joined with ἀλαζών: cf. Clement of Rome, 1 Ep. § 16. The places in the N. T. where it occurs, besides those noted already, are Luke 1:51; Jam. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5; ὑπερηφανία at Mark 7:22. A picturesque image serves for its basis: the ὑπερήφανος, from ὑπέρ and φαίνομαι, being one who shows himself above his fellows, exactly as the Latin ‘superbus’ is from ‘super;’ as our ‘stilts’ is connected with ‘Stolz,’ and with ‘stout’ in its earlier sense of ‘proud,’ or ‘lifted up.’ Deyling (Obss. Sac. vol. v. p. 219): ‘Vox proprie notat hominem capite super alios eminentem, ita ut, quemadmodum Saul, prae ceteris sit conspicuus, 1 Sam. 9:2.’ Compare Horace (Carm. i. 18. 15): ‘Et tollens vacuum plus nimio Gloria verticem.’

A man can show himself ἀλαζών only when in company with his fellow-men; but the proper seat of the ὑπερηφανία, the German ‘hochmuth,’ is within. He that is sick of this sin compares himself, it may be secretly or openly, with others, and lifts himself above others, in honour preferring himself; his sin being, as Theophrastus (Charact. 34) describes it, καταφρόνησίς τις πλὴν αὑτοῦ τῶν ἄλλων: joined therefore with ὑπεροψία (Demosthenes, Orat. xxi. 247); with ἐξουδένωσις (Ps. 30:19); ὑπερήφανος with αὐθάδης (Plutarch, Alcib. c. Cor. 4). The bearing of the ὑπερήφανος toward others is not of the essence, is only the consequence, of his sin. His ‘arrogance,’ as we say, his claiming to himself of honour and observance (ὑπερηφανία is joined with φιλοδοξία, Esth. 4:10); his indignation, and, it may be, his cruelty and revenge, if these are withheld (see Esth. 3:5, 6; and Appian, De Reb. Pun. viii. 118: ὡμὰ καὶ ὑπερήφανα), are only the outcomings of this false estimate of himself; it is thus that ὑπερήφανος and ἐπίφθονος (Plutarch, Pomp. 24), ὑπερήφανοι and βαρεῖς (Qu. Rom. 63), ὑπερηφανία and ἀγερωχία (2 Macc. 9:7), are joined together. In the ὑπερήφανος we may have the perversion of a nobler character than in the ἀλαζών, the melancholic, as the ἀλαζών is the sanguine, the ὑβριστής the choleric, temperament; but because nobler, therefore one which, if it falls, falls more deeply, sins more fearfully. He is one whose “heart is lifted up” (ὑψηλοκάρδιος, Prov. 16:5); one of those τὰ ὑψηλὰ φρονοῦντες (Rom. 12:16), as opposed to the ταπεινοὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ: he is τυφωθείς (1 Tim. 3:6) or τετυφωμένος (2 Tim. 3:4), besotted with pride, and far from all true wisdom (Ecclus. 15:8); and this lifting up of his heart may be not merely against man, but against God; he may assail the very prerogatives of Deity itself (1 Macc. 1:21, 24; Ecclus. 10:12, 13; Wisd. 14:6: ὑπερήφανοι γιγάντες). Theophylact therefore does not go too far, when he calls this sin ἀκρόπολις κακῶν: nor need we wonder to be thrice reminded, in the very same words, that “God resisteth the proud” (ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται: Jam. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5; Prov. 3:34); sets Himself in battle array against them, as they against Him.

It remains to speak of ὑβριστής, which, by its derivation from ὕβρις, which is, again, from ὑπέρ (so at least Schneider and Pott; but Curtius, Grundzüge, 2nd edit. p. 473 doubts), and as we should say, ‘uppishness,’ stands in a certain etymological relation with ὑπερήφανος (see Donaldson, New Cratylus, 3rd ed. p. 552). Ὕβρις is insolent wrongdoing to others, not out of revenge, or any other motive except the mere pleasure which the infliction of the wrong imparts. So Aristotle (Rhet. ii. 2): ἔστι γὰρ ὕβρις, τὸ βλάπτειν καὶ λυπεῖν, ἐφ᾽ οἷς αἰσχύνη ἐστὶ τῷ πάσχοντι, μὴ ἵνα τι γένηται αὐτῷ ἄλλο, ἢ ὅτι ἐγένετο, ἀλλ᾽ ὅπως ἠσθῇ· οἱ γὰρ ἀντιποιοῦντες οὐχ ὑβρίζουσιν, ἀλλὰ τιμωροῦνται. What its flower and fruit and harvest shall be, the dread lines of aeschylus (Pers. 822) have told us. Ὑβριστής occurs only twice in the N. T.; Rom. 1:30 (‘despiteful,’ E. V.), and 1 Tim. 1:13 (‘injurious,’ E.V.; a word seldom now applied except to things; but preferable, as it seems, to ‘insolent,’ which has recently been proposed; in the Septuagint often; being at Job 40:6, 7; Isai. 2:12, associated with ὑπερήφανος (cf. Prov. 8:13); as the two, in like manner, are connected by Aristotle (Rhet. ii. 16). Other words whose company it keeps are ἄγριος (Homer, Od. vi. 120); ἀτάσθαλος (Ib. xxiv. 282); αἴθων (Sophocles, Ajax, 1061); ἄνομος (Id. Trachin. 1076); βίαιος (Demosthenes, Orat. xxiv. 169); πάροινος, ἀγνώμων, πικρός (Id. Orat. liv. 1261); ἄδικος (Plato, Legg. i. 630 b); ἀκόλαστος (Apol. Socr. 26 e); ἄφρων (Phil. 45 e); ὑπερόπτης (Aristotle, Ethic. Nic. iv. 3. 21); θρασύς (Clement of Alexandria, Strom. ii. 5); φαῦλος (Plutarch, Def. Orac. 45); φιλογέλως (Id. Symp. 8. 5; but here in a far milder sense). In his Lucullus, 34, Plutarch speaks of one as ἀνὴρ ὑβριστής, καὶ μεστὸς ὁλιγωρίας ἀπάσης καὶ θρασύτητος. Its exact antithesis is σώφρων (Xenophon, Apol. Soc. 19; Ages. x. 2; cf. πρᾳΰθυμος, Prov. 16:19). The ὑβριστής is contumelious; his insolence and contempt of others break forth in acts of wantonness and outrage. Menelaus is ὑβριστής when he would fain have withheld the rites of burial from the dead body of Ajax (Sophocles, Ajax, 1065). So, too, when Hanun, king of Ammon, cut short the garments of king David’s ambassadors, and shaved off half their beards, and so sent them back to their master (2 Sam. x.), this was ὕβρις. St. Paul, when he persecuted the Church, was ὑβριστής (1 Tim. 1:13; cf. Acts 8:3), but himself ὑβρισθείς (1 Thess. 2:2) at Philippi (see Acts 16:22, 23). Our blessed Lord, prophesying the order of his Passion, declares that the Son of Man ὑβρισθήσεται (Luke 18:32); the whole blasphemous masquerade of royalty, in which it was sought that He should sustain the principal part (Matt. 27:27-30), constituting the fulfilment of this prophecy. ‘Pereuntibus addita ludibria’ are the words of Tacitus (Annal. xv. 44), describing the martyrdoms of the Christians in Nero’s persecution; they died, he would say, μεθ᾽ ὕβρεως. The same may be said of York, when, in Shakespeare’s Henry VI., the paper crown is set upon his head, in mockery of his kingly pretensions, before Margaret and Clifford stab him. In like manner the Spartans are not satisfied with throwing down the Long Walls of Athens, unless they do it to the sound of music (Plutarch, Lys. § 15). Prisoners in a Spanish civil war are shot in the back. And indeed all human story is full of examples of this demoniac element lying deep in the heart of man; this evil for evil’s sake, and ever begetting itself anew.

Cruelty and lust are the two main shapes in which ὕβρις will display itself; or rather they are not two; —for, as the hideous records of human wickedness have too often attested, the trial, for example, of Gilles de Retz, Marshal of France, in the fifteenth century, they are not two sins but one; and Milton, when he wrote, “lust hard by hate,” saying much, yet did not say all. Out of a sense that in ὕβρις both are included, one quite as much as the other, Josephus (Ant. i. 11. 1) characterizes the men of Sodom as ὑβρισταί to men (cf. Gen. 19:5), no less than ἀσεβεῖς to God. He uses the same language (Ib. v. 10. 1) about the sons of Eli (cf; 1 Sam. 2:22); on each occasion showing that by the ὕβρις which he ascribed to those and these, he intended an assault on the chastity of others (cf. Euripides, Hipp. 1086). Critias (quoted by aelian, V. H. x. 13) calls Archilochus λάγνος καὶ ὑβριστής: and Plutarch, comparing Demetrius Poliorcetes and Antony, gives this title to them both (Com. Dem. cum Anton. 3; cf. Demet. 24; Lucian, Dial. Deor. vi. 1; and the article Ὕβρεως δίκη in Pauly’s Encyclopädie).

The three words, then, are clearly distinguishable, occupying three different provinces of meaning: they present to us an ascending scale of guilt; and, as has been observed already, they severally designate the boastful in words, the proud and overbearing in thoughts, the insolent and injurious in acts.


1 We formerly used ‘glorious’ in this sense. Thus, in North’s Plutarch, p. 183: ‘Some took this for a glorious brag; others thought he [Alcibiades] was like enough to have done it.’ And Milton (The Reason of Church Government, i. 5): ‘He [Anselm] little dreamt then that the weeding hook of Reformation would, after two ages, pluck up his glorious poppy [prelacy] from insulting over the good corn [presbytery].’

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G213,G5197,G5244.]

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