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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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xxxi. μολύνω, μιαίνω.

We have translated both these words, as often as they occur in the N. T. (μολύνω, at 1 Cor. 8:7; Rev. 3:4; 14:4; μιαίνω, at John 18:28; Tit. 1:15; Heb. 12:15; Jude 8), by a single word ‘defile,’ which doubtless covers them both. At the same time they differ in the images on which they severally repose;—μολύνειν being properly ‘to besmear,’ or ‘besmirch,’ as with mud or filth, ‘to defoul;’ which, indeed, is only another form of ‘defile;’Etym. Note. 17 thus Aristotle (Hist. An. vi. 17. 1) speaks of swine, τῷ πηλῷ μολύνοντες ἑαυτούς, that is, as the context shows, crusting themselves over with mud (cf. Plato, Rep. vii. 535 e; Cant. 5:3; Ecclus. 13:1): while μιαίνειν, in its primary usage, is not ‘to smear’ as with matter, but ‘to stain’ as with colour. The first corresponds to the Latin ‘inquinare’ (Horace, Sat. i. 8. 37), ‘spurcare’ (itself probably connected with ‘porcus’),Etym. Note. 18 the German ‘besudeln;’ the second to the Latin ‘maculare,’ and the German ‘beflecken.’

It will follow, that while in a secondary and ethical sense both words have an equally dishonorable signification, the μολυσμὸς σαρκός (2 Cor. 7:1) being no other than the μιάσματα τοῦ κόσμου (2 Pet. 2:20), both being also used of the defiling of women (cf. Gen. 34:5; Zech. 14:2),—this will only hold good so long as they are figuratively and ethically taken. So taken indeed, μιαίνειν is in classical Greek the standing word to express the profaning or unhallowing of aught (Plato, Legg. ix. 868 a; Tim. 69 d; Sophocles, Antig. 1031; cf. Lev. 5:3; John 18:28). In a literal sense, on the contrary, μιαίνειν may be used in good part, just as, in English, we speak of the staining of glass, the staining of ivory (Il. iv. 141; cf. Virgil, aen. xii. 67); or as, in Latin, the ‘macula’ need not of necessity be also a ‘labes;’ nor yet in English the ‘spot’ be always a ‘blot.’ Μολύνειν, on the other hand, as little admits of such nobler employment in a literal as in a figurative sense.—The verb σπιλοῦν, a late word, and found only twice in the N. T. (Jam. 3:6; Jude 23), is in meaning nearer to μιαίνειν. On it see Lobeck, Phrynichus, p. 28.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G3392,G3435.]

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