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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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xli. ἀνάπαυσις, ἄνεσις.

Our Version renders both these words by ‘rest’; ἀνάπαυσις at Matt. 11:29; 12:43; and ἄνεσις at 2 Cor. 2:13; 7:5; 2 Thess. 1:7. No one can object to this; while yet, on a closer scrutiny, we perceive that they repose on different images, and contemplate this ‘rest’ from different points of view. Ἀνάπαυσις, from ἀναπαύω, implies the pause or cessation from labour (Rev. 4:8); it is the constant word in the Septuagint for the rest of the Sabbath; thus Exod. 16:23; 31:15; 35:2, and often. Ἄνεσις, from ἀνίημι, implies the relaxing or letting down of chords or strings, which have before been strained or drawn tight, its exact and literal antithesis being ἐπίτασις (from ἐπιτείνω): thus Plato (Rep. i. 349 e): ἐν τῇ ἐπιτάσει καὶ ἀνέσει τῶν χορδῶν: and Plutarch (De Lib. Ed. 13): τὰ τόξα καὶ τὰς λύρας ἀνίεμεν, ἵνα ἐπιτεῖναι δυνηθῶμεν: and again (Lyc. 29): οὐκ ἄνεσις ἦν, ἀλλἐπίτασις τῆς πολιτείας: cf. Philo, De Incorr. Mun. 13. Moses in the year of jubilee gave, according to Josephus (Antt. iii. 12. 3), ἄνεσιν τῇ γῇ ἀπό τε ἀρότρου καὶ φυτείας. But no passage illustrates ἄνεσις so well as one from the treatise just quoted which goes by Plutarch’s name (De Lib. Ed. 13): δοτέον οὖν τοῖς παισὶν ἀναπνοὴν τῶν συνεχῶν πόνων, ἐνθυμουμένους, ὅτι πᾶς ὁ βίος ἡμῶν εἰς ἄνεσιν καὶ σπουδὴν διῄρηται· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο οὐ μόνον ἐγρήγορσις, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὕπνος εὑρέθη· οὐδὲ πόλεμος, ἀλλὰ καὶ εἰρήνη· οὐδὲ χειμών, ἀλλὰ καὶ εὐδία· οὐδὲ ἐνεργοὶ πράξεις, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐορταὶ... καθόλου δὲ σώζεται, σῶμα μέν, ἐνδεία καὶ πληρώσει· ψυχὴ δὲ, ἀνὲσει καὶ πόνῳ. Plato has the same opposition between ἄνεσις and σπουδή (Legg. iv. 724 a); while Plutarch (Symp. v. 6) sets ἄνεσις over against στενοχωρία, as a dwelling at large, instead of in a narrow and straight room; and St. Paul over against θλίψις (2 Cor. 8:13), not being willing that there should be ‘ease’ (ἄνεσις) to other Churches, and ‘affliction’ (θλῖψις), that is from an excessive contribution, to the Corinthian. Used figuratively, it expresses what we, employing the same image, call the relaxation of morals (thus Athenaeus, xiv. 13: ἀκολασία καὶ ἄνεσις, setting it over against σωφροσύνη; Philo, De Cherub. 27; De Ebriet. 6: ἄνεσις, ῥᾳθυμία, τρυφή: De Mere. Meret. 2).

It will at once be perceived how excellently chosen ἔχειν ἄνεσιν at Acts 24:23 is, to express what St. Luke has in hand to record. Felix, taking now a more favourable view of Paul’s case, commands the centurion who had him in charge, to relax the strictness of his imprisonment, to keep him rather under honorable arrest than in actual confinement; which partial relaxation of his bonds is exactly what this phrase implies; cf. Ecclus. 26:10; Josephus, Antt. xviii. 6. 10, where ἄνεσις is used in a perfectly similar case.

The distinction, then, is obvious. When our Lord promises ἀνάπαυσις to the weary and heavy laden who come to Him (Matt. 11:18, 29), his promise is, that they shall cease from their toils; shall no longer spend their labour for that which satisfieth not. When St. Paul expresses his confidence that the Thessalonians, troubled now, should yet find ἄνεσις in the day of Christ (2 Thess. 1:7), he anticipates for them, not so much cessation from labour, as relaxation of the chords of affliction, now so tightly drawn, strained and stretched to the uttermost. It is true that this promise and that at the heart are not two, but one; yet for all this they present the blessedness which Christ will impart to his own under different aspects, and by help of different images; and each word has its own fitness in the place where it is employed.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G372,G425.]

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