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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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liii. μακροθυμία, ὑπομονή, ἀνοχή.

Between μακροθυμία and ὑπομονή, which occur together at Col. 1:11, and in the same context 2 Cor. 6:4, 6; 2 Tim. 3:10; Jam. 5:10, 11; cf. Clement of Rome, 58; Ignatius, Ephes. 3, Chrysostom draws the following distinction; that a man μακροθυμεῖ, who having power to avenge himself, yet refrains from the exercise of this power; while he ὑπομένει, who having no choice but to bear, and only the alternative of a patient or impatient bearing, has grace to choose the former. Thus the faithful, he concludes, would commonly be called to exercise the former grace among themselves (1 Cor. 6:7), the latter in their commerce with those that were without: μακροθυμίαν πρὸς ἀλλήλους, ὑπομονὴν πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω· μακροθυμεῖ γάρ τις πρὸς ἐκείνους οὓς δυνατὸν καὶ ἀμύνασθαι, ὑπομένει δὲ οὓς οὐ δύναται ἀμύνασθαι. This distinction, however, will not endure a closer examination; for see decisively against it Heb. 12:2, 3. He to whom ὑπομονή is there ascribed, bore, not certainly because He could not avoid bearing; for He might have summoned to his aid twelve legions of angels, if so He had willed (Matt. 26:53). It may be well then to consider whether some more satisfactory distinction between these words cannot be drawn.

Μακροθυμία belongs to a later stage of the Greek language. It occurs in the Septuagint, though neither there nor elsewhere exactly in the sense which in the N.T. it bears; thus at Isai. 57:15 it is rather a patient holding out under trial than long- suffering under provocation, more, that is, the ὐπομονή with which we have presently to do; and compare Jer. 15:15, 1 Macc. 8:4; in neither of which places is its use that of the N. T.; and as little is it that of Plutarch (Lucul. 32); the long-suffering of men he prefers to express by ἀνεξικακία (De Cap. ex Inim. Util. 9; cf. Epictetus, Enchir. 10), while for the grand long-suffering of God he has a noble word, one probably of his own coining, μεγαλοπάθεια (De Ser. Num. Vind. 5). The Church-Latin rendered it by ‘longanimitas’ which the Rheims Version sought to introduce into English in the shape of ‘longanimity.’ There is no reason why ‘longanimity; should not have had the same success as ‘magnanimity’; but there is a fortune about words, as well as about books, and this failed, notwithstanding that Jeremy Taylor and Bishop Hall allowed and employed it. We have preferred ‘long-suffering,’ and understand by it a long holding out of the mind before it gives room to fiction or passion—generally to passion; ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων ἐν ἀγάπῃ, as St. Paul (Ephes. 4:2) beautifully expounds the meaning which he attaches to the word. Anger usually, but not universally, is the passion thus long held aloof; the μακρόθυμος being one βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν, and the word exchanged for κρατῶν ὀργῆς (Prov. 16:32); and set over against θυμώδης (15:18). Still it is not necessarily anger, which is thus excluded or set at a distance; for when the historian of the Maccabees describes how the Romans had won the world ‘by their policy and their patience’ (1 Macc. 8:4), μακροθυμία expresses there that Roman persistency which would never make peace under defeat. The true antithesis to μακροθυμία in that sense is ὀξυθυμία, a word belonging to the best times of the language, and employed by Euripides (Androm. 729), as ὀξύθυμος by Aristotle (Rhet. ii. 12; cf. ὀξύχολος, Solon).

But ὑπομονή, —βασιλὶς τῶν ἀρετῶν Chrysostom calls it,—is that virtue which in heathen ethics would be called more often by the name of καρτερία1 (the words are joined together, Plutarch, Apoph. Lac. Ages. 2), or καρτέρησις, and which Clement of Alexandria, following in the track of some heathen moralists, describes as the knowledge of what things are to be borne and what are not (ἐπιστήμη ἐμμενετέων καὶ οὐκ ἐμμενετέων, Strom. ii. 18; cf. Plutarch, De Plac. Phil. iv. 23), being the Latin ‘perseverantia’ and ‘patientia’2 both in one, or, more accurately still, ‘tolerantia.’ ‘In this noble word ὑπομονή there always appears (in the N. T.) a background of ἀνδρεία (cf. Plato, Theoet. 177 b, where ἀνδρικῶς ὑπομεῖναι is opposed to ἀνάνδρως φεύγειν); it does not mark merely the endurance, the “sustinentia” (Vulg.), or even the “patientia” (Clarom.), but the “perseverantia, ” the braue patience with which the Christian contends against the various hindrances, persecutions, and temptations that befal him in his conflict with the inward and outward world’ (Ellicott, on 1 Thess. 1:3). It is, only springing from a nobler root, the κρατερὰ τλημοσύνη of Archilochus, Fragm. 8. Cocceius (on Jam. 1:12) describes it well: ‘Ὑπομονή vesatur in contemtu bonorum hujus mundi, et in forti susceptione affictionum cum gratiarum actione; imprimis autem in constantiâ fidei et caritatis, ut neutro modo quassari aut labefactari se patiatur, aut impediri quominus opus suum et laborem suum efficiat.’ For some other definitions see the article ‘Geduld’ in Herzog’s Real-Encyclopädie.

We may proceed now to distinguish between these; and this distinction, I believe, will hold good wherever the words occur; namely, that μακροθυμία will be found to express patience in respect of persons, ὑπομονή in respect of things. The man μακροθυμεῖ, who, having to do with injurious persons, does not suffer himself easily to be provoked by them, or to blaze up into anger (2 Tim. 4:2). The man ὑπομένει, who, under a great siege of trials, bears up, and does not lose heart or courage (Rom. 5:3; 2 Cor. 1:6; cf. Clement of Rom, 1 Ep. § 5). We should speak, therefore, of the μακροθυμία of David (2 Sam. 16:10-13), the ὑπομονή of Job (Jam. 5:11). Thus, while both graces are ascribed to the saints, only μακροθυμία is an attribute of God; and there is a beautiful account of his μακροθυμία at Wisd. 12:20, however the word itself does not there appear. Men may tempt and provoke Him, and He may and does display an infinite μακροθυμία in regard of them (Exod. 34:6; Rom. 2:4; 1 Pet. 2:20); there may be a resistance to God in men, because He respects the wills which He has given them, even when those wills are fighting against Him. But there can be no resistance to God, nor burden upon Him, the Almighty, from things; therefore ὑπομονή can find no place in Him, nor is it, as Chrysostom rightly observes, properly ascribed to Him; (yet see Augustine, De Patientiá, § 1), for it need hardly be observed that when God is called Θεὸς τῆς ὑπομονῆς (Rom. 15:5), this does not mean, God whose own attribute ὑπομονή is, but God who gives ὑπομονή to his servants and saints (Tittmann, p. 194: ᾽Θεὸς τῆς ὑπομονῆς, Deus qui largitur ὑπομονήν;’ cf. Ps. 70:5, LXX.); in the same way as Θεὸς χάριτος (1 Pet. 5:10) is God who is the author of grace; Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης (Heb. 13:20), God who is the author of peace; and compare Θεὸς τῆς ἐλπίδος (Rom. 15:13), ‘the God of hope.’

Ἀνοχή, used commonly in the plural in classical Greek, signifies, for the most part, a truce or suspension of arms, the Latin ‘indutiae’ It is excellently rendered ‘forbearance’ on the two occasions of its occurrence in the N. T. (Rom. 2:4; 3:26). Between it and μακροθυμία Origen draws the following distinction in his’ Commentary on the Romans (2:4)—the Greek original is lost:—‘Sustentatio [ἀνοχή] a patientiâ [μακροθυμία] hoc videtur differre, quod qui infirmitate magis quam proposito delinquunt sustentari dicuntur; qui vero pertinaci mente velut exsultant in delictis suis, ferri patienter dicendi sunt.’ This does not seize very successfully the distinction, which is not one merely of degree. Rather the ἀνοχή is temporary, transient: we may say that, like our ‘truce,’ it asserts its own temporary, transient character; that after a certain lapse of time, and unless other conditions intervene, it will pass away. This, it may be urged, is true of μακροθυμία no less; above all, of the divine μακροθυμία (Luke 13:9). But as much does not lie in the word; we may conceive of a μακροθυμία, though it would be worthy of little honour, which should never be exhausted; while ἀνοχή implies its own merely provisional character. Fritzsche (on Rom. 2:4) distinguishes the words: ‘ἡ ἀνοχή indulgentiam notat quâ jus tuum non continuo exequutus, ei qui te laeserit spatium des ad resipiscendum; ἡ μακροθυμία clementiam significat quâ irae temperans delictum non statim vindices, sed ei qui peccaverit poenitendi locum relinquas;’ elsewhere (Rom. 3:26) he draws the matter still better to a point: ‘Indulgentia [ἡ ἀνοχή] eo valet, ut in aliorum peccatis conniveas, non ut alicui peccata condones, quod clementioe est.’ It is therefore most fitly used at Rom. 3:26 in relation to the πάρεσις ἁμαρτιων which found place before the atoning death of Christ, as contrasted with the ἄφεσις ἁμαρτίων, which was the result of that death (see back, p. 114). It is that forbearance or suspense of wrath, that truce with the sinner, which by no means implies that the wrath will not be executed at the last; nay, involves that it certainly will, unless he be found under new conditions of repentance and obedience (Luke 13:9; Rom. 2:3-6). The words are distinguished, but the difference between them not very sharply defined, by Jeremy Taylor, in his first Sermon ‘On the Mercy of the Divine Judgments,’ in init.


1 If, however, we may accept the Definitions ascribed to Plato, there is a slight distinction: καρτερία ὑπομονὴ λύπης, ἕνεκα τοῦ καλοῦ· ὑπομονὴ πόνων, ἕνεκα τοῦ καλοῦ.

2 These two Cicero (De Inven. ii. 54) thus defines and distinguishes: ‘Patientia est honestatis aut utilitatis causâ rerum arduarum ac difficilium voluntaria ac diuturna perpessio; perseverantia est in ratione bene consideratâ stabilis et perpetua permansio; compare Tusc. Disp. iv. 24, where he deals with ‘fortitudo’; and Augustine, Quoest. lxxxiii. qu. 31.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G3115,G463,G5281.]

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