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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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lv. θλῖψις, στενοχωρία.

These words were often joined together. Thus στενοχωρία, occurring only four times in the N. T., is on three of these associated with θλῖψις (Rom. 2:9; 8:5; 2 Cor. 6:4; cf. Deut. 28:55; Isai. 8:22; 30:6). So too the verbs θλίβειν and στενοχωρεῖν (2 Cor. 4:8; cf. Lucian, Nigrin. 13; Artemidorus, i. 79; ii. 37). From the antithesis at 2 Cor. 4:8, θλιβόμενοι, ἀλλ᾽ οὐ στενοχωρούμενοι, and from the fact that, wherever in the N. T. the words occur together, στενοχωρία always occurs last, we may conclude that, whatever be the difference of meaning, στενοχωρία is the stronger word.

They indeed express very nearly the same thing, but not under the same image. Θλῖψις (joined with βάσανος at Ezek. 12:18, and for which we have the form θλιμμός, Exod. 3:9; Deut. 26:7) is properly pressure, ‘pressura,’ ‘tribulatio, ’—which last word in Church-Latin, to which alone it belongs, had a metaphorical sense,—that which presses upon or burdens the spirit; I should have said ‘angor,’ the more that Cicero (Tusc. iv. 8) explains this ‘aegritudo premens,’ but that the connexion of ‘angor’ with ‘Angst,’ ‘enge’ (see Grimm, Wörterbuch, s. v. Angst; and Max Müller, On the Science of Language, 1861, vol. i. p. 366), makes it better to reserve this for στενοχωρία.

The proper meaning of στενοχωρία is narrowness of room, confined space, ‘angustiae,’ and then the painfulness of which this is the occasion: ἀπορία στενή and στενοχωρία occurring together, Isai. 8:22. It is used literally by Thucydides, vii. 70: being sometimes exchanged for δυσχωρία: by Plutarch (Symp. v. 6) set over against ἄνεσις; while in the Septuagint it expresses the straitness of a siege (Deut. 28:53, 57.) It is once employed in a secondary and metaphorical sense in the O. T. (στενοχωρία πνεύματος, Wisd. 5:3); this being the only sense which it knows in the New. The fitness of this image is attested by the frequency with which on the other hand a state of joy is expressed in the Psalms and elsewhere as a bringing into a large room (πλατυσμός, Ps. 117:5; 2 Sam. 22:20; Ecclus. 47:12; Clement of Rome, 1 Ep. § 3; Origen, De Orat. 30; εὐρυχωρία, Marcus Antoninus, ix. 32); so that whether Aquinas intended an etymology or not, and most probably he did, he certainly uttered a truth, when he said, ‘laetitia est quasi latitia.’

When, according to the ancient law of England, those who wilfully refused to plead had heavy weights placed on their breasts, and were so pressed and crushed to death, this was literally θλῖψις. When Bajazet, vanquished by Tamerlane, was carried about by him in an iron cage, if indeed the story be true, this was στενοχωρία: or, as we do not know that any suffering there ensued from actual narrowness of room, we may more fitly adduce the oubliettes in which Louis XI. shut up his victims; or the ‘little-ease’1 by which, according to Lingard, the Roman Catholics in Queen Elizabeth’s reign were tortured; ‘it was of so small dimensions and so constructed, that the prisoners could neither stand, walk, sit, nor lie in it at full length.’ For some considerations on the awful sense in which θλῖψις and στενοχωρία shall both, according to St. Paul’s words (Rom. 2:9), be the portion of the lost, see Gerhard, Loc. Theoll. xxxi. 6. 52.


1 The word ‘little-ease’ is not in our Dictionaries, but grew in our early English to a commonplace to express any place or condition of extreme discomfort.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G2347,G4730.]

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