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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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lvii. χρόνος, καιρός.

Several times in the N. T. but always in the plural, χρόνοι καὶ καιροί are found together (Acts 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:1); and not unfrequently in the Septuagint and the Apocrypha, Wisd. 7:18; 8:8 (both instructive passages); Dan. 2:21; and in the singular, Eccles. 3:1; Dan. 7:12 (but in this last passage the reading is doubtful). Grotius (on Acts 1:7) conceives the difference between them to consist merely in the greater length of the χρόνοι as compared with the καιροί, and writes: ‘χρόνοι sunt majora temporum spatia, ut anni; καιροί minora, ut menses et dies.’ Compare Bengel: ‘χρόνων partes καιροί.’ This distinction, if not inaccurate, is certainly insufficient, and altogether fails to reach the heart of the matter.

Χρόνος is time, contemplated simply as such; the succession of moments (Matt. 25:19; Rev. 10:6; Heb. 4:7); αἰῶνος εἰκὼν κινητή, as Plato calls it (Tim. 37 d; compare Hooker, Eccles. Pol. v. 69); διάστημα τῆς τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κινήσεως, as Philo has it (De Mund. Op. 7). It is the German ‘Zeitraum,’ as distinguished from ‘Zeitpunkt;’ thus compare Demosthenes, 1357, where both the words occur; and Severianus (Suicer, Thes. s. v.): χρόνος μῆκός ἐστι, καῖρος εὐκαιρία. Καιρός, derived from κείρω, as ‘tempus’ from ‘temno,’Etym. Note. 27 is time as it brings forth its several births; thus καιρὸς θερισμοῦ (Matt. 13:30); καιρὸς σύκων (Mark 11:13); Christ died κατὰ καιρόν (Rom. 5:6); and above all compare, as constituting a miniature essay on the word, Eccles. 3:1-8: see Keil, in loco. Χρόνος, it will thus appear, embraces all possible καιροί, and, being the larger, more inclusive term, may be often used where καιρός would have been equally suitable, though not the converse; thus χρόνος τοῦ τεκεῖν, the time of bringing forth (Luke 1:57); πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου (Gal. 4:4), the fulness, or the ripeness, of the time for the manifestation of the Son of God, where we should before have rather expected τοῦ καιροῦ, or τῶν καιρῶν, this last phrase actually occurring at Ephes. 1:10. So, too, we may confidently say that the χρόνοι ἀποκαταστάσεως (Acts 3:21) are identical with the καιροὶ ἀναψύξεως which had just been mentioned before (ver. 19). Thus it is possible to speak of the καιρὸς χρόνου, and Sophocles (Elect. 1292) does so:

χρόνου γὰρ ἄν σοι καιρὸν ἐξείργοι λόγος,

but not of the χρόνος καιροῦ. Compare Olympiodorus (Suicer, Thes. s. v. χρόνος): χρόνος μέν ἐστι τὸ διάστημα καθ᾽ ὁ πράττεταί τι· καιρὸς δὲ ὁ ἐπιτήδειος τῆς ἐργασίας χρόνος· ὥστε ὁ μὲν χρόνος καὶ καιρὸς εἶναι δύναται· ὁ δὲ καιρὸς οὐ χρόνος, ἀλλ᾽ εὐκαιρία τοῦ πραττομένου ἐν χρόνῳ γινομενή. Ammonius: ὁ μὲν καιρὸς δηλοῖ ποιότητα χρόνου, χρόνος δὲ ποσότητα. In a fragment of Sosipatros, quoted by Athenaeus, ix. 22, εὔκαιρος χρόνος occurs.

From what has been said, it will appear that when the Apostles ask the Lord, “Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” and He makes answer, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons” (Acts 1:6, 7), ‘the times’ (χρόνοι) are, in Augustine’s words, ‘ipsa spatia temporum,’ and these contemplated merely under the aspect of their duration, over which the Church’s history should extend; but ‘the seasons’ (καιροί) are the joints or articulations in these times, the critical epoch- making periods fore-ordained of God (καιροὶ προτεταγμένοι, Acts 17:26; cf. Augustine, Conf. xi. 13: ‘Deus operator temporum’); when all that has been slowly, and often without observation, ripening through long ages is mature and comes to the birth in grand decisive events, which constitute at once the close of one period and the commencement of another. Such, for example, was the passing away with a great noise of the old Jewish dispensation; such, again, the recognition of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire; such the conversion of the Germanic tribes settled within the limits of the Empire; and such again the conversion of those outside; such the great revival which went along with the first institution of the Mendicant Orders; such, by still better right, the Reformation; such, above all others, the second coming of the Lord in glory (Dan. 7:22).

The Latin had no word by which adequately to render καιροί. Augustine complains of this (Ep. 197:2): ‘Graece legitur χρόνους ἢ καιρούς. Nostri autem utrumque hoc verbum tempora appellant, sive χρόνους, sive καιρούς, cum habeant haec duo inter se non negligendam differentiam: καιρούς quippe appellant Graece tempora quaedam, non tamen quae in spatiorum voluminibus transeunt, sed quae in rebus ad aliquid opportunis vel importunis sentiuntur, sicut messis, vindemia, calor, frigus, pax, bellum, et si qua similia; χρόνους autem ipsa spatia temporum vocant.’ It will be seen that he does not recognize ‘tempestivitas,’ which, however, is used by Cicero. Bearing out this complaint of his, we find in the Vulgate the most various renderings of καιροί, as often as it occurs in combination with χρόνοι, and cannot therefore be rendered by ‘tempora,’ which χρόνοι has preoccupied. Thus ‘tempora et momenta’ (Acts 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:1), ‘tempora et oetates’ (Dan. 2:21), ‘tempora et soecula’ (Wisd. 8:8); while a modern Latin commentator on the N. T. has ‘tempora et articuli’; Bengel, ‘intervalla et tempora.’ It might be urged that ‘tempora et opportunitates’ would fulfil all necessary conditions. Augustine has anticipated this suggestion, but only to demonstrate its insufficiency, on the ground that ‘opportunitas’ (== ‘opportunum tempus’) is a convenient, favourable season (εὐκαιρία); while the καιρός may be the most inconvenient, most unfavourable of all, the essential notion of it being that it is the critical nick of time; but whether, as such, to make or to mar, effectually to help or effectually to hinder, the word determines not at all (‘sive opportuna, sive importuna sint tempora, καιροί dicuntur’). At the same time it is oftener the former: καιρὸς γὰρ ὅσπερ ἀνδράσιν Μέγιστος ἔργου παντός ἐστ᾽ ἐπιστάτης (Sophocles, Electra, 75, 76). On the distinction between χρόνος καιρός and αἰών, see Schmidt, Synonymik, vol. ii. p. 54 sqq.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G2540,G5550.]

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