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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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lx. νέος, καινός.

Some have denied that any difference can in the N. T. be traced between these words. They derive a certain plausible support for this denial from the fact that manifestly νέος and καινός, both rendered ‘new’ in our Version, are often interchangeably used; thus νέος ἄνθρωπος (Col. 3:10), and καινὸς ἄνθρωπος (Eph. 2:15), in both cases “the new man”; νέα διαθήκη (Heb. 12:24) and καινὴ διαθήκη (Heb. 9:15), both “a new covenant”; νέος οἶνος (Matt. 9:17) and καινὸς οἶνος (Matt. 26:29), both “new wine.” The words, it is contended, are evidently of the same force and significance. This, however, by no means follows, and in fact is not the case. The same covenant may be qualified as νέα, or καινή, as it is contemplated from one point of view or another. So too the same man, or the same wine, may be νέος, or καινός, or may be both; but a different notion is predominant according as the one epithet is applied or the other.

Contemplate the new under aspects of time, as that which has recently come into existence, and this is νέος (see Pott, Etymol. Forschung. vol. i. pp. 290–292). Thus the young are οἱ νέοι, or οἱ νεώτεροι, the generation which has lately sprung up; so, too, νέοι θεοί, the younger race of gods, Jupiter, Apollo, and the other Olympians (aeschylus, Prom. Vinct. 991, 996), as set over against Saturn, Ops, and the dynasty of elder deities whom they had dethroned. But contemplate the new, not now under aspects of time, but of quality, the new, as set over against that which has seen service, the outworn, the effete or marred through age, and this is καινός: thus compare ἐπίβλημα ῥάκους ἀγνάφου (Matt. 9:16) with ἐπιβλημα ἀπὸ ἱματίου καινοῦ (Luke 5:36), the latter “a new garment,” as contrasted with one threadbare and outworn; καινοὶ ἀσκοί, “new wine-skins” (Matt. 9:17; Luke 5:38), such as have not lost their strength and elasticity through age and use; and in this sense, καινὸς οὐρανός (2 Pet. 3:13), “a new heaven,” as set over against that which has waxen old, and shows signs of decay and dissolution (Heb. 1:11, 12). In like manner the phrase καιναὶ γλῶσσαι (Mark 16:17) does not suggest the recent commencement of this miraculous speaking with tongues, but the unlikeness of these tongues to any that went before; therefore called ἕτεραι γλῶσσαι elsewhere (Acts 2:4), tongues unwonted and different from any hitherto known. The sense of the unwonted as lying in καινός comes out very clearly in a passage of Xenophon (Cyrop. iii. 1. 10): καινῆς ἀρχομένης ἀρχῆς, ἢ τῆς εἰωθυίας καταμενύσης. So too that καινὸν μνημεῖον, in which Joseph of Arimathea laid the body of the Lord (Matt. 27:60; John 19:41), was not a tomb recently hewn from the rock, but one which had never yet been hanselled, in which hitherto no dead had lain, making the place ceremonially unclean (Matt. 23:27; Num. 11:16; Ezek. 39:12, 16). It might have been hewn out a hundred years before, and could not therefore have been called νέον: but, if never turned to use before, it would be καινόν still. That it should be thus was part of that divine decorum which ever attended the Lord in the midst of the humiliations of his earthly life (cf. Luke 19:30; 1 Sam. 6:7; 2 Kin. 2:20).

It will follow from what has been said that καινός will often, as a secondary notion, imply praise; for the new is commonly better than the old; thus everything is new in the kingdom of glory, “the new Jerusalem” (Rev. 3:12; 21:2); the “new name” (2:17; 3:12); “a new song” (5:9; 14:3); “a new heaven and new earth” (21:1; cf. 2 Pet. 3:13); “all things new” (21:5). But this not of necessity; for it is not always, and in every thing, that the new is better, but sometimes the old; thus the old friend (Ecclus. 9:10), and the old wine (Luke 5:39), are better than the new. And in many other instances καινός may express only the novel and strange, as contrasted, and that unfavourably, with the known and the familiar. Thus it was mentioned just now that νέοι θεοί was a title given to the younger generation of gods; but when it was brought as a charge against Socrates that he had sought to introduce καινοὺς θεούς, or καινὰ δαιμόνια into Athens (Plato, Apol. 26 b; Euthyphro, 3 b; cf. ξένα δαιμόνια, Acts 17:18), something quite different from this was meant—a novel pantheon, such gods as Athens had not hitherto been accustomed to worship; soo too in Plato (Rep. iii. 405 d): καινὰ ταῦτα καὶ ἄτοπα νοσημάτων ὀνόματα. In the same manner they who exclaimed of Christ’s teaching, “What new doctrine [καινὴ διδαχή] is this?” intended anything but praise (Mark 1:26). The καινόν is the ἕτερον, the qualitatively other; the νέον is the ἄλλο, the numerically distinct. Let us bring this difference to bear on the interpretation of Acts 17:21. St. Luke describes the Athenians there as spending their leisure, and all their life was leisure, ‘vacation,’ to adopt Fuller’s pun, ‘being their whole vocation,’ in the marketplace, ἢ λέγειν ἢ ἀκούειν τι καινότερον. We might perhaps have expected beforehand he would have written τι νεώτερον, and this expectation seems the more warranted when we find Demosthenes long before pourtraying these same Athenians as haunting the market-place with this same object and aim—he using this latter word, πυνθανόμενοι κατὰ τὴν ἀγορὰν εἴ τι λέγεται νεώτερον. Elsewhere, however, he changes his word and describes them as St. Luke has done, demanding one of another (Philip. i. 43), λέγεταί τι καινόν; But the meaning of the two passages is not exactly identical. The νέωτερον of the first affirms that it is ever the latest news which they seek, ‘nova statim sordebant, noviora quaerebantur,’ as Bengel on Acts 17:21 has it; the καινὸν of the second implies that it is something not only new, but sufficiently diverse from what had gone before to stimulate a jaded and languid curiosity.

If we pursue these words into their derivatives and compounds, the same distinction will come yet more clearly out. Thus νεότης (1 Tim. 4:12; cf. Ps. 103:5: ἀνακαινισθήσεται ὡς ἀετοῦ ἡ νεότης σοι) is youth; καινότης (Rom. 6:4) is newness or novelty; νεοειδής, of youthful appearance; καινοειδής, of novel unusual appearance; νεολογία (had such a word existed) would have been, a younger growth of words as distinguished from the old stock of the language, or, as we say, ‘neologies’; καινολογία, which does exist in the later Greek, a novel anomalous invention of words, constructed on different laws from those which the language had recognized hitherto; φιλόνεος, a lover of youth (Lucian, Amor. 24); φιλόκαινος, a lover of novelty (Plutarch, De Mus. 12).

There is a passage in Polybius (5:75, 4), as there are many elsewhere (aeschylus, Pers. 665; Euripides, Med. 75, 78; and Clement of Alexandria, Poedag. i. 5, will furnish such), in which the words occur together, or in closest sequence; but neither in this are they employed as a mere rhetorical accumulation: each has its own special significance. Relating a stratagem whereby the town of Selge was very nearly surprised and taken, Polybius remarks that, notwithstanding the many cities which have evidently been lost through a similar device, we are, in some way or other, still new and young in regard of such like deceits (καινοί τινες αἰεὶ καὶ νέοι πρὸς τὰς τοιαύτας ἀπάτας πεφύκαμεν), ready therefore to be deceived by them over again. Here καινοί is an epithet applied to men on the ground of their rawness and inexperience, νέοι on that of their youth. It is true that these two, inexperience and youth, go often together; thus νέος and ἄπειρος are joined by Plutarch (De Rect. Rat. Aud. 17); but this is not of necessity. An old man may be raw and unpractised in the affairs of the world, therefore καινός: there have been many young men, νέοι in respect of age, who were well skilled and exercised in these.

Apply the distinction here drawn, and it will be manifest that the same man, the same wine, the same covenant, may have both these epithets applied to them, and yet different meanings may be, and will have been intended to be, conveyed, as the one was used, or the other. Take, for example, the νέος ἄνθρωπος of Col. 3:10, and the καινὸς ἄνθρωπος of Ephes. 2:15. Contemplate under aspects of time that mighty transformation which has found and is still finding place in the man who has become obedient to the truth, and you will call him subsequently to this change, νέος ἄνθρωπος. The old man in him, and it well deserves this name, for it dates as far back as Adam, has died; a new man has been born, who therefore is fitly so called. But contemplate again, and not now under aspects of time, but of quality and condition, the same mighty transformation; behold the man who, through long commerce with the world, inveterate habits of sinning, had grown outworn and old, casting off the former conversation, as the snake its shrivelled skin, coming forth “a new creature” (καινὴ κτίσις), from his heavenly Maker’s hands, with a πνεῦμα καινόν given to him (Ezek. 11:19), and you have here the καινὸς ἄνθρωπος, one prepared to walk ‘in newness of life’ (ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς, Rom. 6:4) through the ἀνακαίνωσις of the Spirit (Tit. 3:5); in the words of the Epistle of Barnabas, 16, ἐγενόμεθα καινοί, πάλιν ἐξ ἀρχῆς κτιζόμενοι. Often as the words in this application would be interchangeable, yet this is not always so. When, for example, Clement of Alexandria (Poed. i. 6) says of those that are Christ’s, χρὴ γὰρ εἶναι καινοὺς Λόγου καινοῦ μετειληφότας, all will feel how impossible it would be to substitute νέους or νέου here. Or take the verbs ἀνανεοῦν (Ephes. 4:23), and ἀνακαινοῦν (Col. 3:10). We all have need ἀνανεοῦσθαι, and we have need ἀνακαινοῦθαι as well. It is, indeed, the same marvellous and mysterious process, to be brought about by the same almighty Agent; but the same regarded from different points of view; ἀνανεοῦσθαι, to be made young again; ἀνακαινοῦσθαι, or ἀνακαινιζέσθαι, to be made new again. That Chrysostom realized the distinction between the words, and indeed so realized it that he drew a separate exhortation from each, the following passages, placed side by side, will very remarkably prove. This first (in Ep. ad Ephes. Hom. 13): ἀνανεοῦσθε δέ, φησί, τῷ πνευματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν .... τὸ δὲ ἀνανεοῦσθαί ἐστιν ὅταν αὐτὸ τὸ γεγηρακὸς ἀνανεῶται, ἄλλο ἐξ ἄλλου γινόμενον.... Ὁ νέος ἰσχυρός ἐστιν, ὁ νέος ῥυτίδα οὐκ ἔχει, ὁ νέος οὐ περιφέρεται. The second is in Ep. ad Rom. Hom. 20: ὅπερ ἐπὶ τῶν οἰκιῶν ποιοῦμεν, παλαιουμένας αὐτὰς ἀεὶ διορθοῦντες, τοῦτο καὶ ἐπὶ σαυτοῦ ποίει. Ἥμαρτες σήμερον, ἐπαλαίωσάς σου τὴν ψύχην, μὴ ἀπογνῷς, μηδὲ ἀναπέσῃς, ἀλλ᾽ ἀνακαίνισον αὐτὴν μετανοίᾳ. The same holds good in other instances quoted above. New wine may be characterized as νέος or καινός, but from different points of view. As νέος, it is tacitly set over against the vintage of past years; as καινός, we may assume it austere and strong, in contrast with that which is χρηστός, sweet and mellow through age (Luke 5:39). So, too, the Covenant of which Christ is the Mediator is a διαθήκη νεα, as compared with the Mosaic, confirmed nearly two thousand years before (Heb. 12:24); it is a διαθήκη καινή, as compared with the same, effete with age, and with all vigour, energy, and quickening power gone from it (Heb. 8:13; compare Marriott’s Εἰρηνικά, part ii. pp. 110, 170).

A Latin grammarian, drawing the distinction between ‘recens’ and ‘novus,’ has said, ‘Recens ad tempus, novum ad rem refertur;’ and compare Döderlein, Lat. Syn. vol. iv. p. 64. Substituting νέος and καινός, we might say, ‘νέος ad tempus, καινός ad rem refertur,’ and should thus grasp in a few words, easily remembered, the distinction between them at its central point.1


1 Lafaye (Dict. des Synonymes, p. 798) claims the same distinction for ‘nouveau’ (== νέος), and ‘neuf’ (== καινός): ‘Ce qui est nouveau vient de paraître pour la première fois: ce qui est neuf vient d’être fait et n’a pas encore servi. Une invention est nouvelle, une expression neuve.’

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G2537,G3501.]

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