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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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lxii. καπηλεύω, δολόω.

In two passages, standing very near to one another, St. Paul claims for himself that he is not “as many, which corrupt the word of God” (καπηλεύοντες, 2 Cor. 2:17); and presently again he disclaims being of them who can be accused of “handling deceitfully” the same (δολοῦντες, iv. 2); neither word appearing again in the N. T. It is evident, not less from the context than from the character of the words themselves, that the notions which they express must lie very near to one another; oftentimes it is asserted or assumed that they are absolutely identical, as by all translators who have only one rendering for both; by the Vulgate, for instance, which has ‘adulterantes’ in both places; by Chrysostom, who explains καπηλεύειν as == νοθεύειν. Yet this is a mistake. On nearer examination, it will be found that while καπηλεύειν covers all that δολοῦν does, it also covers something more; and this, whether in the literal sense, or in the transferred and figurative, wherein it is used by St. Paul; even as it is evident that our own Translators, whether with any very clear insight into the distinction between the words or not, did not acquiesce in the obliteration of all distinction between them.

The history of καπηλεύειν is not difficult to follow. The κάπηλος is properly the huckster or petty retail trader, as set over against the ἔμπορος or merchant who sells his wares in the gross; the two occurring together, Ecclus. 26:29. But while the word would designate any such pedlar, the κάπηλος is predominantly the vendor in retail of wine (Lucian, Hermot. 58). Exposed to many and strong temptations, into which it was easy for such to fall (Ecclus. 26:29), as to mix their wine with water (Isai. 1:22), or otherwise to tamper with it, to sell it in short measure, these men so generally yielded to these temptations, that κάπηλος and καπηλεύειν, like ‘caupo’ and ‘cauponari,’ became terms of contempt; καπηλεύειν being the making of any shameful traffic and gain as the κάπηλος does (Plato, Rep. vii. 525 d; Protag. 313 d; Becker, Charikles, 1840, p. 256). But it will at once be evident that the δολοῦν is only one part of the καπηλεύειν, namely, the tampering with or sophisticating the wine by the admixture of alien matter, and does not suggest the fact that this is done with the purpose of making a disgraceful gain thereby. Nay, it might be urged that it only expresses partially the tampering itself, as the following extract from Lucian (Hermot. 59) would seem to say: οἱ φιλόσοφοι ἀποδίδονται τὰ μαθήματα ὥσπερ οἱ κάπηλοι, κερασάμενοί γε οἱ πολλοί, καὶ δολώσαντες, καὶ κακομετροῦντες: for here the δολοῦν is only one part of the deceitful handling by the κάπηλος of the wares which he sells.

But whether this be worth urging or not, it is quite certain that, while in δολοῦν there is no more than the simple falsifying, there is in καπηλεύειν the doing of this with the intention of making an unworthy gain thereby. Surely here is a moment in the sin of the false teachers, which St. Paul, in disclaiming the καπηλεύειν, intended to disclaim for himself. He does in as many words most earnestly disclaim it in this same Epistle (12:14; cf. Acts 20:33), and this the more earnestly, seeing that it is continually noted in Scripture as a mark of false prophets and false apostles (for so does the meanest cleave to the highest, and untruthfulness in highest things expose to lowest temptations), that they, through covetousness, make merchandise of souls; thus by St. Paul himself, Tit. 1:11; Phil. 3:19; cf. 2 Pet. 2:3, 14, 15; Jude 11, 16; Ezek. 13:19; and see Ignatius (the longer recension), where, no doubt with a reference to this passage, and showing how the writer understood it, the false teachers are denounced as χρηματολαιλαπες, as χριστέμποροι, τὸν Ἰησοῦν πωλοῦντες, καὶ καπηλεύοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ εὐαγγελίου. Surely we have here a difference which it is well worth our while not to pass by unobserved. The Galatian false teachers might undoubtedly have been charged as δολοῦντες τὸν λόγον, mingling, as they did, vain human traditions with the pure word of the Gospel: building in hay, straw, and stubble with its silver, gold, and precious stones; but there is nothing which would lead us to charge them as καπηλεύοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ, as working this mischief which they did work for filthy lucre’s sake (see Deyling, Obss. Sac. vol. iv. p. 636).

Bentley, in his Sermon on Popery (Works, vol. iii. p. 242), strongly maintains the distinction which I have endeavoured to trace. ‘Our English Translators,’ he says, ‘have not been very happy in their version of this passage [2 Cor. 2:17]. We are not, says the Apostle, καπηλεύοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ, which our Translators have rendered, “we do not corrupt,” or (as in the margin) “deal deceitfully with,” “the word of God.” They were led to this by the parallel place, c. iv. of this Epistle, ver. 2, “not walking in craftiness,” μηδὲ δολοῦντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ, “nor handling the word of God deceitfully;” they took καπηλεύοντες and δολοῦντες in the same adequate notion, as the vulgar Latin had done before them, which expresses both by the same word, adulterantes verbum Dei; and so, likewise, Hesychius makes them synonyms, ἐκκαπηλεύειν, δολοῦν. Δολοῦν, indeed, is fitly rendered “adulterare”; so δολοῦν τὸν χρυσόν, τὸν οἶνον, to adulterate gold or wine, by mixing worse ingredients with the metal or liquor. And our Translators had done well if they had rendered the latter passage, not adulterating, not sophisticating the word. But καπηλεύοντες in our text has a complex idea and a wider signification; καπηλεύειν always comprehends δολοῦν; but δολοῦν never extends to καπηλεύειν, which, besides the sense of adulterating, has an additional notion of unjust lucre, gain, profit, advantage. This is plain from the word κάπηλος, a calling always infamous for avarice and knavery: “perfidus hic caupo, ” says the poet, as a general character. Thence καπηλεύειν, by an easy and natural metaphor, was diverted to other expressions where cheating and lucre were signified: καπηλεύειν τὸν λόγον, says the Apostle here, and the ancient Greeks, καπηλεύειν τὰς δίκας τὴν εἰρήνην, τὴν σοφίαν, τὰ μαθήματα, to corrupt and sell justice, to barter a negociation of peace, to prostitute learning and philosophy for gain. Cheating, we see, and adulterating is part of the notion of καπηλεύειν, but the essential of it is sordid lucre. So “cauponari” in the wellknown passage of Ennius, where Pyrrhus refuses to treat for the ransom for his captives, and restores them gratis:

“Non mi aurum posco, nec mi pretium dederitis,
Nonc auponanti bellum, sed belligeranti.”

And so the Fathers expound this place. . . . . So that, in short, what St. Paul says, καπηλεύοντες τὸν λόγον, might be expressed in one classic word—λογέμποροι, or λογοπρᾶται,1 where the idea of gain and profit is the chief part of the signification. Wherefore, to do justice to our text, we must not stop lamely with our Translators, “corrupters of the word of God;” but add to it as its plenary notion, “corrupters of the word of God for filthy lucre.”’

If what has been just said is correct, it will follow that ‘deceitfully handling’ would be a more accurate, though itself not a perfectly adequate, rendering of καπηλεύοντες, and ‘who corrupt’ of δολοῦντες, than the converse of this which our Version actually offers.


1 So λογοπῶλοι in Philo, Cong. Erud. Grat. 10.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G1389,G2585.]

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