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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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lxiv. δίκτυον, ἀμφίβληστρον, σαγήνη.

Our English word ‘net’ will, in a general way, cover all these three, which yet are capable of a more accurate discrimination one from the other.

Δίκτυον (==‘rete,’ ‘retia’), from the old δικεῖν, to cast, which appears again in δίσκος, a quoit, is the more general name for all nets, and would include the hunting net, and the net with which birds are taken (Prov. 1:17), as well as the fishing, although used only of the latter in the N. T. (Matt. 4:20; John 21:6). It is often in the Septuagint employed in that figurative sense in which St. Paul uses παγίς (Rom. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:7), and is indeed associated with it (Job 18:8; Prov. 29:5).

Ἀμφίβληστρον and σαγήνη are varieties of fishing nets; they are named together, Hab. 1:15; and in Plutarch (De Sol. Anim. 26), who joins γρῖπος with σαγήνη, ὐποχή with ἀμφίβληστρον. Ἀμφίβληστρον—found only in the N. T. at Matt. 4:18; Mark 1:16; cf. Eccl. 9:12; Ps. 140:10 (ἀμφιβολή, Oppian)—is the casting net, ‘jaculum,’ i.e. ‘rete jaculum’ (Ovid, Art. Am. i. 763), or ‘funda’ (Virgil, Georg. i. 141), which, when skilfully cast from over the shoulder by one standing on the shore or in a boat, spreads out into a circle (ἀμφιβάλλεται) as it falls upon the water, and then sinking swiftly by the weight of the leads attached to it, encloses whatever is below it. Its circular, bell-like shape adapted it to the office of a mosquito net, to which, as Herodotus (ii. 95) tells us, the Egyptian fishermen turned it; but see Blakesley, Herodotus in loc. The garment in whose deadly folds Clytemnestra entangles Agamemnon is called ἀμφίβληστρον (aeschylus, Agamem. 1353; Choëph. 490; cf. Euripides, Helen. 1088); so, too, the fetter with which Prometheus is fastened to his rock (aeschylus, Prom. Vinct. 81); and the envenomed garment which Deianira gives to Hercules (Sophocles, Trach. 1052).

Σαγήνη—found in the N. T. only at Matt. 13:47; cf. Isai. 19:8; Ezek. 26:8 (from σάττω, σέσαγα ‘onero’)—is the long-drawn net, or sweep-net (‘vasta sagena’ Manilius calls it), the ends of which being carried out in boats so as to include a large extent of open sea, are then drawn together, and all which they contain enclosed and taken. It is rendered ‘sagena’ in the Vulgate, whence ‘seine,’ or ‘sean,’ the name of this net in Cornwall, on whose coasts it is much in use. In classical Latin it is called ‘everriculum’ (Cicero, playing upon Verres’ name, calls him, ‘everriculum in provincia’), from its sweeping the bottom of the sea. From the fact that it was thus a πάναγρον or take-all (Homer, Il. v. 487), the Greeks gave the name of σαγηνεύειν to a device by which the Persians were reported to have cleared a conquered island of its inhabitants (Herodotus, iii. 149; vi. 31; Plato, Legg. iii. 698 d); curiously enough, the same device being actually tried, but with very indifferent success, in Tasmania not many years ago; see Bonwick’s Last of the Tasmanians. Virgil in two lines describes the fishing by the aid first of the ἀμφίβληστρον and then of the σαγήνη (Georg. i. 141):

‘Atque alius latum fundâ jam verberat amnem
Alta petens, pelagoque alius trahit humida lina.’

It will be seen that an evident fitness suggested the use of σαγήνη in a parable (Matt. 13:47) wherein our Lord is setting forth the wide reach, and all-embracing character, of his future kingdom. Neither ἀμφίβληστρον, nor yet δίκτυον which might have meant no more than ἀμφίβληστρον, would have suited at all so well.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G1350,G293,G4522.]

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