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The Blue Letter Bible

Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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lxvii. ἀρχαῖος, παλαιός.

We should go astray, if we regarded one of these words as expressing a higher antiquity than the other, and at all sought in this the distinction between them. On the contrary, this remoter antiquity will be expressed now by one, now by the other. Ἀρχαῖος, expressing that which was from the beginning (ἀρχήν, ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς), must, if we accept this as the first beginning of all, be older than person or thing that is merely παλαιός, as having existed a long time ago (πάλαι); whilst on the other hand there may be so many later beginnings, that it is quite possible to conceive the παλαιός as older than the ἀρχαῖος. Donaldson (New Cratylus, p. 19) writes: ‘As the word archoeology is already appropriated to the discussion of those subjects of which the antiquity is only comparative, it would be consistent with the usual distinction between ἀρχαῖος and παλαιός to give the name of paloeology to those sciences which aim at reproducing an absolutely primeval state or condition.’ I fail to trace in the uses of παλαιός so strong a sense, or at all events at all so constant a sense, of a more primeval state or condition, as in this statement is implied. Thus compare Thucydides, ii. 15: ξυμβέβηκε τοῦτο ἀπὸ τοῦ πάνυ ἀρχαῖου, that is, from the prehistoric time of Cecrops, with i. 18: Λακεδαίμων ἐκ παλαιτάτου εὐνομήθη, from very early times, but still within the historic period; where the words are used in senses exactly reversed.

The distinction between ἀρχαῖος and παλαιός, which is not to be looked for here, is on many occasions not to be looked for at all. Often they occur together as merely cumulative synonyms, or at any rate with no higher antiquity predicated by the one than by the other (Plato, Legg. 865 d; Demosthenes, xxii. 597; Plutarch, Cons. ad Apoll. 27; Justin Martyr, Coh. ad Groec. 5). It lies in the etymology of the words that in cases out of number they may be quite indifferently used; that which was from the beginning will have been generally from a long while since; and that which was from a long while since will have been often from the beginning. Thus the ἀρχαία φωνή of one passage in Plato (Crat. 418 c) is exactly equivalent to the παλαία φωνή of another (Ib. 398 d); the ἀρχαῖοι θεοί of one passage in the Euthyphro are the παλαία δαιμόνια of another; οἱ παλαιοί and οἱ ἀρχαῖοι alike mean the ancients (Plutarch, Cons. ad Apoll. 14 and 33); there cannot be much difference between παλαιοὶ χρόνοι (2 Macc. 6:21) and ἀρχαίαι ἡμέραι (Ps. 43:2).

At the same time it is evident that whenever an emphasis is desired to be laid on the reaching back to a beginning, whatever that beginning may be, ἀρχαῖος will be preferred; thus we have ἀρχαία and πρῶτα joined together (Isai. 33:18). Satan is ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος (Rev. 12:9; 20:2), his malignant counterworkings of God reaching back to the earliest epoch in the history of man. The world before the flood, that therefore which was indeed from the first, is ὁ ἀρχαῖος κόσμος (2 Pet. 2:5). Mnason was ἀρχαῖος μαθητής (Acts 21:16), ‘an old disciple,’ not in the sense in which English readers almost inevitably take the words, namely, ‘an aged disciple,’ but one who had been such from the commencement of the faith, from the day of Pentecost or before it; aged very probably he will have been; but it is not this which the word declares. The original founders of the Jewish Commonwealth, who, as such, gave with authority the law, are οἱ ἀρχαίοι (Matt. 5:21, 27, 33; cf. 1 Sam. 24:14; Isai. 25:1); πίστις ἀρχαία (Eusebius, H. E. v. 28, 9) is the faith which was from the beginning, “once delivered to the saints.” The Timoeus of Plato, 22 b, offers an instructive passage in which both words occur, where it is not hard to trace the finer instincts of language which have determined their several employment. Sophocles (Trachin. 546) has another, where Deianira speaks of the poisoned shirt, the gift to her of Nessus:

ἦν μοι παλαιὸν δῶρον ἀρχαίου ποτὲ
θηρὸς, λέβητι χαλκέῳ κεκρυμμένον

aeschylus (Eumenides, 727, 728) furnishes a third.

Ἀρχαῖος, like the Latin ‘priscus,’ will often designate the ancient as also the venerable, as that to which the honour due to antiquity belongs; thus Κῦρος ὁ ἀρχαῖος (Xenophon, Anab. i. 9. 1; cf. Aristophanes, Nub. 961); just as on the other side ‘modern’ is always used slightingly by Shakespeare; and it is here that we reach a point of marked divergence between it and παλαιός, each going off into a secondary meaning of its own, which it does not share with the other, but possesses exclusively as its proper domain. I have just observed that the honour of antiquity is sometimes expressed by ἀρχαῖος, nor indeed is it altogether strange to παλαιός. But there are other qualities that cleave to the ancient; it is often old-fashioned, seems ill-adapted to the present, to be part and parcel of a world which has past away. We have a witness for this in the fact that ‘antique’ and ‘antic’ are only different spellings of one and the same word. There lies often in ἀρχαῖος this sense superadded of old-world fashion; not merely antique, but antiquated and out of date, not merely ‘alterthümlich,’ but ‘altfränkisch’ (aeschylus, Prom. Vinct. 325; Aristophanes, Plut. 323; Nub. 915; Pax, 554, χαίρειν ἐστὶν ἀρχαῖον ἤδη καὶ σαπρόν); and still more strongly in ἀρχαιότης, which has no other meaning but this (Plato, Legg. ii. 657 b).

But while ἀρχαῖος goes off in this direction (we have, indeed, no example in the N. T.), παλαιός diverges in another, of which the N. T. usage will supply a large number of examples. That which has existed long has been exposed to, and in many cases will have suffered from, the wrongs and injuries of time; it will be old in the sense of more or less worn out; and this is always παλαιός.1 Thus ἱμάτιον παλαιόν (Matt. 9:16); ἀσκοὶ παλαιοί (Matt. 9:17); so ἀσκοὶ παλαιοὶ καὶ κατεῤῥωγότες (Josh. 9:10); παλαιὰ ῥάκη (Jer. 45:11). In the same way, while οἱ ἀρχαῖοι could never express the old men of a living generation as compared with the young of the same, οἱ παλαιοί continually bears this sense; thus νέος ἠὲ παλαιός (Homer, Il. xiv. 108, and often); πολυετεῖς καὶ παλαιοί (Philo, De Vit. Cont. 8; cf. Job 15:10). It is the same with the words formed on παλαιός: thus Heb. 8:13: τὸ δὲ παλαιούμενον καὶ γηράσκον, ἐγγὺς ἀφανισμοῦ: cf. Heb. 1:11; Luke 12:33; Ecclus. 14:17; while Plato joins παλαιότης and σαπρότης together (Rep. x. 609 e; cf. Aristophanes, Plut. 1086: τρὺξ παλαιὰ καὶ σαπρά). As often as παλαιός is employed to connote that which is worn out, or wearing out, by age, it will absolutely demand καινός as its opposite (Josh. 9:19; Mark 2:21; Heb. 8:13), as it will also sometimes have it on other occasions (Herodotus, ix. 26, bis). When this does not lie in the word, there is nothing to prevent νέος being set over against it (Lev. 26:10; Homer, Od. ii. 293; Plato, Cratylus, 418 b; aeschylus, Eumenides, 778, 808); and καινός against ἀρχαῖος (2 Cor. 5:17; Aristophanes, Ranae, 720; Isocrates, xv. 82; Plato, Euthyphro, 3 b; Philo, De Vit. Con. 10).

1 The same lies, or may lie, in ‘vetus,’ as in Tertullian’s pregnant antithesis (Adv. Marc. i. 8): ‘Deus si est vetus, non erit; si est novus, non fuit.’

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G3820,G744.]

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