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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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lxxvi. λαλέω, λέγω (λαλιά, λόγος).

In dealing with synonyms of the N. T. we plainly need not concern ourselves with such earlier, or even contemporary, uses of the words which we are discriminating, as lie altogether outside of the N. T. sphere, when these uses do not illustrate, and have not affected, their Scriptural employment. It follows from this that all those contemptuous uses of λαλεῖν as to talk at random, as one ἀθυρόστομος, or with no door to his lips, might do; of λαλιά, as chatter (ἀκρασία λόγου ἄλογος, Plato, Defin. 416)—for I cannot believe that we are to find this at John 4:42—may be dismissed and set aside. The antithesis in the line of Eupolis, Λαλεῖν ἄριστος, ἀδυνατώτατος λέγειν, does little or nothing to illustrate the matter in hand.

The distinction which indeed exists between the words may in this way be made clear. There are two leading aspects under which speech may be regarded. It may, first, be contemplated as the articulate utterance of human language, in contrast with the absence of this, from whatever cause springing; whether from choice, as in those who hold their peace, when they might speak; or from the present undeveloped condition of the organs and faculties, as in the case of infants (νήπιοι); or from natural defects, as in the case of those born dumb; or from the fact of speech lying beyond the sphere of the faculties with which as creatures they have been endowed, as in the lower animals. This is one aspect of speech, namely articulated words, as contrasted with silence, with mere sounds or animal cries. But, secondly, speech (‘oratio’ or ‘oris ratio’) may be regarded as the orderly linking and knitting together in connected discourse of the inward thoughts and feelings of the mind, ‘verba legere et lecta ac selecta apte conglutinare’ (Valcknaer; cf. Donaldson, Cratylus, 453). The first is λαλεῖν == דּבֵּר, the German ‘lallen,’ ‘loqui,’ ‘sprechen,’ ‘to speak’; the second == אָמַר, ‘dicere,’ ‘reden,’ ‘to say,’ ‘to discourse.’ Ammonius: λαλεῖν καὶ λέγειν διαφέρει· λέγειν μὲν τὸ τεταγμένως προσφέρειν τὸν λόγον· λαλεῖν δὲ, τὸ ἀτάκτως ἐκφέρειν τὰ ὑποπίπτοντα ῥήματα.

Thus the dumb man (ἄλαλος, Mark 7:37), restored to human speech, ἐλάλησε (Matt. 9:33; Luke 11:14), the Evangelists fitly using this word, for they are not concerned to report what the man said, but only the fact that he who before was dumb, was now able to employ his organs of speech. So too, it is always λαλεῖν γλώσσαις (Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4; 1 Cor. 12:30), for it is not what those in an ecstatic condition utter, but the fact of this new utterance itself, and quite irrespective of the matter of it, to which the sacred narrators would call our attention; even as λαλεῖν may be ascribed to God Himself (it is so more than once in the Epistle to the Hebrews, as at 1:1, 2), where the point is rather that He should have spoken at all to men than what it was that He spoke.

But if in λαλεῖν (==‘loqui’) the fact of uttering articulated speech is the prominent notion, in λέγειν (==‘dicere’) it is the words uttered, and that these correspond to reasonable thoughts within the breast of the utterer. Thus while the parrot or talking automaton (Rev. 13:15) may be said, though even they not without a certain impropriety, λαλεῖν, seeing they produce sounds imitative of human speech; and in poetry, though by a still stronger figure, a λαλεῖν may be ascribed to grasshoppers (Theocritus, Idyl. v. 34), and to pipes and flutes (Idyl. xx. 28, 29); yet inasmuch as there is nothing behind these sounds, they could never be said λέγειν; for in the λέγειν lies ever the ἔννοια, or thought of the mind (Heb. 4:12), as the correlative to the words on the lips, and as the necessary condition of them; it is ‘colligere verba in sententiam’; even as λόγος is by Aristotle defined (Poët. xx. 11), φωνὴ συνθετή, σημαντική (see Malan, Notes on the Gospel of St. John, p. 3). Of φράζειν in like manner (it only occurs twice in the N. T., Matt. 13:36; 15:15), Plutarch affirms that it could not, but λαλεῖν could, be predicated of monkeys and dogs (λαλοῦσι γὰρ, οὐ φράζουσι δέ, De Plac. Phil. v. 20).

Often as the words occur together, in such phrases as ἐλάλησε λέγων (Mark 6:50; Luke 24:6), λαληθεὶς λόγος (Heb. 2:2), and the like, each remains true to its own meaning, as just laid down. Thus in the first of these passages ἐλάλησε will express the opening of the mouth to speak, as opposed to the remaining silent (Acts 18:9); while λέγων proceeds to declare what the speaker actually said. Nor is there, I believe, any passage in the N. T. where the distinction between them has not been observed. Thus at Rom. 15:18; 2 Cor. 11:7; 1 Thess. 1:8, there is no difficulty in giving to λαλεῖν its proper meaning; indeed all these passages gain rather than lose when this is done; while at Rom. 3:19 there is an instructive interchange of the words.

Λαλιά and λόγος in the N. T. are true to the distinction here traced. How completely λαλιά, no less than λαλεῖν, has put off every slighting sense, is abundantly evident from the fact that on one occasion our Lord claims λαλιά as well as λόγος for Himself: “Why do ye not understand my speech (λαλιάν)? even because ye cannot hear my word” (λόγον, John 8:43). Λαλιά and λόγος are set in a certain antithesis to one another here, and in the seizing of the point of this must lie the right understanding of the verse. What the Lord intended by varying λαλιά and λόγος has been very differently understood. Some, as Augustine, though commenting on the passage, have omitted to notice the variation. Others, like Olshausen, have noticed, only to deny that it had any significance. Others again, admitting the significance, have failed to draw it rightly out. It is clear that, as the inability to understand his ‘speech’ (λαλιά) is traced up as a consequence to a refusing to hear his ‘word’ (λόγος), this last, as the root and ground of the mischief, must be the deeper and anterior thing. To hear his ‘word’ can be nothing else than to give room to his truth in the heart. They who will not do this must fail to understand his ‘speech,’ the outward form and utterance which his ‘word’ assumes. They that are of God hear God’s words, his ῥήματα as elsewhere (John 3:34; 8:47), his λαλιά as here, it is called;1 which they that are not of God do not and cannot hear. Melanchthon: ‘Qui veri sunt Dei filii et domestici non possunt paternae domûs ignorare linguam.’


1 Philo makes the distinction of the λόγος and the ῥῆμα to be that of the whole and its parts (Leg. Alleg. iii. 61): τὸ δὲ ῥῆμα μέρος λογου. On the distinction between ῥῆμα τοῦ Θεοῦ and λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ there are some important remarks by Archdeacon Lee, On Inspiration, pp. 135, 539.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G2980,G2981,G3004,G3056.]

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