Search Bible
Click for Help   Click for QuickNav   Click for Advanced Search Options
Search KJV
Your Bible Version is the KJV
Go to Top
Link to This Page Cite This Page
Share this page Follow the BLB
Printable Page
The Blue Letter Bible

Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

Choose a new font size and typeface

lxxxvi. πόλεμος, μάχη.

Πόλεμος and μάχη occur often together (Homer, Il. i. 177; v. 891; Plato, Tim. 19 e; Job 38:23; Jam. 4:1); and in like manner πολεμεῖν and μάχεσθαι. There is the same difference between them as between our own ‘war’ and ‘battle’; ὁ πόλεμος Πελοποννησιακός, the Peloponnesian War; ἡ ἐν Μαραθῶνι μάχη, the battle of Marathon. Dealing with the words in this antithesis, namely that πόλεμος embraces the whole course of hostilities, μάχη the actual shock in arms of hostile armies, Pericles, dissuading the Athenians from yielding to the demands of the Spartans, admits that these with their allies were a match for all the other Greeks together in a single battle, but denies that they would retain the same superiority in a war, that is, against such as had their preparations of another kind (μάχῃ μὲν γὰρ μιᾷ πρὸς ἅπαντας, Thucydides, i. 141). We may compare Tacitus, Germ. 30: ‘Altos ad praelium ire videas, Chattos ad bellum.’

But besides this, while πόλεμος and πολεμεῖν remain true to their primary meaning, and are not transferred to any secondary, it is altogether otherwise with μάχη and μάχεσθαι. Contentions which fall very short of the shock of arms are continually designated by these words. There are μάχαι of every kind: ἐρωτικαί (Xenophon, Hiero, i. 35); νομικαί (Tit. 3:9; cf. 2 Tim. 2:23); λογομαχίαι (1 Tim. 6:4); σκιαμαχίαι: and compare John 6:52; 2 Tim. 2:24; Prov. 26:20, 21. Eustathius (on Homer, Il. i. 177) expresses these differences well: τὸ πόλεμοί τε μάχαι τε, ἢ ἐκ παραλλήλου δηλοῖ τὸ αὐτό, ἢ καὶ διαφορά τις ἔστι ταῖς λέξεσιν εἴγε μάχεται μέν τις καὶ λόγοις, ὡς καὶ ἡ λογομαχία δηλοῖ. καὶ αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ ποιητὴς μετ᾽ ὀλίγα φησί, μαχεσσαμένω ἐπέεσσι (ver. 304). καὶ ἄλλως δὲ μάχη μέν, αὐτὴ ἡ τῶν ἀνδρῶν συνεισβολή· ὁ δὲ πόλεμος καὶ ἐπὶ παρατάξεων καὶ μαχίμου καιροῦ λέγεται. Tittmann (De Synon. in N. T. p. 66): ‘Conveniunt igitur in eo quod dimicationem, contentionem, pugnam denotant, sed πόλεμος et πολεμεῖν de pugnâ quae manibus fit proprie dicuntur, μάχη autem et μάχεσθαι de quâcunque contentione, etiam animorum, etiamsi non ad verbera et caedes pervenerit. In illis igitur ipsa pugna cogitatur, in his sufficit cogitare de contentione, quam pugna plerumque sequitur.’

I may observe before quitting this subject that στάσις (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19; Acts 24:5; cf. Sophocles, Oedip. Col. 1228), insurrection or sedition, is by Plato distinguished from πόλεμος, in that the one is a civil and the other a foreign strife (Rep. v. 470 b): ἐπὶ γὰρ τῇ τοῦ οἰκείου ἐχθρᾷ στάσις κέκληται, ἐπὶ δὲ τῇ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων πόλεμος.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G3163,G4171.]

Return to the Table of Contents

BLB Searches
Search the Bible
Search KJV

Advanced Options

Other Searches

Multi-Verse Retrieval
Search KJV

Let's Connect
Daily Devotionals

Blue Letter Bible offers several daily devotional readings in order to help you refocus on Christ and the Gospel of His peace and righteousness.

Daily Bible Reading Plans

Recognizing the value of consistent reflection upon the Word of God in order to refocus one's mind and heart upon Christ and His Gospel of peace, we provide several reading plans designed to cover the entire Bible in a year.

One-Year Plans

Two-Year Plan


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

Donate Contact

Blue Letter Bible study tools make reading, searching and studying the Bible easy and rewarding.

Blue Letter Bible is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization