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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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ix. θεράπων, δοῦλος, διάκονος, οἰκέτης, ὑπηρέτης.

The only passage in the N. T. in which θεράπων occurs is Heb. 3:5: “And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant” (ὡς θεράπων). The allusion here to Num. 12:7 is manifest, where the Septuagint has given θεράπων as its rendering of עֶבֶר; it has done the same elsewhere (Exod. 4:10; Deut. 3:24; Josh. 1:2), yet has not made this its constant rule, frequently rendering it not by θεράπων, but by δοῦλος, out of which latter rendering, no doubt, we have at Rev. 15:3, the phrase, Μωϋσῆς ὁ δοῦλος τοῦ Θεοῦ. It will not follow that there is no difference between δοῦλος and θεράπων; nor yet that there may not be occasions when the one word would be far more fitly employed than the other; but only that there are frequent occasions which do not require the bringing out into prominence of that which constitutes the difference between them. And such real difference there is. The δοῦλος, opposed to ἐλεύθερος (1 Cor. 12:13; Rev. 13:16; 19:18; Plato, Gorg. 502 d), having δεσπότης (Tit. 2:9), or in the N. T. more commonly κύριος (Luke 12:46), as its antithesis, is properly the ‘bond-man,’ from δέω, ‘ligo,’Etym. Note. 4 one that is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will altogether swallowed up in the will of the other; Xenophon (Cyrop. viii. 1. 4): οἱ μὲν δοῦλοι ἄκοντες τοῖς δεσπόταις ὑπηρετοῦσι. He is this, altogether apart from any ministration to that other at any one moment rendered; the θεράπων, on the other hand, is the performer of present services, with no respect to the fact whether as a freeman or slave he renders them; as bound by duty, or impelled by love; and thus, as will necessarily follow, there goes habitually with the word the sense of one whose services are tenderer, nobler, freer than those of the δοῦλος. Titus Achilles styles Patroclus his θεράπων (Homer, Il. xvi. 244), one whose service was not constrained, but the officious ministration of love; very much like that of the squire or page of the Middle Ages. Meriones is θεράπων to Idomeneus (xxiii. 113), Sthenelus to Diomed, while all the Greeks are θεράποντες Ἄρηος (ii. 110 and often; cf. Nägelsbach, Homer. Theologie, p. 280). Hesiod in like manner claims to be Μουσάων θεράπων: not otherwise in Plato (Symp. 203 c) Eros is styled the ἀκόλουθος καὶ θεράπων of Aphrodite; cf. Pindar, Pyth. iv. 287, where the θεράπων is contrasted with the δράστης. With all which agrees the definition of Hesychius (οἱ ἐν δευτέρᾳ τάξει φίλοι), of Ammonius (οἱ ὑποτεταγμένοι φίλοι), and of Eustathius (τῶν φίλων οἱ δραστικώτεροι). In the verb θεραπεύειν (==‘curare’), as distinguished from δουλεύειν, and connected with ‘faveo,’ ‘foveo,’Etym. Note. 5 θάλπω, the nobler and tenderer character of the service comes still more strongly out. It may be used of the physician’s watchful tendance of the sick, man’s service of God, and is beautifully applied by Xenophon (Mem. iv. 3. 9) to the care which the gods have of men.

It will follow that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, calling Moses a θεράπων in the house of God (3:5), implies that he occupied a more confidential position, that a freer service, a higher dignity was his, than that merely of a δοῦλος, approaching more closely to that of an οἰκονόμος in God’s house; and, referring to Num. 12:6-8, we find, confirming this view, that an exceptional dignity is there ascribed to Moses, lifting him above other δοῦλοι of God; ‘egregius domesticus fidei tuae’ Augustine (Conf. xii. 23) calls him; cf. Deut. 24:5, where he is οἰκέτης κυρίου. In agreement with this we find the title θεράπων κυρίου given to Moses (Wisd. 10:16), but to no other of the worthies of the old Covenant mentioned in the chapter; to Aaron indeed at xviii. 21. It would have been well if our Translators had seen some way to indicate the exceptional and more honourable title here given to him who “was faithful in all God’s house.” The Vulgate, which has ‘famulus,’ has at least made the attempt (so Cicero, ‘famuloe Idaeae matris’); Tyndal, too, and Cranmer, who have ‘minister,’ perhaps as adequate a word as the language affords.

Neither ought the distinction between διάκονος and δοῦλος to be suffered to escape in an English Version of the N.T. There is no difficulty in preserving it. Διάκονος, not from διά and κόνις, one who in his haste runs through the dust—a mere fanciful derivation, and forbidden by the quantity of the antepenultima in διᾱκονος—is probably from the same root as has given us διώκω, ‘to hasten after,’Etym. Note. 6 or ‘pursue,’ and thus indeed means ‘a runner’ still (so Buttmann, Lexil. i. 219; but see Döderlein, Lat. Syn. vol. v. p. 135). The difference between διάκονος on one side, and δοῦλος and θεράπων on the other, is this—that διάκονος represents the servant in his activity for the work (διακονεῖν τι, Eph. 3:7; διάκονος τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, Col. 1:23: 2 Cor, 3:6); not in his relation, either servile, as that of the δοῦλος, or more voluntary, as in the case of the θεράπων, to a person. The attendants at a feast, and this with no respect to their condition as free or servile, are διάκονοι (John 2:5; Matt. 22:13; cf. John 12:2). The importance of preserving the distinction between δοῦλος and διάκονος may be illustrated from the parable of the Marriage Supper (Matt. 22:2-14). In our Version the king’s “servants” bring in the invited guests (ver. 3, 4, 8, 10), and his “servants” are bidden to cast out that guest who was without a wedding garment (ver. 13); but in the Greek, those, the bringers-in of the guests, are δοῦλοι: these, the fulfillers of the king’s sentence, are διάκονοι—this distinction being a most real one, and belonging to the essentials of the parable; the δοῦλοι being men, the ambassadors of Christ, who invite their fellow-men into his kingdom now, the διάκονοι angels, who in all the judgment acts at the end of the world evermore appear as the executors of the Lord’s will. The parable, it is true, does not turn on this distinction, yet these ought not any more to be confounded than the δοῦλοι and θερισταί of Matt. 13:27, 30; cf. Luke 19:24.

Οἰκέτης is often used as equivalent to δοῦλος. It certainly is so at 1 Pet. 2:18; and hardly otherwise on the three remaining occasions on which it occurs in the N. T. (Luke 16:13; Acts 10:7; Rom. 14:4); nor does the Septuagint (Exod. 21:27; Deut. 6:21; Prov. 17:2) appear to recognize any distinction between them; the Apocrypha as little (Ecclus. 10:25). At the same time οἰκέτης (==‘domesticus’) does not bring out and emphasize the servile relation so strongly as δοῦλος does; rather contemplates that relation from a point of view calculated to mitigate, and which actually did tend very much to mitigate, its extreme severity. He is one of the household, of the ‘family,’ in the older sense of this word; not indeed necessarily one born in the house; οἰκογενής is the word for this in the Septuagint (Gen. 14:14; Eccles. 2:7); ‘verna,’ identical with the Gothic ‘bairn,’Etym. Note. 7 in the Latin; compare ‘criado’ in the Spanish; but one, as I have said, of the family; οἰκέτης ἐστὶν ὁ κατὰ τὴν οἰκίαν διατρίβων, κἂν ἐλεύθερος ᾖ, κοινόν (Athenaeus, vi. 93); the word being used in the best times of the language with so wide a reach as to include wife and children; so in Herodotus (viii. 106, and often); while in Sophocles (Trach. 894) by the οἰκέται the children of Deianira can alone be intended. On the different names given to slaves and servants of various classes and degrees see Athenaeus, as quoted above.

Ὑπηρέτης, which only remains to be considered, is a word drawn from military matters; he was originally the rower (from ἐρέσσω, ‘remigo’), as distinguished from the soldier, on board a war-galley; then the performer of any strong and hard labour; then the subordinate official who waited to accomplish the behests of his superior, as the orderly who attends a commander in war (Xenophon, Cyrop. vi. 2, 13); the herald who carries solemn messages (Euripides, Hec. 503). Thus Prometheus, as I cannot doubt, intends a taunt when he characterizes Hermes as Θεῶν ὑπηρέτης (aeschylus, Prom. Vinct. 990), one who runs the errands of the other gods. In this sense, as an inferior minister to perform certain defined functions for Paul and Barnabas, Mark was their ὑπηρέτης (Acts 13:5); and in this official sense of lictor, apparitor, and the like, we find the word constantly, indeed predominantly used in the N. T. (Matt. 5:25; Luke 4:20; John 7:32; 18:18; Acts 5:22). The mention by St. John of δοῦλοι and ὑπηρέται together (18:18) is alone sufficient to indicate that a difference is by him observed between them; from which difference it will follow that he who struck the Lord on the face (John 18:22) could not be, as some suggest, the same whose ear the Lord had just healed (Luke 22:51), seeing that this was a δοῦλος, that profane and petulant striker a ὑπηρέτης, of the High Priest. The meanings of διάκονος and ὑπηρέτης are much more nearly allied; they do in fact continually run into one another, and there are innumerable occasions on which the words might be indifferently used; the more official character and functions of the ὑπηρέτης is the point in which the distinction between them resides. See Vitringa, De Synagogâ Vetere, pp. 916–919, and the Dictionary of the Bible, art. Minister.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G1249,G1401,G2324,G3610,G5257.]

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