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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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xcii. κόσμιος, σεμνός, ἱεροπρεπής.

Κόσμιος and σεμνός are both epithets applied occasionally to things, but more frequently to persons. They are so nearly allied in meaning as to be. often found together; but at the same time are very clearly distinguishable the one from the other.

Κόσμιος, related to κόσμος in its earlier sense as ‘ornament,’ while κοσμικός (Tit. 2:12; Heb. 9:1) is related to it in its secondary sense as ‘world,’ occurs twice in the N. T., being rendered in our Version on one occasion ‘modest’ (1 Tim. 2:9), on the other, ‘of good behaviour’ (1 Tim. 3:2); and corresponds very nearly to the ‘compositus’ of Seneca (Ep. 114), to the ‘compositus et ordinatus’ (De Vit. Beat. 8), of the same. The ‘ornatus,’ by which it is both times rendered in the Vulgate, is strangely at fault, though it is easy enough to see how the fault arose. It is a very favourite word with Plato, and is by him and others constantly applied to the citizen who is quiet in the land, who duly filfils in his place and order the duties which are incumbent on him as such; and is in nothing ἄτακτος (1 Thess. 5:14; cf. 2 Thess. 3:6, 7, 11); but τεταγμένος rather. It is associated by him, as by St. Paul, with σώφρων (Legg. vii. 802 e)—this indeed is everywhere its most constant companion (thus see Lysias, Orat. xxi. 163; Plutarch, Quota. Adul. ab Am. 36, and often); with ἥμερος (Plato, Rep. 410 e); with νόμιμος (Gorg. 504 d); with ἐγκρατής (Phoedr. 256 b); with εὐσταλής (Menex. 90 a); with φρόνιμος (Phoedr. 108 a; Plutarch, De Mul. Virt.); with στάσιμος (Rep. 539 d); with εὐκολός (Ib. 329 d); with ἀνδρεῖος (Ib. 399 e); with καλός (Ib. 403 a); with εὔτακτος by Aristotle; with αἰδήμων by Epictetus (Enchir. 40); and by Plutarch (De Garrul. 4); with γενναῖος (Ib.); with εὐάγωγος (Max. cum Princ. 2); opposed by Plato to ἀκόλαστος (Gorg. 494 a). Keeping company as κόσμιος does with epithets such as these, it must be admitted that an explanation of it like the following, ‘of well ordered demeanour, decorous, courteous’ (Webster), dwells too much on the outside of things; the same with still greater truth may be affirmed of Tyndale’s rendering, ‘honestly apparelled’ (1 Tim. 3:3). No doubt the κόσμιος is all this; but he is much more than this. The well ordering is not of dress and demeanour only, but of the inner life; uttering indeed and expressing itself in the outward conversation. Even Bengel has taken a too superficial view of the word, when at 1 Tim. 3:2 he says, ‘Quod σώφρων est intus, id κόσμιος est extra;’ though I cannot refuse the pleasure of quoting what he says in one of his most characteristic notes, unfolding more fully his idea of what in these two epithets is implied: ‘Homo novus festum quiddam est, et abhorrer ab omni eo quod polluturn, confusum, inconditum, immoderatum, vehemens, dissolutum, affectdrum, tetricum, perperum, lacerum, sordidurn est: ipsi necessitati naturae materiaeque, quae ingerendo, digerendo, egerendo agitatur, parce et dissimulanter paret, corporisque corruptibilis recta habet vestigid.’ This, it must be confessed, goes a good deal deeper than does Philemon, the comic poet, in four lines preserved by Stobaeus, describing who is κόσμιος, and who is not. I hardly know whether they are worth quoting, but they follow here:

οὐκ ἂν λαλῇ τις μικρόν, ἐστὶ κόσμιος·
οὖδ᾽ ἂν πορεύηται τις εἰς τὴν γῆν βλέπων·
ὁ δ᾽ ἡλικον μὲν ἡ φύσις φέρει λαλῶν,
μηδὲν ποιῶν δ᾽ ἄσχημον οὗτος κόσμιος.

But whatever may be implied in κόσμιος, and there is much, something more is involved in σεμνός. If the κόσμιος orders himself well in that earthly πολιτεία, of which he is a support and an ornament, the σεμνός has a grace and dignity not lent him from earth; but which he owes to that higher citizenship which is also his; being ono who inspires not respect only, but reverence and worship. In profane Greek σεμνός is a constant epithet of the gods—of the Eumenides, the σεμναὶ θεαί, above all. It is used also constantly to qualify such things as pertain to, or otherwise stand in any very near relation with, the heavenly world. All this will appear the more clearly, when we enumerate some of the epithets wherewith it habitually is linked; which are these: ἅγιος (Plato, Sophist. 249 a; Rep. 290 d; cf. Clement of Rome, 1 Ep. § 1, where it is joined to ἁγνός and ἄμωμος); ὀρθός (Apol. 412 e); μέγας (Theoetet. 203 e); τίμιος (Crit. 51 a); μέτριος (Clement of Rome, 1 Ep. § 1); βασιλικός (Plutarch, Quota. Aud. Poët. 8): ἔντιμος (Proec. Ger. Reip. 31): μεγαλοπρεπής (De Def. Orac. 30); θεῖος and φοβερός. From all this it is plain that there lies something of majestic and awe-inspiring in σεμνός, which does not at all lie in κόσμιος, although this has nothing about it to repel, but all rather to invite and to attract, μαλακὴ καὶ εὐσχήμων βαρύτης being Aristotle’s happy definition of σεμνότης (Rhet. ii. 19), making it as he does the golden mean between ἀρεσκεία, or unmanly assentation, at one extreme, and αὐθαδία, or churlish bearishness, pleasing itself, and careless how much it displeases others, at the other; even as in Plutarch σεμνός is associated with φιλικός (Quom. Am. ab Adul. 26); with ἡδύς (Conyiv. 4, Proëm.); with φιλάνθρωπος, with ἐπιεικής, and other like words; so too with προσηνής in Josephus (Antt. xi. 6. 9). But all this does not exclude the fact that the σεμνός is one who, without in as many words demanding, does yet challenge and inspire reverence and, in our earlier use of the word, worship, the word remaining true to the σέβω with which it is related. How to render it in English is not very easy to determine. On the one occasion that it qualifies things rather than persons (Phil. 4:8), we have translated it by ‘honest,’ an unsatisfactory rendering; and this, even though we include in ‘honest’ all which was included in it at the time when our Translation was made. Alford has here changed ‘honest’ into ‘seemly’; if changed at all, I should prefer ‘honorable.’ On the other three occasions it is rendered ‘grave’ (1 Tim. 3:8; 3:11; Tit. 2:2); while σεμνότης is once ‘honesty’ (1 Tim. 2:2), and twice ‘gravity’ (1 Tim. 3:4; Tit. 2:7). Here too it must be owned that ‘grave’ and ‘gravity’ are renderings which fail to cover the fall meaning of their original. Malvolio in Twelfth Night is ‘grave,’ but his very gravity is itself ridiculous; and the word we want is one in which the sense of gravity and dignity, and of these as inviting reverence, is combined; a word which I fear we may look for long without finding.

Ἱεροπρεπής belongs to the best age of the Greek language, being used by Plato (Theag. 122 d) and by Xenophon (Conv. viii. 40), in this unlike ὁσιοπρεπής and ἁγιοπρεπής, which are of later ecclesiastical formation. Like κόσμιος it belongs to that large group of noticeable words, which, being found nowhere else in St. Paul’s Epistles, and indeed nowhere else in the N. T., are yet found in the Pastoral Epistles, some of them occurring several times over in these. The number and character of these words, the new vein of Greek which St. Paul in these later Epistles opens,1 constitutes a. very remarkable phenomenon, one for which no perfectly satisfactory explanation has hitherto been offered. Alford indeed in his Prolegomena to these Epistles has made a valuable contribution to such an explanation; but after all has been said, it remains perplexing still.

It will follow from what has been already claimed for σεμνός that ἱεροπρεπής is more nearly allied in meaning to it than to κόσμιος. It expresses that which beseems a sacred person, thing, or act. On the one occasion of its use in the N. T. (Tit. 2:3), it is joined with σώφρων, being an epithet applied to women professing godliness, who shall be in their bearing or behaviour ἱεροπρεπεῖς, or “as becometh holiness” (cf. 1 Tim. 2:10). That such behaviour will breed reverence and awe, we may reasonably expect, but this is not implied in ἱεροπρεπής as it is in σεμνός, and here we must find the distinction between them.


1 For instance, take the adjectives alone which are an addition to, or a variation from, his ethical terminology in all his other Epistles; occurring as they do nowhere else but in these Epistles: αἱρετικός, ἀκρατής, ἄμαχος, ἀνεπαίσχυντος, ἀνεπίληπτος, ἀνήμερος, ἀνεξίκακος, ἀνόσιος, ἀπαίδευτος, ἄρτιος, ἀφιλάγαθος, ἀψευδής, διδακτικός, διάβολος, δίλογος, ἐγκρατής, εὐμετάδοτος, ἐπίορκος, ἤπιος, καλοδιδάσκαλος, κοινωνικός, ματαιολόγος, νηφάλιος, οἰκουρός, ὀργίλος, πάροινος, σώφρων, φιλάγαθος, φίλανδρος, φίλαυτος, φιλήδονος, φιλόθεος, φιλόξενος, φιλότεκνος, φλύαρος.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G2412,G2887,G4586.]

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