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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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xcv. ἄλλος, ἕτερος.

Ἄλλος, identical with the Latin ‘alius,’ is the numerically distinct; thus Christ spoke we are fold ‘another’ parable, and still ‘another,’ but each succeeding one being of the same character as those which He had spoken before (Matt. 13:23, 24, 31, 33), ἄλλην therefore in every case. But ἕτερος, equivalent to the Latin ‘alter,’ to the German ‘ander’ (on which last word see an instructive article in Grimm’s Wörterbuch), superadds the notion of qualitative difference. One is ‘divers,’ the other is ‘diverse.’ There are not a few passages in the N. T. whose right interpretation, or at any rate their full understanding, will depend on an accurate seizing of the distinction between these words. Thus Christ promises to his disciples that He will send, not ἕτερον, but ἄλλον, Παράκλητον, (John 14:16), ‘another’ Comforter therefore, similar to Himself. The dogmatic force of this ἄλλον has in controversy with various sects of πνευματομάχοι been often urged before now; thus by Petavius (De Trin. ii. 13. 5): ‘Eodem pertinet et Paracleti cognomen, maxime cum Christus alium Paracletum, hoc est, parem sibi, et aequalem eum nominat. Quippe vox alius dignitate ac substantiâ prorsus eundem, et aequalem fore demonstrat, ut Gregorius Nazianzenus et Ambrosius admonent.’

But if in the ἄλλος there is a negation of identity, there is oftentimes much more in ἕτερος, the negation namely, up to a certain point, of resemblance; the assertion not merely of distinctness but of difference. A few examples will illustrate this. Thus St. Paul says, ‘I see another law’ [ἕτερον νόμον], a law quite different from the law of the spirit of life, even a law of sin and death, ‘working in my members’ (Rom. 7:23). After Joseph’s death ‘another king arose’ in Egypt (βασιλεὺς ἕτερος, Acts 7:18; cf. Exod. 1:8), one, it is generally supposed, of quite another dynasty, at all events of quite another spirit, from his who had invited the children of Israel into Egypt, and so hospitably entertained them there. The ὁδὸς ἑτέρα and καρδία ἑτέρα which God premises that He will give to his people are a new way and a new heart (Jer. 39:39; cf. Deut. 29:22). It was not ‘another spirit’ only but a different (ἕτερον πνεῦμα) which was in Caleb, as distinguished from the other spies (Num. 14:24). In the parable of the Pounds the slothful servant is ἕτερος (Luke 19:18). When Iphigenia about to die exclaims, ἕτερον, ἕτερον αἰῶνα καὶ μοῖραν οἰκήσομεν, a different life with quite other surroundings is that to which she looks forward (Euripides, Iphig. in Aul. 1516). The spirit that has been wandering through dry places, seeking rest in them in vain, takes ‘seven other spirits’ (ἕτερα πνεύματα), worse than himself, of a deeper malignity, with whose aid to repossess the house which he has quitted for while (Matt. 12:45). Those who are crucified with the Lord are ἕτεροι, δύο, κακοῦργοι, ‘two others, malefactors,’ as it should be pointed (Luke 23:32; cf. Bornemann, Schol. in Lucam, p. 147); it would be inconceivable and revolting so to confound Him and them as to speak of them as ἄλλοι δύο. It is only too plain why St. Jude should speak of ἑτέρα σάρξ (ver. 7), as that which the wicked whom he is denouncing followed after (Gen. 19:5). Christ appears to his disciples ἐν ἑτέρᾳ μορφῇ (Mark 16:12), the word indicating the mighty change which had passed upon Him at his resurrection, as by anticipation at his Transfiguration, and there expressed in the same way (Luke 9:29). It is χείλεσιν ἑτέροις, with altogether other and different lips, that God will speak to his people in the New Covenant (1 Cor. 14:21); even as the tongues of Pentecost are ἕτεραι γλώσσαι (Acts 2:4), being quite different in kind from any other speech of men. It would be easy to multiply the passages where ἕτερος could not be exchanged at all, or could only be exchanged at a loss, for ἄλλος, as Matt. 11:3; 1 Cor. 15:40; Gal. 1:6. Others too there are where at first sight ἄλλος seems quite as fit or a fitter word; where yet ἕτερος retains its proper force. Thus at Luke 22:65 the ἕτερα πολλά are ‘multa diversi generis convicia,’ blasphemous speeches now of one kind, now of another; the Roman soldiers taunting the Lord now from their own point of view, as a pretender to Caesar’s throne; and now from the Jewish, as claiming to be Son of God. At the same time it would be idle to look for qualitative difference as intended in every case where ἕτερος is used; thus see Heb. 11:36, where it would be difficult to trace anything of the kind.

What holds good of ἕτερος, holds good also of the compounds into which it enters, of which the N. T. contains three; namely, ἑτερόγλωσσος (1 Cor. 14:21), by which word the Apostle intends to bring out the non-intelligibility of the tongues to many in the Church; it is true indeed that we have also ἀλλόγλωσσος (Ezek. 3:6); ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν (1 Tim. 1:3), to teach other things, and things alien to the faith; ἑτεροζυγεῖν (2 Cor. 6:14), to yoke with others, and those as little to be yoked with as the ox with the ass (Deut. 22:10); cf. ἑτεροκλινής (Clement of Rome, 1 Ep. § 11), swerving aside; ἑτερογνώμων (ibid.), an epithet applied to Lot’s wife (Gen. 19:26). So too we have in ecclesiastical Greek ἑτεροδοξία, which is not merely another opinion, but one which, in so far as it is another, is a worse, a departure from the faith. The same reappears in our own ‘heterogeneous,’ which is not merely of another kind, but of another and a worse kind. For this point also deserves attention, and is illustrated by several of the examples already adduced; namely, that ἄλλο ἕτερος is very constantly, not this other and different, ἄλλο καὶ διάφορον, only, but such with the farther subaudition, that whatever difference there is, it is for the worse. Thus Socrates is accused of introducing into Athens ἕτερα καινὰ δαιμόνια (Xenophon, Mem. i. 1. 1); δαίμων ἕτερος (Pindar, Pyth. iii. 61) is an evil or hostile deity; ἕτεραι θυσίαι (aeschylus, Agamemnon, 151), ill-omened sacrifices, such as bring back on their offerer not a blessing but a curse; δημαγωγοὶ ἕτεροι (Plutarch, Pericles, 3) are popular leaders not of a different only, but of a worse stamp and spirit than was Pericles. So too in the Septuagint other gods than the true are invariably ἕτεροι θεοί (Deut. 5:7; Judg. 10:13; Ezek. 42:18; and often); compare Aristophanes (Ran. 889): ἕτεροι γάρ εἰσιν οἷσιν εὔχομαι θεοῖς. A barbarous tongue is ἑτέρα γλῶσσα (Isai. 28:11), the phrase being linked with φαυλισμὸς χειλέων.

We may bring this distinction practically to bear on the interpretation of the N. T. There is only one way in which the fine distinction between ἕτερον and ἄλλο, and the point which St. Paul makes as he sets the one over against the other at Gal. 1:6, 7, can be reproduced for the English reader. ‘I marvel,’ says the Apostle, ‘that ye are so soon removed from them that called you into the grace of Christ unto another (ἕτερον) Gospel, which is not another’ (ἄλλο). Dean Alford for the first ‘other’ has substituted ‘different’; for indeed that is what St. Paul intends to express, namely, his wonder that they should have so soon accepted a Gospel different in character and kind from that which they had already received, which therefore had no right to be called another Gospel, to assume this name, being in fact no Gospel at all; since there could not be two Gospels, varying the one from the other. Cocceius: ‘Vos transferimini ad aliud Evangelium quod aliud nec est, nec esse potest.’

There are other passages in the N.T. where the student may profitably exercise himself with the enquiry why one of these words is used in preference to the other, or rather why both are used, the one alternating with, or giving partial place to, the other. Such are 1 Cor. 12:8-10; 2 Cor. 11:4; Acts 4:12.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G2087,G243.]

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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.

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