Greek Synonyms

by Stephanus 5 Replies latest jw friends

  • Stephanus

    In wider Christendom there are some interesting exegetical misunderstandings floating around. Some involve the use of synonyms in New Teastament Greek. The most well known is the assertion that "agapao" means the love of God and "phileo" menas the love of man. Another similar assertion is about the two Greek words translated "word", "rhema" and "logos" - that logos is the written word of God whereas rhema is the Holy Spirit empowered "living" or "revealed" word of God.

    In both cases, some simple word studies of context in the New Testament have revealed that the conclusions reached in both of the above examples are basically wrong; that in each case the two "different" words have no intrinsic difference in New Testament Greek usage, and can be used interchangeably. It's a case of "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" - such exegetical fallacies are usually the results of the studies of people with little or no Greek knowledge, whose main Greek reference work is Strong's concordance.

    So, to make this all relevant to this board, can anyone remember these or other Greek synonym usage in the New Testament being used to illustrate talks at the KH? What sort of depth regarding the meaning of Greek words was reached in KH talks? Was it considered important, and did people giving the talks ever do research other than that available in the Watchtower on word meanings, and use the results in their talks? Has anything changed since the strict rules regarding sticking to the talk outlines have come into play?

    Any examples anyone remembers that can be shared here?

    Edited by - Stephanus on 7 August 2002 20:27:30

  • onacruse

    I remember several such discussions of synonyms in WTS publications:

    heiron, naos (temple, sanctuary)

    latreuoo, leitourgia (sacred service)

    theiotes, theotes (godship, divine quality)

    eikon, homoiosis (image, likeness)

    kurios, despotes (lord)

    deilia, phobos, eulabeia (fear, godly fear)

    ekklesia, sunagoge (congregation, synagogue)

    stephanos, diadema (wreath, crown)

    antichristos, pseudochristos (antichrist, false christ)

    thumos, orge (anger, wrath)

    chrioo, aleiphoo (christen, to oil)


    As I recall, only the first 2 sets of synonyms ever made it into a public talk, regarding the "great crowd." Other than that, in 40 years I met less than 10 JWs that had more than a passing clue about the original Biblical languages. Even those that were more diligent students very, very rarely ever used their research in a comment, nuch less a talk. When I did so, I was told to cut it out.


  • Stephanus

    Quite a list, Craig! How did the articles tend to treat the subject: was the assumption that different words meant different meanings, or that more often than not that the words were interchangeable, or did they pick and choose according to the doctrinal axe being ground?

  • onacruse

    For the most part the research was in line with the fundamental premises of Trench (Synonyms of the New Testament). However, when a JW doctrine was at stake, they employed the usual "pick-and-choose" proof quote approach. E.g. Rom 1:20 (theiotes) compared to Col 2:9 (theotes). Trench (pp. 7-10) says: "...there is a real distinction between [the words]..." The WTS seizes upon that phrase, and asserts that this distinction is very substantial and definitive. They ignore what Trench goes on to say: "In...Rom 1:20 St. Paul is declaring how much of God may be known from the revelation of Himself which He has made in nature...But in...Col 2:9 St. Paul is declaring that in the Son there dwells all the fullness of absolute Godhead...and the Apostle uses theotes to express this essential and personal Godhead of the Son...It may be observed, in conclusion, that whether this distinction was intended...or not, it established itself firmly in the later theological language of the Church--the Greek fathers using never theiotes, but always theotes , as alone adequately expressing the essential Godhead of the Trinity." (There was a Questions from Readers on this, as I recall, but I don't have the Watchtower CD yet, so I can't provide a reference).

    As a result, WTS makes much more of the distinction between these 2 words than does Trench, and that to support their Arianism. They also choose to ignore the fact that 1st century Greek, like any other language, was an evolving thing that, even in the short span of 20 or 30 years, could see the original distinctions between various words soften, or even disappear.

    This is just one example. Most of the time WTS made "...the assumption that different words meant different meanings...," generally to support one of their unorthodox doctrines.

    Craig (of the brain in overdrive mode class)

  • Stephanus

    Sorry I didn't answer this sooner, Craig; I was waiting until I could get a copy of Trench in my hot little hand before I replied; sometime later this week, probably.

  • onacruse

    <<My little guilt-trip on Stephanus worked! hehehe>>

    Looking forward to your further comments

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