Modest - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


kosmios (G2887) Modest
Of Good Behavior
semnos (G4586) Grace
Reverent (Worthy of Reverence)
hieroprepes (G2412)
Occasionally kosmios and semnos refer to things, though usually they refer to persons. Although they are close enough in meaning that often they are used together, they are clearly distinguishable.
Kosmios occurs twice in the New Testament. Once it is translated in the Authorized Version by "modest" (1 Tim. 2:9), once by "of good behavior" (1 Tim. 3:2). Kosmios closely corresponds to the compositus (composed) of Seneca and to his compositus et ordinatus (composed and well-ordered). The Vulgate uses ornatus on both occasions, which is strangely incorrect, though it is easy to see how this mistake came about. Kosmios is a favorite word of Plato, which he (and others) frequently applied to the citizen who is quiet in the land, to the one who duly fulfills the duties incumbent on his place and order. Such a person is not ataktos in anything but is tetagmenos (well ordered, cf. G5021). Both Plato and Paul associated kosmios with sophron, hemeros, nomimos, enkrates, eustales, phronimos, stasimos, eukolos, andreios, and kalos. Aristotle associated kosmios with eutaktos.Epictetus associated it with aidemon. Plutarch associated it with gennaios and euagogos. Plato contrasted kosmios with akolastos.Since kosmios is used with these terms, a definition such as "of well-ordered demeanor, decorous, courteous" (Webster) dwells too much on external concerns. This is even truer of Tyndale's translation "honestly apparelled" (1 Tim. 3:3). The kosmios is all this and much more. The proper order extends not only to dress and demeanor but also to the inner life, which expresses itself in outward conversation. Even Bengel has too superficial a view of the word when he said: "What sophron is inwardly, that kosmios is outwardly." But later, in one of his most characteristic notes, he unfolded more fully what he thought was implied in these terms:
A new person is something solemn and shrinks from everything that is unchaste, disorderly, rude, excessive, violent, licentious, passionate, loathsome, inconsiderate, abusive, and filthy; he submits sparingly and unwillingly to the very necessity of his nature and disposition, which is driven to forcing, dissipating, and exhausting, and he keeps the vestiges of his corruptible body concealed.
Bengel came closer to the heart of the matter than did Philemon, the comic poet, who defined who is kosmios in this way:
Kosmios is the one who utters not trivialities And gazes not at the ground when walking; The one who speaks what is conducive to nature, Doing nothing shameful, he is kosmios.

However much kosmios implies, semnos implies more. If the kosmios is well ordered in his earthly citizenship, the semnos has a grace and dignity not derived from earth but from his higher citizenship. He inspires not only respect but reverence and worship. In secular Greek, semnos often is used of the gods, especially of the Eumenides, the semnai goddesses. Semnos also is frequently used to qualify things that pertain to or that stand in any near relation with the heavenly world. This will become clearer when we list some of the terms that habitually are linked with it: hagios, orthos, megas timios, metrios, basilikos, entimos megaloprepes, theios (G2304), and phoberos(G5398). Clearly there is something majestic and awe-inspiring about semnos that is not true of kosmios, something that does not repel but that invites and attracts. Aristotle happily defined semnotes as a "a gentle and gracious arrogance." Aristotle made semnotes the golden mean between areskeia (G699), or "unmanly assentation," and authadia, or "churlish bearishness" (pleasing itself, not caring how much it displeases others). Plutarch associated semnos with philikos, hedys, philanthropos, epieikes (G1933), and with other similar words. Josephus associated semnos with prosenes. This does not exclude the fact that the semnos is one who without demanding it in words challenges and inspires reverence and worship (in our earlier use of the word). It is not easy to determine the correct way to translate semnos. On the one occasion where it is used to qualify things rather than persons (Phil. 4:8), the Authorized Version translates it as "honest." This is an unsatisfactory translation, though we include the same concepts in honest as when the King James Version was translated. If a change is needed, I believe that "honorable" is preferable.
On the other three occasions where it is used in the New Testament, semnos is translated "grave" (1 Tim. 3:8, 11; Titus 2:2). Once semnotes is translated "honesty" (1 Tim. 2:2) and twice "gravity" (1 Tim. 3:4; Titus 2:7); both of these translations fail to convey the full meaning of the original word. In Twelfth Night Malvolio is "grave," but his very gravity is ridiculous. We need a word that combines the concept of gravity with the idea of a dignity that invites reverencea word that I fear we may look for in vain.

Hieroprepes, which was used by Plato and Xenophon, belongs to the best age of the Greek language, unlike hosioprepes and hagioprepes, which are of later ecclesiastical formation. Like kosmios, hieroprepes belongs to the large group of noticeable words that are found only in the pastoral Epistles. The number and character of these words, the new vein of Greek that Paul opened in these later epistles, constitutes a remarkable phenomenonone that previously has not received a perfectly satisfactory explanation. In his Prolegomena to these epistles, Alford made a valuable contribution to such an explanation, but after all has been said, the situation still remains perplexing.
It is apparent from what has already been claimed for semnos that hieroprepes is more closely related to it than to kosmios.Hieroprepes expresses what is proper for a sacred person, thing, or act. On the one occasion where it is used in the New Testament (Titus 2:3), hieroprepes is used with sophron, a word that is applied to women who profess godliness, women who will be in their bearing or behavior hieroprepeis (professing godliness; cf. 1 Tim. 2:10). That such behavior would breed reverence and awe might reasonably be expected, but this is not implied in hieroprepes as it is in semnos. And here we must find the distinction between these two words. anemeros (G434), anexikakos (G420), anosios (G462), apaideutos (G521), artios (G739), aphilagathos (G865), apseudes (G893), didaktikos (G1317), diabobs (G1228), dilogos (G1351), enkrates (G1468), eumetadotos (G2130), epiorkos (G1965), epios (G2261), kalodidaskalos (G2567), koinonikos (G2843), mataiologos (G3151), nephalios (G3524), oikouros (G3626), orgilos (G3711), paroinos (G3943), sophron (G4998), philagathos (G5358), philandros (G5362), philautos (G5367), philedonos (G5369), philotheos (G5377), philoxenos (G5382), philoteknos (G5388), and phlyaros (G5397).

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