Profane - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


bebelos (G952) Profane
koinos (G2839) Common
Bebelos suggests a trodden and trampled spot that is open to the casual step of every intruder or careless passer-by, or in the words of Thucydides, a chorion(G5564) bebelon (profane place). Adyton, a spot fenced and reserved for sacred uses that is not to be approached lightly, is exactly the opposite of bebelos. In the language of the Song of Solomon, an adyton is "a garden enclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed" (Song of Sol. 4:12). Perhaps the "profaneness" of a person or thing may be described negatively as the absence of any higher consecration, rather than as the active presence of the unholy or profane. Bebelos often is used with amyntos, anorgiastos, and as such with arcendus a sacris. In a similar way, artoi (G740) bebeloi (1 Sam. 21:4) are simply unconsecrated common loaves as contrasted with the showbread that the high priest had declared holy. The Latin profanus refers only to what is left outside of the temenos (sacred enclosure), to that which is pro fano (in front of the sanctuary) and which thus lacks the consecration of the temenos (sanctuary). And in English this is what we mean when we contrast sacred and profane history. The term profane history does not imply a positive profaneness but only that such history is not sacred; it is not a history that primarily deals with the kingdom of God and the course of that kingdom. At first this was the way bebelos was used. Only later did bebelos come to be contrasted with hagios (G40; Ezek. 22:6) and with hosios (G3741) and to be used with anosios, graodes and anomos.Only this later meaning allowed bebeloi to be used within the space of a few lines as a synonym for "defiled hands" (2 Macc. 5:16).
What is the relationship between bebelos and koinos? Before bringing koinos into such questionable company, let us observe that there are many honorable New Testament uses of koinos and its derivatives, such as koinonia (G2842) and koinonikos (G2843).In secular Greek, Dio Chrysostom characterized Socrates as koinos kai philanthropos (cf. G5363), one who did not give himself airs or withdraw from friendly conversation with others. Koinos also is capable of an even higher application to Christ, for some complained that he ate with publicans and sinners (Matt. 9:10-11). In this noblest sense of the term, Christ was koinos. Although this is interesting to note, our primary concern here is with the use of koinos and koinoo (G2840) to refer to sacred things, which is an exclusively Jewish Hellenistic usage. If it were not for two exceptional examples (1 Macc. 1:47, 62), one might claim that this usage was restricted to the New Testament. By comparing Acts 21:28 and 24:6, we have implicit evidence that at the time Acts was written such a use of koinos was unfamiliar and probably unknown to the heathen. Paul's Jewish adversaries, when addressing their fellow countrymen, made this charge: "He has defiled [kekoinoke] this holy place" (Acts 21:28). But in bringing this same accusation against Paul before Felix, a heathen, Paul's opponents changed their words to "he tried to profane [bebelosai] the temple" (Acts 24:6). The other language would have been out of place and perhaps even unintelligible.
Also note how in the New Testament koinos gradually encroached on bebelos's original meaning, so that later the two words came to share this meaning. This resulted in koinos gradually assuming the larger share and being used more often. It is not difficult to see how bebelos gradually was pushed aside after the Septuagint was written. The Jews favored koinos, which replaced bebelos, because the former word, by virtue of its contrast with ekloge (G1589, selection) depicted the Jewish people as a "special people" who had no fellowship with anything unclean. Since koinos indicated less defilement than bebelos, it brought out more strongly Israel's separation from anything common. That which was ceremonially unclean more and more broke down the barrier that separated it from that which was morally unclean, thus doing away with any distinction between them.

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