Boastful - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


alazon (G213) Boastful
hyperephanos (G5244) Proud
hybristes (G5197) Insolent
All of these words occur in Romans 1:30, though in the reverse order from the way I have listed them. They constitute an interesting subject for synonymous discrimination.
Alazon occurs twice in the Septuagint (Job 28:8; Hab. 2:5) and twice in the New Testament (Rom. 1:30; 2 Tim. 3:2). Alazoneia (G212) does not occur in the Septuagint but appears four times in the Apocrypha (Wisd. of Sol. 5:8; 17:7; 2 Macc. 9:8; 15:6) and twice in the New Testament (James 4:16; 1 John 2:16). Alazoneia is derived from ale (a wandering about), which at first designated the vagabond mountebanks, conjurers, charlatans, or exorcists (Acts 19:13; 1 Tim. 5:13). Alazon refers to those who are full of empty and boastful professions of cures and other supposed feats they can accomplish. Later the term was applied to any braggart or boaster. Such a person would claim the possession of skill (Wisd. of Sol. 17:7), knowledge, courage, virtue, riches, and so forth that were not truly his. This kind of person is the exact antithesis of the eiron, who makes less of himself and his belongings than is in fact the case, in the same way that the alazon makes more. In the supposed Definitions of Plato, alazoneia is defined as "a habit of making pretense to good things that are not possessed." In describing the alazon,Xenophon said:
The boaster [ho alazon] seems to me to be a name for those who pretend to be wealthier than they really are, more courageous, and who undertake to do what is beyond their ability; it becomes apparent that they do this for the sake of gain and profit.
Aristotle said: "The boaster [ho alazon] is one who makes pretense to things held in high esteem, even though he does not possess them, and to greater things than he actually has." As such he is likely to be a busybody and meddler, which may explain the juxtaposition of alazoneia and polypragmosyne.
The essential nature of the alazon is to boast beyond the truth (Wisd. of Sol. 2:16-17). Aristotle portrayed him as one who not merely boasts about what he possesses but who brags about qualities he does not possess. Aristotle contrasted him with the person who is "truthful both in manner of life and in word." Although "boaster" is a fairly accurate translation of alazon,"ostentation" is not a good translation of alazoneia, since someone can only be "ostentatious" in things that he really has to "show." There is no English word (certainly not "pride," 1 John 2:16) that is as adequate a translation of alazoneia as is the German Prahlerei (bragging). Such braggadocio is a vice that is sometimes ascribed to whole nations. Thus an "inborn boasting [alazoneia]" is ascribed to the Aetolians and in modern times to the Gascons, from which we get the word gasconade. The Vulgate's translation of alazones by elati (exalted) does not capture the word's central meaning as successfully as does Beza's gloriosi (bragging).
Sometimes a distinction has been made between the alazon and the perperos. The former is said to brag of things he does not possess, the latter of things he does (though his bragging is unbecoming). This distinction, however, cannot be maintained because both the alazon and the perperos are liars.
Habitual boasting is accompanied by contempt for the boasting of others. The alazon is often authades (G829) as well (Prov. 21:24). Alazoneia is related to hyperopsia, with which it is almost used interchangeably. Because there is only one step from hyperopsia to hyperephania, it is not surprising to find hyperephanos joined with alazon. A picturesque image serves as the basis for this synonymy: the hyperephanos is one who shows himself abovehis fellows.As Deyling stated: "The word strictly speaking denotes a person projecting above others by his head, so that he is conspicuous in comparison with the rest, just as was Saul, 1 Sam. 9:2."
A person is alazon only in the company of others, but the proper seat of the hyperephania is within. The one guilty of this sin compares himself (secretly or openly) with others and lifts himself above others, in honor preferring himself. Theophrastus described this sin as "a certain contempt for others, except oneself." The bearing of the hyperephanos toward others is the consequence of his sin, not its essence. His "arrogance" consists in claiming honor and observance for himself. His indignation, and perhaps his cruelty and revengeif these are withheldare only the results of his false self-estimate.There may be the perversion of a nobler character in the hyperephanos (the melancholic temperament) than in the alazon,(the sanguine temperament) and in the hybristes (the choleric temperament). But because this character is nobler, when it falls, it descends more deeply into sin. The hyperephanos is one "who is proud in heart [hypselokardios]"(Prov. 16:5) and sets "the mind on high things" (Rom. 12:16), as opposed to being "lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29). His pride is directed not only against man but against God, and he may assail the very prerogatives of deity itself. Theophylact called this sin akropolis kakon (the stronghold of evils). In Scripture we are reminded three times that "God resists the proud" (hyperephanois antitassetai] Prov. 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5); he sets himself in battle array against them, as they do against him.
The final synonym in this group is hybristes, which etymologically is related to hyperephanos. Hybris denotes insolent wrongdoing for the sheer pleasure of inflicting pain on others, not out of revenge or a similar motive. Thus Aristotle said: "For wanton violence [hybris] is the damaging and grieving in matters that cause shame to the victim for the sole purpose of furnishing pleasure to the doer; in fact those who resist do not commit an outrage, but seek vengeance." Hybristes occurs only twice in the New Testament (Rom. 1:30 [violent] and 1 Tim. 1:13 [insolent]) but frequently in the Septuagint. Aristotle related the words in a similar manner (Rhetorica 2.16). And hybristes is related to other words such as agrios (66; Homer, Odyssey 6.120), atasthalos (L-S 268, reckless; Homer, Odyssey 24.282), aithon (L-S37, fiery; Sophocles, Ajax 1061), anomos (G459, Sophocles, Trachiniae 1076), biaios (G972; Demosthenes, Oratio 24.169), paroinos (G3943), agnomon (L-S 12, hardhearted), pikros (G4089; Demosthenes, Oratio 54.1261), adikos (94; Plato, Leges 1.630b), akolastos (L-S 52, undisciplined; Plato, Apologia Socratis 26e), aphron (G878; Plato, Philebus 45e), hyperoptes (L-S 1866, disdainful; Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea 4.3.21), thrasus (L-S 804, rash; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 2.5), phaulos (G5337; Plutarch, De defectu oraculorum 45), and philogelos.Plutarch wrote about "an insolent [hybristes] man [who was]... full of all contempt and rashness." Such a person is the exact antithesis of the sophron The hybristes is insolently abusive; his contempt for others results in acts of wantonness and outrage. The term hybristes was applied to Menelaus when he wanted to refuse the rites of burial to the body of Ajax. Hanun, king of Ammon, was described as hybris when he cut short the garments of King David's ambassadors, shaved off half their beards, and returned them to their master (2 Sam. 10). When Paul persecuted the church, he was described as hybristes (1 Tim. 1:13; cf. Acts 8:3) but was hybristheis (G5195; 1 Thess. 2:2) at Philippi (see Acts 16:22-23). In prophesying the order of his passion, Christ declared that the Son of Man hybristhesetai (Luke 18:32). And the blasphemous masquerade of royalty that was forced upon Christ (Matt. 27:27-30) constituted the fulfillment of this prophecy. Tacitus described the martyrdoms of the Christians under Nero's persecution as "mockeries added to those perishing." The Christians died, Tacitus said, "with wanton insolence [hybreos]. "In Shakespeare's Henry VI the same may be said of York, when (before Margaret and Clifford stab him) the paper crown was placed on his head in mockery of his kingly pretensions. The Spartans were not satisfied with throwing down the Long Walls of Athens, unless they did it to the sound of music. The story of mankind is full of examples of this demonic element that lies deep within the human heartthis evil for evil's sake that ever begets itself anew.
The two main forms of hybris are cruelty and lust, which at root are not two sins but one. Josephus included both concepts when he characterized the men of Sodom as being hybristai to men (cf. Gen. 19:5) no less than they were asebeis (G765) to God. And Josephus used the same language about the sons of Eli (cf. 1 Sam 2:22). By using hybris on both occasions, Josephus intended an assault on the chastity of others.
Alazon, hyperephanos, and hybristes are clearly distinguishable. Each word has its own distinct sphere of meaning. These three words portray an ascending scale of guilt, respectively designating those who are boastful in words, those who are proud and overbearing in thoughts, and those who are insolent and injurious in deeds.

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