People - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Peoplelaos (G2992) People
ethnos (G1484) Nation
demos (G1218) Multitude
ochlos (G3793) Crowd
Although laos rarely is used in Attic prose, it is used between one and two thousand times in the Septuagint, where it usually is reserved for the elect people, the Israel of God. There are, however, some exceptions. The Philistines are described as a laos (Gen. 26:11), as are the Egyptians (Exod. 9:16), the Moabites (Ruth 1:15), and others. Occasionally the plural hoi laoi is used as an equivalent for ta ethne.Sometimes laoi is used with ethne as an exhaustive way to refer to the whole human race. In all the passages from Revelation, the exhaustive enumeration is fourfold; phylai (G5443) and glossai (G1100) are added to laoi and ethne. On one occasion, phylai gives way to basileis (G935; Rev. 10:11) and on another to ochloi (Rev. 17:15). The use of laoi and ethne to refer to the whole human race in an exhaustive sense may be contrasted with a distributive use of these terms, where laos is used in the singular (Luke 2:32; Acts 27:17, 23). In such constructions, the two terms refer to the whole of mankind, laos to the chosen people of God only, and ethne to all mankind outside of the covenant, a distinction that generally is true when the terms are used separately. In such cases, laos refers to the chosen people, ethne to the rest of mankind. In the singular, ethnos has no such restriction but was a name given to the Jews by others, who intended no slight by its use. Thus we read to ethnos ton loudaion (G2453; Acts 10:22). Because it was not a dishonorable title, the Jews freely applied ethnos to themselves in the phrases to ethnos hemon (our nation) and to ethnos touto (this nation). Sometimes, and with certain additions, ethnos is a title of highest honor. Thus the Jews were ethnos hagion (40, a holy nation) and ethnos ek mesou ethnon (a nation in the midst of Gentiles). If ethnos is used with ethos (G1485) to indicate a group of people who live according to one set of customs and rules, then no nation deserves this title more than the Jews. The lives of the citizens of Israel probably were ordered according to more distinctive and rigidly defined customs than those of any other nation in history.
Demos is used four times, all in Acts, in the section where Luke described the varied conditions of the heathen world (Acts 12:22; 17:5; 19:30, 33). Each of these passages exemplifies Luke's accurate and precise use of technical terms, which is characteristic of so highly educated a man. The Greek demos is equivalent to the Latin populus (a people), which Cicero defined this way: "Populus is not every assembly of people gathered in any manner, but an assembly of a large number uniting together with consent of the law and for mutual benefit." Very often demos refers to an assembled group of people who are actively exercising their rights as citizens. This idea so dominates demos that en to demo is equivalent to "in a popular assembly," which is the way Luke invariably used demos. The exact opposite to demos is ochlos, the disorganized or unorganized multitude. In classical Greek, ochlos often has a certain tinge of contempt and designates those who share neither in the duties nor the privileges of free citizens. This contempt, however, is not necessarily part of ochlos's meaning (Acts 1:15; Rev. 7:9), and there is no hint of it in Scripture, where a man is held worthy of honor even though the only politeuma (G4175, citizenship) he can claim is that which is eternal in the heavens (Phil. 3:20).