Time - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


chronos (G5550) Time
kairos (G2540) Season
Chronoi and kairoi occur together several times in the New Testament, always in the plural (Acts 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:1), as well as in the Septuagint and in the Apocrypha. Grotius thought that the difference between Chronos and kairos was that the chronoi were longer than the kairoi. According to him: "Chronoi are larger divisions of time as years, kairoi are smaller divisions as months and days." This distinction, if not inaccurate, is certainly insufficient and fails to touch the heart of the matter.
Chronos is simply time as such or the succession of moments. Plato called it a "moving representation of eternity," and Philo called it a "dimension of the movement of the heavens." According to Severianus: "Chronos is length, kairos is favorable opportunity." Kairos is time as it brings forth its several births: "the time [kairos] of harvest" (Matt. 13:30), "the season [kairos] of figs" (Mark 11:13); Christ died "in due time (kata kairon,Rom. 5:6). Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is actually a miniature essay on the word. Chronos embraces all possible kairoi, and since it is the more inclusive term, it is frequently used where kairos would have been equally suitable, though the reverse is not true. In chronos tou tekein (the time of bringing forth, Luke 1:57) and pleroma (G4138) tou chronou (Gal. 4:4), which refers to the fullness or to the ripeness of time for the manifestation of the Son of God, we would have expected tou kairou or ton kairon instead. The "times [chronoi] of restoration" (Acts 3:21) are identical with the "times [kairoi] of refreshing," which are mentioned in verse 19. Thus it is possible to speak of the kairos chronou, as Sophocles did: "May reason preclude from you the opportune moment [kairon] of time [chronou]," but not of the chronos kairou. Olympiodorus remarked: "Chronos is the interval at which something is done; kairos is the time [kronos] suitable for the action. Thus chronos can be kairos, but kairos is not chronos; it is the appropriateness [eukairia] of what is done occurring in time [chrono]." According to Ammonius: "Kairos indicates quality of time [chronou];chronos indicates quantity." Eukairos chronos (a fitting time) occurs in a fragment of Sosipatros.
Consequently, when the apostles asked, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" he answered: "It is not for you to know times or seasons" (Acts 1:6-7). "The times" (chronoi) are (in Augustine's words) "the very divisions of time," that is, the duration of the church's history; but "the seasons" (kairoi) are the joints or articulations in these times, the critical epoch-making periods foreordained by God or the "preappointed times" in Acts 17:26. Kairoi refers to the gradual and perhaps unobserved ripening and maturing process that results in grand decisive events that close one period of history as they inaugurate another. Examples of such decisive events in history include the noisy end of the old Jewish dispensation, the recognition of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire, the conversion of the Germanic tribes settled within the limits of the empire and the conversion of those outside of it, the great revival that occurred with the first institution of the Mendicant orders, and more importantly the Reformation. The most decisive event of all will be the second coming of the Lord in glory (Dan. 7:22).
There is not an adequate Latin word for kairoi. According to Augustine, who complained of this deficiency:

Greek speaks of Chronos or kairos. Our people call either word "time," whether chronos or kairos, although these two possess a differentiation which must not be neglected. The Greeks indeed use kairos as a particular timenot however as one which passes in an alteration of divisions, but as one which is perceived on occasions fitting and suitable in some respect, as time for harvesting, gathering of grapes, warmth, cold, peace, war, and anything similar. They speak of chronoi as the very divisions of time.
Augustine did not recognize tempestivitas (timeliness), which is used by Cicero. This complaint is confirmed by the Vulgate, where various words are used to translate kairoi whenever it occurs with chronoi. In those cases, kairoi cannot be translated by tempora (times) because chronoi is. Thus it is translated in various ways such as "times and moments" (Acts 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:1), "times and ages" (Dan. 2:21), and "times and generations" (Wisd. of Sol. 8:8). A modern Latin commentator on the New Testament has "times and divisions" and Bengel has "intervals and times." It might be argued that tempora et opportunitates (times and opportune times) would fulfill all the necessary conditions. Augustine anticipated this suggestion and demonstrated its insufficiency by arguing that opportunitas (opportune time) refers to a convenient, favorable season, but kairos may refer to a most inconvenient and unfavorable time that is nevertheless essentially the critical nick of time. Kairos itself does not determine whether this critical time is positive or negativehelpful or harmful. "Whether the time is convenient or inconvenient, it is called kairos. "It is usually, however, the former: "Kairos is for men like a very great chief over every work."

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