Animal - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


zoon (G2226) Animal
Living Creature
therion (G2342) Beast
In numerous passages, zoon and therion may be used interchangeably, though this does not prove that there is no distinction between them. In a few other passages, one word is appropriate and the other is not, or one word is more suitable than the other. These passages reveal the difference between zoon and therion.
Zoon and therion are not coordinate terms. Therion is completely subordinate to zoon. As the lesser term, therion is "included in" zoon, the greater term. All creatures that live on earth, including man himself, are zoa. According to the Definitions of Plato, God himself is "an immortal creature [zoon]," the only one to whom life by absolute right belongs. Zoon is not used in the New Testament to designate man, still less to designate God. God is not merely living but absolute life, the one fountain of life, "self-existent" (autozoon), and the "source of life" (pege zoes). Therefore zoe (G2222), the better and more reverent term, is used to describe God (John 1:4; 1 John 1:2). In its ordinary use, zoon is synonymous with the English animal and often is used with alogon (G249) or similar terms (2 Pet. 2:12; Jude 10).
Therion seems to be a diminutive of ther. Like chrysion (G5553), biblion (G975), phortion (G5413), angeion (G30), and many other words, therion has left behind whatever diminutive force it once may have possessed. Therion already had lost this force by the time the Odyssey was composed, as the phrase mega (G3173) therion (large beast) attests. Therion does not exclusively refer to mischievous and ravening beasts (cf. Exod. 19:13; Heb. 12:20), though such animals are generally intended (Mark 1:13; Acts 28:4-5). Theria in Acts 11:6 is distinguished from "four-footed animals." Schmidt correctly noted: "In therion there is a very strong connotation of ferocity and cruelty." Although there are numerous passages in the Septuagint where beasts of sacrifice are mentioned, they are never called theria. Evidently, therion primarily has a brutal or bestial connotation that does not draw attention to the similarity between man and inferior animals that makes the latter an appropriate representative and substitute that may be offered for the former. This also explains the frequent application of therion and theriodes to fierce and brutal men.
All of this makes us regret that the Authorized Version uses "beast" to translate therion and zoon in the Book of Revelation, thereby obliterating the distinction between them. Therion and zoon both play important roles in the Book of Revelation, and both belong to its higher symbolism. They are used in spheres as far removed as heaven is from hell. The zoa (living creatures) that stand before the throne, who contain the fullness of creaturely life as it gives praise and glory to God, constitute a part of the heavenly symbolism. The theria are the first and second beasts that rise upone from the bottomless pit (Rev. 11:7) and the other from the sea (13:1). One makes war upon the two witnesses, and the other opens his mouth in blasphemies. Together they form part of the hellish symbolism. To confuse these distinct symbols under the common designation beast would be an oversight, even if that name were suitable for both. It is a more serious error when the word used brings out, as therion does, the predominance of the lower animal life and the translation of that word is then applied to the glorious creatures in the very court of heaven. This error is common to most English translations. It is surprising that the Rheims Version did not escape this, since the Vulgate translates zoa by animalia (animals) and therion only by bestia (beast). If zoa always were translated "living creatures," it would unmistakably relate these symbols to Ezekiel 1:5, 13-14 (and often), where the Authorized Version translates hayah (G2416) as "living creature" and the Septuagint uses zoon.

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