Goodness - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


agathosyne (G19) Goodness
chrestotes (G5544) Kindnress
Agathosyne is one of many words where revealed religion has enriched the later language of Greece. Agathosyne occurs only in the Greek translations of the Old Testament (2 Chron. 24:16; Neh. 9:25; Eccles. 9:18), in the New Testament, and in writings directly dependent on these. The grammarians never acknowledged or gave it their stamp of approval and insisted that chrestotes should always be used in its place. In the New Testament, agathosyne occurs four times, always in the writings of Paul, where it is consistently translated "goodness" in the Authorized Version. Sometimes the lack of a more special and definite word is felt, as in Galatians 5:22, where agathosyne is one of a long list of Christian virtues or "fruits of the Spirit." Although in that passage it must refer to a single, separate virtue, the translation "goodness" seems to embrace them all. Favorinus explained agathosyne as "the completed virtue," but this is less than satisfactory, though it is difficult to suggest any other translation and even more difficult to determine the central force of agathosyne than of chrestotes. The difficulty in precisely defining agathosyne occurs primarily because there are no helpful passages in classical Greek literature where the word is used. Although classical usage can never be the absolute standard by which we define the meaning of words in Scripture, we feel a loss when there are no classical instances to use for comparison.
It is prudent first to consider chrestotes. After determining its range of meaning, it will be easier to ascertain what agathosyne means.
Like agathosyne, chrestotes occurs in the New Testament only in Paul's writings, where it is used with philanthropia, makrothymia (G3115), and anoche and contrasted with apotomia.The Authorized Version translates it by "good" (Rom. 3:12), "kindness" (2 Cor. 6:6; Eph. 2:7; Col. 3:12; Titus 3:4), and "gentleness" (Gal. 5:22). The Rheims Version translates it by "benignity" (a great improvement over "gentleness" in Gal. 5:22) and "sweetness" (2 Cor. 6:6), which better captures the central meaning of this word. Plato defined chrestotes as "sincerity of character with prudence," and Favorinus explained it as "good-heartedness, being sympathetic toward a neighbor and regarding his possessions as one's own." Clement of Rome used chrestotes with eleos, Plutarch used it with eumeneia and with haplotes (G572) and megalophrosyne. Lucian used it with oiktos, and Plutarch used chrestos (G5543) with philanthropos. When speaking of the chrestotes of Isaac,Josephus displayed insight into the ethical character of the patriarch.
Calvin had too superficial a view of chrestotes when he wrote:
Kindnessfor so it has been agreed to translate chrestoteta is what we render to loved ones. Meekness [prautes, 4240], which follows, extends wider than chrestotes, for meekness exists especially in facial expression and speech, while chrestotes is also an inward feeling.
Rather than being a virtue that refers only to a person's words and countenance, chrestotes refers to a virtue that pervades and penetrates the whole nature, that mellows anything harsh and austere. Thus wine that has been mellowed with age (Luke 5:39) is chrestos, and Christ's yoke is chrestos, because it has nothing harsh or galling about it (Matt. 11:30). Cocceius distinguished chrestos and agathosyne this way:

From this example it is dear that this word [chrestotes] indicates a certain generosity and eagerness to do good. The other word [agathosyne] implies kindness, agreeableness of manners, eloquence, earnestness of character, and every amiability joined with propriety and dignity.
Even that statement, however, is not exactly correct. If the words are contrasted, kindness belongs more to the chrestotes than to the agathosyne. Jerome's excellent statement is more germain to the matter:
Benignitas [friendliness! or suavitas [kindness]since among the Greeks chrestotes signifies eachis a gentle, charming, and calm virtue, suited to the company of all good people, attracting their friendship, delightful in encouragement and moderate in manners. Also the Stoics define it thus: chrestotes is a virtue willingly ready to do good. Agathosyne is not much different, for it also seems ready to do good. But it differs in that it can be more harsh and with a countenance wrinkled by strict standards for one to do well and to excel in what is demanded, without being pleasant to associates and attracting crowds by its sweetness. Also the followers of Zeno define it as follows: agathosyne is a virtue which is beneficial, or a virtue which promotes usefulness, or a virtue for its own sake, or a disposition which is the source of all benefits.
Jerome's statement essentially agrees with the distinction drawn by Basil: "I think chrestotes is more extensive in doing good to those who in any way at any time have need of it; agathosyne is more narrow and uses words of justice in its well-doing." Lightfoot found more activity in the agathosyne than in the chrestotes:"They are distinguished from one another as character from activity; chrestotes is potential agathosyne, while agathosyne is energizing chrestotes"
A man may display his agathosyne, his zeal for goodness and truth, in rebuking, correcting, and chastising. Although Christ was still in the spirit of this virtue when he drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple (Matt. 21:13) and when he uttered all those terrible words against the scribes and the Pharisees (Matt. 23), we could not say that his chrestotes was shown in these acts of righteous indignation. Rather, his chrestotes was displayed in his reception of the penitent woman (Luke 7:37-50; cf. Ps. 25:6-7) and in all his other gracious dealings with the children of men. Thus we might speak of the chrestotes tes agathosynes of God, but scarcely of the converse. This chrestotes was so predominantly a part of the character of Christ's ministry that it is not surprising to learn from Tertullian how "Christus" became "Chrestus" and "Christiani" became "Chrestiani" on the lips of the heathen, though with an undertone of contempt. The world expresses contempt for goodness that seems to have only the harmlessness of the dove and not the wisdom of the serpent. Such a contempt would be justified for a goodness that has no edge, no sharpness, no righteous indignation against sin or willingness to punish it. Sometimes chrestotes degenerated into this and ended up being not goodness at all, as evidenced in this striking fragment of Menander: "What now by some is called kindness [chrestotes] has set loose entire lives to vice, for no one is punished for his wrongs."

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