Poor - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Poorpenes (G3993) Poor
ptochos (G4434) Beggar
Both penes and ptochos refer to poverty in terms of this world's goods. In the Septuagintespecially in the psalmsthese words always occur together and are not sharply distinguished, just as the words poor and needy in the phrase poor and needy. Whatever distinction may have existed between the Hebrew 'ebyôn(G34) and 'anî(G6041) was considered untranslatable or unimportant by the Alexandrian translators, who followed no fixed rule, translating both Hebrew words by ptochos and penes, though in some passages they did maintain a distinction and used penes where ptochos would have been unsuitable.
Penes occurs only once in the New Testament, in a quotation from the Old Testament (2 Cor. 9:9); ptochos is used between thirty and forty times. Penes is derived from penomai and is related to ponos (G4192), poneomai, and to the Latin penuria (scarcity). Properly speaking, penes refers to one who is so poor that he earns his daily bread by his labor. Hesychius called such a person autodiakonos, one who provides for his own necessities. Penes does not indicate extreme want (or that which verges upon it), any more than the pauper (poor man) and paupertas (poverty) of the Latin, but only the res angusta (scanty means) of one for whom plousios (G4145, wealthy) would be inappropriate. Xenophon has provided the popular definition of a penes:"I regard as poor [penetas] those who do not have enough to pay for necessities, and those who possess more than sufficient as wealthy [plousious]." Penes was commonly applied to Socrates, who claimed penia several times for himself.Xenophon defined penia as having fewer than five Attic minae worth of possessions. Likewise, the Penestai in Thessaly were a subject population, though they were not reduced to abject want but retained partial rights as serfs or cultivators of the soil.
But in Latin, though penes means pauper (poor person), ptochos means mendicus (beggar), one who lives not by his own labor or industry but on other men's alms (Luke 16:20-21), an individual whom Plato would not endure in his ideal State. Etymologically, prosaites or epaites would be more equivalent to our word beggar; ptochos generally refers to one who abjectly crouches in the presence of his superiors. It may be safest, however, to add the words of Pott: "In case he actually was named after a timid, subservient demeanor, and not as a greedy person." The derivation of ptochos from pipto (G4098), as though he were one who had fallen from a better estate, is mere fancy.
Thus penes and ptochos are clearly distinct. Ptocheia implies a deeper destitution than does penia, and keeping this distinction in mind makes Paul's contrasts in 2 Corinthians 6:10 and 8:9 more vivid. The penes may be so poor that he earns his bread by daily labor, but the ptochos is so poor that he only obtains his living by begging. When Plato spoke of tyrannies as "ending in poverty [penias] and exile and finally in beggary [ptocheias]," he intended the last term as a climax to the former. The penes has nothing extra, and the ptochos has nothing at all. In dealing with Jesus' words "Blessed are the poor [hoi ptochoi]"(Luke 6:20), Tertullian noted this same distinction and changed Beati pauperes (Blessed are the poor)which still is found in the Vulgateto Beati mendici (Blessed are the beggars). Tertullian justified this change by saying: "For so demands the interpretation of the word in the Greek text." In another place Tertullian translated ptochos by egeni (destitute). The two words (penia and ptocheia) may be sisters, as a character in Aristophanes said; but if they. are, the latter possesses fewer of the world's goods than the former. In that passage, Penia rejects any such close relationship. Aristophanes discriminated between the two words in this way:
Life of a beggar [ptochou] is living without having anything; a poor person [penetos] lives sparingly and pays attention to his work, but he has nothing superfluous, indeed nothing left over.