Touch - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


thingano (G2345) Touch
haptomai (G680) Handle
pselaphao (G5584) Feel (for)
Grope for
An accurate distinction among synonyms sometimes may cause us to reject an interpretation of Scripture we might otherwise find acceptable. Thus many interpreters have explained Hebrews 12:18 ("for you have not come to the mount that may be touched") by the use of Ps. 104:32 ("he touchesthe hills, and they smoke"), coupled with a reference to the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, which "was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it" (Exod. 19:18). This interpretation, however, is not possible because pselaphao never refers to handling an object in order to mold or modify it but either to feeling an object's surface (Luke 24:39; 1 John 1:1) perhaps to learn its composition (Gen. 27:12, 21, 22) or to feeling foror afteran object without actually touching it. Pselaphao frequently expresses a groping in the dark (Job 5:14) or the groping of the blind (Gen. 27:12; Deut. 28:29; Judg. 16:26; Isa. 59:10). This is plainly the meaning of Hebrews 12:18. "You have not come," the apostle would say, "to any materialmountain, like Sinai, capable of being touched and handled; not, in this sense, to the mountain that might be feltbut to the heavenly Jerusalem, to a mountain grasped by the mind [noeton], not by the senses [aistheton]."
Haptesthai and thinganein are the verbs that would be used to refer to handling any object in order to modify it. Although these words sometimes are used interchangeably (Exod. 19:12), the first usually has a stronger sense than the second. It is appropriate to use haptomai but not thinganein to refer to the sculptor's shaping of his materials; the self-conscious effort that sometimes is present in haptomai is never found in thinganein. Our Authorized Version has exactly reversed the true order of the words in Colossians 2:21, where it reads: "Touchnot, taste not, handlenot." The first and last prohibitions should be transposed, and the passage should read: "Handlenot, taste not, touchnot." This translation would more vividly describe the ever-ascending scale of superstitious prohibition among the false teachers at Colossae. To abstain from "handling" was not sufficient; they forbade Christians to "taste" and, lastly, even to "touch" things that might have been considered unclean. As Beza has noted: "The verb thigein must be distinguished from the verb haptesthai so that as the sentence always diminishes the superstition may be understood to increase." The verb psauein does not occur in the New Testament or in the Septuagint. where the child Cyrus, rebuking his grandfather's delicacies, says: "I see that whenever you handle [hapse] the bread you wipe your hand for no reason, but whenever you touch [thiges] any of these [delicacies] you clean your hand at once in the napkins, as if being vexed" (Cyropaedia 1.3.5).

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