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Trench on Godliness




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End Notes

Trench, R. C.  (1901, p. 161-169).  Synonyms of the New Testament.  (New Ed.)  London : Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.


[Note that 'translations' of the Greek or Latin may be provided in brackets like these [ ].  These translations may be via this author, or via Google Translate.  Page numbers for the quotations should follow in brackets.]



Trench (1901) begins his consideration of Godliness/Eusebeίa/εὐσεβείᾳ by contrasting it with θεοσεβς.  An analysis of θεοσεβς would separate it into parts as: 'θεο' meaning God(s) and 'σέβομαι' to feel awe/reference toward.  Thus, θεοσεβς would literally mean 'reverence toward God, or the gods'.  While for εὐσεβείᾳ:  'εὐ' means well or good and     'σέβομαι' to feel awe/reference toward.  Thus, εὐσεβείᾳ would be translated as 'right worship.'  It could have a meaning similar to θεοσεβς, OR it can also be used of 'respect' given in human relationships.


"Before we proceed to consider the relation of these to the other words in this group, a subordinate distinction between themselves may fitly be noted;  this, namely, that in θεοσεβς is implied, by its very derivation, piety toward God, or toward the gods;  while εὐσεβς, often as it means this, may also mean piety in the fulfillment of human relations, as toward parents or others (Euripides, Elect. 253, 254), the word according to its etymology only implying 'worship' (that is 'worthship') and reverence, well and rightly directed.  It has in fact the same double meaning as the Latin 'pietas,' which is not merely 'justitia adversum Deos,' [justice against the Gods] or 'scientia colendorum Deorum' [the knowledge of worshiping the Gods] (Cicero, Nat. Deor. i. 41);  but a double meaning, which, deeply instructive as it is, yet proves occasionally embarrassing;  so that on several occasions Augustine, when he has need of accuracy and precision in his language, pauses to observe that by 'pietas' he means what εὐσέβεια may mean, but θεοσέβεια alone must mean, namely, piety toward God (Dei pietatem, quam Graeci vel εὐσέβειαν, vel expressius et plenius θεοσέβειαν, vocant, Ep. clxvii. 3;  De Trin. xiv. 1;  Civ. Dei, x. 1;  Enchir. 1) [God's piety, which the Greeks call either εὐσέβειαν, or more expressively and fully θεοσέβειαν].  At the same time εὐσέβεια, explained in the Platonic Definitions (412 c) as δικαιοσύνη περὶ θεούς [justice about gods], by the Stoics as ἐπιστήμη θεῶν θεραπείας [science of healing gods] (Diogenes Laertius, vii. 1. 64, 119), and not therefore every reverencing of the gods, but a reverencing of them aright (εὐ), is the standing word to express this piety,"   (Thench, R. C.  1901,  PDF p. 161-162, l. 24) [Greek translated by Google Translate;  Latin by Google & Yandex.]


Thus we see Trench drawing a distinction between θεοσεβς, which can ONLY mean piety in a human-divine relationship, versus εὐσεβείᾳ, which MAY be used in a human-divine relationship, but which MAY also be used in a human-human relationship.  The first speaks of a Divine encounter.  The second speaks of a Right or Good encounter.



Next Trench moves to consider εὐλάβεια as an Anxious encounter with the Divine.


"If we keep in mind that, in that mingled fear and love which combined constitute the piety of man toward God, the Old Testament placed its emphasis on the fear, the New places it on the love (though there was love in the fear of God's saints then, as there must be fear in their love now), it will at once be evident how fitly εὐλαβής was chosen to set forth their piety under the Old Covenant, who, like Zacharias and Elizabeth, 'were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless' (Luke i. 6), and leaving nothing willingly undone which pertained to the circle of their prescribed duties.  For this sense of accurately and scrupulously performing that which is prescribed, with the consciousness of the danger of slipping into a careless negligent performance of God's service, and of the need therefore of anxiously watching against the adding to or diminishing from, or in any other way altering, that which has been by Him commanded, lies ever in the words εὐλαβής, εὐλάβεια, when used in their religious signification."  (Thench, R. C.  1901,  p. 163, l. 11)


"But if in εὐλαβής we have the anxious and scrupulous worshipper, who makes a conscience of changing anything, of omitting anything, being above all things fearful to offend, . . ."  (Trench, R. C.  1901,  p. 164, l. 25)


Here Trench contrasts εὐσεβείᾳ with εὐλάβεια.  The former term indicates 'right worship' and the latter term implies 'anxious or fearful worship'.  The style of behavior described by this second term sounds very much like the classical religious term 'scrupulosity'.  Today we would likely describe that term as indicative of an anxiety disorder.



Finally, Trench contrasts εὐσεβείᾳ with "θρησκεία ( = 'cultus', or perhaps more strictly, 'cultus exterior') is predominantly the ceremonial service of religion of her whom Lord Brooke has so grandly named 'mother of form and fear,' - the external framework or body, of which εὐσεβείᾳ is the informing soul."

"How delicate and fine then is St. James's choice of θρῆσκος and θρησκεία (i. 26, 27).  'If any man,' the Apostle would say, 'seem to himself to be θρῆσκος, a diligent observer of the offices of religion, if any man would render a pure and undefiled θρησκεία to God, let him know that this consists not in outward lustrations or ceremonial observances;  nay, that there is a better θρησκεία than thousands of rams and rivers of oil, namely, to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with his God' (Mic. vi. 7, 8);  or, according to his own words, 'to visit the widows and orphans in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world' (cf. Matt, xxiii. 23).  St. James is not herein affirming, as we sometimes hear, these offices to be the sum total, nor yet the great essentials, of true religion, but declares them to be the body, the θρησκεία, of which godliness, or the love of God, is the informing soul."  (Thench, R. C.  1901,  p. 164-165, l. 34)


We see Trench summarizing his view of εὐσεβείᾳ by noting that the very externally and behaviorally-oriented θρησκεία displays it's superficiality in it's public actions.  On the other hand, the actual 'love of God' expressed as εὐσεβείᾳ is and should be the true motivation for our Godly acts.


My Response to Trench


By combining the contrasts Trench provides us, we can understand εὐσεβείᾳ as:  reflecting the 'right worship' of God, (similar to θεοσεβής), but also including the possibility of being expressed by due 'respect' in human relations.  While the disciple demonstrating εὐσεβείᾳ can be expected to feel awe and trepidation in the presence of the Divine, this is not expected to 'boil over' into the fear-driven scrupulosity of εὐλαβής.  And lastly, Trench contrasts the felt 'piety' of εὐσεβείᾳ with the simply behavioral, and often hollow, religiosity of θρησκεία.


As we look at all these relationships, we find that εὐσεβείᾳ describes a real, felt piety towards God that is not hypocritical, nor is it overly anxious.  It is not too little, nor is it too much.  Further, this reverential feeling for God can overflow into our human relations with others worthy of our respect.


This page revised and Copyrighted: Theon Doxazo

14 December, 2023