Saturday, January 21, 2006


Degrees of Poverty

Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament (London, 1880; rpt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948), pp. 128-130, in his illuminating discussion of the difference between πένης (pénēs) and πτωχός (ptōchós), quotes Aristophanes, Wealth 552-554 (tr. anon.):
The beggar [πτωχός], whom you have depicted to us, never possesses anything. The poor man [πένης] lives thriftily and attentive to his work; he has not got too much, but he does not lack what he really needs.

πτωχοῦ μὲν γὰρ βίος, ὃν σὺ λέγεις, ζῆν ἐστιν μηδὲν ἔχοντα:
τοῦ δὲ πένητος ζῆν φειδόμενον καὶ τοῖς ἔργοις προς έχοντα,
περιγίγνεσθαι δ' αὐτῷ μηδέν, μὴ μέντοι μηδ' ἐπιλείπειν.
Compare Samuel Johnson in his review of Soame Jenyns' A Free Enquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil:
Poverty is very gently paraphrased by want of riches. In that sense, almost every man may, in his own opinion, be poor. But there is another poverty, which is want of competence of all that can soften the miseries of life, of all that can diversify attention, or delight imagination. There is yet another poverty, which is want of necessaries, a species of poverty which no care of the publick, no charity of particulars, can preserve many from feeling openly, and many secretly.
Johnson's want of competence roughly corresponds to πένης, want of necessaries to πτωχός.

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