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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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(εὐτραπελία, Ephesians 5:4)

That the Greek word is used in an unfavourable sense is shown by its association with ‘filthiness’ and ‘foolish talking,’ as well as by its characterization as ‘not befitting.’ But in itself (being derived from εὐ, ‘well,’ and τρέπω, ‘I turn’) it was morally neutral, and originally it had a good sense. ‘On the subject of pleasantness in sport,’ says Aristotle (Eth. Nic. II. vii. 13), ‘he who is in the mean is a man of graceful wit, and the disposition graceful wit (εὐτραπελία); the excess ribaldry, and the person ribald; he who is in defect a clown, and the habit clownishness.’ And again (iv. viii 3), ‘Those who neither say anything laughable themselves, nor approve of it in others, appear to be clownish and harsh, but these who are sportive with good taste are called εὐτράπελοι, as possessing versatility,’ etc. This was a characteristic of the Athenians, whom Pericles praised as ‘qualified to act in the most varied ways and with the most graceful versatility’ (εὐτραπέλως [Thuc. ii. 41]). Aristotle admits that even ‘buffoons are called men of graceful wit’ (εὐτράπελοι), but questions their right to the term (iv. viii. 3). The nearest Latin equivalent was urbanitas. But gradually the coinage was debased, and εὐτραπελία came to mean no more than badinage, persiflage, wit without the salt of grace; in Chrysostom’s striking phrase, it was ‘graceless grace’ (χάρις ἄχαρις). See R. Trench, NT Synonyms8, 1876, p. 119f.

James Strahan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Jesting'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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