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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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The virtue of patience occupied a great place in the apostolic writings. We have two Greek words to consider, which are thus translated: (1) ὑπομονή (vb. ὑπομένω), (2) μακροθυμία (vb. μακροθυμέω).

1. ὑπομονή is the more important word. It is found only in later Greek, and answers to the classical καρτερία, καρτέρησις, with the meaning of holding out, enduring. The word, however, principally belongs to biblical and Patristic Greek, into which it was introduced by the LXX_, where it translates various Hebrew words signifying ‘hope,’ a virtue very closely connected with endurance, as being its basis or ground. Cremer says (Bibl.-Theol. Lex. of NT Greek3, Eng. tr._, 1880, p. 420) of ὑπομονή: ‘It denotes the peculiar psychological clearness and definiteness which hope attains in the economy of grape, by virtue, on the one hand, of its distinctive character excluding all wavering, doubt, and uncertainty; and, on the other, in conformity with its self-assertion amid the contradictions of this present world.’

The connection of patience (ὑπομονή) with hope is brought out in such passages as Romans 8:25; 2 Peter 3:12, Colossians 1:11-12. Its connection with the contradictions of life appears in Romans 5:3-4, James 1:3-4; cf. also 2 Thessalonians 1:4, Hebrews 10:36; Hebrews 12:1, Revelation 2:2-3; Revelation 2:19; 2 Peter 1:6.

The Book of Revelation in particular emphasizes the need of endurance, written as it is in view of the persecution of the Church by the Roman State (cf., further, Revelation 1:9; Revelation 13:10; Revelation 14:12). Particular expressions which call for note are 2 Thessalonians 3:5, ὑπομονὴ Χριστοῦ, ‘the patience which waits for Christ,’ i.e. for the Messianic salvation; Revelation 3:10, ὁ λόγος τῆς ὑπομονῆς μου, ‘the word which treats of patient waiting for me,’ i.e. the word of prophecy. Interesting also is Romans 15:5, where God is called ‘the God of patience’ (ὁ θεὸς τῆς ὑπομονῆς), i.e. the God who inspires patience through the prophetic words of Scripture (cf. v. 4); see, further, for ὑπομονή, 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Timothy 6:11, Titus 2:2.

The similarity of atmosphere between the NT and the Apostolic Fathers makes it natural that we should find similar reference to patience (ὑπομονή) in them. 1 Clem. v. 5-7 is particularly interesting, where, after St. Peter and the other apostles, St. Paul is set forth as an example of patience: ‘By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patience. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went into the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patience.’ Cf. also 1 Clem. lxii. 2, lxiv.; Hermas, Mand. viii. 9; Ep. Barn. xxi. 5; finally Polyc. Philippians, viii. 1. 2, ‘Christ Jesus … patiently endured (ὑπέμεινεν) all things for our sakes, that we may live in Him. Wherefore let us become imitators of His patience (ὑπομονῆς)’; xi. 1, ‘I exhort you all therefore to obey the word of righteousness and to practise all patience, which you saw before your eyes not only in the blessed Ignatius and Zosimus and Rufus, but also in others of you and in Paul himself and the rest of the Apostles.’

2. μακροθυμία also is a word rare in profane Greek. It appears in the apostolic writings as a synonym of ὑπομονή (Colossians 1:11, Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 10:36, James 5:10, 2 Timothy 3:10). On the other hand, it has the special meaning of longsuffering (q.v._) and stands opposed to ὀργή, θυμός, and is synonymous with πραότης (cf. Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:12, 2 Timothy 4:2). In these passages the word is used of the patience of men one towards another. But it is also used of the patience or longsuffering of God, who delays the punishment of sinners in order to give them time to repent (cf. Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 3:15). In Romans 9:22 the idea of giving time for repentance is absent, and the word refers simply to God’s delaying punishment.

In the sub-apostolic writings μακροθυμία stands side by side with ὑπομονή as in the NT; cf. 1 Clem. lxiv. A noteworthy passage dealing with this virtue is Hermas, Mand. v. 1, which is all in praise of patience (μακροθυμία): ‘In patience the Lord dwells, but in hot wrath the devil’ (v. 3).

In conclusion, reference may be made to the fine development, on the basis of the apostolic teaching, of the idea of Christian patience (ὑπομονή), which A. Ritschl has given in The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation, Eng. tr._ of vol. iii., 1900, p. 627 f.

Patience is that feeling which views the evils of life in the light of Divine providence. It is quite different from the Stoic idea of apathy, which aims at the suppression of the pain due to the evil from which we suffer. ‘Patience in suffering implies that the pain continues’ (p. 627).

This is true not only of ordinary patience, but of the Christian form of this virtue. ‘The elevation of the general human exercise of patience into its special Christian form depends on the fact that man’s feeling of self and of personal worth, by being combined with the thought of the supramundane God Who is our Father, and guarantees to us salvation through dominion over the world and participation in the Kingdom of God, is raised above all natural and particular motives, even when they are the occasion of troubles. This still admits of evils being felt with pain even by the Christian’ (p. 628). Ritschl refers in a note to Calvin, Inst. iii. 8. 8: ‘Neither is there required from us a cheerfulness, such as may take away all sense of bitterness and grief; there would be no patience of the saints in the cross, except also they were tormented with grief and pressed with trouble.’ The NT, indeed, speaks of rejoicing in suffering, of glorying in afflictions and persecutions for Christ’s sake. But we can quote against the idea that this joy is to exterminate the sense of pain not only the explicit confession in Hebrews 12:11, but also the example of Jesus and St. Paul. The actual position of things is, in fact, as follows:

‘The consciousness of reconciliation with God places the assurance of personal worth firm above all the special motives which arise from the world; and therefore the pain which springs from their oppressive action can be subordinated to the joy which, in our feeling of self, denotes the incomparable worth of Divine sonship. But in the case in question, joy would not last; rather, it would veer round into indifference, unless underneath the joy the pain still continued. Moreover, the truth of the Fatherly care of God for His children suggests to us not only the inference that no evils arising from the world can overbalance the blessing of fellowship with God, but also this further application, that these evils, as tests of our fidelity to God, are elevated into relative blessings. And this comes about just through the exercise of patience as the peculiar and proper manifestation of Christian freedom’ (p. 629).

Literature.-H. Bushnell, The New Life, 1860; M. Creighton, The Mind of St. Peter, 1904, p. 22; H. Black, Christ’s Service of Love, 1907, p. 130; H. M. Gwatkin, The Eye for Spiritual Things, 1907, p. 61; H. E. Manning, Sermons on Ecclesiastical Subjects, i. [1870] 173; J. H. Jowett, The Transfigured Church, 1910, p. 149; W. H. Hutton, A Disciple’s Religion, 1911, p. 12; W. B. Ullathorne, Christian Patience, 1886; G. Hanson, A Chain of Graces, 1906, p. 57.

Robert S. Franks.

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

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