Vol.XIV No.IV Pg.6
June 1977

Early Greek Boasters"

Robert F. Turner

From William Barclay's "new Testament Words." (p.47-f.) we quote:


"The word alazon occurs twice in the N.T., in Rom. 1:30 and in 2 Tim. 3: In both places the Av translates it boasters and Moffatt, boastful.... The alazon was the braggart and the boaster out to impress men; the man with all his goods in the shop window; the man given to making extravagant claims which he can never fulfill. But we have still to see the alazon in his most damaging and dangerous form....

The Sophists were Greek wandering teachers who claimed to sell knowledge... of how to be a success in life ..... The Sophists claimed to give men subtle skill in words, so that, in the famous phrase 'they could make the worse appear the better reason'.

.Aristophanes pillories them in THE CLOUDS. He says the whole object of their teaching was to teach men to fascinate the jury, to win impunity to cheat, and to find an argument to justify anything....

Plato savagely attacks them in his book called THE SOPGIST: "Hunters after young men of wealth and position, with sham education as their bait, and a fee for their object, making money by a scientific use of quibbles in private conversation, while quite aware that what they are teaching is wrong.'

It is these men. and the like of them, of whom the N.T. is thinking, and against whom it warns the Christian. The warning is against a false teacher who claims to teach men the truth, and who does not know it himself. The world is still full of people who offer men a so-called wisdom, who shout their wares wherever men meet, who claim to have the cure and the solution to everything. [low can we distinguish these men?

(1) Their characteristic is pride. In the Testament of Joseph, Joseph tells how he treated his brethren: 'My land was their land, and their counsel my counsel. And I exalted myself not among them in arrogance (alazonoia) because of my worldly glory, but I was among them as one of the least' (T of J 17:8). The alazon is the teacher who struts as e teaches, and who is fascinated by his own cleverness.

(2) Their stock in trade is words. The Sophist defended himself to Epictetus that the young men come to him looking for someone to teach them. 'To teach them to live?' demands Epictetus. And then he answers his own question: 'No, fool; not how to live, but how to talk; which is also the reason why he admires you' (Discourses 3:23). The alazon seeks to substitute clever words for fine deeds.

(3) Their motive is profit. The alazon is out for what he can get. Prestige for his reputation and money for his pocket is his aim. The program he preaches is designed to return his party to power and himself to office.

The alazon (boaster) is not dead.