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The Greek word ὁμοιοπαθής is a compound word. It came from two words: ὅμοιος (like/similar)and πάσχω (feelings/strong emotion).

Why, then, the NASB translate it as 'of same nature' and why, then, the ESV translate it as 'of like nature'? Is there a semantic range in ὁμοιοπαθής that can mean exactly this? What is the scholarly, exegetical warrant that the Greek word ὁμοιοπαθής can be translated into English as 'of like or of same nature'?

“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

Acts 14:15 (ESV)

and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM.

Acts 14:15 (NASB)

What does the Greek word ὁμοιοπαθής mean in Acts 14:15?

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There is no exegetical warrant necessary here: the meaning "having the same nature" is perfectly in line with ordinary Ancient Greek usage.

One of the principal meanings of the noun πάθος is "state" or "condition," and we already find Plato and Aristotle using the word in the slightly more general sense denoting a "property" or "quality" of something. Compare Aristotle's Metaphysics (1022b15-20, transl. by Hugh Tredennick):

πάθος λέγεται ἕνα μὲν τρόπον ποιότης καθ᾽ ἣν ἀλλοιοῦσθαι ἐνδέχεται, οἷον τὸ λευκὸν καὶ τὸ μέλαν, καὶ γλυκὺ καὶ πικρόν, καὶ βαρύτης καὶ κουφότης, καὶ ὅσα ἄλλα τοιαῦτα: ἕνα δὲ αἱ τούτων ἐνέργειαι καὶ ἀλλοιώσεις ἤδη. ἔτι τούτων μᾶλλον αἱ βλαβεραὶ ἀλλοιώσεις καὶ κινήσεις, [20] καὶ μάλιστα αἱ λυπηραὶ βλάβαι. ἔτι τὰ μεγέθη τῶν συμφορῶν καὶ λυπηρῶν πάθη λέγεται.

"Affection" [πάθος] means: (a) in one sense, a quality in virtue of which alteration is possible; e.g., whiteness and blackness, sweetness and bitterness, heaviness and lightness, etc., (b) the actualizations of these qualities; i.e. the alterations already realized, (c) more particularly, hurtful alterations and motions, [20] and especially hurts which cause suffering, (d) extreme cases of misfortune and suffering are called "affections."

This quote is particularly relevant because it demonstrates how in the Greek language πάθος could denote both the "subjective" suffering that we mostly associate with the words "pathos" and "pathetic," but also the more "objective" notion of "quality" or "property." Note how Aristotle actually even puts the objective meanings before the subjective ones.

If we start from the Aristotelian definition of πάθος, then, the word ὁμοιοπαθής could be used to mean either "having the same qualities, properties, nature" or "having the same passions, emotions" (which I think is closer to what you have in mind). And these are indeed the two meanings of ὁμοιοπαθής given by the Liddell-Scott-Jones dictionary.


Edit: As Susan rightly points out, in what I wrote I assumed more or less that the NT author would have analyzed ὁμοιοπαθής as a compound, so that we could reduce the question of its meaning to the question of the meaning of its constituent words, especially that of πάθος. Seeing as how many compounds involving ὁμοιο- there are, and how scanty the attestation of ὁμοιοπαθής seems to be according to the dictionary, I still think this is likely, but let me give two usage examples (from Attic Greek) to support my main point.

From Theophrastus' Enquiry into Plants (5.7.2, transl. by Sir Arthur Hort):

enter image description here

However oak-wood does not join well with glue on to fir or silver-fir; for the one is of close, the other of open grain, the one is uniform, the other not so; whereas things which are to be made into one piece should be of similar character, and not of opposite character, like wood and stone.

The above is clear enough. The following example, from Plato's Timaeus (45c,d) is perhaps less clear, since it is a quite involved explanation of the mechanism behind human vision. However, it still brings home the point that ὁμοιοπαθής can be used to refer to "objective" properties, rather than "subjective" emotions or experiences. Two translations are given to make the passage more understandable (transl. 1: W.R.M. Lamb, transl. 2: Robin Waterfield):

ὅταν οὖν μεθημερινὸν ᾖ φῶς περὶ τὸ τῆς ὄψεως ῥεῦμα, τότε ἐκπῖπτον ὅμοιον πρὸς ὅμοιον, συμπαγὲς γενόμενον, ἓν σῶμα οἰκειωθὲν συνέστη κατὰ τὴν τῶν ὀμμάτων εὐθυωρίαν, ὅπῃπερ ἂν ἀντερείδῃ τὸ προσπῖπτον ἔνδοθεν πρὸς ὃ τῶν ἔξω συνέπεσεν. ὁμοιοπαθὲς δὴ δι᾽ ὁμοιότητα πᾶν γενόμενον, ὅτου τε ἂν αὐτό ποτε ἐφάπτηται καὶ ὃ ἂν ἄλλο ἐκείνου, τούτων τὰς κινήσεις διαδιδὸν εἰς ἅπαν τὸ σῶμα μέχρι τῆς ψυχῆς αἴσθησιν παρέσχετο ταύτην ᾗ δὴ ὁρᾶν φαμεν.

So whenever the stream of vision is surrounded by midday light, it flows out like unto like, and coalescing therewith it forms one kindred substance along the path of the eyes' vision, wheresoever the fire which streams from within collides with an obstructing object without. And this substance, having all become similar in its properties because of its similar nature, distributes the motions of every object it touches, or whereby it is touched, throughout all the body even unto the Soul, and brings about that sensation which we now term “seeing.”

So whenever the ray that flows through the eyes issues forth into surrounding daylight, like meets with like and coalesces with it, until a single, undifferentiated stuff is formed, in alignment with the direction of the eyes, wherever the fire from inside strikes and pushes up against an external object. The similarity between the fire from within and the fire outside means that the stuff is completely homogeneous, and whenever it touches or is touched by anything else, it transmits the object's impulses right through itself and all the way up to the soul, and the result is the perception we call 'seeing'.

Brief conclusion: Theophrastus' passage couldn't be clearer: he uses ὁμοιοπαθής in an "objective" way, to refer to properties of certain types of material (moreover, the properties in question are "static," and not overtly the direct result of change, or of being "affected" in some way -- contra LSJ). On the other hand, Plato's text is more obscure, but it is still sufficiently clear that he is not referring in the least to emotions, but rather to objective properties of substances of some kind.

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  • Here’s what I’m seeing in LSJ - I don’t read that has “having the same qualities”, but that definition is in BDAG and is well supported by examples there. (Doesn’t it just mean “also human” - as opposed to divine - here?) The Aristotle explanation of πάθος is fascinating, but is it clear to you that the word ὁμοιοπαθής needs to reflect the definition of πάθος, Aristotelian or otherwise? Seems like it is a well established compound. – Susan Oct 23 '15 at 13:17
  • I am sorry: the Middle Liddell abridgment of the LSJ gives "of like nature" as the second meaning. I took this as a paraphrase of the 2nd meaning listed in the LSJ itself, which is "affected in the same way", but this may have been a bit hasty. It's strange that the LSJ omits a meaning that the Middle Liddell does have. But regardless of this, it seems likely that speakers of Greek actively thought of ὁμοιοπαθής as a compound of ὁμοιος + πάθος. Hence the meaning of the word πάθος seems important in deciding the meaning of ὁμοιοπαθής itself (especially since the latter word seems quite rare). – RP_ Oct 23 '15 at 13:30
  • Right, I guess the question is whether they indeed actively thought of it in terms of its components. Would be interesting to search the classical literature to see just how common it was. – Susan Oct 23 '15 at 13:55
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    You're right. Thanks for bringing up this hidden assumption behind my answer. :-) – RP_ Oct 23 '15 at 14:18

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