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Q51 : Patience vs. Longsuffering

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Q51 : Patience vs. Longsuffering

What is the difference between longsuffering and Patience? I am enjoying listening to your Study on Colossians. I like the idea of people asking questions while you are teaching.

A51 : by Tony Garland

Both patience and longsuffering occur in the following passage:

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing [Him], being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Colossians 1:9-12)

Patience is the Greek word hypomone (Strong's #5278) which is a compound word made up of two other words: hypo (a preposition meaning 'under') and moneo (a verb meaning to 'remain' or 'abide'). Thus, the idea is to 'remain under' or 'abide under' difficult circumstances - as when it is not possible to escape or avoid them. Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, an excellent resource for those who want to dig further into the meaning of the original language, gives the meaning as 'to bear up courageously (under suffering).'

Longsuffering is the Greek word makrothumia (Strong's #3115) which is related to another compound word made up of makros ('long' or 'far') and thumos ('wrath' or 'fierceness'). Although thumos can mean wrath or fierceness, its usage in this compound form carries the idea of 'temper.' Thus, makrothumia denotes remaining in a state of emotional quietness in the face of unfavorable circumstances.

As one can see, these words are very close in meaning and it is impossible to make a hard and fast distinction between where one or the other might be used to denote the idea of endurance and patience. Within the context of Colossians 1:11, the word translated by patience emphasizes endurance in the midst of difficult circumstances whereas the word translated by longsuffering emphasizes the attitude or frame of mind we are to have during the difficult time.

You can investigate these sorts of shades of meanings even without any specific knowledge of Greek by purchasing a concordance which lists every occurrence of every word in the Bible and assigns Strong's numbers to the basic Hebrew or Greek term behind the English translation. A good concordance, such as Strong's Exhaustive Concordancea or NASB Exhaustive Concordanceb, will include a basic dictionary of the Hebrew and Greek terms indexed by their corresponding Strong's numbers. Another good resource for study using Strong's numbers is The New Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Wordsc which combines an English index to the Biblical Languages (listing the various Hebrew and Greek words behind each English word) along with expanded Hebrew and Greek dictionaries providing additional information on the meaning and usage of each original language word—all keyed to Strong's numbers so knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is not required.


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