Gregory Bloomquist 3027 (
Thu, 16 Jan 1997 10:31:54 EDT

A colleague of mine at the University of Ottawa posed a question in
the light of book on ethics we are reading in common: where does
this word SYNDHRHSIS come from?

Since the context suggested a meaning that would be the equivalent of
SYNEIDHSIS ("conscience"), on the supposition that it was a
corruption of SYNEIDHSIS, I suggested that it was just the word that
Paul used in 1 Cor. Of course, my friend is right: there is no such
word and therefore, not surprisingly, Paul uses exclusively

But, I am at least supported in my supposition of where it came from.
Apparently, Thomas Aquinas is the first to use the term SYNDHRHSIS
(De Veritate 17.2) and did so, according to the Oxford Dictionary of
the Christian Church, on the basis of a scribal error in Jerome's
commentary on Ezekiel (1.7) where SUNTHRHSIS is used in a way that
is unattested elsewhere. The Dictionary concludes that it was a
"corruption of SUNEIDHSIS, the normal Greek word for "conscience"".
(The Dictionary adds that some medieval mystics, e.g., Eckhart,
"sometimes identify it [SYNTHRHSIS] with the mysterious ground of
the soul where the mystic union takes place".)

Now, it seems possible that Thomas has taken this otherwise
unattested word from one place in Ezekiel (given the strategic
importance of that text for mystical speculation, a hapax would
perhaps have struck a medieval as uniquely God-inspired), but I
wonder. Would Thomas have thus simply ignored Paul's use of the
"correct" term everywhere else, choosing just to treat SYNEIDHSIS as
"conscientia"? It's possible but is it likely?.

But, my real question is over how we got SYNTHRHSIS / SYNDHRHSIS in
the first place? Is there a sounding of SYNEIDHSIS that yields
SYNDHRHSIS? Is there a dialectical determinant here. If I, for
example, say the "correct" form quickly, I can almost hear the
"incorrect" form, but is this substantiated by phonological changes
either in Greek or in Latin?

Any comments you have on this rather arcane matter would be
appreciated. If you know of any other references to this question, I
would appreciate hearing from you as well.

Theology, Saint Paul University / University of Ottawa