Matthew 5:5 "Blessed are the meek
], for they will inherit the earth.” (New Revised Standard Version)
Matthieu 5:5 Heureux les débonnaires
, car ils hériteront la terre! (La Sainte Bible - Louis Segond de 1910
—adj pron nom masc pl; from praos
as a mild and friendly disposition gentle, kind, considerate, meek (in the older sense of strong but accommodating); subst. oi praeis
gentle, unassuming people (MT 5.5). (Friberg Lexicon)
I have also seen praos
translated as easy-going, light, humble, gracious...
—(1) [archaic] pleasant and friendly in a cheerful way; genial. (2) easy and carefree in manner; jaunty; sprightly. (3) elegant and gracious; urbane.
—(1) patient and mild; not inclined to anger or resentment. (2) too submissive; easily imposed on; spineless and spiritless. (3) [obsolete] gentle or kind.
—Webster’s New World College Dictionary
The point is not what might’ve been a good translation of praos
at any given time. The question is about English words that change their conventional meanings over time, and whether those changes affect how we read and understand the NT, and the Christian religious expression.
Growing up, “meek” seemed to define something between a dormouse and a door-mat. It always meant submissive, or at least unobtrusive, in everyday discourse.
is not exactly a theologically “hot” word. However, “belief” is; and I think the conventional notions of belief as a conclusion, or a supposition, or an opinion, or an assent to a proposition—basically having to do with what one thinks—may have changed how modern people interpret pistis
(“faith;” verb pisteo
) in the NT sense. The dictionary still includes some of the meaning of trust or confidence; but when someone says, “This is what I believe...”—what do they really mean? How do you interpret what they’re saying?
I don’t treat pistis
as what one thinks, but as an attitude
of openness to possibility, assurance and confidence (and maybe debonair
), especially under conditions of uncertainty—such as an athlete attempting a difficult play with perhaps long odds.... This seems to be much more in line with what I find in Greek lexicons (although, since it is still the conventional translation, “belief” is found there too).
Again, it is not so much that belief/believe was a bad translation at one time—but would it be a good translation today?
And, more to the point, do you think evolutionary changes in how we use the language can change how people understand their religion?
(I am not a sola scripturist
, so arguments from the tradition are welcome as well.)
NOTE: We have had a number of discussions on here about the understanding of “faith” in a secular sense versus a religious sense—I am not attempting to revisit that subject; I am addressing strictly NT usage here. (I can hear the argument already: “You aren’t being open to the possibility of (a) the existence of a God / (b) a scientific explanation.”
Again, that is not the kind of thing I am getting at here...)