Phil 4:5 επιεικες

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Where NIV and most other translations used the word gentleness in Phil 4:5, the Greek word in use here is επιεικες.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (NIV)

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. (NLT)

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. (NASB)

Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon]. (Amplified)

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (ESV)

From the tools available in e-Sword:

The word επιεικες is of very extensive signification; it means the same as επιεικεια, mildness, patience, yieldingness, gentleness, clemency, moderation, unwillingness to litigate or contend; but moderation is expressive enough as a general term. “Moderation,” says Dr. Macknight, “means meekness under provocation, readiness to forgive injuries, equity in the management of business, candour in judging of the characters and actions of others, sweetness of disposition, and the entire government of the passions.” ~ Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

That is, let it be such that others may see it. This does not mean that they were to make an ostentatious display of it, but that it should be such a characteristic of their lives that it would be constantly visible to others. The word “moderation” - επιεικες, epieikes - refers to restraint on the passions, general soberness of living, being free from all excesses. The word properly means that which is fit or suitable, and then propriety, gentleness, mildness - They were to indulge in no excess of passion, or dress, or eating, or drinking. They were to govern their appetites, restrain their temper, and to be examples of what was proper for people in view of the expectation that the Lord would soon appear. ~ Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Let your gentleness - Yieldingness, sweetness of temper, the result of joy in the Lord. Be known - By your whole behaviour. To all men - Good and bad, gentle and froward. Those of the roughest tempers are good natured to some, from natural sympathy and various motives; a Christian, to all. The Lord - The judge, the rewarder, the avenger. Is at hand - Standeth at the door. ~ John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible

The Vulgate Latin reads, "your modesty". The Syriac and Arabic versions, "your meekness", or "humility"; graces which accompany moderation, and are very necessary to it, but not that itself. The Ethiopic version renders it, "your authority", which by no means agrees; for moderation lies not in exerting authority and power to the uttermost, at least with rigour, but in showing clemency and lenity; not dealing with men according to the severity of laws and strict justice, but according to equity, and with mildness and gentleness; giving up strict and proper right, receding from what is a man's due, and not rigidly insisting on it; putting up with affronts and injuries, and bearing them with patience; and interpreting things in the best sense, and putting the best constructions on words and actions they will bear; and in using inferiors and equals with all humanity, kindness, and respect: and this is what is here intended, which the apostle would have made "known"; exercised and practised publicly, that it might be seen and known of all, and God might be glorified, by whose name they were called, though their agreeable conversation among men; see Mat 5:16; and he would not only have this known unto, but exercised towards "all men"; not only to believers, the members of the church, by ruling with gentleness, by bearing the infirmities of the weak, and by forgiving offences; but also to unbelievers, to the men of the world, by not avenging themselves, but giving way to wrath; by patient suffering for well doing, without making any returns of ill, either by words or deeds: this is the moderation here meant, and not moderation in eating and drinking, and in apparel, and in the love and use of, and care for the things of this world; though such moderation highly becomes professors of religion; and much less moderation in religion, or towards the false teachers, thinking and speaking well of them; and interpreting their notions in the best sense, hoping they may mean otherwise than they say, and therefore should treat their persons with great respect, and their principles with tenderness; but this can never be thought to be the apostle's sense, after he had himself given them such names and characters, as in Phi 3:2; and besides, though we may, and many times ought, as men and Christians, to give way, and yield up what is our right and due, for the sake of peace, yet we cannot, nor ought to give up anything, that of right belongs to God and Christ, in matters of doctrine or worship; nor in the least abate of our zeal for the same, or give way to false teachers in any respect, nor for any time: moreover, moderation in religion is nothing else but lukewarmness and indifference, than which nothing is more detestable, or abhorred by Christ. The argument or reason enforcing moderation in the above sense of it follows, the Lord is at hand. ~ John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Moderation — from a Greek root, “to yield,” whence yieldingness [Trench]; or from a root, “it is fitting,” whence “reasonableness of dealing” [Alford], that considerateness for others, not urging one’s own rights to the uttermost, but waiving a part, and thereby rectifying the injustices of justice. The archetype of this grace is God, who presses not the strictness of His law against us as we deserve (Psa 130:3, Psa 130:4); though having exacted the fullest payment for us from our Divine Surety. There are included in “moderation,” candor and kindliness. Joy in the Lord raises us above rigorism towards others (Phi 4:5), and carefulness (Phi 4:6) as to one’s own affairs. Sadness produces morose harshness towards others, and a troublesome spirit in ourselves. ~ A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown

Gill has a good explanation of it, though he did mention that “humility” doesn’t quite cut it. I see “humility” may be too narrow a word to describe what Paul wants to say here – Show others that in all you do, you are gentle, considerate, meek, forbearing and reasonable.

Picture by Justyna Furmanczyk

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2 comment(s)

  1. I wonder if you've noticed that there is a connection between joy and επιεικες? Joy in the Lord is the fountainhead for that admirable ability to handle sensibly and with appropriety all sorts of people and situations(from the pleasant to the down-right nonsensical, or even hair-raising!). John Wesley's brief note rightly points this out. Oftentimes we try our best to love others (esp. the kids) to find it hard to balance up with justice/discipline. St. Paul found the secret after years of labouring for the gospel by God's grace (BTW, half of Gill's explanation actually draws together Augustine's sayings, from the merciful exercise of authority to the hermeneutic of love).

  2. Hey cp,
    I wonder if you've noticed that there is a connection between joy and επιεικες?

    Really? Other than Wesley, I didn't actually notice that.

    that admirable ability to handle sensibly and with appropriety all sorts of people and situations

    Hmmm ... interesting ... handle difficult people with the joy of the Lord. I think I need, that for a power meeting this Friday :) Thanks!

    And thanks again for visiting, cp :)