The Miracle of Sophrosune
In this paper I explore the meaning of the Greek word ‘sophrosune’. I rely on Plato’s early dialogue Charmides to establish its meaning. I then explore how our understanding of ‘sophrosune’ helps illuminate the meaning of certain New Testament texts in which it is used. Finally, I discuss the relationship between ‘sophrosune’, sanctification, and self-hatred.
I. THE MEANING OF ‘SOPHROSUNE’ IN “CHARMIDES”
In “Charmides,” one of Plato’s early dialogues, Plato portrays a dialogue Socrates has with a young man and his uncle. The question being addressed is the definition of ‘sophrosune’. To begin the dialogue, Socrates asks, “. . . what, in your opinion, is [‘sophrosune’]?” (Note 1) Their discussion proceeds with four different definitions, ventured either by Charmides or by his uncle Critias. In each case Socrates, in his inimitable and aggravatingly absurd style of argument, rejects their definitions as fallacious or inadequate; he ends the dialogue professing that he has been “utterly defeated,” having “failed to discover what that is to which the lawgiver gave this name of ‘sophrosune’. . . .” (Note 2)
All these failed attempts to define ‘sophrosune’ have great relevance for our goal of discovering its meaning. If I understand it correctly, Plato’s purpose was not to persuade us to reject the four definitions proposed in this dialogue. On the contrary, he knew that these four definitions contained important insights into the true nature of ‘sophrosune’. In fact, taken together as a connected cluster of concepts, they lead one to a true and accurate conception of this virtue. Plato’s purpose in the dialogue was to make a completely different kind of point. (Note 3) As for what concerns us: the four definitions offered by Charmides and Critias are very important clues to the meaning of ‘sophrosune’.
A. Four definitions
In Charmides, the one who has ‘sophrosune’ is defined as (1) one who has quietness [‘hesuchia’], (Note 4) (2) one who has modesty [aidos], (Note 5) (3) one who does his own business, (Note 6) and (4) one who knows himself. (Note 7) At first glance, these definitions seem startlingly different. While purporting to define the same concept, they appear not to define the same concept at all. Accordingly, they invite us to discover a single concept that unites them. I think we can find such a virtue. ‘Sophrosune’, I would propose, is the state of mind wherein one experiences a settled, self-aware self-contentment-a kind of enlightened self-acceptance.
The person who has arrived at such self-contentment, or self-acceptance, will indeed be characterized by a distinctive quietness of soul. Charmides is trying to capture this aspect of ‘sophrosune’ in his first definition, when he defines ‘sophrosune’ as ‘quietness’ [‘hesuchia’]. If I have come to be content with who I am, I will no longer be driven by the restlessness to “find out who I am” which characterizes the discontent person. No longer will I be engaged in a frantically urgent quest to “realize my potential” or to “improve myself.” The one who has ‘sophrosune’ has come to accept and to be satisfied with the particular person he is. He has no need nor desire to be someone else or someone different. He is quite prepared to be just the person he is. As a consequence, contentment and a distinctive and remarkable tranquillity of spirit settle over his life. Quietness (‘hesuchia’), then, is a very striking and obvious aspect of ‘sophrosune’.
But more must be said about ‘sophrosune’. The self-acceptance of the one who has ‘sophrosune’ is an acceptance of who one actually is. This involves an awareness and acceptance of all one’s limitations, weaknesses, and mediocrities. ‘Sophrosune’ does not lead to contentment just because one excels at everything and is the best at everything. It leads to contentment in spite of the fact that one is not strong with every strength and excellent with every excellence. Indeed, ‘sophrosune’ would involve self-contentment even if one excelled at nothing and was mediocre at everything. Herein lies a second important aspect of ‘sophrosune’: modesty or humility. Charmides is trying to capture this aspect in his second definition. The one who has ‘sophrosune’ is aidos; that is, modest or humble. He is fully aware of and fully accepting of himself as limited and weak in certain respects and as without distinction in many respects. He can fully acknowledge his inadequacies, for his self-contentment and self-acceptance are not contingent upon him being better than he is.
3. Doing One’s Own Business
There is yet another important ramification of self-acceptance. The one who accepts himself will be content to live out the role that has been given him and will not try to take on a role or function that is not his to fill. The one who lacks ‘sophrosune’ is restless and frantic. He is trying to find himself and his role. In the course of his search, he interjects himself into roles and functions for which he is not fit nor intended; desiring a basis upon which he can like and accept himself, he seeks it in the status and honor of the role. The net effect, however, is the opposite. Not being fit for the role, he makes a fool of himself instead. He embarrasses himself and others. This, I think, is exactly what Jesus was describing when he taught, in the context of a parable, that “everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:1-11). Everyone who seeks to assert himself into a more honorable role or function for which he is not suited nor destined will find dishonor. The one who will find honor is the one who, content to be who he is and to fill whatever role it is his destiny to fill, humbly and modestly accepts his station, his place, and his role without pretense of being something greater or more important than he is. This is the aspect of self-acceptance which the third definition in Charmides seeks to express; ‘sophrosune’ is “doing one’s own business.” The person who has ‘sophrosune’ strives to live in accordance with his own role and destiny and does not try to take on himself the role and destiny of another.
4. To Know Oneself
All of the above aspects of ‘sophrosune’ assume an underlying knowledge of oneself. It is no virtue to have accepted oneself if one is deluded as to who he really is. It is no virtue to humbly accept who one thinks he is if one has an inflated and exaggerated sense of his own abilities and importance. And how is one to go about “doing one’s own business” if he hasn’t a clue what his own business is? Hence, one simply cannot have ‘sophrosune’ without having an accurate knowledge and understanding of oneself. ‘Sophrosune’ requires a penetrating and honest self-knowledge. The fourth and final definition in Charmides reflects this requirement; ‘sophrosune’ is “to know oneself.”
B. A Definition
Given the discussion above, we can articulate a definition of ‘sophrosune’ based on what we learn from Charmides. Sophrosune is the virtue of enlightened self-acceptance, a self-acceptance based on an accurate understanding of who one really is, a self-acceptance which results in a humble and settled contentment with and pursuit of one’s destined role in human existence.
II. THE RELEVANCE OF “CHARMIDES” TO THE BIBLICAL MEANING OF ‘SOPHROSUNE’
How do I know that the concept of ‘sophrosune’ Plato discusses in Charmides is the same concept I confront in the Bible? Some important clues in the New Testament text indicate that the New Testament writers do have in mind the same virtue as Plato when they refer to it as ‘sophrosune’.
(1) In I Timothy 2, Paul uses the term ‘sophrosune’ in close connection with the words aidos and ‘hesuchia’. An understanding of what he is saying in chapter two strongly suggests that the qualities of aidos and ‘hesuchia’ are closely correlated with ‘sophrosune’. This is significant, for as we saw above, ‘hesuchia’ is Charmides’ first attempt at defining ‘sophrosune’, and aidos is his second attempt. When we notice further that I Timothy 2 is the only instance in which the word aidos is used in the New Testament and one of only a very few places where ‘hesuchia’ is used, it becomes even more significant. The concepts of ‘sophrosune’, aidos, and ‘hesuchia’ seem to be very closely connected, not only in the mind of Plato, but also in the mind of Paul. This is a remarkable coincidence if Paul has a different conception of ‘sophrosune’ than Plato does. It is more reasonable to conclude that Paul and Plato are thinking in terms of the same virtue when they refer to ‘sophrosune’.
(2) This is further confirmed by two passages in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. In I Thessalonians 4:11, Paul urges his readers: “. . . make it your ambition to lead a life characterized by ‘hesuchia’ and to attend to your own business . . .” The clear connection in Paul’s mind between ‘hesuchia’ and “doing your own business” is striking. “Doing your own business” was the third definition of ‘sophrosune’ offered in Charmides, and ‘hesuchia’ was the first. While the word ‘sophrosune’ is not used in this context, Paul clearly seems to have in mind the same personal virtue that Plato discusses under the rubric of ‘sophrosune’, and Paul mentions two attributes of that virtue using the same vocabulary Plato uses.
The same convergence of ideas occurs in II Thessalonians 3:12. Paul writes regarding people who, out of laziness and lack of discipline, are living off the charity of others rather than working to earn their own living: “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ that they eat their own bread, working for it with ‘hesuchia’ (contented, restful submission to their need to work).” Although there is no explicit connection made between ‘hesuchia’ and “doing your own business,” the connection is clearly implied.
(3) Finally, in I Peter 3:4, ‘hesuchia’ is mentioned in the same breath with ‘praus’ (meekness).(Note 8) ‘Praus’ is a concept closely related to aidos, the second definition given for ‘sophrosune’ in Charmides. Once again, we see evidence of the same cluster of concepts being used together to pinpoint a particular virtue.
It seems more than coincidental that both Plato and the New Testament writers use the same vocabulary to describe the virtue of ‘sophrosune’. If they were attempting to describe different virtues, it is highly unlikely that they would find exactly the same cluster of words useful to describe it. Given this evidence, it seems reasonable to conclude that essentially the same virtue is in view when the New Testament writers refer to ‘sophrosune’ as when Plato discusses it in Charmides. Therefore, the definition of ‘sophrosune’ we arrived at in our study of Charmides should inform our understanding of the New Testament texts where ‘sophrosune’ is mentioned.
III. GREEK VS. BIBLICAL CONCEPT OF ‘SOPHROSUNE’
Our goal is to come to an understanding of ‘sophrosune’ within the context of a biblical world view. To do so, it is helpful to compare the biblical and Platonic world views in relation to ‘sophrosune’.
(1) Ordered Reality
Both the Greek and the biblical world views presuppose a reality that is orderly, purposive, and rational. We can speak meaningfully of having “my own business” to do, precisely because there is purpose, order, and design to everything that exists in the world and because I fit into this design in a particular way. Unlike modern dogmas which assert that I have the ability to define myself and my own reality, the Greek and biblical world views maintain that who and what I am is given to me from outside myself. It is a brute fact of the reality of my existence that I am what I am. I cannot choose to be other than what I am; who and what I am is fixed.
The Greek, or Platonic, world view is quasi-biblical in this respect; the only significant difference between the Platonic and biblical world view being how they each understand the ground and reason for such purpose and design in the universe. In the biblical world view, the world has purpose and design because there is a creator and designer who made the cosmos in accordance with how He wished to design and structure it and in accordance with His purposes. The Platonic world view is less clear about the origin of order in the cosmos: the origin would appear to be more a brute fact about reality than a personal decision by a rational creator.
As a consequence, the issues involved in coming to ‘sophrosune’ in a biblical perspective are more clearly focused than those in a strictly Platonic perspective. The biblical Christian must learn to submit to the will of God, a specific purpose and role which God had in creating him as an individual. The Platonist is seeking to submit to the raw fact of who he is in relation to an ordered universe. The latter is less personal, less dialectical. The Platonist, presumably, does not wrestle with his Lord, the God who created him. He does not confront, in the same pointed way the Christian believer does, the issue of the character and moral nature of the One who gave him being. The question for him is not so much, Do I trust this person who created me? Rather, it is, Can I submit to the reality that is there? In many respects, this is not an important difference. But if our goal is to discover the exact nature of the biblical virtue of ‘sophrosune’, we cannot ignore the interpersonal dimension of a creature relating to his personal Creator. This distinctively personal element in the biblical conception of ‘sophrosune’ finds clear expression in Paul’s rhetorical question in Romans 9:20: “The pot will not say to the potter, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?”
(2) One’s “Business”
Plato’s conception of “doing one’s own business” is very likely a conception of the business of a certain class of human being. The biblical conception of “doing one’s own business” is, on the other hand, highly individualistic. Plato may very well have in mind things like: if one is a slave, he must do the business of a slave; if one is a freedman, he must do the business of a freedman; if one is a woman; she must do the business of a woman. In the context of biblical thought, the issues are much more highly focused. The issue for any Christian believer should be: Who am I, as a particular individual, and what is it my unique, particular “business” to do. My business is not defined by the classes of persons to which I belong-American, teacher, Gentile, male, and so forth. My business-my role and function in life-is defined solely and uniquely by who I am and what I am supposed to do as a unique individual.
(3) Doing One’s “Business”
Finally, it is also important to note how comprehensive the concept of “doing one’s own business” must be if it is to define biblical ‘sophrosune’. “One’s own business” is not simply one’s vocation, one’s ministry, one’s occupation, one’s calling, or one’s gifts, although it would certainly include all of these things. “Doing one’s own business” would involve everything whatsoever that is contained in the process of doing the business of being who I am. So, for example, having ‘sophrosune’ and therefore “doing my own business” in the biblical sense could include submitting to the reality that: (1) I came from a broken home and never knew my father; (2) I was raped when I was sixteen and have been emotionally scarred by that event; (3) my father died before I could ever get to know him as an adult; (4) my parents’ marriage was very unhealthy, and I have no good model of how a husband and wife are to relate; or (5) I am a native American who grew up on a reservation and never had the educational advantages that other Americans enjoyed. Sophrosune, in the biblical sense, is to submit without restless resistance to every aspect of who I am and to every aspect of the realities of my life that have made me who I am. If I hate my life and frantically wish I could be someone else, have what others have, do what others do, or have a different past than I do, then I do not have the virtue of ‘sophrosune’.
In light of this, the interaction between Peter and Jesus in John 21:18-22 is very much an exhortation to Peter to manifest ‘sophrosune’ :
“Truly, truly, I say to you [Peter], when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow me!” [John] following them…. Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
IV. THE MEANING OF ‘SOPHROSUNE’ IN THE NEW TESTAMENT TEXTS
It is time now to see what light our previous discussion has shed on the meaning of those New Testament passages that use the word ‘sophrosune’. Sophrosune occurs only three times in the New Testament, in two different passages: Acts 26:25 and I Timothy 2:9 and 15. I will briefly discuss each of these passages.
A. Acts 26
Acts 26:1-32 is the account of Paul’s defense before King Agrippa and Bernice at the request of Porcius Festus, the Roman governor of Judaea. Paul recounts how he came to receive a special commission from God to be “a minister and a witness” of all that God would show him. In obedience “to the heavenly vision,” Paul says, he had invested his life in declaring to all people “that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” And it was for that reason that he was seized in the temple by the Jews who tried to put him to death. In other words, Paul’s defense very simply was that God had specially commissioned him to the unique role of being His spokesman and minister to proclaim a message totally consistent with the faith of the Jewish people and that, in the process of carrying out that commission, he was accosted and almost killed. In response to Paul’s account, Festus remarks, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.” To this Paul responds, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words grounded in truth and ‘sophrosune’.” (Note 9)
In light of what we have seen, I think it is clear what Paul means here. Festus is accusing Paul of being insane, of having lost touch with reality. Particularly, Festus seems to be responding to Paul’s assertion that, through a supernatural event in which Jesus appeared to him in a vision, he had been commissioned by God to a unique and strategic role and status. Festus, it would seem, suspects Paul of having delusions of grandeur, of having an insanely exaggerated view of his own importance. It is to that charge that Paul seems to be responding: He does not have an exaggerated view of himself. He is not deluded. All that he has said is true; it really happened. He really does have a special commission from God. Furthermore, Paul’s belief in the importance of his ministry and mission is not pride; it is not hubris. Paul’s belief is utterly consistent with the virtue of ‘sophrosune’-a willingness on his part to be content with whoever he is and whatever role he has been given. It just so happens that the role he has been given involves this special ministry and status. Festus is wrong to think that Paul, for lack of ‘sophrosune’, has deluded himself into a false and insane sense of his own importance. All that Paul has said is motivated by and grounded in ‘sophrosune’ and in truth.
B. I Timothy 2
Paul’s main purpose in I Timothy 2:8-15 is to instruct Timothy to exhort the Ephesians to remedy their attitudes regarding two issues that are being called forth by the particular situation the Ephesians are in: (1) a problem with regard to dissension among the men; and (2) discontentment among some of the women at being disallowed from filling teaching roles comparable to that of some of the men. Paul is encouraging Timothy to exhort the men to put away their “wrath and dissension” and to exhort the women to manifest ‘sophrosune’, not to be discontent with the function and role God has given them.
The concept of ‘sophrosune’ only comes up in the second instruction: the question of women in relation to the role of teaching. Paul says:
And similarly, I want the women to adorn themselves with conduct which is becoming to them-including humility [aidos] and acceptance of who God has made them to be [‘sophrosune’]. They are not to adorn themselves with elaborate hairstyles and gold jewelry or pearls or expensive garments. Rather-in accordance with what befits women who are making a claim to godliness-they are to adorn themselves through good works. A woman is to learn in a spirit of restfulness, submitting in all respects to who it is that she is. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain restful and accepting of who she is as a woman. My reasoning? Look at Genesis: Adam was created first; and Eve was created for him. And it wasn’t Adam who was initially deceived and sinned; it was the woman who, being deceived by the serpent, first transgressed God’s command.Now if woman does remain restful and accepting of who she is as a woman, then-in the context of her God-given role to bear children-she shall be saved-if she abides in faith, love, and sanctifiedness-which includes an enlightened and submissive self-acceptance [‘sophrosune’]. (Note 10)
To defend my interpretation or translation of this particular passage is outside the scope of this paper, but I do want to note the relationship between the point at issue in this passage and ‘sophrosune’. The surface issue is whether women are to be permitted to teach. The deeper issue in which Paul is more interested is what kind of people-men and women-we should be. Paul argues that he does not permit women to teach. Rather, he expects from them contentment with their God-given roles as wives and mothers. He thinks it would not befit them-as people making a claim to godliness-to chafe under the limitations their gender places on them. It would be wrong if these women, because of restlessness and an ambition to do another’s business, were ambitiously to assert themselves into a teaching role that does not belong to them and has not been given to them. Such an action would reveal their lack of ‘sophrosune’-one of the important virtues with which they are to seek to adorn themselves.
What Paul says here is out of step with our modern dogmas, myths, and prejudices. The modern age finds it an utterly outrageous notion that women might actually be different from men and designed by God for a different role and function. But whatever else this passage might be saying, this much seems clear: Paul believes that man and woman do have distinctive roles (of some kind) and that for either one to be restlessly ambitious for the other’s role is to lack ‘sophrosune’. And ‘sophrosune’ is an extremely important virtue. It is part and parcel of the character of a godly person. To lack ‘sophrosune’ is to belie any claim we make to godliness. (Note 11)
To understand I Timothy 2, one must understand what is of interest to Paul. Paul’s primary interest is not to prevent women from teaching; it is to promote ‘sophrosune’ in the lives of all believers, men and women alike. He does not permit a woman to teach, for her God-given role-as Paul understands human experience-is along different lines, along lines which preclude the possibility of her teaching. As Paul understands it, then, a woman could only be ambitious for a teaching role (of the sort that this passage has in view) if she is restlessly discontent with her God-given role as a woman. It is this discontentment of spirit, not the act of her teaching, that concerns Paul.
Although it is never directly juxtaposed to the virtue ‘sophrosune’, the vice that represents the lack of ‘sophrosune’, the vice which is the evil, opposing attitude to ‘sophrosune’, is ‘eritheia’. ‘Eritheia’, I believe, denotes rebellious, evil ambition. Particularly, it is the ambition motivated by my restless discontent with myself, by my self-hatred and rebellion against who I am, which drives me ambitiously to seek some glory, honor, or significance that can finally allow me to accept myself. ‘Eritheia’ will always have the earmarks of desperation. In ‘eritheia’, my lust for a sense of significance that is acceptable to me is so all-consuming that I may delude myself with a false sense of my own importance; (Note 12) I will envy others their honor and glory; (Note 13) and I will be bitter and angry as reality frustrates my efforts to make myself acceptable to myself.(Note 14)
If I am right, if ‘eritheia’ is the opposing vice to ‘sophrosune’, then James clearly condemns a lack of ‘sophrosune’ (the presence of eritheia ) as utterly incompatible with the work of God in one’s life:
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the meekness [‘praus’] of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy [zelos] and rebellious ambition [‘eritheia’] in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealously [‘zelos’] and rebellious ambition [‘eritheia’] exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. [James 3:13-18]
And again, if I am right, if eritheia is the opposing vice to ‘sophrosune’, then Paul’s point in I Timothy 2 is fundamentally to urge Timothy to warn his charges against the evil of ‘eritheia’.
V. ‘SOPHROSUNE’ AND SANCTIFICATION
Assuming I have correctly understood I Timothy 2, Paul is saying something of startling importance. Paul suggests in 2:15 that ‘sophrosune’ is, in fact, an aspect of our sanctifiedness, an attribute of that righteous spirit without which one will not be saved. He writes, “. . . she shall be saved . . . if she abides in faith, love, and sanctifiedness-which includes ‘sophrosune’.” Other passages in the New Testament make clear that persevering in faith is a prerequisite to one’s inheriting eternal life. And clearly, if Paul means here either the love of God or the love of one’s fellow-believers, persisting in love is a condition of one’s salvation. And again, it is clear that one cannot be saved without being sanctified. But what is unique in this passage is the explicit statement that ‘sophrosune’ is an integral part of that sanctifiedness which we must have in order to be saved. If we think about it, though, this makes a lot of sense.
The basis of our justification before God is simply God’s choosing to grant us justifiedness as a gift. But, as I have argued in earlier papers, (Note 15) the indication that God has chosen to grant this gift of justifiedness to me is a supernatural mark which God puts on my spirit. He transforms my spirit from being the spirit of a rebellious sinner to being the spirit of a man who, having come to know and to love God, longs to be freed from his own sinfulness. I also argued in those papers that there are a score or more of spiritual attitudes, values, perceptions, and so forth, which, taken together, constitute the righteous spirit of a true child of God. I am suggesting in this paper that the attitude or virtue of ‘sophrosune’ is simply one of the traits that belongs on that list. One is not a child of God except the virtue of ‘sophrosune’ is present within his spirit. The virtue may be active or it may lie dormant, yet to reveal itself, but be there it must. To ultimately and finally lack ‘sophrosune’ is to have the spirit of the rebel against God; and no such rebel will inherit the kingdom of God.
Theologically speaking, all self-hatred or self-rejection is rooted in rebellion against God. Granted, different experiences in one’s life may create the context for one’s self-hatred. Our experience may very well shape the emotional and psychological form which our self-hatred takes; it may dictate the terms of our self-hatred. But at root, all self-hatred is a rejection of and rebellion against God.
The only perspective which makes sense in a biblical world view is that God has created me to be exactly what he wants me to be; and in creating me to be what I am, he has created a uniquely marvelous and wonderful being. The popular expression is, I think, true: God don’t make junk! As a special creation of God, each individual is an objectively wonderful, admirable, and honorable creature. As divine creations, we are worthy of honor, respect, and love, not hatred.
Now, note carefully what I am talking about here. I am talking about who we are as creatures and the value and worth of my creatureliness. As sinners, we are morally ugly, despicable, and without honor. We have every reason to dislike who we are morally. Indeed, there is something drastically wrong if we do not hate our own sinfulness. To hate one’s own sinfulness is one thing. To hate one’s own creatureliness is an entirely different matter. The former is absolutely essential; the latter is wrong, a symptom of the former. If we hate ourselves for being the specific creatures that we are, it is because we are sinners in rebellion against God.
Therefore when we dislike or hate who we are, we are ignorant, blind, and foolish. The truth is that I am wonderful; my subjective feeling about myself is that I am worthless. But most importantly, when I dislike myself, I am rejecting and refusing to accept the judgments, the values, and the perspectives of God. In other words, I am rebelling against Him and everything He stands for. In disliking who I am, it is as if I were saying to God: “God, what you made me is not good,” or “God, I don’t like what you made.”
And more often than not our self-hatred translates into depression. But this depression is itself an act of rebellion; as if we were saying, “God, I refuse to be happy if this is who I am. Make me what I want to be-not what you want me to be-and then I will be happy.” And when God does not come through for us, we make good on our threat. We refuse to be happy. We cannot-and, more importantly, will not-be happy. I will not be happy until I like who I am.
Self-hatred, therefore, has a far-reaching emotional and psychological impact on our lives. It leads to depression, a profound unhappiness with one’s life. It also becomes the engine that drives a person’s restless searching to “find himself” or his frantic efforts to “realize his full potential.” It usually is accompanied by jealousy of and competition with the other people around one. And it leads to deep and profound anger. As the frustration mounts at not being able to become the someone I can like, I get angry-deeply and powerfully angry. And finally, in searching for an identity with which he can live, the one who hates himself will adopt an empty, inflated, unrealistic view of himself and attempt to live out his lie, bluffing others around him and affecting a persona that only masks the real him. These are the many symptoms of self-hatred, eritheia, the ambition to be one’s own creator and to make oneself on one’s own terms rather than submitting to the terms of the Creator.
B. The Antidote to Self-Hatred
How magically all these symptoms would just disappear, poof, evaporate-if one could acquire the virtue of ‘sophrosune’. My unhappiness and rejection of myself is not grounded in the reality of who I am. In objective reality I am quite likable. The problem of self-hatred is purely and completely a subjective problem. I refuse to let myself like myself. If I can solve the subjective problem, I have solved the problem altogether. If I can simply stop being stubborn, stop demanding something I cannot and will not have and simply accept what I am-then I will stop being unhappy with myself. A sense of restfulness will settle over my soul. No longer need I frantically search to “find myself.” No longer need I “realize my potential.” No longer need I compete with the others around me. I am free to love and enjoy them, to respect and appreciate them. I feel no need to compare myself to them, for I know already that they are different than I am and that we are both marvelous and wonderful beings.
Sophrosune would replace the anger as well. My anger results from my attempts to knock down the impregnable boundaries of my life. Only frustration can come from such a ridiculous and futile task. Life itself is hard. Much in life brings pain and heartache and grief. But we make it so much harder on ourselves when we resist the realities of our existence, when we fight and struggle against who we are and where God has placed us. Sophrosune cannot eliminate all the grief of human existence; but it eliminates the unnecessary grief, the grief that comes from trying to break loose from the constraints of who God made me to be and the life that he gave me.
The person who acquires ‘sophrosune’ is also freed from the foolish posturing that otherwise would control his existence. If I have ‘sophrosune’, there no longer exists a need to impress others; for I no longer have a need to impress myself. (Isn’t that, after all, the real motive behind attempts to impress other people? Somehow my darkened mind reasons: if I can impress others, then maybe I can be impressed with myself.)
And finally, as Paul is suggesting in I Timothy 2:9, the person who manifests ‘sophrosune’ is indeed a lovely, attractive person. What Paul is saying is significant. Sophrosune is beautiful and wonderful in its own right. If one who in no other respect is outstanding has ‘sophrosune’, then he will be startlingly attractive. If one is not especially intelligent nor beautiful nor talented, if one has no outstanding characteristics at all, and yet he has the confident, restful self-love of ‘sophrosune’, then he will be a strikingly attractive and interesting person.
C. Sophrosune: How Do We Get It?
As an element of our sanctifiedness, ‘sophrosune’ requires miraculous intervention by God. We do not come by it naturally; nor can we attain it through labor and effort. True, righteous self-acceptance is impossible for one whose spirit is in rebellion against God. Only as God renews and regenerates our spirit does ‘sophrosune’ become a possibility. But this, of course, is just what God is doing in the spirit of believers. So, for those of us who have believed the gospel, ‘sophrosune’ is not only a possibility; it is an inevitability.
That is not to say that if I am a believer I will manifest ‘sophrosune’. Nor is it to say that if I do not manifest ‘sophrosune’, then I am not a believer. Like any other aspect of our sanctification, it may take one or two or three crises before the ‘sophrosune’ which God has planted in my spirit-tucked away beyond notice-will break out of its cocoon and fly freely through my soul for the first time. But break free it finally must. If it is not there at all, then I have not been born of God.
Is there anything I can do to make the miraculous gift of ‘sophrosune’ come to me? In one sense there is. Like everything else about coming to believe in the gospel, to become a believer is to face into extremely searching and difficult questions. One begins to have ‘sophrosune’ when he faces squarely into the existential question Am I willing to be who God made me to be? and answers it wisely. That is not an easy thing to do. To come to the sort of submissive trust in God that can say “Yes, I am willing to be who God made me to be” or “Yes, it is all right that I have the life that God has given me” can be agonizingly difficult. But once we can break through that spiritual barrier, once we can, from the depths of our being, say “Yes,” we have swallowed some of the strongest medicine in the world. Not only have we sealed the reality of our sanctification, but we have set in motion a spiritual virtue which will wipe self-hatred and all its ugly symptoms out of our lives. We have set into motion the miracle of ‘sophrosune’.
(The questions, answers, and responses below followed the original presentation of Jack Crabtree’s paper at McKenzie Study Center on April 24, 1993.)
Question: What is the difference between sophrosune and complacency?
Jack: There is an ambition that is right and healthy, and that is an ambition to do one’s own business; to be aggressive, to be diligent, to be faithful, to be energetic towards doing what it is that God has made you to do. Not only is there nothing wrong with that ambition, not only would it be appropriate, but we would not be faithful servants if we failed at it. To be lazy is another kind of rebellion, another aspect of evil and sinfulness. You probably mean something different by complacency. You probably have in mind this question: What about really uncomfortable, painful things in our lives we could do something about; why don’t we do something about them rather than say, “Well this is what God has got me into. I am supposed to accept this?” Is that the issue?
Response: That, and also that to somebody with the right world view you could have sounded very Buddhist; like, “Just like the river flows, we need to flow with life. Everybody swim upstream”; the idea that striving is inherently wrong; that we need to get rid of all desire and that kind of thing. I’m sure no one in this room made that mistake about you, but one could have interpreted it that way, so I am just trying to determine how such a world view is different from what you are saying.
Jack: Well, in our world view we recognize the reality of evil, which we are morally obligated to strive against. There is a whole lot of striving already that should go on in our life because evil doesn’t belong there. It is nobody’s business to do evil, and we must do everything we can to put it out of our lives.
And then, a real problem is one of knowledge. How do you know your own business until you experiment with your life, until you try? How do you know that you are supposed to be in a certain situation until you try to get out of it, and God prevents it? I think we are free and ought to feel free to do everything that is righteous and wise to eliminate suffering and grief in our lives. We are not called on to keep suffering for the sake of suffering. There is no virtue in pain, in and of itself.
The virtue of suffering and pain comes precisely in the dialectic of my interacting with my life because of it; how I interact with it, and what I do with it. Pain can be very destructive spiritually, as well as it can be constructive spiritually; it is up to me and how I react to it. Complacency would come out of the world view that tends to say, “Just accept whatever comes down the pike.” That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about having the humility to realize that some of the things you want fixed, God doesn’t want fixed. Some of the things you want to do, God doesn’t want you to do. Some of the things you try to do, you are going to fail at, precisely because it was not meant to be. I am talking about being open to that as a possibility, and then we can learn from our experience; we can learn from our failures; we can learn from our attempts what are the boundaries and limitations of our lives. I can learn how to define myself, how to understand myself, how to understand God’s purpose and goal for me. I don’t come into life automatically knowing these things; I learn through the trial and error of life. Complacency doesn’t allow for that trial and error.
Question: Is there a corresponding virtue that would allow us to recognize the value of other people and not require them to be something they are not?
Jack: I haven’t given much thought to that before now, but I think that it is certainly true. It logically follows that in our blindness and ignorance, we can hate other people for what they are in a way that is inappropriate; we cannot accept them, cannot give them the respect and the love that is due them, because we choose to look past the magnificent creatures they actually are and focus on their sinfulness. For example, we focus on something that justifies our rejection of them, when, in fact, there is no justification. C. S. Lewis in some book somewhere mentioned interacting with all people as if they were kings and queens and princes and princesses. Ideally, I need to know that the person I’m talking to is a “heavy” person, a very, very significant person. They’re a little in the rough right now, but they’re not always going to be there, and I need to respect them with the respect they are really due.
Question: I have two questions. One of them is along the lines of a previous question. Could you could speak a little bit more about change; changing the things we’re not sure we ought to change? And the other question is about shame. God wants us to accept ourselves, but what about shame? Granted, we may have come from a broken family, but one of the consequences of that is having a self-image that has been imposed on us as impressionable children that we are worthless, that we are valueless. And that’s a tough way to live.
Jack: There are a lot of ways in which we can be caused to feel shame at who we are–through experiences where other people have abused us, victimized us, mistreated us, criticized us, undermined us, in all kinds of ways. We all know the effect of that, and we talk about it a lot in our culture. Certainly that is there, but I think the question that needs to be raised is this: How much do we need to undo the experiences that cause us pain in order to transcend our shame, in order to get beyond it and heal it? Is it not enough simply to come to know the truth? And the truth is I’m a creature made by God, made by God through this incredibly mysterious history that he has given me, including being victimized and abused and criticized and undermined and so on. That has all been a part of God making me who I am today. My belief is that those are not accidents, those are not somehow random distortions in God’s creation of me. They are orchestrated and a part of everything God has brought into my life. I am who I am because of them, and I am what God wants me to be. I am on track; I am not off the beat–unless we are talking of morals, but I am not speaking in moral terms here.
It doesn’t seem to me that I necessarily have to go back and revisit all the causes of my shame in order to deal with it. I need to go back and revisit the causes of my shame in order to understand the causes of my shame, and that may be a helpful and fruitful and profitable thing to do in time; and to the extent that that’s possible, then great. But what if I can’t? What if I can’t revisit the causes of my shame? What if I can’t figure them out? What if I can’t put my finger on where this stuff is coming from? Am I then helpless to deal with it? I don’t think so. It seems to me that the way we can deal with shame is to recognize the truth. That may, at first, seem very abstract, but it can be made very, very personal. And the truth is God doesn’t make junk. I am a magnificent and wonderful being, and I am calling God a liar to believe anything otherwise. And then I have to decide what I am going to do with that truth. I am either going to “shine it on” or I am going to believe it. And if I am going to believe it, by the grace of God I will be able to break through my shame to sophrosune. I will be able to break through my shame and say I don’t know why it was so easy for me to be ashamed of myself. I don’t know where it came from, but wherever it came from, it was from the pit of hell, and it was wrong. I don’t need to believe it any longer, and I don’t need to feel that way any longer, and I am not going to feel that way any longer, because it’s not true.
It seems to me that we are not, therefore, completely and totally reliant upon the resources of our friends, councilors, therapists, science, and so on to figure out why we got where we got before we can be healed. I don’t think so. I think we can be healed of problems that we have never been able to identify. Remember my parenthetical paragraph: there is a difference between moral shame, which we ought to feel, and ontological shame–creaturely shame, shame at just who I am–which is utterly inappropriate. I have no business being ashamed of who I am as a creature, who I am as a person.
Response: I never knew that God was working in my life, before I became a Christian. I didn’t even conceive that He was there when certain bad things were happening to me during my childhood. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered I had to accept the fact that God is there and molding every little incident that happens, to bring me to the point I am at right now.
Jack: I suspect that you did not come easily to that belief. Something inside of you really clutches at that and resists it. But that is at the heart of what I am talking about; it’s getting over that hurdle. All of the momentum that resists the notion that I am a good creature, that I am right, that I am a person that ought to exist–all of my resistance, I somehow need to get over. I am arguing that it’s a miracle that any of us get over that resistance. It is a miracle that is going to happen. It is a miracle that will happen, that must happen, if we are children of God.
Question: I’m thinking about the distinction between what I’m hearing you say is a spiritual problem and what could be construed as a psychological problem. It is a relief to hear that God will get us there and that part of our being people of faith will get us to this place. But, on the other hand, it seems like there are things that we’re given by virtue of living in a fallen world, by virtue of being abused by parents or other people from childhood, or whatever; that there are significant enough psychological scars that it is conceivable to me that a person could live through life and not ever get to a place of acceptance. I guess it is the “shame thing” that was talked about. I’m struggling with that being two different things.
If there is a restless refusal to accept who God has made me, that’s a spiritual problem. But what if there is something about my psyche that has been so damaged that there is a different avenue for getting to a place of acceptance? It’s refreshing to hear that God will get me there regardless of whether I have been in therapy for years or whatever. But there is also an aspect that says, This is not an easy process; this is not something where I’m just going to wake up some morning and say I’m okay–that all those people who abused me as a child were wrong about me, and the worthlessness and shame that I take into my soul from that is just going to go away because I’ve strengthened myself by saying it’s not true. Does that make sense? For each of us this process of getting to that place of self-acceptance can be very different, and it can be a really long process for someone who has a scarred psyche. Most of us do have some kind of scar.
Jack: I think we have to make some kind of distinction between emotional and psychological scars on the one hand and a lack of sophrosune on the other. Those, in of themselves, are not in conflict or contradictory to sophrosune. That is, part of sophrosune can be to accept myself as having those emotional and psychological scars. But, as I mentioned in my last paragraph, I think sophrosune is strong medicine. Whereas those emotional and psychological scars can be dominate, paralyzing forces in my life, sophrosune seems to be the antidote to that, because it works independently. It works in spite of the scars and in spite of those past experiences when I was a victim and was damaged psychologically and emotionally. The antidote to that damage is coming to terms with the truth–the security and the confidence and the self-acceptance that comes from knowing I am now and always have been in the hands of God. I have been made into what he wanted to make me, and that is good. I can put to rest the issue of whether what I am is okay. Is that easy? It is extremely difficult. It is a miracle. I can’t emphasize strongly enough how hard it is for everybody to come to that place. I don’t think it happens through one crisis necessarily. I think it takes wing and flies at the first crisis, at dramatic moments in our life, but it needs to be reaffirmed later, at the next crisis, and then again at the next crisis. It is like sanctification in general, like when the Bible talks about maturity, being grounded, being settled. Sophrosune is going to grow from being something that is fragile to something that is a permanent fixture in my life. That will take time. It seems to me that we can get above and beyond our problems, our emotional and psychological scars, through this spiritual virtue. Because this spiritual virtue unleashes emotional and psychological balms into our life that soothe the pain, the agony, the effects of those scars, and to a degree heals them. It doesn’t make them go away. It doesn’t heal them in that sense, but it heals them in the sense that they don’t need to be these dominate, paralyzing forces that control our lives.
Question: Aren’t emotional and psychological scars always there? They might show up in different ways, but they are always going to be there; and we are just going to have to learn to use that sophrosune in different ways. Because you never just get sophrosune do you? It’s there, but that doesn’t ever happen until you get to heaven, right? You are always going to be learning new ways to deal with what happened in your past; what happened in the past is always going to be there because the past is fixed.
Jack: The time in my life I thought I was going to go crazy was when I tried everything I could inside my head to make reality not be reality, or more specifically, to make history not be history. I look back on it now and I think that was a stupid thing to do. But I was so in rebellion against what God had done in my life. I was so in rebellion against the history that he had made that I was going to do everything I could, by gum, to change it. I almost went crazy trying. A quantum leap in my growth in sophrosune was when I finally resolved that it’s okay that history is what it is.
Response: I think that’s what I was trying to get at; that there is a difference between coming to a place of self-acceptance and denial, of just saying everything is okay–like what was said about complacency–and saying I’m just going to accept everything I’m going to do. I think that kind of denial is what you are talking about: I’m going to resist reality being reality; I’m going to make it into something else. I think that is where pathology comes from.
Jack: Remember that Plato’s fourth definition was self-knowledge. Sophrosune is fundamentally a kind of self-knowledge. It is exactly the opposite of denial. We need to be careful that we don’t take the position “if you can get over it, then you are denying it.” There are two ways to get over something. One is to deny it, shove it off, not face it, and sort of drug yourself to it. You don’t really get over it, but you sweep it away as a problem. One way to sweep it away as a problem is to deny it. The other way is to accept it. Accepting it does have an incredible emotional impact. By accepting it, it loses its fangs; it loses its bite. It is okay for it to lose its bite. It is supposed to lose its bite. We are supposed to overcome those things. We will overcome those things. We must not insist that we have to keep hurting and we have to keep being miserable or we’re in denial. Maybe we are, but not necessarily. We need to be very careful that we don’t assume so.
Question: I’ve got a comment, and then I would like you to elaborate on something. As far as this whole business of psychological damage or healing the past, I think there is a lot of misteaching out there in terms of how psychologists deal with this, that there is this healing that a person is supposed to experience for the past. I would describe this pain from the past as the “Grand Canyon of the soul.” There is this huge hole that you feel. The way this is translated wrongly is that you think the solution is to fill it up, and that is not necessarily right. That is exactly what you [Jack] have been saying; you can not do it, and you shouldn’t necessarily want to. And if you think about the real Grand Canyon and how that has happened over history, it is a beautiful thing. It would be a ludicrous thing to try and get your shovel and start filling up the Grand Canyon. You don’t want do that; it is a beautiful creation. In the same sense, there can be events of the past that have created what you may feel psychologically to be a hole or a gap or a problem, but the solution is not to try and fill it up. That is when you try to force things into a mold that may not fit. This is just an analogy that helped me when it was a hard thing for me. I was struggling to try and fill up this hole that is there, but it’s part of what God has done.
I would like you to comment on the “creature” part of self-acceptance versus the “moral” part. I think there is a great source of shame, and we sort of beat ourselves over the head because we are constantly failing morally in terms of sin. How do those two interface?
Jack: We so easily slide from guilt to self-rejection for some reason. We need to start by realizing those are two radically different things. Just because I am evil does not mean I am not a marvellous creation. I am a marvellous creation, otherwise my sinfulness wouldn’t be the tragedy that it is. It is precisely the tragedy that it is because I have so much potential; I am so magnificent, and yet I am throwing away my magnificence toward evil. Guilt is appropriate. Viewing myself as garbage is not appropriate. But for some reason we have difficulty even conceiving the distinction, and emotionally we slide right from one to the other in a moment. All I can say is, start by understanding the distinction, and then as you begin feeling the guilt at your sinfulness, don’t go the next step to self shame at your creatureliness.
Question: Could it be we feel that because we’re guilty, we must be punished? Is self-hatred a form of self-punishment?
Jack: And, therefore, self-justification. I’m going to punish myself until it’s okay again. Yes, that’s probably very true.
Question: It seems to me possible that one of the things it could sound like you’re saying, or the implications of what you’re saying (I don’t think you are), is kind of a blaming of the victim. If you look at the correlation between dysfunctional behavior and a dysfunctional background, there is a high correlation. Unless we are willing to say that people become more sinful as a result of being treated badly, it means that what happens is that all of us are sinners, but we have a lot more energy for hypocrisy if we are treated well than if we are not treated well. It would be easy for people who have a fairly good background and therefore are “fairly successful” in life and don’t seem to be struggling all that much, to look at their lives and say, “I have sophrosune; I have this virtue; I’m not struggling with myself; It’s not that hard for me to believe that I’m a wonderful creature.” Whereas somebody who found it very difficult to believe he was a wonderful creature might say, “I’m different from these people; I’m more evil than they are; I’m having a harder time achieving sophrosune.” The difference between these people isn’t actually the difference in sophrosune, but the difference of what their experience has made believable.
I know you are not saying this, but what I want to say is that we want to make sure that those people who don’t feel that they have particularly struggled with self-acceptance and for whom sophrosune–in that subjective sense that I’m a wonderful creature–isn’t that hard to achieve, probably shouldn’t pat themselves too much on the back. And those people who are having a hard time believing they are wonderful creatures, probably shouldn’t pat themselves too hard on the back either.
I suspect that a lot of the differences between us are not differences in virtue, but in how we are socialized. I do think there are some people who wallow and who need to be encouraged that nothing is to be gained by self-flagellation, and nothing is to be gained by going over your background in excruciating detail and blaming your parents, and this and that; there are some people who can be encouraged to do that. But I don’t want to get into the situation where the victims feel like they are being blamed; where, on top of everything else they have to deal with, now they can beat themselves over the head and scream Sophrosune.
For instance, let’s say that you’ve arrived at adulthood, and every time anything gets within ten inches of your face, you flinch. You have no idea why you do that; you just do. It looks weird, and people think you are an idiot for doing it. Finally you go to a psychiatrist, and you search down your whole background and discover that somebody has been hitting you in the face all the time. So anytime your peripheral vision catches something, you expect to be hit in the face and you flinch. So now you understand where that reaction came from. Before you knew where that reaction came from, your mind knew there was a good reason for doing it, but you didn’t know what it was. You couldn’t exactly get rid of the behavior, because in the back of your mind you knew there was some good reason. The first step in getting rid of that behavior is recognizing that it is no longer valid. But even after you’ve recognized that, you’ve got that learned response. About the best you can do–what I would expect sophrosune to be in this situation–is to recognize you have this learned response; you’re not under control with it; it’s not appropriate any longer; and every time you do it, you say, Well that’s who I am, and God willing, someday I won’t flinch. You know it’s not appropriate now, and that’s the way you look at it. That’s the model I have for a lot of our behaviors; we’re just going to flinch; we’ve learned to flinch. But maybe sophrosune is saying: Yeah, the flinching is not appropriate; it makes me look like an idiot, and I know it’s not appropriate now; but I know where it’s coming from, and someday I will know it enough not to flinch.
Jack: I’m not sure I follow all of that.
Response: What about the blaming of victims? Did that make any sense at all?
Jack: Well, I want us all to be hit by the stick of sophrosune, victim or not. I don’t look at it as blaming. I look at it as holding out the ideal and the goal for the Christian believer, whoever they are and whatever their circumstances. We must not only focus on the question, Am I a wonderful being? Sophrosune doesn’t always focus on the issue of my person, of my self-worth. The issue can be my life. Do I like my life? And it can focus a lot on my circumstances, more than on being a confident, hip, together person. I still may hate my life. God has given me a bummer of circumstances. He hasn’t given me what I want. More often than not, that’s the issue for us rather than just who I am. To use an example other than an emotional scar, what if I have a completely withered right arm? I’m never going to heal that, short of the Messiah Himself coming and doing His thing. My arm’s not going to get healed, but the important thing is what do I do with that. Am I ashamed of myself because I have a withered right arm, or do I just accept that as part of who it is God made me? Out of that acceptance can come a kind of beauty of spirit that is so attractive that no one would ever notice one’s arm anyway. In fact, the arm can be part of the charm.
Question: I think you hit upon something that struck me at the very beginning of this presentation. We haven’t addressed the social dynamic that is involved with this. If you had a withered right arm, so be it. But if everybody avoided you and picked on you and called you names and didn’t want to play with you, you would be in pain most of your life, because there is something wrong with them. It is going to be extremely difficult for you to achieve this state if your world hates you. I think, in a sense, that level of achievement awaits you in the kingdom to come, where even if you entered heaven with a withered right arm, you would be welcomed and loved and cared about and it wouldn’t matter.
Jack: I think even here and now we can make substantial progress toward that same attitude, in spite of the world that is conspiring against us.
Response: I was just talking about that level of Zen-like perfection. How many times have we met these people that seem to have this blissful state, and we envy them, only to find out that they are so empty? Nothing bothers them; no brain, no pain. That’s the price they have paid to achieve their own blissfulness. I don’t know if I or others came to this particular presentation because we saw this as an answer to a certain pain we may feel (self-hate is not really a wonderful experience), to see if maybe I could catch this idea which is a solution to my problem. Fix my problem, fix my pain. The only description we have of Jesus, at least explicitly, is that he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. More and more, I have caught myself wanting to tell people, “Do not pursue virtue, Christianity, or whatever as an end to pain, because it is a wrong world we live in. There are tears in all things; there is always pain. There must always be pain on this side of the bank.” I think it is quite possible to be infused with this virtue of sophrosune and every day know that you have pain. Maybe people need to be warned this is not a solution to that. It will take the edge off of a lot of different things, but on this side of glorification there is pain.
Jack: Yes. Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more!
1 Charmides, 159a: 105. All references to Plato’s writings and the page numbers listed refer to the translations contained in Hamilton, Edith and Huntington, Cairns, Plato: Collected Dialogues (New York: Pantheon Books, Random House, 1961). (Back to text)
2 Charmides, 175b: 121. (Back to text)
3 Plato’s purpose, I think, was to dramatize the virtue of ‘sophrosune’ and to make a profound and important point about its true inner character. It is outside the scope of my interest here to expand on what Plato was trying to convey in the writing of this dialogue. (Back to text)
4 Charmides, 159b ff: 105 ff. (Back to text)
5 Charmides, 160e-161b: 106-107. (Back to text)
6 Charmides,161b ff: 107 ff. (Back to text)
7 Charmides, 164d: 110 ff. (Back to text)
8 Cf. Matt 5:5, “Blessed are the meek [‘praus’].” (Back to text)
9 Acts 26:25, my translation. (Back to text)
10 I Timothy 2:8-15. This is my own translation, or paraphrase, which attempts to articulate in English a flow of thought rhetorically equivalent to that in the Greek text. I Timothy 2:15 is a particularly difficult verse to interpret, and I am not completely confident that I have accurately grasped what Paul is saying. I am considerably more confident about 2:8-14. My translation of I Timothy 2:8-15 reflects the understanding of verse 15 to which I am inclined given my current level of understanding. (Back to text)
11 Cf. Timothy 2:10. One possible interpretation of 2:15 would imply that ‘sophrosune’ is a necessary condition of one’s eternal salvation. Ultimately, I believe that such a claim is indeed consistent with the biblical perspective; but, as I now see it, Paul is not saying this explicitly in 2:15. (Back to text)
12 Hence, eritheia is linked with kenodoxia [empty conceit] in Philippians 2:3. (Back to text)
13 Hence, eritheia is linked with zelos [jealousy] in James 3:14 and 16, II Corinthians 12:20, and Galatians 5:20. (Back to text)
14 Perhaps this is the meaning of thumoi when it is linked to eritheia in II Corinthians 12:20 and Gal 5:20. (Back to text)
15 See especially the following McKenzie Study Center publications: “The Anatomy of Sainthood” (from the series: MSC Studies in Christian Theology) and “Wisdom and the Unity of Salvation” (delivered at a McKenzie Study Center conference in November, 1992). (Back to text)
Copyright April 1993 by McKenzie Study Center, an institute of Gutenberg College.