The Paideia of God

Over the last two or three years I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about and studying the concept of Paideia.  Paideia is a Greek word that referred to in classical texts the whole instruction, education and training of children.  In the New Testament, Paideia and it’s close corollary Paideuo (basically the infinitive root of Paideia) can be translated in terms of nurture, learning, instruction or discipline.

We are God’s children and the interplay of the use of this word within both settings (classical text and the New Testament) is quite instructive.  I am going to spend the next few posts looking more closely at the use of this word and concept in each setting separately and along the way, think about what this has to tell us about how God changes us into the person He created us to be.

As a quick starting point, here are the times that Paideia is used in the New Testament and how it is translated (using the ESV translation as a reference).

Ephesians 6:4 – “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

2nd Timothy 3:16 – “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Hebrews 12:5 – “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?  ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.'”

Hebrews 12:7 – “It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”

Hebrews 12:8 – “If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”

Hebrews 12:11 – “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

The infinitive version, Paideuo, is similarly translated most of the time but there are a few references that are translated a bit differently that are also worth noting.

Acts 7:22 – “And Moses was instructed in all of the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.”

Acts 22:3 – “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.”

1st Timothy 1:20 – “among whom are Hymanaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

Titus 2:12 – “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”

In the last reference, it is the grace of God which is doing the training (v 11).   A couple of quick observations.

1.  This instruction can be formal or experiential.  We are always in training, whether we think we are or not.

2.  It can often be unpleasant.

In the next post, I want to examine the concept of Paideia as it related to the education and training of children.




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