I was reading through Ephesian 6 in the Greek today, and I came across some interesting Greek words. As you may know Colossians 3 is the only other place where Paul speaks about instructing children.
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Colossians 3:20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing [t]to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
1. The first thing I find interesting is the word used for parents (goneus) is different from the word used for father (pater). The command to discipline and instruct children is specifically given to fathers. I’ve already talked about the impact of fatherhood and impartation of identity that fathers give in behavior cycles and identity, so I don’t want to go off on a long tangent.
Discipline and admonition from a father is going to be very different than that from a mother. When you look into how children react to it, I think that’s also similar reasoning on why Paul says that women shouldn’t be pastors. This is discussed somewhat in Elspeth’s post on why the Bible was penned by men. Discipline primarily performed by the father which the wife/mother will refer to her husband if something happens when she is watching the children will reinforce roles and responsibilities of the husband and wife. I can’t say for certain because I have no data, but I would expect such marriages to be more stable when the father alone takes care of that duty.
2. The wording of provoke (parorgizo) children to anger and exasperate (erethizo) your children is different in the Greek.
G3949 — παροργίζω — parorgizō — par-org-id’-zo
From G3844 and G3710; to anger alongside, that is, enrage: – anger, provoke to wrath.
G2042 — ἐρεθίζω — erethizō — er-eth-id’-zo
From a presumed prolonged form of G2054; to stimulate (especially to anger): – provoke.
You may recognize that parorgizo is a conjunction of para- and the root orge/orgy which means anger/vengeance/indignation/wrath. In other words, the verse from Ephesians is instructing fathers not to provoke their children to anger when they are angry themselves. You may have heard it said that you should never discipline your children when you’re angry. This is the Scriptual support for that.
Similarly, erethizo is from the root eris which means to “quarrel, that is, (by implication) wrangling: – contention, debate, strife, variance.” In other words, parents should not be arguing or debating with the children about what is right and wrong. Obviously, when you engage a child in an argument you are stepping down to their level and engaging in a power struggle when you’re the adult and you need to be taking responsibility for the situation at hand. The end of the sentence is followed with “so that they do not lose heart,” and this agrees with the fact that if children see you as on their level they are less likely to trust you because you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Thus, Paul sums up how not to parent in two verses. Don’t engage children when you’re angry as you’ll also make them angry, and don’t debate with your children as it will give them a foothold that will cause them to be angry and lose their trust in you.
3. Finally, fathers are to discipline (paideia) and instruct (nouthesia) children in the Lord.
G3809 — παιδεία — paideia — pahee-di’-ah
From G3811; tutorage, that is, education or training; by implication disciplinary correction: – chastening, chastisement, instruction, nurture.
G3559 — νουθεσία — nouthesia — noo-thes-ee’-ah
From G3563 and a derivative of G5087; calling attention to, that is, (by implication) mild rebuke or warning: – admonition.
These two are necessarily coupled together because you can’t do one without the other. Paideia is about instructing a child in what is right, and if necessarily using discipline/punishment to reinforce the point. This is to be coupled with nouthesia which you may recognize another -thesia conjuction which is G5206 huiothesia which is the word Paul uses for us being “adopted” in Romans 8 as sons of God. The Nou- part of the conjunction is derived from nooce or the mind. In other words, to direct or call attention to what is right and wrong based on engaging their thoughts.**
Training up a child in the way they should go without engaging them and telling them why certain things are the way they are is a good way to lead them towards apostasy. If they don’t know why they are being taught certain things or have a firm foundation in God then they are more likely to easily go astray. This doesn’t apply for when children do wrong, but in all phases of life. It’s why ignorance about the faith is so destructive to children.
** Analysis of conjunctions generally give a bit more clarity in what the conjunction means. However, I use it as a general statement because it is an exegetical fallacy as words both in Greek and English sometimes mean more or differently than the sum of their parts. For example, huiothesia is a conjunction of “huios and tithemi” which means “son and placement” respectively. However, huiothesia is translated as only “adoption” in the NT and refers to both adoption of sons and daughters.
In terms of nouthesia, it is important to realize that the admonition should be engaging the “mind” rather than the “emotions” because although emotions do play a role in decision making it is always going to be the mind that makes the decisions. With that said, the Hebrews made no distinction of the emotions and thoughts and called them all “heart” whereas the Greeks made a distinction of the “feelings with heart” and the “thoughts with mind.” So you have to keep this in mind when reading the OT and NT.
See Semitic Totality Concept for more information.