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Paideia is the Greek term translated as discipline by our English Bibles. I have written previous posts on discipline and the meaning of paideia, so this post will be short and to the point. I am saddened by the way "paideia" has been construed to mean "spanking". This is not a concept found in the Bible, nor was it implied in the original Greek.
Below are some verses in the New Testament containing the word "paideia". I have made the English word translated from paideia bold, so you can see some of the ways it has been translated in the New American Standard version of the Bible and the Young's Literal Translation of the Bible:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.(NASB)
And the fathers! provoke not your children, but nourish them in the instruction and admonition of the Lord.(YLT)
2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (NASB)
every Writing is God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that is in righteousness,(YLT)
As you can see, "paideia" has been translated here as discipline, instruction, and training.
I think it is significant that Paul urged his Ephesian readers to bring their children up in the padeia of the Lord. I did not realize the significance of this until I did some research on what paideia meant in Roman society at the time Paul wrote this letter. "Paideia", in Greek thought, according to Dr. Davey Naugle of Dallas Baptist University, "meant the process of educating man into his true form, the real and genuine human nature" (source) . Naugle goes on to explain that early Christians adopted paideia in the pedagogical sense as a way to bring students to "true knowledge—Christian philosophy or worldview— whose end was fellowship and imitation of Jesus Christ." The paideia of the Lord, then, can mean bringing up a child into the fullness of who he should be in Christ; nurturing his character in such a way that will lead him to truth, freedom, and life in Christ.
This is likely the reason that most concordances define "paideia" like this definition from the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon:
- "the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment) It also includes the training and care of the body
- whatever in adults also cultivates the soul, esp. by correcting mistakes and curbing passions.
- instruction which aims at increasing virtue
- chastisement, (of the evils with which God visits men for their amendment)"
- This definition begins with "the whole training and education of children". I find it interesting that most commentaries add in parenthesis at this point, something about the need for punishment. This seems to be an addendum by the author of the definition, as though the author is reminding us of methods that must be employed in order to train a child. The definition also includes "whatever in adults cultivates the soul". This brings to mind the way that God is working on us believing adults for our sanctification. He has a plan for us that He is bringing to pass through a myriad of circumstances and, as 2 Timothy makes clear, through His word. The final part of the definition, "chastisement", is added (I presume) because of the use of paideia in Hebrews 12. The King James Bible, among others, translates "paideia" as "chastisement" rather than as instruction, training or discipline in Hebrews 12. If one looks at the context of Hebrews 12, however, it should be easy to see that Hebrews 12 is referring to the way God brings us to sanctification as His dearly loved children using various trials and hardships, and not as God visiting evil upon us when we do wrong in order to punish (chastise) us.
As you can see, the concept of "paideia" is not flat; it does not have one narrow definition: spank. It is a very positive, educational term. It is a word that implies action and discipleship on the part of the teacher or guide. It is a term that implies a long-term ideal, with a myriad of facets and many methods employed along the way. Scripture declares itself to be a source of "paideia", as well as the source of God's truth and wisdom and correction.
If parents were simply commanded to bring their children up by spanking, our job would not be so hard (though I do not recommend this method). However, when we realize that we are responsible for nurturing our child's character and person in the direction of being a true follower of God in every aspect of his or her life, we see that our job involves actively discipling, teaching, correcting, educating,spending focused time with our children, and engaging our children's mind with the word of God. These are only a few of the multitude of ways in which we should be involved in nurturing our children.
Moms and dads, our calling is a high one! We must rely on God's wisdom found in Scripture, and the guidance of the Spirit as we rise every day to this beautiful task! Let us keep running the race--we are affecting the future as we raise our little ones.