Definitions of gentleness

In my previous posts, I should have noted what gentle actually means.

from Dictionary.com

1. kindly; amiable: a gentle manner.
2. not severe, rough, or violent; mild: a gentle wind; a gentle tap on the shoulder.
3. moderate: gentle heat.
4. gradual: a gentle slope.
5. of good birth or family; wellborn.
6. characteristic of good birth; honorable; respectable: a gentle upbringing.
7. easily handled or managed; tractable: a gentle animal.
8. soft or low: a gentle sound.
9. polite; refined: Consider, gentle reader, my terrible predicament at this juncture.
10. entitled to a coat of arms; armigerous.
11. Archaic. noble; chivalrous: a gentle knight.

–verb (used with object)

12. to tame; render tractable.
13. to mollify; calm; pacify.
14. to make gentle.
15. to stroke; soothe by petting.
16. to ennoble, dignify

Some of them clearly don’t apply to the Biblical setting, such as 4, 10, 11, 15, 16. Others are more ambiguous. #7 should be partly true of Christians, but this definition could then stretch to being manipulated. #2 similar – there are times when it is appropriate to be severe, but this can still be done whilst staying “biblically gentle” – such as Jesus turning over the tables in the temple.

Number 6 – characteristic of a noble birth – shed some light on biblical gentleness. If we are ‘children of God’ and ‘adopted’ into Christ’s family, then our actions should be compatible with this – they should be characteristic of the family into which we have been adopted.

I said in my first post that the greek root of the word used for ‘gentle’ in the New Testament is prauteis. This can also be translated as meek in the New Testament (e.g ‘Blessed are the meek’ Matt 5:5). So what does ‘meekness’ mean?

The American heritage dictionary:

adj.   meek·er, meek·est

  1. Showing patience and humility; gentle.
  2. Easily imposed on; submissive.

I don’t think definition #2 is what the NT writers were getting at. But meekness meaning patient and humble can be good. Being not easily provoked is being gentle – then we are less likely to get swayed by anger and passions…

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