“Disciplined and lowly” is not the same as “meek and humble”




have been addressing the issue of the Greek term “praos” found in the canonical Christian gospels.

It so happens that I expended a lot of effort learning a smattering of ancient Greek.

I was mostly motivated by the prospect of analyzing the Gospels in the original.

After I had spent time and money and sweat and tears, I discovered interlinear translations.

I felt like the biggest sucker in the world…learn from my fail, and don’t study obscure languages if there are shorter roads to your destination.

But for the moment, let us return to “praus” or “praos.”

Matthew 5:5
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
makavrioi {A-NPM} oiJ {T-NPM} praei’?, {A-NPM} o&ti {CONJ} aujtoi; {P-NPM} klhronomhvsousin {V-FAI-3P} th;n {T-ASF} gh’n. {N-ASF}



Matt 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.


29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
a~rate {V-AAM-2P} to;n {T-ASM} zugovn {N-ASM} mou {P-1GS} ejfj {PREP} uJma’? {P-2AP} kai;{CONJ} mavqete {V-2AAM-2P} ajpj {PREP} ejmou’, {P-1GS} o&ti {CONJ} prau?? {A-NSM} eijmi {V-PXI-1S} kai; {CONJ} tapeino;? {A-NSM} th’/ {T-DSF} kardiva/, {N-DSF} kai; {CONJ} euJrhvsete {V-FAI-2P} ajnavpausin {N-ASF} tai’? {T-DPF} yucai’? {N-DPF} uJmw’n: {P-2GP}



5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold , thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
Ei~pate {V-2AAM-2P} th’/ {T-DSF} qugatri; {N-DSF} Siwvn, {N-PRI} #Idou; {V-2AAM-2S} oJ {T-NSM} basileuv? {N-NSM} sou {P-2GS} e~rcetaiv {V-PNI-3S} soi, {P-2DS} prau;>? {A-NSM} kai; {CONJ} ejpibebhkw;? {V-RAP-NSM} ejpi; {PREP} o~non, {N-ASF} kai; {CONJ} ejpi; {PREP} pw’lon {N-ASM} uiJo;n {N-ASM} uJpozugivou. {N-GSN}


“Praus” or “praos” means “disciplined” or “tamed.” A wild horse is not disciplined; a tamed horse is disciplined – but a tamed horse can still be violent if it has been trained to do violence in some situations!

So when someone quotes the Sermon of the Mount as saying that the “praus” will inherit the earth – you should correct anyone who claims it means “meek,” and offer a better translation such as “tamed,” “disciplined,” or even “ascetic.”

And if anyone tells me that Jesus was “meek and humble,” I will tell them that “disciplined and lowly” is a better translation.

Jesus was never “humble” because he was never introverted, wishy-washy, or lacking in self-confidence. If he had to wash his disciples’ feet, he washed those feet, without hesitation. If he had to serve, he served. Jesus was lowly, because he was willing to crawl in the gutters with the tax collectors and prostitutes. But he was crawling there for a reason – the healthy did not need a physician.

“Humility” and “lowliness” are probably related closely in etymology, but not in modern usage. When modern people say “humble” they mean “wimpy.” Jesus was not wimpy – he was actually pretty scary. He cursed fig trees, forced demons into Gadarene swine, and scourged money-changers out of temple courtyards.* A violent heretic who doesn’t stay dead when you kill him – in what world could that be called “meek”?

I suspect that many self-proclaimed Christians prefer mistranslating this because they want to excuse their own shortcomings.

Let’s look at Matthew Chapter 21 again – it’s got a lot of great scenes – including the theft of an ass and a colt, the scourging of the money-changers, etc. Start at verse 19:

And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

And when the disciples saw [it], they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this [which is done] to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Those few verses frustrate the hell out of a lot of self-proclaimed Christians.

On the one hand, they want to say that the Bible is true, and they want to say that they believe.

And on the other hand, they can’t say that there are any miracles in their lives. They ask for lots of ordinary things, like employment, marriages, etc. and fail to receive them.

Do they just suck at praying? Have they failed to believe? Is the Bible actually false? Any possible explanation would be unpleasant for them.

Some people bounce from failed Christianity straight to materialistic atheism. They say, “Christianity is so very stupid, therefore ALL spirituality is superstition. There must be no life after death, no God, no soul, etc.”

I take a very broad view. I recognize many forms of spiritual effort – yoga, qigong, feeding the hungry, burning incense – as valid attempts to get closer to some spiritual truth that no human has a good handle on. The only way for spiritual activities to be entirely invalid is for all of them to be entirely invalid. If even one kind of spiritual activity achieves any degree of enlightenment for even one aspirant, then spiritual effort is a reasonable goal.

Obviously, I recognize that a lot of spiritual aspirants set out with the goal of enlightenment and get side-tracked into cheap thrills. A lot of people hear about yoga, then they get interested in kundalini, then they hear about tantric sex — and that’s the last time they ever think about spirituality. They substitute sexual thrills for spiritual efforts.

There are millions of possible side-tracks that can distract seekers from spirit. Suppose you’re trying to be a voodoo practitioner, but you get too interested in cursing people. Pretty soon you’re not in it for the spiritual enlightenment, you just neurotically focus on hating your enemies. Maybe your enemies really deserve all the horrible things you wish they get – but wasting a lot of time thinking about it isn’t doing you any favors.

I may be “lowly,” but I don’t think anyone would call me “disciplined.” Now, if I could be both “disciplined and lowly,” maybe I would start spurning my distracting side-tracks – like blogging – and get back to spiritual efforts! Hey, I can dream, right?

He did all of this when he wasn’t ordering his disciples to steal donkeys and colts for him to ride. Some day soon they will make a video game of Jesus’ life – Grand Theft Ass-and-a-Colt – Jerusalem City.

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3 Responses to “Disciplined and lowly” is not the same as “meek and humble”

  1. kronbergweb says:

    First, there is a website from which a bible application can be downloaded:
    This app comes with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries and various free as well priced bible translations and commentaries; I have had it for several years.
    In the kjv+ version Matt 5:5 is rendered:

    Apparently a primary word; mild, that is, (by implication) humble: – meek. See also G4235.

    Matt 11:29:
    A form of G4239, used in certain parts; gentle, that is, humble: – meek.


    Secondly, years ago I learned that the word humble means teachable as in Moses was humble before God; he wasn’t humble before Pharaoh.This meaning lines up with disciplined: able to listen, learn, and obey. Maybe we could add to the meaning perceiving and understanding.

    • zhai2nan2 says:

      Thanks for the contribution.

      “Every translation is an interpretation,” as one of my teachers used to say. By that he meant that no translation is perfect.

      I suppose I should dig into the texts and see if I can find other occurrences of “praus” – and possibly check the Septuagint to see what Greek words were used to describe Moses being teachable by God.

  2. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2013/12/18 | Free Northerner


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