Monday, September 20, 2010

Are you cool? Interesting article...

The Greek Word for "Cool"

Did you know there was a Greek word for "cool"? The Greeks developed the concept of "coolness" a long time before James Dean did and long before American culture became obsessed with how cool we are.
The Greek word I'm referring to is κλέος (kleos). If you read a modern translation of the works of Homer or other ancient Greek writers, it is generally translated "fame," "honor," or even "glory." The Louw & Nida Lexicon defines κλέος as "a good reputation as an index of status—‘honor, fame, good reputation.’"

Professor Timothy Shutt, who teaches Western Civ at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, says that κλέος as the Greeks understood it was more akin to our modern idea of "cool." In his Foundations of Western Thought audio lectures, Shutt notes that the ancient Greeks were obsessed with κλέος--with one-upping each other, with being cool--and they contributed that obsession all the way down to our culture today.

The New Testament only uses κλέος once--in 1 Peter 2:20. Generally, translators render it as "credit" such as seen here in the Holman Christian Standard Bible:

“For what credit is there if you endure when you sin and are beaten? But when you do good and suffer, if you endure, it brings favor with God.”
(1Pet 2:20 HCSB)

It's hard to say exactly how Peter meant κλέος to be used here because that is the word's only occurrence in the entire New Testament (although it is used a couple of times in the LXX--Job 28:22; 30:8). But how would Greek readers have understood Peter's words? Consider 1 Pet 2:20 instead as I've paraphrased it:

"Is it cool for you to survive when you sin and are beaten for it? But when you do good and suffer--if you survive--that's cool, and brings favor with God."

I want to be cool. How about you?

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