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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Bonus - What is "Meek"?

Yesterday's question got me wondering if the definition of "meek" has really changed so much over the years. I'm not a huge fan of Webster's 1828 dictionary, per se, but a lot of Evangelicals love it. Personally, I need to get a good concordance, and/or find a trustworthy one on the Internet. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad/disturbing/worrisome Bible commentary on the Internet, even though there is also some excellent commentary. So I usually don't attempt searches on things subject to so much interpretation, like the definition of "meek."

But from the dictionary definitions

1828 Webster's:

MEEK, a. [L. mucus; Eng. mucilage; Heb. to melt.]

1. Mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; yielding; given to forbearance under injuries.

Now the man Moses was very meek, above all men. Num.12.

2. Appropriately,(sic?) humble, in an evangelical sense; submissive to the divine will; not proud, self-sufficient or refractory; not peevish and apt to complain of divine dispensations. Christ says, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls." Matt.11.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matt.5.

1913 Webster's (same page):

[Compar. Meeker (-1913 webster dictionaryr); superl. Meekest.] [OE. mek, meoc; akin to Icel. mj(?)kr mild, soft, Sw. mjuk, Dan. myg, D. muik, Goth. mukam[u

1. Mild of temper; not easily provoked or orritated (sic?); patient under injuries; not vain, or haughty, or resentful; forbearing; submissive.

Now the man Moses was very meek. Num. xii. 3.

2. Evincing mildness of temper, or patience; characterized by mildness or patience; as, a meek answer; a meek face.
"Her meek prayer." Chaucer.

Syn. -- Gentle; mild; soft; yielding; pacific; unassuming; humble. See Gentle.

Modern Miriam-Webster Dictionary:

Definition of MEEK
1: enduring injury with patience and without resentment : mild
2: deficient in spirit and courage : submissive
3: not violent or strong : moderate

So it does look like there has been a shift in the worldly definition of "meek."

That said, I'm not sure it's quite right to provide two different definitions in 1828, one for Moses and one for Christ. Granted, the Old Testament was Hebrew and the New Testament was originally Greek, right? But does that really mean that "meek" had two significantly different meanings Biblically? I don't know about that.

Either way, I think a man could possibly accept 1828 definition 2 in a hero (though "not...self-sufficient" is pushing it). Definition 1, maybe not; "soft" and "yielding" are not really something one expects a hero to be.

1913 would be less popular with heroes, I think ("submissive," "mildness," "soft").

I think the modern definition, with the possible exception of definition 1, is just disastrous for male heroes. Definition 1 actually more or less matches how some Bible sites I saw online defined "meek." Other definitions included "submission to God's will." That sort of submission is super-hard, granted (at least, I struggle with it). But to me it sounds much easier than both submitting to God's direct commands and ALSO being humble and gentle to other people. One page mentioned that meekness to people will come easily if you're completely submissive to God. Could be; I've just never gotten there.

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