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Arete, Agon Vs. Krino, Krisis: Judging Others Greek philosophy and Mathew 7, James 2, Romans 14

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In the New Testament Epsitles, The Gospel of Mathew Chapter 7, The Letter of James Chapter 2, and The Letter of Paul to the Romans Chapter 14 and other places in the new testament, much is said about "judging others," specifically about God being the final authority and taking judgement upon ourselves a usurpation of that authority. This article talks a bit about some of the Greek words underlying these texts, distinguishing "judgement from authority" and "right perception". This article was published in part on a closed Yahoo Bible study list.

Greek translations here come from a King James Version Hebrew-Greek Keyed Study Bible using Strongs Hebrew, Greek, and Chaldee Concordance. There exist newer, better translations, but I do not have access to keyed versions of them.

Mathew 7:1-3 says:

Do not judge that ye be not judged.For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

In James 2 and Romans 14, this lesson is echoed and expounded on. Romans 14:4 says:

Who art thou that judges another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Generally, when speaking of "do not judge," the Bible use the Greek words Krinos, Krisis, and Krima. "Krinos" means "judgement from authority" and is intimately connected with the dispensation of justice. Judgment from authority yields a "Krisis" as in John, 4:17 "Judgement". Krisis is the source of the modern word "crisis" meaning an irrevocable change or sundering. Krinos is final and irrevocable. "Krima" is where we get "crime" and is again connected with judgement from authority: when a crime is authoritatively identified, justice and irrevocable change must follow.

When speaking of Krinos, the Bible makes sure that we know God is the final and only arbiter. In the quote from Romans 14:4, we are admonished from judging another man's servant. We are all servants of God and only God may judge us from true authority.

There are several words in Greek which are often translated as "judgement". Besides "krinos", there is also "agon", a word closely associated with "arete".

Arete, simply put, means excellence in all things. It is what the Greeks thought should be striven for always and in every moment, in art, sport, morality, learning, fighting, etc. In later Latin: "Mens ano en corporus ano" : " a sound mind in a sound body". We get "art" from this word, but it is much more to the Greeks.

Agon is the root of "agonize". It means a never-ending struggle to perceive clearly and judge those things around us. This type of judgement is tempered by Arete. Who are we to judge? We are given eyes and minds and therefore judge; it is human nature. Arete requires that we *judge well*, with mercy and pathos, but *judge accurately*, calling manure "manure" (so to speak). Krisis is the edge of a knife, a conclusion; agon is a process which never ends.

We cannot judge from authority because we are not Authority. ("one law ... one law giver"). On the other hand, in order to balance the needs of the Law, we need Agon, "good judgement" or, "discernment" constantly. We have a responsibility as creations of God to Arete, excellence in all things. Honor the Giver by using the gift. The Greeks believed that and I think that Christ did too.

In the end, Christ admonishes us to not be "critical" of others, from the Greek "kritis": "judge", which is also derived from krino. But only in seeing clearly, removing the plank from our own eyes, can we discern relationships, identify Good and Evil, and find our own place in the world. Evaluate and re-evaluate others constantly in order to understand yourself, but always remember that only God may judge from Authority.
Edited by evought (see edit history)

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