a word study of “chaste” and “chasten”

By | 8 August 2012

I find it fascinating that the English words “chaste” and “chasten” have the same Latin roots, and that the verbal form has as its goal the noun form.

“The wife’s conduct is also characterized as chaste (hagnen), ‘pure’ or ‘holy.’ The concept is not to be limited to sexual chastity; it denotes that purity in character and conduct that should characterize all of the Christian life (Phil. 4:8; 1 Tim. 5:22; Titus 2;5; James 3;17; 1 John 3:3).” Clowney, p. 185. (ref)

“Chaste” (1Pe 3:2) can be translated “purity” (NIV). It is used in the New Testament to refer to abstaining from sin (1Ti 5:22). John uses this word when he tells us to purify ourselves just as Jesus is pure (1Jn 3:3). This means that a wife who wants to win her husband to Christ must live in obedience to God. She will be morally pure. Her husband won’t distrust her because she’s a flirt with other men. She won’t use deception or dishonesty to try to get her own way. She will learn to handle anger in a biblical way. Her hope will be in God (1Pe 3:5) so that she will have a sweet spirit, even toward a difficult husband. He will see Christlikeness in her. (ref)

Psalm 94:12:

Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, And whom You teach out of Your law;

Isaiah 53:5 (about Messiah):

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

Jeremiah 2:30:

In vain I have struck your sons; They accepted no chastening. Your sword has devoured your prophets Like a destroying lion.

While not using the word “chasten”, Hebrews 12:6 (ref Proverbs 3:12; cf Psalm 119:75 & Revelation 3:19) talks about the same topic:

For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.

This is the model shown for parents to use in Proverbs 22:15:

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

The properly-chastened (and, therefore, chaste) child of God can say the following (emphasis added):

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

While the Greek words translated “chasten” (paideuo|paideia) is typically applied to children, as applied to adults, it has to do with the moral training and improvement of character and soul. It can connote discipline of both mind and body*.

This raises an interesting question, in my mind: if the goal of chastening is to produce chasteness, then how is it to be approached in the context of the home and family? There is a subset of the Christian community that terms themselves in the camp of “domestic discipline“. Without addressing the wide array of thoughts presented in those search results^, I want to ask what are we, as Christian men, doing to “discipline” our families?

Discipline has a variety of applications, from habitual to punitive, and does not necessarily demand that it be corporal in nature (though I can not eliminate that as a possibility).

Certainly, the husband and father is responsible for the well-being of his family. Else how could Paul direct the Ephesians to “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” or to “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her .. love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself” & “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”

Given that children are to learn from their fathers and mothers “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction And do not forsake your mother’s teaching”, and that husbands are to be models of Christ to the wives (modeling the church), there certainly is a wide variety of chastening (discipline) that must go on in the family.

1 Peter 3:2 (chaste)
ASV beholding your chaste behavior coupled with fear
ESV when they see your respectful and pure conduct
KJV While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear
NASB as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior
NIV when they see the purity and reverence of your lives
Titus 2:5 (chaste)
ASV to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed
ESV to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled
KJV to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed
NASB to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored
NIV to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God
M-W chaste (adj), chastely (adv), chasteness (n) M-W chasten (v), chastener (n)
1) innocent of unlawful sexual intercourse
2) celibate
3) pure in thought and act : modest
4) severely simple in design or execution
1)to correct by punishment or suffering : discipline; also : purify
2a) to prune (as a work or style of art) of excess, pretense, or falsity : refine
2b) to cause to be more humble or restrained : subdue
Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin castus; pure
First Known Use: 13th century
alteration of obsolete English chaste to chasten, from Middle English, from Anglo-French chastier, from Latin castigare, from castus + –igare (from agere to drive)
see also castigate
First Known Use: 13th century
Vine’s chaste Vine’s chasten
{1,,53,hagnos}
signifies (a) “pure from every fault, immaculate,” 2 Cor. 7:11 (AV, “clear”); Phil. 4:8; 1 Tim. 5:22; Jas. 3:17; 1 John 3:3 (in all which the RV rendering is “pure”), and 1 Pet. 3:2, “chaste;” (b) “pure from carnality, modest,” 2 Cor. 11:2, RV, “pure;” Titus 2:5, “chaste.” See CLEAR, HOLY, PURE.
Note: Cp. hagios, “holy, as being free from admixture of evil;” hosios, “holy, as being free from defilement;” eilikrines, “pure, as being tested,” lit., “judged by the sunlight;” katharos, “pure, as being cleansed.”
{A-1,Verb,3811,paideuo}
primarily denotes “to train children,” suggesting the broad idea of education (pais, “a child”), Acts 7:22; 22:3; see also Titus 2:12, “instructing” (RV), here of a training gracious and firm; grace, which brings salvation, employs means to give us full possession of it; hence, “to chastise,” this being part of the training, whether (a) by correcting with words, reproving, and admonishing, 1 Tim. 1:20 (RV, “be taught”); 2 Tim. 2:25, or (b) by “chastening” by the infliction of evils and calamities, 1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 12:6,7,10; Rev. 3:19. The verb also has the meaning “to chastise with blows, to scourge,” said of the command of a judge, Luke 23:16,22. See CORRECTION, B, INSTRUCT, LEARN, TEACH, and cp. CHILD (Nos. 4 to 6).{B-1,Noun,3809,paideia}
denotes “the training of a child, including instruction;” hence, “discipline, correction,” “chastening,” Eph. 6:4, RV (AV, “nurture”), suggesting the Christian discipline that regulates character; so in Heb. 12:5,7,8 (in ver. 8, AV, “chastisement,” the RV corrects to “chastening”); in 2 Tim. 3:16, “instruction.” See INSTRUCTION, NURTURE.

*I use a dichotomous view here, though trichotomous – and even quadrichotomous – views are plausible and defensible
^christiandd.com, christiandomesticdiscipline.com, yahoo group, gotquestions, change.org, salon