I am looking for the correct Greek word and definition for the word used in 1 Peter 3:4 about the woman having a gentle and quiet spirit.

[L]et your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (ESV)

I heard the closer definition was 'tranquil' rather than quiet. Is this correct?


3 Answers 3


According to the BDAG: 1.) State of quietness without disturbance, quietness, rest. 2.) state of saying nothing or very little, silence.

Literally, the passage translates as "spirit of quietness." It is best to think of language in terms of concepts, especially when looking at Biblical translation. The word tranquil could work, but only if it matches the above definition. The genetive here is probably a Descriptive Gentive (Basics of New Testament Syntax, pg45). This means, we could best translate this phrase as "spirit characterized by quietness."


The Greek word, as others have pointed out, is ἡσύχιος (hēsychios). It is the quality of ἡσυχία (hēsychia), to which dictionaries, lexicons, and other such resources assign a meaning of "silence" or "quietness".

Although hēsychia appears only four times in the New Testament (and hēsychios two), the word took on tremendous significance later in the Christian east, before and during what has come to be known as the "Hesychast Controversy".

Part of the Hesychast Controversy lay in the disagreement between Barlaam of Calabria and Gregory Palamas. Both were Orthodox Christians who debated over the importance of hēsychia (Gregory Palamas' position) versus a life that favored education and reason over contemplation (Barlaam's position). The debate is summarized:

[Gregory] was initially asked by his fellow monks on Mount Athos to defend them from the charges of Barlaam ... [Barlaam] believed the monks on Mount Athos were wasting their time in contemplative prayer when they should instead be studying to gain intellectual knowledge.

When Gregory criticized Barlaam's rationalism, Barlaam replied with a vicious attack on the hesychastic life of the Athonite monks. Gregory's rebuttal was the Triads in defense of the Holy Hesychasts (c. 1338) ...

A synod held in Constantinople in 1341 also supported St. Gregory's views, condemning Barlaam. Later, in 1344, [although] the opponents of hesychasm secured a condemnation for heresy and excommunication for Gregory, [his] theology was reaffirmed at two further synods held in Constantinople in 1347 and 1351.

As a result of the dispute, Barlaam left Constantinople and was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1342, in Avignon.

In a modern English translation of The Philokalia, a compilation of Greek writings that includes works of Gregory Palamas, the editors explain the meaning of hēsychia in the Philokalia's context:

The texts of the Philokalia are, then, guides to the practice fo the contemplative life ... 'a mystical school of inward prayer' where those who study may cultivate the divine seed implanted in their hearts at baptism and so grow in spirit that they become 'sons of God' (John 1:12), attaining through such deification 'the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13). The emphasis is therefore on inner work, on the cleansing of 'the inside of the cup and plate, so that their outside also be clean' (Matthew 23:46) ... Atrophy and defeat follow only when outer work is practiced as an end in itself, and the one thing needful - the inner practice of guiding the intellect and of pure prayer - is neglected ...

An advanced state which may be acquired through the pursuit of this path is described as hesychia, a word which not only bears the sense of traquillity and silence (hence our translation: stillness) but also is linked through its Greek root with the idea of being seated, fixed, and so of being concentrated. It is therefore fitting that from this word should come the term hesychasm, frequently applied to the whole complex of theory and practice which constitutes the path itself.


The word is: ἡσύχιος (hesychios). Taken from Strong’s Concordance, G2272.

The definitions given are: properly, keeping one's seat (sedentary), i.e. (by implication) still (undisturbed); peaceable.

The same word is used in 1 Timothy 2:2.

It is translated as “tranquil” in the New English Translation.

It is translated as “quiet” in these versions: American Standard Version, Darby Translation, English Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Hebrew Names Version, King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New King James Version, New Living Translation, Revised Standard Version, Webster’s Bible, and Young’s Literal Translation. The Textus Receptus (Greek) and Latin Vulgate (Latin) also use “hesychios.”

Because of the implications and controversial aspects in this verse, the challenge is in how to (or whether or not to) apply our interpretations of it to our lives today -2,000 years after it was written.

You've opened up a hefty can of worms with this question. I haven't even skimmed the surface. Thank you for bringing it to light. :o)

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    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! ☺ Be sure to visit the tour to learn more about this site. Claiming the meaning of a specific word in a given context on the basis of the Strong's Concordance is not a reliable claim. Please see this post which explains how to effectively (and properly) use Strong's Concordance. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 4:45
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    hi Paul, How would you define this word? Please give an answer so it's clear. It seems reasonable to me to state one source and give that source's info, especially when it's taken from their "definitions." Thayer's Lexicon said "quiet, tranquil." Thanks for the link.
    – Daisy
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 5:50
  • From LSJ, see this or this. From Thayer, see this. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 14:15
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    One says, "still, quiet, at rest, a quiet disposition." The other says, "tranquil, quiet." I used tranquil. Defining "quiet" with "quiet" is sloppy. Your point about the lexicon is right but I didn't use it because it says "tranquil," which I used. All of these words are synonyms.
    – Daisy
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 21:34

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