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Each of the following verses use this Greek word (English translation of it is bolded)--but a glance at them quickly shows that the word has virtually opposite meanings, with either shame or honor, depending on the text and/or context.

Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. (Mark 12:6, KJV)

Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: (Luke 18:2, KJV)

And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; (Luke 18:4, KJV)

Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. (Luke 20:13, KJV)

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. (1 Corinthians 4:14, KJV)

And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. (2 Thessalonians 3:14, KJV)

Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. (Titus 2:8, KJV)

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (Hebrews 12:9, KJV)

How, then, can one actually discern which of the meanings is more accurate when translating this word to English? For example, why couldn't Hebrews 12:9 be speaking of shame, or why couldn't Titus 2:8 be referring to reverence? What about Luke 20:13--was Jesus saying the men should be ashamed when they saw the son?

How can one know which meaning is right when the word seems to have opposite meanings?

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  • There is one more reference in Matt 21:36 - they will respect my son.
    – Dottard
    Nov 28 '21 at 9:50
  • "And then there’s shame, which has a double face: one, to be sure, is not an evil thing to possess; but there’s the other shame, whose weight crushes whole households. And if the good and the bad shame were easy to distinguish, the word describing them would not be the same." -- Phaedra in Euripides' Hippolytus
    – fumanchu
    Nov 28 '21 at 18:42
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was Jesus saying the men should be ashamed when they saw the son?

You seem to have answered your own question. :-) Shaming someone, and being ashamed of someone, are indeed opposites of one another, insofar killing (someone), and being killed (by someone), are as well; one is active, while the other is passive; this can be easily verified by visiting this wonderful site; notice that all Greek terms are hyperlinked; clicking on ἐντραπήσονται confirms that we are indeed dealing with the passive, rather than active voice.

How can one know which meaning is right when the word seems to have opposite meanings?

Because, in Greek, as in English (along with most other Indo-European languages), active and passive voices are expressed differently, thus eliminating any ground for confusion.

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  • This is little help as all instances of ἐντρέπω (except 1 Cor 4:14) are in the passive voice.
    – Dottard
    Nov 28 '21 at 10:11
  • 1
    @Dottard: Yes, and, apparently, the English translator chose to render many of them by the active form of to revere/regard, rather than through the passive form of to shame, which is to be ashamed, though the latter is also the case in at least two instances.
    – Lucian
    Nov 28 '21 at 11:26
  • This doesn't seem to answer the question. The question is asking about the meanings "to shame" versus "to revere," but your answer instead talks about the meanings "to shame" versus "to be ashamed." So your answer is talking about something entirely different from what the question is asking about (unless you're saying that there's some kind of equivalence between "to revere" and "to be ashamed"?) Nov 28 '21 at 15:24
  • @TannerSwett: To be ashamed of something, and to revere it or regard it, are more or less synonymous constructions; imagine, for instance, asking someone who's done something bad: Do you have no shame (of authority figures, parents, God, the law, etc.) ?, i.e., are you disregarding their authority ?
    – Lucian
    Nov 28 '21 at 15:54
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This is tricky and subtle - all the instances of ἐντρέπω (entrepó) are in the middle or passive voice with the exception of 1 Cor 4:14. Here is the data from BDAG:

  1. to cause to turn (in shame), to shame eg, 1 Cor 4:14, 2 Thess 3:14, Titus 2:8
  2. to show deference to a person in reference of special staus, turn toward something/someone, have regard for, respect, eg, Matt 21;37, Mark 12:6, Luke 20:13, 18:2, 4, Heb 12:9.

The basic meaning here is the preposition "en" + "τροπή" = to turn toward, or a change, mutation. Thus, it can mean to turn toward and respect or to turn away from in shame. The context sets the meaning and distinction.

Note that "respect" only occurs in the Gospels and Hebrews,while Paul uses only the "shame" meaning.

Lastly, the concept of "honor" (τιμάω = value at a price, to reverence) is captured by a very different word in Greek that is distinct from ἐντρέπω (entrepó) = to turn.

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For the meaning of ἐντρέπω, it is important to look at the lexical meaning of the active, middle, and passive voices. Otherwise, the different meanings are confusing, as shown in with the charts of how it is used.

ἐντρέπω 2 aor. pass. ἐνετράπην; 2 fut. pass. ἐντραπήσομαι (Hom.+; pap., LXX, Joseph.). 
1. act.—a. make someone (τινά) ashamed ... 
2. mostly pass.—a. be put to shame, be ashamed ...
b. w. mid. sense turn toward someth. or someone, have regard for, respect τινά 

Arndt, W., Gingrich, F. W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (1979). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature : a translation and adaption of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schrift en des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur (p. 269). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Figure 1. Senses of ἐντρέπω in the New Testament (generated with Logos Bible Software) enter image description here

Figure 2. How the Septuagint (LXX) translated ἐντρέπω enter image description here

P.S. If you want to be confused more, look at the meaning of the word originating from it now in English.


en•tro•py  \ˈen-trə-pē\  noun
plural en•tro•pies
[International Scientific Vocabulary 2en- + Greek tropē change, literally, turn, 
from trepein to turn]
(1875)
 1 : a measure of the unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system that 
is also usually considered to be a measure of the system’s disorder and that 
is a property of the system’s state and is related to it in such a manner that 
a reversible change in heat in the system produces a change in the measure 
which varies directly with the heat change and inversely with the absolute 
temperature at which the change takes place; broadly : the degree of disorder
 or uncertainty in a system
  2 a : the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate 
state of inert uniformity
  b : a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder
 3 : CHAOS, DISORGANIZATION, RANDOMNESS

Merriam-Webster, I. (1996). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary (10th ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.

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