Why is σεμνός (semnos, Strong's number G4586) translated as "honest" (KJV) or "honorable" (WEB) in Philippians 4:8? In the three other verses where σεμνός is used (1 Timothy 3:8, 11, and Titus 2:2), it is translated "grave" (all three, KJV) or "reverent" (WEB, 1 Timothy 3:8 and 11) or "sensible" (WEB, Titus 2:2). In the other verses where the word "honest" is used in the KJV, καλός (kalos, Strong's number 2570) is the Greek word. Shouldn't "whatsoever things are honest" be "whatsoever things are grave", "...reverent", or "...sensible"? Wouldn't Paul have written kalos, not semnos, if he meant "honest"?

  • maybe honest had a different sense in the old english.
    – Michael16
    May 16 at 13:23
  • @Michael16 yes, you're right! According to Wiktionary: "(obsolete) Decent; honourable; suitable; becoming"
    – Someone
    May 16 at 21:05
  • @Michael16 it does sort of make sense; when referring to a person; someone who is not honest is probably not honorable by most definitions.
    – Someone
    May 16 at 23:47

1 Answer 1


The Greek word σεμνός (semnos) is given the following meaning in BDAG:

pertaining to evoking special respect

(a) of living entities ... worthy of respect/honor, noble, dignified, serious, eg, 1 Tim 3:8, 11, Titus 2:2

(b) of characteristics, states of being, and things honorable, worthy, venerable, holy, above reproach, eg, Phil 4:8

It is precisely in-keeping with this meaning that most modern versions translate the adjective in Phil 4:8 such as:

  • NIV, NKJV: noble
  • NLT, ESV, BSB, NASB, CSB, HCSB, ISV, NAB, NRSV: honorable
  • BLB: venerable
  • LSV: revered
  • NET: worthy of respect

Thus, the KJV appears to be at odds with the basic meaning of the word with its translation, "honest".

  • Thank you! That also makes more sense considering that "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest" sounds redundant.
    – Someone
    May 16 at 14:36
  • 1
    @Someone - glad to be of service.
    – Dottard
    May 16 at 20:34

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