The Agora
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Abide, wait, tarry (Greek)

"Meno" is a word of very frequent occurrence. Its simple meaning is "abide" in the sense of "dwell, or stay, in a house". It is commonly used in this sense in the gospels. "Zaccheus, today I must abide at thine house" (Luk 19:5). "The servant abideth not in the house for ever" (Joh 8:35). And so on -- lots of them.

From here the meaning moves on to the idea of "remaining, or continuing an existing condition". For example, "Labour for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life" (Joh 6:27). "Let her remain unmarried" (1Co 7:11). "Let brotherly love continue" (Heb 13:1).

From these simple ideas there springs the deep spiritual meaning which makes "abide" one of the key words in John's gospel and epistles: "close spiritual fellowship", the result of being in the same "house" with the Father and the Son and the brethren. It is a fellowship which has an abiding, lasting quality -- it goes on and on, world without end, Amen.

"Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God... God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1Jo 4:15,16). "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me" (Joh 15:4).

"Meno" has got itself augmented with nearly every preposition in the language; in some cases the new meanings are particularly interesting.

Hupomeno means "to continue in hardship or suffering". Mostly, the AV very beautifully translates "endure". This is usually just right. "He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved" (Mat 24:13). "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons" (Heb 12:7). The translation, twice in 1Pe 2:20, "take it patiently", hardly conveys the right idea.

When Jews from Thessalonica stirred up opposition in Berea also, the brethren, anxious for Paul's safety, sent him on to Athens, "but Silas and Timotheus abode (hupomeno) there still", putting up with the trouble, enduring the persecution, but the narrative does not indicate by one word what they had to put up with.

Somewhat surprisingly, the same word comes in the story of the boy Jesus at Jerusalem for his first Passover: "he tarried behind in Jerusalem" (Luk 2:43). Here the idea probably is: "he hung on", unwilling to leave the holy city, with its wonderful associations and spiritual opportunities.

Another instance calls for slight correction. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (2Ti 2:12). But it is not suffering which guarantees reward, but the right enduring of suffering. The noun which goes with hupomeno -- hupomone -- is all but once translated "patience". But in modern English this word presents a picture of placid waiting and tranquil inactivity, whereas hupomone really suggests the notion of tenacious hanging on and grim clenched-teeth endurance. Every occurrence of the word needs re-scrutinizing from this point of view.

The modern idea of patience is more in evidence in anameno, the one occurrence of which speaks of "waiting for his Son from heaven" (1Th 1:10). But even here there is something of endurance, as the two occurrences in LXX show. "Thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day" (Psa 25:5). "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord" (Psa 27:14).

Epimeno means, quite literally, "stay upon", and accordingly in the AV appears as "continue, abide" and especially "tarry". All the 18 occurrences are straightforward except perhaps Phi 1:23,24: "I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart (ie go away into retirement for the study of Scripture and the experience of "revelations from the Lord") and (so) to be with Christ: which is far better. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh (ie continue a personal active presence in the ecclesias) is more needful for you." So Paul, the aged, who would dearly have loved to "retire" (as everyone does nowadays as a matter of course), hung on, giving his converts assurance of his continuing care: "I know that I shall abide (meno) and continue (parameno -- prolong my stay) with you all" (v 25).

There is a terribly important lesson to be learned from the next word in this family: emmeno. AV translates it rather tamely "continue", but "stay in" gives the idea more exactly. "They continued not in my covenant" (Heb 8:9). Esp Acts 14:22: "exhorting them (the new disciples) to continue in the faith", ie to stay on regardless of all discouragements. This is also the idea in most of the LXX passages, where it is used on confirming a vow (Jer 44:25) or standing firm in an undertaking (Dan 12:12; Deu 27:26).

It is not easy to see why Jesus, bidding his apostles "wait for the promise of the Father (the Holy Spirit)" in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), should use another meno compound: perimeno, "wait around", when meno itself or one of the others already discussed would appear to be as good. The solitary OT occurrence of perimeno in Jacob's prophecies to his sons (Gen 49:18) doesn't help much: "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord". The apostles' obedience to their Lord's command is neatly indicated by mention of how they "stayed put" (katameno) in the house of the upper room (Acts 1:13).

Parameno seems to carry the idea of prolonging a stay or visit -- as in Phi 1:25, already cited. This is certainly the idea in 1Co 16:6, where Paul considers the possibility of spending the approaching winter in Corinth.

There is a nice emphasis about James' use of parameno in his figure of the mirror: "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and so continueth (ie instead of a casual glance, a protracted gaze) -- this man shall be blessed in his doing" (Jam 1:25).

In prosmeno the prefix very neatly implies abiding for the sake of continuing face to face with someone. Jesus insisted that the multitude must be fed because they had "stuck to him" into the third day (Mat 15:32). When Barnabas encountered the first Gentile converts in Antioch, he exhorted them to "stick to the Lord" (Acts 11:23) -- this, whatever else.

In 1Ti 5:5 Paul picks out one of the essential characteristics of a true widow in Christ as one who "continueth in supplications and prayers" -- sticking to her person-to-person contact with the Lord.

But in 1Ti 1:3 Paul had a different kind of person-to-person contact in mind. "I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus -- that thou mightest charge certain not to teach a different doctrine." And timid Timothy needed the exhortation, for prolonged encounters of this kind were not at all what he relished.

Diameno sometimes emphasizes continuance without end: "They (the heavens and the earth) shall perish, but Thou remainest" (Heb 1:11). And similarly in several of the psalms: "His name shall continue as long as the sun" (Psa 72:17). "The fear of the Lord endureth for ever" (Psa 19:9). Those who mock the promise of Christ's return confidently assert that "all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2Pe 3:4). Such people need reminding that "the foolish shall not stand in thy sight" (Psa 5:5).

In a more limited sense, diameno describes an experience more long-lasting than might have been expected. "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations," Jesus said to the eleven (Luk 22:28). And the deaf and dumb Zacharias beckoning and "remaining (continuing) speechless" provides a vivid picture of the old man's desperate and persistent attempts to communicate.

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