Harry Whittaker
Word Studies


Understanding, Mind

Nous, although mostly translated mind, is, more precisely, understanding. The passages, twenty-four of them, are worth individual consideration.

There is also, once, nounechos (literally: having nous), which is used very effectively of the lawyer who “answered discreetly” (Mar 12:34) concerning the Great Commandment.

The verb noeo is straightforward enough: to understand. In Mar 8:17 it is reinforced: “Perceive ye not yet, neither understand?” (The last word there is suniemi — see below.)

The more emphatic dianoia usually gets the same translation “mind”. But there is one noteworthy phrase in Mary’s hymn of praise: “He (the Lord) hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Luk 1:51). This is the more impressive when the allusion to Gen 6:5 is recognized: “And God saw...that the imagination (LXX: dianoia) of man’s heart was only evil continually.”

The associated noun noema seems to be used of human thoughts and designs only in a derogatory sense: “We are not ignorant of his (the Satan’s) devices” (2Co 2:11). “Their minds were blinded” (3:14). “So your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (11:3). So also 4:4; 10:5; Phi 4:7.

Another verb of even greater force is suniemi, with its emphasis on mental grasp of ideas and principles; as in “understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:17); “then opened he their understanding (nous) that they might understand (suniemi) the scriptures” (Luk 24:45).

The number of times that this verb is used in the NT (twenty-six, along with the noun sunesis, seven, and its adjective sunetos, four) is a standing rebuke of the sloppiness of much modern religion, and is a firm justification of the Christadelphian tradition that, to the best of his ability, a man should bring his mind into constant activity in his religion.

Yet at the same time there is implicit warning against a mere academic attitude: “I (the Lord) will bring to nought the understanding (sunesis) of the prudent (sunetos)” (1Co 1:19). “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent (sunetos)” (Luk 10:21).


“As a fig tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind” (Rev 6:13).

Olunthos occurs here and in Song of Sol. 2:13 only. That excellent lexicographer Edward Robinson says these figs “are such as grow under the leaves, and do not ripen at the proper season, but hang on the trees during the winter”. But this can hardly be the meaning in these verses, for “the fig tree putteth forth her green (olunthos) figs” comes in a description of springtime. And it was at Passover when Jesus cursed the fruitless fig tree because it had not even those green figs, and therefore no promise at all of fruit later in the season (Mat 21:19).

So Rev 6:13 ought to be read with regard to green figs in the spring. It is noteworthy that in AD 70 the siege of Jerusalem began at Passover, and also that the Second Coming of the Lord will probably be at Passover (see “Passover”, HAW, ch. 14). Both interpretations of the Sixth Seal are possible, but reference to the time of Constantine is a nonsense.

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