Re: Word For Evil

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Aug 24 1999 - 16:08:40 EDT

At 12:56 AM -0700 8/24/99, Dave Burris wrote:
>Kakos= from what I see is an evil one can be involved in or better yet
>"can become"; ie 1 Thess 5:15
>Poneros= from what I understand is the desire intent to cause, or commit
>evil. or " a desire to commit evil that is already in you".
>Thus, from my studies, I concluded, "Kakos" is an evil one can become,
>where as "Poneros" is an evil one already is. 1 Thess 5:22
>Please help me expand on this since I do teach Bible on "Local=access
>cable here in Long Beach Ca.
>I concluded with the word "Poneros="an evil that is already in you,
>because "Apecho"= to hold off, keep away, has implied in 1Thess 5:22 to
>keep away or stop practicing an evil, one is already committing.
>Which leads me to Dokimazo =Prove, test, examine, Katecho= to hold on
>and of course "eidos"= form, kind, class, "species" (or variety)
>[appearance-kjv= which in Latin meant "species" from the Vulgate
>My study has been around 1 Thess 5:21-22


PONHROS/-A/-ON is one of those words in Koine, particularly in the GNT,
that has supplanted earlier uses of KAKOS/-H/-ON for moral evil. It's a
little bit ironic that it has done so,but on the other hand, KAKOS
originally meant "no good" in the sense of "inefficacious" (of a thing) or
"incompetent" (of a person) as opposed to AGAQOS, "efficacious" or
"competent." Only gradually did the adjective KAKOS and its cognate noun
KAKIA come to take on moral significance and that was never its primary

PONHROS, on the other hand, was a pejorative term for a member of the
working (i.e. non-leisure) class--one engaged in PONOS, labor, and built
into it is the classical Greek aristocratic bias against physical labor
(other than athletic, that is!): the working man is of suspect morals; in
the classical period there's an overtone of "scoundrel" or "malefactor."
And that's the meaning that comes to the fore in Hellenistic Greek, where
PONHROS really does mean fundamentally "malicious," "intending evil."

Even in the Hellenistic period, however, the two words can overlap, though
PONHROS more commonly means "evil" or "wicked" while KAKOS more commonly
means "worthless" or "deleterious." Louw & Nida afford a considerable array
of information on usage of the two words as well as of the substantive hO
PONHROS for Satan--but there's too much to reproduce here.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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