Conversation

CONVERSATION. A word often used in KJV to translate various terms signifying conduct or manner of life, especially with respect to morals. The Greek words rendered “conversation” in Phil.1.27 and Phil.3.20 refer to “civil life” or “citizenship” (so niv). Paul means that we should live like citizens of heaven.


CONVERSATION. There are three different Gr. nouns which are tr. “conversation” in the KJV—and not one of them means conversation in the modern sense of the term. The Eng. word occurs once in the RSV NT (Luke 24:17), where it accords with today’s usage.

The word most frequently rendered “conversation” (in KJV) is ἀναστροφή, G419. It literally means “a turning up and down” or “a turning again.” In late Gr. writers, as in the NT, it is used in the sense of “way of life, conduct, behavior.” This word is found thirteen times in the NT—most frequently in 1 Peter (six times) and 2 Peter (twice)—and is always tr. “conversation.” It should be rendered “conduct.”

The other two nouns occur only once each. The first, πολίτευμα, G4487, means “citizenship” or “commonwealth” and is found only in Philippians 3:20. The thought is well expressed by Phillips: “We are citizens of heaven” (cf. NEB).

The third noun is τρόπος, G5573. Only in Hebrews 13:5 (KJV) is it tr. “conversation.” Its basic meaning is “manner” or “way.” When used with persons it means “manner of life” or “conduct.” The earliest use of “conversation” for talking cited in OED is dated 1580.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

This word is another illustration of the changes which time makes in a living language. The modern sense of the term is mutual talk, colloquy, but in the King James Version it never means that, but always behavior, conduct. This broader meaning, at a time not much later than the date of the King James Version, began to yield to the special, limited one of today, perhaps, as has been suggested, because speech forms so large a part of conduct. The New Testament words for "converse" in the modern sense are homileo (Lu 24:14,15; Ac 20:11) and sunomileo (Ac 10:27).

(1) In the Old Testament the word used to indicate conduct is derekh, "way" the course one travels (the King James Version Ps 37:14; margin 50:23). It is the common Hebrew idea of conduct, possibly due, as Hatch thinks, to the fact that in Syria intercourse between village and village was so much on foot, with difficulty on stony tracks over the hills, and this is reflected in the metaphor.


The translations in the Revisions put a wholesome emphasis upon conduct, and eliminate the danger of much misunderstanding. See further Hatch, Essays in Biblical Greek.