Grief, Grieve

GRIEF, GRIEVE (חָלָה֒, H2703, to be pained, concerned; חֳלִי, H2716, anxiety; עָצַב֮, H6772, to be afflicted inwardly; λυπέω, G3382, grief). The KJV and the RSV also tr. eight more words as grief. Beyond this agreement, the KJV trs. twenty-seven additional Heb. words and seven other Gr. words as grief that the RSV often treats differently. In all, the KJV has 122 “grief verses” whereas the RSV has but 66. The suggested difficulty in determining what grief means and whether or not a situation entails grief is further indicated in the fact that the two VSS overlap in only twenty-two places.


Changes in the Eng. language, a wider selection of attitudinal categories resulting from rationalistic and dualistic thought, and improved knowledge of the ancient languages account for the sharp variations in the two VSS. But this leaves unsettled a prior question concerning the meaning of grief for the Heb. mind or the NT writer. Undoubtedly, the Biblical writers had experiences similar to those indicated in the RSV and accordingly used a wide variety of words. The prevailing Heb. frame of reference however, would not have led them to use language primarily as a vehicle for categorizing and labeling mental dispositions. Unoriented to 18th and 19th cent. perspectives, as the RSV, the outlook of the KJV tends to reflect more accurately the Heb. notion of grief.

An article in TDNT enhances the discussion. It suggests that the Biblical writers considered the emotions and attitudes only indirectly, and naturally focused attention on the external circumstances in human experience. The cause of the grief was the true grief. Envisaging a world fallen in all detail and under the judgment of God (Gen 3:16f), their perspective went beyond analysis of personal feeling. Grief was related to the groaning in travail of the whole creation as Paul expressed it (Rom 8:22), which reflects a prevailing OT sentiment. Grief, however, was not simply punishment or a final state for man; by including the idea of suffering, it was related to the Messiah (Isa 53:4) who was to be the hope of redemption from the guilt indicated by the universal fact of grief (cf. Isa 35:10; 1 Pet 1:3-7).


Bibliography Trench (1880), 237-239; W. L. Walker, “Grief,” ISBE (1929), 1305, 1306; R. Bultmann, “λυπή, λυπέω,” TDNT, IV (1942), 313-324; R. Bridges, L. A. Weigle, The Bible Word Book (1960), 157, 158.