Joy – Count it all joy (James 1:2)

Count it all joy, my brothers” (James 1:2)

πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε

The New Testament word for joy is chará. Appearing 57 times in the Bible, this word is interesting, because it is derived from the same root as the word for grace, cháris. The word from which the two are derived, is chaírō, I rejoice, used 74 times in the New Testament.

It is immediately apparent that this word chaírō is cognate with the word cheír, hand. Chaírō is used as a greeting in the forms chaíre, chaírete, and it is with the hand (cheír) that we greet.

This word chará was also used in Classical Greek with the same meaning; it is an ancient word. Its basic meaning is ‘joy’, and it has overtones of ‘grace’. It should easily be seen how these three meanings, of joy, grace and rejoicing, are related to each other, but it is interesting to note that the word for grace, cháris, a complex theological concept designating our freedom in Christ, is related to the word for rejoicing, chará.

Unusually, we find the words chaírō and chará in what we call a cognate construction, so it is said, “he rejoices with joy” in John 3:29 and “the joy with which we rejoice” in 1 Thess. 3:9. The usage here serves to accentuate the meaning of “rejoicing”. As in English, the word can also be used to designate the person or thing that occasions joy, so we have Paul saying “you are my joy” in Philippians 4:1; this usage is called metonomy. The word can also mean a ‘state of joy’, ‘joyfulness’, as where Jesus says eíselthe eìs tḕn charán toû kyríou soû, “enter into the joy of your master” in Matthew 25:21, 23.

The word for joy is therefore interesting and theologically rich, as we should expect from a central New Testament concept in salvation.

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