[B-Greek] Matthew 22:37: DIANOIA vs NOUS

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Mon Oct 8 06:14:36 EDT 2007

On Oct 7, 2007, at 8:45 PM, Anthony wrote:

> Hello all
> In Matthew, when Jesus is referring to the great commandment, the  
> Greek
> record refers to DIANOIA.
> In his rush to biblical 'precision' in translation, I have been  
> challenged
> by a friend to identify why DIANOIA was chosen here, and not NOUS.   
> I have
> responded in two ways:
> 1    I do not find guessing games into the possible thinking of the  
> author
> overly productive, and
> 2   The two words seem to me to convey the same concept - the mind.
> His assertion is that DIANOIA refers to the centre of the  
> willpower, not
> the mind in general.
> I have been looking through several lexicons and Greek  
> concordances, and
> struggle to find any usage that might actually validate his  
> impression.
> However, always open to correction, I am wondering if any readers  
> here can
> point me to a work that shows there is a genuine difference between

I've rewritten the cited Greek above to conform to the standard B- 
Greek transliteration.

DIANOIA is found 12x in the GNT, NOUS 24x. To a considerable degree  
they overlap in sense, being used for the capacity of reasoning  
(mind) and for the particular reasoning or thinking involved in an  
instance of ratiocination).

L&N, usually pretty good in delineation of distinctions, where they  
are discernible, between synonyms and near-synonyms, has three  
entries for DIANOIA (apart from the special idioms  
ἀναζώννυμαι τὰς ὀσφύας τῆς  
treated in L&N §27.55 and διανοίγω τὸν νοῦν  
DIANOIGW TON NOUN in Lk 24:45 treated in L&N §27.49); rather than  
citing all the examples, which I think interested parties ought to  
check out carefully for themselves, I simply give the essential  
distinctions which they note.

26.14 νοῦςa NOUS, m; νόημαa NOHMA, n; διάνοιαa  
DIANOIA,  f: the psychological faculty of understanding, reasoning,  
thinking, and deciding — ‘mind.’ ... In some languages there is  
no noun such as English mind, and therefore one must use a verb  
expression meaning ‘to think,’ ‘to reason,’ or ‘to  
understand,’ depending upon the particular context. In some  
languages the closest equivalent of ‘mind’ may be a figurative  
extension of a term meaning ‘head,’ but more often than not,  
thinking is regarded as being in some other part of the body, for  
example, ‘heart’ or ‘liver.’

30.5 νοῦςb NOUS, m; διάνοιαb DIANOIA,  f; ἔννοιαa  
ENNOIA, f: a particular manner or way of thinking — ‘way of  
thinking, disposition, manner of thought, attitude.’ ... In a number  
of languages it may be necessary to render ‘way of thinking’ by a  
clause, for example, ‘how people think.’ In the case of 1Pe 4:1,  
it may be necessary to translate ‘you too must strengthen yourselves  
by thinking just like Christ thought.’

30.15 ἐνθύμησις ENQUMHSIS,  f; νόημαb NOHMA, n;  
διάνοιαc DIANOIA, f; διανόημα DIANOHMA, n: the  
content of thinking and reasoning — ‘thought, what is thought,  
opinion.’ ... In a number of languages it is simply not possible to  
find noun-like words for thinking or reasoning and therefore it may  
be necessary to use a verb equivalent throughout. For example, in Lk  
11:17 one may translate as ‘but Jesus knew what they were thinking.’

I should note that I've read the response from Taylor Swendsen on  
NOUS and DIANOHSIS and that I don't dispute what he says about  
earlier usage.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Ret)

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