Word of the Week
April 3, 2021
Amarantos: The Word for Easter
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who . . . has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.
1 Peter 1:3-4
I was walking through our neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona when I noticed a hand-lettered sign on one of the fences: “Beware of the creeping amaranthus!”
Was this a new breed of Doberman? No, it turned out to be a neighbor with an offbeat sense of humor. He was referring to the amaranth flower – and his joke unwittingly used a Greek word that goes perfectly with the celebration of Easter!
Modern gardeners know the amaranth as a type of flower that is sometimes regarded as a weed and sometimes cultivated as a source of gluten-free grain. Its dramatically-colored blooms can be a nice addition to a flower bed.
The ancient Greeks, however, had a different flower in mind. The Greek poets sung about a mythical flower called the amaranth that never wilted or faded. Its eternal beauty made it a symbol for everlasting life, and the word was sometimes inscribed on gravestones as a promise of immortality.
John Milton incorporated the legend into his epic poem Paradise Lost (iii.353) when he wrote of the “Amarant,” which supposedly grew in Eden alongside the tree of life and was transferred to heaven after Adam and Eve sinned.
The Greek word is amarantos, which occurs only once in the New Testament. The apostle Peter was writing to Christians who were battered by persecution, so he began his first epistle by reminding them that they possessed something that could never be snatched from them. We have a living hope, he declares, because Christ rose from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). Easter is the antidote to despair!
Because Christ lives, we know that God has earmarked an inheritance for us. We may struggle through strenuous times now, but we can look forward to the astounding legacy that He has promised.
That inheritance is absolutely secure. Peter poetically piles up three descriptions of our legacy:
It is aphtharton – imperishable.
It is amianton – undefiled.
And it is amaranton – unfading.
Nothing can destroy what God has reserved for us. Nothing can spoil it. And its beauty will never wither away.
Like some of Peter’s audience, you may feel so beaten down by the pressures of life that you can barely see straight. Remember that Christ rose from the dead and He has included you in His will. Lift your face from the dust and look upward to the future He has promised. In the end, all will be well.
A sister word, amarantinos, also means “unfading.” It appears only once, in 1 Peter 5:4, where God promises that faithful elders will receive “an unfading wreath of glory” when Christ returns. Not only will the prize exist forever, but it will hold its beauty perpetually!
I just discovered an additional insight on the word axios (see Word of the Week for March 13, 2021).
We learned that axios means “worthy” or “of equal weight,” so that one thing would balance with another when placed on a scale.
The term axios was also used in athletic games to hail the victor in a race or wrestling match. The crowd would shout, “Axios – you deserved it!” We know that we will never truly deserve the salvation God has granted to us. But I am reminded that we look forward to the day when Jesus will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” May our lives be worthy of His approval.
What is your goal? And what is God’s goal for you? Next week we will delve into the Greek word that describes the target at the end of the road.
©Ezra Project 2021