Whatever is Excellent

This post is a continuation of my series examining the Greek words associated with the “Whatever is” statements in Phil 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Today I examine the Greek word for “excellence” which is ἀρετή (aretḗ). 

The general definition is “human virtue” (Zodhiates, 2000). The English definition for virtue is ‘morality’ or ‘conformity to a standard of right living’ (Merriam-Webster, 2003).

The Greek word is used 5 times in four verses (Phil. 4:8, 1 Pt. 2:9, 2 Pt. 1:3, 5). This word is used outside of the New Testament more often. It frequently indicated “the highest good,” for both secularists and religious people alike (Silva & Tenney, 2009). So in a secular sense it meant ‘merit’ and ‘honor.’ While for Paul and Peter, it meant ‘excellence in character’ (Logos, 2011).

The theme that Paul has established in this verse earlier continues…..for living with uprightness and blamelessness. He is saying to think excellent thoughts. Dwell on virtuous thoughts. Live in a virtuous manner.


Logos Bible Software. (2011). The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Seattle, WA: Author.

Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

Silva, M., & Tenney, M. C. (2009). The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 5, Q-Z (Revised, Full-Color Edition) (1032). Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corporation.

Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

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