Word Study #132 — Walk

“He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” I Jn.2:6, KJV, 1611

“The one who keeps saying he’s living in relationship with him (Jesus), ought to walk [live, behave] as he did! ”IJn.2:6,  PNT, 2011

Even among the staunchest advocates of a “literal” interpretation of scripture (which usually means the KJV), I have never met one who refuses every form of transportation other than his own two feet, on the grounds that that is how Jesus got from place to place.

Clearly, locomotion is not what the apostle had in mind, although something dynamic certainly is!
“Walking” is a matter of considerable concern in the New Testament, having been used to represent six different Greek words. Three of these appear only a single time.

Emperipateo (L/S – “to walk among, to tarry among” or later, “to trample on or insult”) occurs only in II Cor.6:16, where Paul quotes the LXX promise of God, in Lv.26:12, to “pitch his tent” and “walk” among his people.
Dierchomai (L/S – “to go through, to pass through”), although used 17 times with that classical translation, is only rendered “walk” in one parable (parallel accounts in Mt.12:43 and Lk.11:24), of a cast-out evil spirit seeking another body to invade.
Orthopodeo (L/S – “to walk straight or uprightly”) has no classical listings other than the Gal.2:14 passage. Thayer says it does not exist elsewhere, though Bauer suggests a connection to a third century BC noun used by Sophocles referring to “progress”. Did Paul “make up” this one? It does make etymological sense, combining the words for “straight” and “foot.”

Stoicheo (L/S – “to be drawn up in a row or line as in battle, to move or march in sequence, to agree with or submit to”, and Bauer – “to follow in someone’s footsteps, to adhere to a person or principle”) was uniformly translated “walk” in its five uses: Ac.21:24, Rom.4:12, Gal.5:25 and 6:16, and Phil.3:16, all referring to living according to prescribed principles.
Poreuomai (L/S – “to go, walk, or march; to be driven or carried, to proceed (in law or philosophy), and Bauer –“to depart from somewhere, to follow someone or something, to go to one’s death, to conduct oneself, to live, to walk”) is much more commonly rendered simply “go” – 119x – or “depart” – 11x – with “walk” used only 9x. It refers to behavior in all but one of these. In Lk.13:33, Jesus simply indicates his intention to travel, but Lk.1:6, Ac.9:31, 14:16; I Pet.4:3, II Pet.2:10, 3:3; Jude 16,18 clearly carry the idea of one’s manner of life – the latter 6 in a distinctly negative sense.

By far the most common of the “walking” words is peripateo, with 97 New Testament appearances, 92 of them traditionally translated “walk”. All but six of the uses in the gospels and Acts refer simply to traveling on foot (a total of 42), but not a single one of its 49 appearances in the epistles lean that way.

It must be noted, of course, that the “walking” in the gospel accounts is not all “ordinary” locomotion: “the lame” (Mt.11:5, 15:31, Mk.2:9, Lk.5:23, 7:22; Jn.5, Ac.3:6,8,9,12; 14:8,10) whose healing is evidenced by their “walking”, or the little girl who had died (Mk.5:42) “walking around”, or Jesus himself (Mt.14, Lk.6) walking across the lake, are hardly ordinary, everyday strolls. But there is an even sharper shift in the epistles, at which the gospels only hint,as in Jn.8:12, 11:9,10; and 12:35, where Jesus clearly connects “walking”in light or in darkness with the faithful following of him, his instructions, and his ways.

L/S lists “walking around, to walk up and down (in the schools of philosophy) while teaching or engaging in discourse or debate, to dispute or argue” or simply “to live or conduct oneself.” Bauer adds, “the activities of daily life.” This latter implication is clearly the one in view in most of the epistles.

Paul is definitely referring to the transformation of life and behavior in his admonitions to “walking in newness of life” (Rom.6:4), “walk not after the flesh [human nature] but after the spirit” (Rom.8:1,4), “walk by faith and not by sight” (II Cor.5:7), “walk in the Spirit” (Gal.5:16), “Walk worthy of (our) calling” (Eph.4:1) and “walk as children of light” (Eph.5:8), in sharp contrast to the readers’ former life (I Cor.3:3, II Cor.4:2, Eph.2:2, 4:17, Col.3:7).

One’s general lifestyle (Col.1:10, 2:6; I Thes.2:12,4:1; I Jn.1:6,2:6), behavior toward outsiders (Eph.4:17, 5:15; Col.3:7, 4:5; I Thes.4:12), and toward each other in the brotherhood (Rom.14:15; II Cor.10:3, 12:18; Phil.3:17,18; II Thes.3:6, I Jn.1:7, and the whole of John’s last two letters) are likewise addressed.

These instructions mesh well with the lists, (although no form of “walk” is used there) in Eph.4:22-32 and Col.3:5-15, of behaviors and attitudes to “put off” and “put on”; a deliberate process to enable the realization of the transformed life that is possible only in the power of Jesus’ resurrection (Col.3:1-4).

The epistles also contain warnings concerning people – some within and some outside the fellowship – who choose to “walk”[live, behave] in the “darkness” (see #129) rather that the “light” (#75). Notice especially John’s discussion in I Jn.1, and also in 2:11, probably elaborating upon Jesus’ conversation which he had reported earlier (Jn.8:12 and 11:9-10). He now represents the choice,which Jesus had mentioned previously in connection with clarity of direction for the disciples, as affecting their mutual interaction as well. Paul, too, calls for discernment based on how people choose to “walk” (I Cor.3:3, II Cor.4:2, Phil.3:18, II Thes.3:6,11).

Of course the ultimate in beautiful companionship, hinted in II Cor.6:16 (mentioned in the beginning), and its LXX antecedents, is fulfilled at last in the Revelation. In Rv.3:4, Jesus himself welcomes the faithful – those who have not “dirtied their garments” (after he had given them clean ones!) – not to lounge around each on his private la-z-boy cloud, but “they shall WALK with me in white!” Jesus apparently, is still on the move, and so are his devoted followers.
The glorious vision of the holy city, his long-awaited Bride, has everyone “walking” – in the light of the glory of God, shed by the Lamp, which is equated with the Lamb.(Rv.21:24).

The one who keeps saying he’s living in relationship with him (Jesus), ought to walk [live, behave] as he did!” I.Jn.2:6
“Walk [live]in a manner worthy of God, who is calling you into his own Kingdom and glory!” (I Thes.2:12.

May we walk together into faithfulness!


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