Princess Anna is brave. Jackie Robinson is brave. William Wallace is brave. Sarah of Sarah, Plain and Tall is brave.

Hmmmm. I am rather informed by Hollywood when it comes to bravery.

This week at Velvet Ashes we’ve been looking at the idea of “brave” in anticipation I asked myself three questions:

1. What do I think brave/bravery means?
2. Where did I get this idea?
3. What does God say about brave and bravery?

If you look at my examples above, most involve the extraordinary and a doing something impressive. Is this how God sees Bravery?

Getting no where fast doing google searches of Hebrew and Greek I contacted my friend Karl Helvig and asked for his help. He sent me a treasure trove of information.

He said, In the Hebrew, ‘Brave’ is rare and, when used in translation, translates a root word that encompasses a rather wide semantic range. {OK, so I’ m feeling better about not immediately have verses jump to mind!}

– The semantic range does seem to conflate our senses of bravery and courage
– contexts of battle, fighting, and quarrelsomeness all come up.


“Brave” shows up 19 times in the OT in the NIV, but only a handful of times in other translations and often in the context of battle, fighting, and quarrelsomeness. There are no appearances of “Brave” in the NT in the NIV, ESV, NRSV, or NASB.

But if we look for “Courage” the NIV has 8 NT uses, NASB has 16 NT uses, NRSV 7 NT uses, and ESV has 6 NT uses. For more information of what my friend shared, read here. But suffice it to say, there is overlap in words and concepts and though the OT and NT may not use the word “Brave” it is not foreign to us.

Greek words are translated as “Courage.”

tolmao: verb, to dare, endure, or submit; endure, undergo; in the infinitive form: to have the courage, hardihood, effrontery, cruelty, or the grace, patience, to do a thing in spite of any natural feeling, dare, or bring oneself, to do.

tharreo:  be full of courage, act boldly, be confident, have confidence in, make bold, venture

parresia: openness, frankness; boldness, confidence, assurance; used sometimes to refer specifically to events made in public (as in Acts 4:13)

euthumeo: take courage, be happy. (Acts 27:25) Literally: good feelings, “eu” means: good, well, happy, and “thumos” means: intense feeling; esp. anger or rage.

Andridzomai: be courageous; literally, act like a man (1 Cor 16:13)

And now for the gem from the research. Karl wrote, “I saw one intriguing comment deep in the biggest, fattest lexicon entry on tolmao, it said that to act with courage meant to follow a particular course of action in spite of any natural feelings. 

That implies that we as humans have all sorts of natural feelings that regularly direct us NOT to do certain thing, esp. good things, esp, things for the benefit of others.  Courage, therefore, is to overcome the inner self that would prevent (fear, hesitation, insecurity, etc…) good actions.”

Beauty of Bravery

Final Thoughts on Bravery in the NT:
It looks like, at it’s root, courage is the english word that most accurately captures the root Greek and Hebrew meanings.  However, there is clear overlap in their semantic ranges, so that could simply be a matter of modern vernacular and usage.

If I were to attempt a succinct summary of the etymological foundation upon which stands out modern use of bravery/courage, {Can you see why I knew he’d help me understand what the Bible says about bravery?} it would be this: courage is the act of experiencing a generally internal fear, hesitation, disinclination toward a certain act, then choosing to perform that act inspite of the internal hinderances.

This is referred to and experienced most graphically and (historically speaking)} most commonly on the field of battle as the internal hesitation is clearly linked to an external danger to one’s life.

If I were to contrast this root meaning with some modern usage, I would note most significantly that modern usage seems to emphasize that bravery is what happens when one does not have internal fears, or it is an indication of being stronger or more capable somehow.  This, however, does not seem to square with the historical picture as the historical picture seems to embrace the reality of the internal turmoil, courage is acting in spite of that .  There is nothing negative or derogatory about having that internal struggle, having the struggle may even be part of the beauty of courage.

Hope my thoughts have been helpful, its been fun! Karl


Ah, I can see why bravery is most commonly packaged in a story, be it a movie or a book! And that we have gotten off a bit.  I love that last line: Having the struggle may even be part of the beauty of courage.

Karl emailed me four or five times in the last week and every time emphasized exploring these ideas was fun. Every now and then it’s good to “get our geek on” and root around in what has formed us. I know this might be a bit more academic than most posts, but it’s good for us. The messy middle isn’t just for simpletons :).

Categories: Faith, Velvet Ashes



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  1. jes November 20, 2014 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Be strong and of good courage. I enjoyed this dissertation. There is a beautiful strength in courage. As we overcome that inner fear we become more courageous. In a situation of spiritual abuse, I was accused of being strong, as though it were a bad thing. The reality was I see myself as being weak and I struggle with the inner fears. It resulted in courage acts that enabled me to speak out. I was brutally condemned. But this insight helps me to see how biblical I was being. The inner wrestling built courage and subsequently strength as I took a stand to overcome those fears. Jacob comes to mind. He suffered from inner fears. He wrestled with God. He became courageous and met Esau. Not perfect. Not scar-free. But courageous. Tomorrow, I face an opportunity to be courageous; to overcome the inner fear and know the strength that courage will produce a good action to encourage others. And this done only with the help of the Lord.

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      Amy December 3, 2014 at 4:25 pm - Reply

      Jen, thanks for adding to the discussion! I’m so sorry you were brutally condemned and hope that as you faced the opportunity to be courageous, you were and sensed God’s pleasure in you as a person.

      • jes December 4, 2014 at 8:11 am - Reply

        You know, Amy, I don’t think I have thought about God’s pleasure in me as a person–certainly not then, and even now 15 months after leaving the church, I have not really thought that God would pleasure in me. I have felt his comfort. I have felt assurance that he was shaping me for his plans. I felt his strength as he set my feet on high places. I have begun to feel some of the healing, and I don’t know if that will ever be complete, but it is happening. I took that step spoken of in November and the conflict I feared would arise, but God gave me insight and courage to address the issue head on. (It appears I may be facing another narcisstic abuser.) This time I (and my husband) are recognizing the symptoms. So yes, the wounds open, and God has more tears to place in the bottle with my name on it. At the same time, I know he is there with me, even though I asked, “Why, Lord?” Trials don’t end in our time or in Jacob’s. But I can’t say that I sense God’s pleasure in me. I will have to ponder that idea. Pleasure–God’s delight–in me? Fearfully and wonderfully made…a vessel chosen by and shaped by Him…part of the grace factor…I am overwhelmed with tears and awe.

  2. Mark Allman November 21, 2014 at 10:20 am - Reply

    Courage and bravery cost us something and most of the time the cost is a battle with how we feel. We have to go against the feeling to do nothing; to flee; to hide, to let someone else; to divert, or to ignore.

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      Amy December 3, 2014 at 4:26 pm - Reply

      Agreed! And for me, to not only look for BIG opportunities to be brave, but to see all of the small ways I can be brave too.

  3. Elizabeth Trotter November 22, 2014 at 6:04 am - Reply

    This WAS fun, thanks for sharing. I especially liked all the Greek words :)

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      Amy December 3, 2014 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      Thanks Elizabeth, me too :)

  4. David Rupert November 22, 2014 at 6:24 am - Reply

    We struggle with all sorts of things but rarely call them brave or courageous.

    But your thoughts and Karls are really interesting. And I am going to reprocess how I view actions to see if there be courage lurking thathasn’t been named

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      Amy December 3, 2014 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      “Lurking courage” — love that phrase. And I think courage lurks far more than we realize. I’m trying to be on the look out for it too!

  5. Loren Pinilis November 22, 2014 at 11:24 am - Reply

    I love word studies like these. I had never yet thought about your insights on bravery, but it makes sense. I’m reminded of Jonathan taking on the Philistines – he had faith in God even though he took a risk. Courage I see being similar to that.

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      Amy December 3, 2014 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      Loren, a Chinese phrase came to mind when I saw your comment — hao jiu, bu jian! Long time, no see :). I’m so happy to have you pop in here! I like word studies too. Wish I could just know Hebrew and Greek!

  6. Aliyah November 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    Hello! I am visiting from The Grove this week for the first time. I have been into Hebrew for ages, growing up as a Jew has helped somewhat but ancient biblical culture and understanding is so different the abstract Greek thought pattern that dominates our societies today (I did a whole thing on the Biblical understanding of thanks giving on my blog this week). Ancient Hebrew thought patterns of the old Testament were entirely concrete in nature, the Hebrews are a concrete people not abstract. So bravery to them would mean intense action, the word for this would be “amatz” – to be strong, firm in all areas, to be mentally astute or obstinate. These concepts are so deep! Thanks for getting the minds working here, Hebrew and the thought pattern of Hebrew is entirely moving from the philosophical to what is concrete and doable! Time we get doing what our faith requires!!

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      Amy December 3, 2014 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      Welcome! It’s fun to watch your wheels turn :)!!

  7. Jessa November 24, 2014 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    Amy, I love this post. I am very emphatic about being courageous and not brave, and very few people understand why it’s such a big deal to me. I think having fear/walking into a situation with both eyes wide open to all the possible outcomes makes all the difference in the world. Thanks for articulating this so well.

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      Amy December 3, 2014 at 4:33 pm - Reply

      Jessa, from what you’ve shared, I would say you are both courageous and brave in the most biblical sense — I think God smiles at how brave and courageous you are — in all the ways HE values (and not what the world says is brave). xxoo

  8. Brenda November 25, 2014 at 11:50 am - Reply

    FANTASTIC. Thank you so much for sharing!

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