Modesty - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Modestyaidos (G127) Modesty
sophrosyne (G4997) Shamefacedness
Paul used both of these words in 1 Timothy 2:9 to describe the truest adornment of a Christian woman. Sophrosyne occurs in two other places in the New Testament: Acts 26:25 and 1 Timothy 2:15. If the distinction drawn in section 19 is correct, then Xenophon was wrong when he had Cyrus say: "He always distinguished between modesty [aido] and self-control [sophro-syne] in this way: The modest flee the openly shameful things, but the self-controlled also flee the things that are secretly shameful." These remarks are incorrect for both words. Aidos does not refer merely to the avoidance of open and manifest baseness, though aischyne (G152) may do so; and in the case of sophrosyne, a mere characteristic is given as its essence. The etymology of sophrosyne to mean "preserving wisdom," or "the preservation of wisdom," must not be taken seriously. Chrysostom's account of its etymology is correct: "Sophrosyne is derived from having a sound mind." It is contrasted with akolasia and with akrasia, and is the mean between asotia (G810) and pheidolia. It refers to complete control over the passions and desires, so that they are lawful and reasonable. Aristotle defined it as "the virtue that causes people to behave in respect to bodily pleasures as the law commands." And according to Plutarch, sophrosyne refers to "a certain curtailment and regulation of passions, both removing those that are improper and excessive and also arranging those that are necessary to the proper time and in moderation." In Jeremy Taylor's words:
It is reason's girdle, and passion's bridle.... it is "the soul's strength," as Pythagoras calls it; "the foundation of virtue," so Socrates; "the adornment of all that is good," so Plato; "the stability of the noblest habits," so Iamblichus.
Often sophrosyne is joined to kosmiotes, eutaxia, karteria, and hagneia.
No single Latin word exactly represents sophrosyne, which Cicero translated by temperantia (temperateness), moderatio (moderation), and modestia (sobriety). According to Cicero, "a characteristic of it [sophrosyne] seems to be a striving to control and calm the impulses of the mind and to preserve a firmness that opposes passion and is moderate in every respect."
Sophrosyne was a more important virtue in heathen than in Christian ethics, not because Christianity attached less value to it but because the number of virtues was smaller in heathen ethics, and so each virtue received more attention. Additionally, for those who are "led by the Spirit," the condition of self-command is transformed into a higher sphere in which a man does not order and command himself but is ordered and commanded by God.
In 1 Timothy 2:9, aidos refers to that "shamefastness" or modesty that shrinks from exceeding the limits of womanly reserve, as well as from the dishonor that would justly attach to doing so. Sophrosyne is that habitual inner self-control, with its constant rein on all the passions and desires, that hinders temptations from overcoming the checks and barriers that aidos opposes.