Teknia And Paidia.
In the new testament there are two words that are both translated as children or little children-these are teknia and paidia. Teknia, tekna, and others of this kind, refers to offspring, infants, and young children transitioning from the former. Paidia, on the other hand, always refers to children in training. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in their gospels, only refer to paidia (Mt. 2:16; 11:16; 14:21; 15:38; 18:3; 19:13; 21:15; Mk. 9:37; 10:13-14; Lk. 7:32; 11:7; 18:16), although Luke in Acts also refers to tekna (2:39; 13:33; 21:5, 21). However, the apostle John in his gospel does refer to both, and in doing so we can see the above distinction. The following refer to tekna or offspring (8:39; 11:52; 13:33), but 21:5 refers to paidia, children who could answer Jesus’ question.
In his letters, John also uses both words, and in doing so he makes this distinction even clearer. There are several references to teknia in these letters, and they all refer to the definition above (I Jn. 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 10, 18; 4:4; 5:2, 21; II Jn. 1, 4, 13; III Jn. 4), as also Revelation 2:23. However, where he does use paidia he uses it to make the above specific point-that it refers to further training (I Jn. 2:13 and 18). At 2:12 he refers to teknia, to those of his hearers and readers who have been introduced to the very basics of the faith, as it were-that their sins are forgiven them on account of his name. On the other hand, in the next verse he refers to paidia who have come to know the Father in a deeper way through their training. Similarly, what he says with regard to “the last hour,” is also intended for those who are at least paidia.
Paul also makes this distinction. His use of paidia in I Corinthians 14:20 is a case in point. Paul did not want his audience to be immature or untrained in the renewing of their minds, as it were, but in the area of sin he did not want them to be trained or skilled in doing evil. When it comes to Paul’s use of teknia in this same letter, he says in 7:14 that infants (tekna) born to a believing parent are to be regarded as holy, a condition which is not dependent on the level of training, or paidia. This is also why Paul pleads with the Corinthians as teknois in II Corinthians 6:13, because he was writing to people for whom he was their spiritual father. He reiterates this use of tekna and teknois and the parent -infant or little child relationship in 12:14 (Cf. Col. 3:20-21; I Th. 2:7, 11; I Tim. 3:4, 12; 5:4, 10, 14; Titus 1:6).
Paul also refers to the Galatians as teknia, or those he has given birth to (4:19). He also refers to Hagar’s offspring as teknon (4:25), the tekna or offspring of the desolate woman (4:27). Whereas Isaac is the tekna of promise (4:28). Finally, Paul says that we are tekna or offspring of the free woman, and not paidiskeis (of padia), or trained to be children of the slave woman (4:31). Believers were once only tekna of wrath, but we have been made tekna of light, called (like infants do) to imitate God (Eph. 5:1, 8). When tekna is used of young children being trained there is always an accompanying word, an adjective in our English translation. So in Peter’s letters we are called to be “obedient tekna” (I Pet. 1:14), and not “accursed tekna, trained in covetous practices” (II Pet. 2:14).
Similarly, when Luke records Peter preaching at Pentecost, he records him as saying that the promise of the covenant is also to the offspring (teknois) of his hearers (Acts 2:39 Cf. 21:5, 21), and Paul regarded himself and the true followers of the Way, as the true offspring (teknois) of the Fathers (13:33). Also, the writer to the Hebrews speaks of us not as the offspring or tekna of Jesus, but as the Father’s paidia whom he has given to the Son. We are those, to use an expression familiar to the puritans, who are ‘Learning in Christ’s School’ (Ralph Venning, The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1999). It was in fact Venning’s thesis that the apostle John and others, employed the distinction between babes, young children, young men, and fathers, to refer to the progress we all make in our spiritual maturity or discipleship.