agathoergéō/áãáèïåñãÝù [to do good],
agathopoiéō/áãáèïðïéÝù [to do good],
agathopiós/áãáèïðéüò [doer of good],
agathopoiía/áãáèïðïéßá [doing good],
philágathos/öéëÜãáèïò [lover of goodness],
aphilágathos/áöéëÜãáèïò [despiser of the good]
agathós. As both adjective and noun, agathós denotes excellence (Plato Cratylus 412c). As an adjective it is given specific content by the word it qualifies, e.g., status or quality (cf. Mt. 25:21; 7:17). As a noun it can mean “the good” or “goods,” whether material or spiritual.
A. In Greek Philosophy. The good is what gives meaning, e.g., what is pleasant (Sophists), the central idea (Plato), or such things as reason, virtue, the golden mean, and the necessary (Aristotle). People become good through instruction in the good (Plato Gorgias 470c).
B. In Hellenism. Being less humanistic, Hellenism gave agathós a religious flavor. “The good” is salvation, while “good” is “pleasing to God” in our case and “kind” in God’s. In the Hermetic writings God alone is truly good; we humans become good by mortification of material things and by divinization. In Philo the divinity who is the supreme good is the personal God (Allegorical Interpretation of Laws 1.47). Piety, faith, and wisdom are goods whereby, with God’s help, we may know and serve God (On the Special Laws 4.147; On Abraham 268; Who Is the Heir? 98).
C. In the OT and Judaism. The approach here is religious, as in Hellenism, but the self-revelation of the personal God is now determinative. “God is good” is the basic confession (cf. 1 Chr. 16:34). This God does “good” (cf. Ex. 18:9) in his work in history, which aims at final salvation and gives direction for life through the law. “Good” has already been done but is also awaited (Jer. 32:39, 42). Meanwhile we are shown what is “good” by the revelation of God’s will in the law. Those who do good are good, but whether this is possible without God’s help is debatable (Josephus The Jewish War 2.163ff.). Qoheleth thinks not (7:20). The rabbis see a struggle between good and evil impulses, works of love being the true good works.
D. In the NT.
a. The basic approach is again religious. Only God is truly good (Mt. 19:17). His goodness is the “kindness” which through Christ confers the “good things” of salvation (Heb. 9:11). Apostles are thus preachers of “good news” (Rom. 10:15; cf. Is. 52:7). Rightly, Matthew sees that God’s exclusive goodness does not rule out Christ’s sinlessness (Mt. 19:17 and par.).
b. Nothing in this world deserves to be called good (Rom. 7:18-19). The law is good, but even through the law sin works death (7:12-13). Distinctions can be made between good and bad people (Mt. 5:45), or speaking good and being evil (Mt. 12:34). Government can also be called a servant for good (Rom. 13:4). Yet these distinctions are only relative before God.
c. Salvation in Christ introduces a new possibility of knowing and doing the good (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 2:10; Col. 1:10). Christians must actualize this possibility (1 Th. 5:15). Its supreme content is love, which is the purpose of the law and the meaning of the Christian life. Grasping this new possibility gives a “good conscience” (Acts 23:1; 1 Tim. 1:5, 19). Yet the good of salvation is still the determinative goal (Rom. 8:28). The “good work” that God has begun will come to “completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
agathoergéō. This rare word refers to God’s kindly action (Acts 14:17) but also to the loving liberality that is required of the rich (1 Tim. 6:18).
agathopoiéō, agathopoiós, agathopoiía. The verb and adjective are used in astrology for stars of benign influence. In the LXX the verb denotes the good in action. It is common in 1 Peter (2:15, 20; 3:6, 17) in the same sense; cf. the “doer of good” who is “of God” (3 Jn. 11). agathopoiós in 1 Pet. 2:14 is contrasted with the wrongdoer; the Christian is to be a “doer of right.” agathopoiía (1 Pet. 4:19) is the right action that alone is the proper preparation for final deliverance.
agathōsýnē. This is the quality, or moral excellence, of the good person. It is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) or of light (Eph. 5:9), the content of the Christian life (Rom. 15:14).
philágathos. This word, found in Aristotle and Philo and used as a title of honor in Hellenistic societies, constitutes one of the qualifications of a bishop: he is to be a “lover of goodness” (Tit. 1:8).
aphilágathos. According to 2 Tim. 3:1ff. the attitude of people in the last time shows how serious this time is. Many of them, as “lovers of self,” will be “haters of good[ness].” In that false love, lovelessness will celebrate its triumph.
[W. Grundmann, I, 10-18]