"Child," "Children" and "Little ones"

There are five different Greek words that Christ used that could be translated a "child" or "children."   The purpose of this article is to explain the difference between them. It doesn't analyze Christ's view of children itself, but below, you will see all the references Christ makes to children (though not to "son"), so you can make your own judgments.

Note: In this article, the words in the Greek letters are link to the definitions at the Tufts Perseus project on research in ancient Greek which give the general definition as used in all written Greek and links to all such works using the word. The following Greek words in Roman characters are linked the the definitions in Blue Letter Bible, which give the Biblical use of the word and links to uses in the Bible.

Note: Two other words, the Greek word for "fruit" and "seed" also can have the metaphorical meaning "offspring" in the sense of "Abraham's seed," and Christ uses them that way, but not really "children" so they are not covered here. these words are used frequently but almost always to mean, well, fruit and seeds.

The Son as the Child

The most common, Greek word is but far, that be translated as "child" is υἱὸς (huios). It means a "son," and more generally, a "child." It is used over a hundred times, most often, however, in references to the "Son of Man" and "Son of God." Those two phrases are analyzed in this article.

This word refers to a "child" in the sense of an offspring, but it is used to refer to primarily to adult children, not the young. Of course, since most of these references are to Christ himself, at least as a symbol, this is obvious.

While it can be translated as "child" and could easily be translated that way in the two titles Christ uses to refer to himself, we can categorize this word as used primarily to refer to a son as a son, a male child and heir to a house. For example, in Jhn 8:35, Christ says a slave doesn't stay in the house forever, but the son does. Here, the sense is that the son inherit the house after the father dies.

However, this word is not used to refer to children generally, but specifically to male children because of their position as men, that is, workers and householders.

The Child as Son

The next most common word is used a couple of dozen times (26), but it means "child" and "children" more generally. However, strangely enough, it is sometimes translated as "son" as well, as least in the KJV. This word is τέκνοις (teknon). It means "that which is born", "child," and "the young."

This is the word that Christ uses most commonly to refer to children general as children, that is, as offspring of either sex. However, If you look at the references, below, this word is translated in the plural as "children" but when it is used to one or two children, it is translated as "son" or "sons." This is especially noticeable when the word is used in address a character in a parable.

Again, this word doesn't refer to children as the young, but again, more generally as offspring. As you will note, this is the word Christ uses to refer to the "children" of Abraham and Israel.

Note the the last use referred to below (scroll down to the References to Teknon sction), is a slightly different form, teknion, which Christ uses to refer to his disciples. This version was used by teachers to refer to their students.

Children as the Young

Finally, we come to the word Christ uses to refer to children as the "young." This word is paidon. which means "little child" or "young child," "infant" or "young slave." It is use a little over a dozen times (14).

Childhood, however, in Christ's time was a far shorter period of time than it is today. Generally, this word refers to those up to about seven or eight years old. So the sense is young children. This is the age where children were considered entirely dependent. After this age, they were considered productive, perhaps even productive enough to survive by their own labor at least as a servant. Of course, childhood today, in the sense of being dependent, can last a lifetime.

When Christ teaches lessons regarding becoming like a child, this is the word he uses. When he discusses how to treat children, this is the word he uses.

However, note that the last reference on the list is actually a call to the apostles when they were fishing and didn't recognize him. This is a great example of Christ having a little fun.

Children a the Little Ones

Next, we have a word that doesn't mean "child" exactly, but it is used by Christ somewhat interchangeably with paidion above, with Christ often alternating between the two terms. This word is mikros. It is an adjective that means "small", "little," and "young."

What makes this word interesting is that Christ uses it for his plays on words. Note on two occasions (Mat 11:11, Luk 9:48) he uses it in verses referring to children, but it gets translated as "least" as in, the "least in heaven." This seems likely that these references are a bit of fun Christ is having with the world.

Note that most of the references to "little ones" focuses on their vulnerability. Christ uses it to emphasis their size and dependence on adults. As opposed to those big kids, over seven, who can take care of themselves.

Children as Babies

The last word translated as "children" or "babies" is nepios. This word mean "infant", "child", "minor" of children up to puberty, "infancy", "the young" of an animal, of the understanding "childish", "silly," and of bodily strength, "like that of a child."

Christ uses this word only twice. 

In the first use, Christ seems to use this term for its sense of "childish" and "silly" because he is using it to describe himself (Mat11:25).  Its second use, Mat 21:16, is a quote from the Septuagint, where Christ uses the Greek word there, 

References to Teknon

Mat 7:11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Mat 9:2 Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

Mat 10:21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.

Mat 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

Mat 15:26 It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.

Mat 18:25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

Mat 19:29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

Mat 21:28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.

Mat 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under herwings, and ye would not!

Mar 2:5 Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

Mar 7:27 Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

Mar 10:24 Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!

Mar 10:29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,

Mar 10:30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Mar 13:12 Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.

Luk 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

Luk 7:35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.

Luk 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Luk 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

Luk 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Luk 15:31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

Luk 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

Luk 18:29 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake,

Luk 19:44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

Luk 23:28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

Jhn 8:39 If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

Jhn 13:33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. (Using "teknion, a related form.)

References to Paidion

Mat 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Mat 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Mat 18:5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

Mat 19:14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Mar 5:39 Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.

Mar 9:37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

Mar 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Mar 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Luk 7:32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.

Luk 9:48 Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.

Luk 11:7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.

Luk 18:16 Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

Luk 18:17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child G3813 shall in no wise enter therein.

Jhn 21:5 Children, have ye any meat?

References to Mikros

Mat 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

Mat 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Mat 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and tha the were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Mat 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

Mat 18:14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Mar 9:42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

Luk 9:48 And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.

Luk 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.