The Catechetical Review - Communicating Christ for a New Evangelization

What a Word Says: Meanings Implicit in “Discipleship”

Authored by Sam Robson in Issue #35.2 of The Sower
The etymology of “discipleship” has something to say about its meaning for today’s catechist. The word “disciple” came into Old English some time after the first half of the seventh century, borrowed from the Latin word “discipulus” or “pupil”, as the Anglo-Saxon community was Christianised and as learning and Church reform spread[i]. The Indo-European root of this word, “*dek-”, seems to have entered Attic Greek as “didaskein”, “to teach”, and then travelled through the Roman world, as the closely related Latin “docere”, “to teach”, and “discere”, “to learn”. Once the word root reached Wales it had mutated to “dysgu”, a word that confounds in simultaneously holding both these meanings. This Welsh usage may point the way to an appropriate humility. However, it is apt that “disciple” was adopted, rather than “pupil”, derived from the Latin “pūpillus”, as this could also be translated as “ward” or “orphan”[ii]. Christ teaches the faithful to pray to their Father[iii] and that they will not be left as orphans[iv], while to enter the Kingdom of God they should be as little children[v].

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!

This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact [email protected]

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Editor's Reflections — Mary: The First Disciple of Jesus
By Dr. James Pauley
Free What does it mean to be a disciple? We might think the answer simple enough: a disciple follows a teacher, so a Christian disciple is one who studies and puts into practice the teachings of Jesus. The problem here, though, is that Jesus isn’t only a wise teacher. To be his disciple requires something more. At the Great Commission, when he charged... Read more
Marian Devotion and the Renewal of Church Life
By John C. Cavadini
Free What happened to Mary? This is a question that could easily occur to anyone reading through 20th-century theology. Marian theology up to the 1960s was vibrant and flourishing. Fr. Edward O’Connor’s 1958 magisterial volume The Immaculate Conception (recently re-released by University of Notre Dame Press) seems to sum up an era. The lively essays... Read more
The Witness of Mary: A Portrait of Doctrine
By Sean Innerst
In Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN), Pope Paul VI, of sainted memory, said something that has become almost a banner that we fly above our apostolic work today, both in our evangelization and our catechesis. “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” [1] This is... Read more


Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now