Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun ειρηνη (eirene) means peace (hence the name Irene), and although talk of peace and the desire for peace are common in all cultures — the Romans and Greeks even had deities named Peace: Pax and Eirene — it's widely unclear what precisely peace is and how it might be obtained.
The New Testament was written in a time during which the Romans overran countless peoples and frequently resorted to mass torture and genocide in dealing with resistance, and the quest for peace was not a romantic one but came with widely felt urgency. Jesus' famous statement "knock, and the door will open" (Matthew 7:7, Revelation 3:8) is not about heavenly doors because in the Biblical model heaven has no doors, but rather about the great War Doors of the temple of Janus Quirinus in Rome. In times of peace these doors were closed amidst great imperial fanfare, and the greatest door-closing festivals were held during the reigns of Nero and Vespasian, just prior and right after the Great Jewish Revolt and subsequent destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Our noun ειρηνη (eirene) occurs 92 times in the New Testament, see full concordance.
Peace, doors and our neighbor's choice of pleasures
The Greek noun ειρηνη (eirene) is the equivalent of the familiar Hebrew term שלום (shalom), from which stem names like Solomon, Absalom, Jerusalem and Islam. This noun in turn comes from the verb שלם (shalem), which means to be whole or complete. The main obstacle of peace, therefore, is a culture's failure to be complete and unfractured. Unfortunately, it's equally unclear how completeness and fracturelessness might be achieved or even catalyzed.
In Biblical terms, humanity can be divided into two groups: (1) folks who pursue truth, and (2) folks who pursue a collective identity. Most people today belong to the second group, and seek inclusion with an established collective identity much rather than the absolute brutal truth of reality. All modern temples and churches are theatres; in them professional actors act out the great human mysteries in recognizable symbols. And just like a viewing of Romeo and Juliet might bring a person to tears, whilst being very much aware that the whole thing is staged, so might a well delivered discourse on the adventures of Darth Vader arouse the hunger for empires and world domination in any most enlightened spectator.
Religions are companies like soccer clubs. Besides their books and music, their main product is inclusivity, and their marketing aims to convince followers of their club's superiority even when the numbers show that they are not. Higher up the food chain, the managers are quite aware that all clubs exist by sheer merit of the competition, and higher still the borders between clubs dissolve all together and sentiments are recognized as mere expressions of the same soul of life.
It's a slightly tricky distinction but unlike the modern sense of truth, the Biblical sense of truth has to do with convention, and the pursuit of truth has to do with finding ways to describe reality in such a way that nobody has a reasonable objection. This is called the Scientific Method and the Scientific Method is all about confirmation rather than private conviction. Before the invention of mathematical notation, truth — which is convention; those things agreed upon — was presented in highly complex and fractalic text in which an infinite narration evolved within a finite verbal circumference (because yes, the Bible is the narrative equivalent of the Koch snow flake).
Long before any religious momentum could arise from these things, Jesus of Nazareth is both the Prince of Peace and the embodiment of truth — that is everything that all people can ever agree upon — and in him are contained all the treasures of knowledge of wisdom (Isaiah 9:6, John 14:6, 17:23, Colossians 2:3). Ultimately, all people will only agree on the reality they are part of and the natural laws upon which the universe was founded, and which have kept the whole thing together (Colossians 1:16-17), and which grew into maturity along with the universe (Luke 2:52).
Folks who pursue truth pursue convention, which requires kindness toward others and an eagerness to understand even those opposed. Most of the truth-pursuers today express themselves in mathematical notations because mathematical notation is specifically designed to filter out emotion and thus culturally determined sentiments. That means that truth-pursuers who express themselves in math can converse with anyone from any culture anywhere on earth. In fact, they could freely converse with extra-terrestrials, should they ever show up.
People like to belong to tribes and clubs, and that's great. Humanity is designed to operate in large family units (Genesis 2:18, 12:2-3) and although the political landscape today is as botched as anything else, the Bible predicts that humanity's nations will be healed (Revelation 22:2) and that the New World will consist of these healed monarchies who exist happily ever after governed by those living in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24). Until then, it's important that we allow anybody to seek shelter within whatever club they fancy. All churches are theatres in which the great human mysteries are presented by actors in costumes, and while any sensible person knows when they're in a theatre, a well performed Romeo And Juliet moves viewers non the less. And if Romeo And Juliet isn't your thing, then find your solace in some other theatre. You will encounter no animosity at your choice of pleasures when you show no animosity at our neighbor's choice of pleasures (in the words of Pericles; Thucydides Hist.2.37.2).
Peace comes when we (1) respect the Scientific Method, and (2) show no animosity at our neighbor's choice of pleasures. On these two depend the whole law and the prophets; all natural law and all inspired human expression (Matthew 22:40).
From our noun ειρηνη (eirene), meaning peace, derive:
- The verb ειρηνευω (eireneuo), meaning to be at peace or be peaceful, which comes down to (1) to respect the Scientific Method, and (2) to show no animosity at our neighbor's choice of pleasures. This verb is used 4 times; see full concordance.
- The adjective ειρηνικος (eirenikos), meaning pertaining to peace: pacifying (Hebrews 12:11 and James 3:17 only).
- Together with the verb ποιεω (poieo), meaning to make: the verb ειρηνοποιεω (eirenopoieo), meaning to peace-make, which obviously has nothing to do with forcing one's religion upon someone else and everything with learning about the other and growing in respect for the other and ultimately achieving convention with the other. This verb is used in Colossians 1:20 only, but from it derives:
- The adjective ειρηνοποιος (eirenopoios), meaning peace-maker, and that is not a compromise-maker or "the guy with the bigger gun" but someone who induces courage in people to understand that their religion is a mere theatre — a wonderful and valuable theatre in which the things upon which everybody can agree are expressed in ways that appeal only to a select few. Our word is used only once, as a substantive, in the famous statement of Jesus that the peacemakers shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9).