googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: New Testament Greek Words You Already Know

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New Testament Greek Words You Already Know

As I began to learn Greek, I was surprised at the number of English words that have come from the Greek. Of course, English is descended from the European languages so I knew that Greek would certainly have had some influence on English. But I have heard estimates that as much as 1/3 of English words are of Greek etymology. I had no idea it was that much. I thought it would be fun to look at a few Greek words from the NT that have made their way into the English vernacular.

First is the word, “Bible.” It is a transliteration (an English spelling of a Greek word) of the Greek word, βίβλος (biblos) which simply means “book.” Coincidentally, (or perhaps not coincidentally) it is the first word of the New Testament.

Many words that are included in the English Bible are simply transliterations of Greek words:

Χριστός (Christos): It’s not hard to identify this as the word Christ. It’s the equivalent of the Hebrew word, “Messiah.” Both mean “Annointed.”

ἄγγελος (aggelos): When two gammas appear next to each other, the first gamma is pronounced like an “n”; thus, this is the word “angel.” The word means “messenger.” We typically think of angels as heavenly beings and when the word is used of such a being it is not translated. However, John the Baptist is referred to as a messenger (aggelos) in Mark 1:2.

ἀπόστολος (apostolos): This is transliterated as “apostle” in English Bibles. It can be translated as “messenger” but conveys a meaning closer to the word “envoy” or “ambassador.”

βαπτίζω (baptidzō): This is the verb “baptize.” It means to dip or immerse. It generally isn’t translated when referring to ceremonial baptism. However, there are a few verses where it is translated; one instance is John 13:26, where Jesus dips bread in a bowl and gives it to Judas at the Last Supper. The cognate noun of βαπτίζω is βάπτισμα (baptisma) which means “baptism.”

γένεσις (genesis): This word only appears once in the NT (Matthew 1:18) – in this form – where it is translated. Of course, most people will recognize it as the name of the first book of the Bible. It means “origin, birth, or genealogy.”

The words above are all transliterations. However, there are also words in the NT which are translated yet English readers will recognize the Greek word.

εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion): This is a compound word – eu (good) + aggelion (message). It is translated as “good news” or “gospel.” It is where we derive the word, “evangelical.”

ἰχθύς (ichthus): Many people will recognize this word from the fish symbol that has become popular on cars. It means “fish” but some people use the letters as an anagram: Ἰησοῦς Χριστός θεός υἱός σωτήρ – Jesus Christ: God, Son, Savior.

θεός (theos): This word is usually translated as, “God.” Some might recognize this as the root of the term, “theology.”

μαθητής (mathētēs): This word is usually translated as “disciple” though the meaning is closer to “student.” From this word we get the English word, “mathematics.” Jesus had 12 apostles but many disciples.

πνεῦμα (pneuma): The word for “Spirit” is πνεῦμα but the word is also translated as “breath” or “wind.” It is where we derive the word, “pneumatics.” This creates an interesting exchange in John 3:8 where Jesus talks to Nicodemus: “The wind/Spirit blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the wind/Spirit.”

πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros): This word is typically translated as “elder.” You can easily see that this is the term “Presbytery” or “Presbyterian.”

There are many more words I could include but I wanted to begin those that would be most readily identifiable. Hopefully, when you come across these words now in the Bible, you will have a little better understanding of the meaning behind them. Keep studying the word! God Bless!!

No comments: