Examining New Testament words.
theos (θεός) – God
The Hebrew word Elohim is translated “God” in the Old Testament. (The same word is actually used to refer to any “god.”) The equivalent word in the Greek New Testament is theos. Those who study God are sometimes called “theologians.” The New Testament presents the conflict between the One God and the many gods worshiped by the people of Lystra (Acts 14:15), Athens (Acts 17:32), and Ephesus (Acts 19:26). Sadly, many of us continue to worship other gods today (Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5).
logos (λόγος) – word
Already in Greek times the concept of logos goes far beyond just a spoken sound. One authority notes that “one might almost call it symbolic of the Greek understanding of the world and existence” (Kittle IV:77). Notice that God speaks the world in existence in the first chapter of Genesis. Psalm 33:6-9 echoes this fact. It is no wonder, then, that Jesus is described in John 1:1-14 as the word incarnate. Hebrews 11:3 says the worlds were prepared by the word of God. The word used there is rhēma (ῥῆμα) but the two words carry parallel meanings in the New Testament.
hubris (ὕβρις) – damage, insults
This is another Greek word that has survived in English. Today it refers to overconfidence, pride and arrogance. It is often used in reference to excessive pride that leads to a downfall (Proverbs 16:18). It is used twice in Acts in reference to damage suffered in a storm (verses 10 and 21). The New American Standard translates it with “insults” in 2 Corinthians 12:10. While hubris is generally associated with politicians and celebrities, it is not a characteristic that is becoming of a Christian.
katharismos (καθαρισμός) – cleansing
In English, catharsis involves a purification or cleansing resulting from a strong emotional reaction. Aristotle used the word to describe the effect of theatre. It is usually translated in the New Testament as “cleanse” or “clean.” It is often used in association with Jesus healing leprosy or demon possession. Acts 15:9 says God has cleansed the hearts of the Gentiles through faith. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:26 that Jesus sanctifies the church by cleansing her by the washing of water and the word. Hebrews 9 explains that our sins can be cleansed only by the blood of Jesus.
kurios (κύριος) – Lord
Our society is not big on the thought of “lord” or “master,” so it is difficult to grasp this fundamental concept. Paul points out in Romans 6:16-22 that we are all slaves of something. The only choices offered are righteousness or sin. There is not a third option. Slavery to sin results in death; slavery to righteousness leads to life. One of these is clearly the “winner.” It is not rocket science. When we opt for slavery to righteousness, Jesus is automatically our “lord.” (See Acts 2:34-36.) We need to understand that it is impossible to say, “No, Lord.” If someone is our lord, the only answer is “Yes.” If we ever say, “No,” that one is not our lord. Too many religious practices today have their origins in a group of people telling God and Jesus what they want to do. God and Jesus are not impressed. We need to get a handle on the word, “Lord.”
ginōskō (γινώσκω) – know
Knowledge is an important thing in the Bible. Zeal is useless without knowledge (Romans 10:2). We attain maturity through unity of faith and knowledge of Jesus (Ephesians 4:13). Paul prayed that the reader would abound in real knowledge (Philippians 1:9), be filled with knowledge (Colossians 1:9) and increase in knowledge (Colossians 1:10). The new self is associated with true knowledge (Colossians 3:10). God desires that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Knowledge must be handled correctly, however. The Gnostics received their name from their belief in a mystic knowledge.
hamartia (ἁμαρτία) – sin
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) indicates that one of the Hebrew words for sin involves “a missing.” The Greek word Hamartia means to “miss the mark.” John provides some good definitions of sin in his first epistle. He writes in 1 John 3:4 that sin is lawlessness. He notes in 1 John 5:17 that sin is unrighteousness. John provides a clear picture of sin in 1 John 2:16. It involves the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. These are the same three areas that Satan used to tempt Eve (Genesis 3:6) and Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11). Nothing has really changed over the years. Satan still uses the same tools on us. All have sinned (Romans 3:23). We lie if we refuse to admit this (1 John 1:8-10). But a child of God cannot live in sin (1 John 3:4-9). The consequence of sin is spiritual death (Romans 6:23). The solution is the blood of Jesus (Revelation 1:5).
astorgos (ἄστοργος) – unloving
Storge is a third word for love. It is family love. (The remaining word for love is eros.) Adding an “a” to the beginning of a word makes it “not.” The Holy Spirit mentions unloving people in Romans 1:13 and 2 Timothy 3:3. An absence of family love is clearly not natural. It is frightening to read Romans 1:18-32 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and see how closely those passages parallel the condition in our world today.
philadelphia (φιλαδελφία) – love
Phileo is another of the four common Greek works for love. It is brotherly love (e.g. the city in Pennsylvania). It says “I love you because…” The Bible does not instruct us to have this kind of love toward God but there is a warning for those who do not feel it toward Jesus (1 Corinthians 16:22). If we want to have eternal life we must not have phileo love toward the world (John 12:25).
agapē (ἀγάπη) – love
Of the various Greek words for “love,” this is the strongest. This love puts the other one in a relationship first. It is a truly altruistic love that says, “I love you regardless.” We are expected to have agape love toward God and toward our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-37). It is manifested by God toward Jesus (John 17:26), by God toward humanity (John 3:16), by God toward Christians (John 14:21), by Christians toward humanity (1 Thessalonians 3:12) and by Christians toward Christians (John 13:34). This is the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:10
paramutheomai (παραμυθέομαι) – console, encourage
Here is another “para” word. “Muthos” is “counsel” or “advice.” So this involves being called along side to offer counsel. It is used in connection with the comforting of Mary and Martha at the death of Lazarus recorded in John 11. In 1 Thessalonians 2:11 Paul tells the church that he has been “exhorting (parakaleō) and encouraging (paramutheomai) and imploring” each one of them “as a father wouild his own children.” Paul tells the same congregation in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 to “encourage the fainthearted”
parakaleō (παρακαλέω) – exhort
“Para” means “along side.” A paraprofessional works along side a professional. “Kaleo” means “call.” So parakaleo is someone who is called along side to assist or encourage. In John 14:26, 15:26 and 16:7 Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the “paracletos.” This is usually translated “helper” or “comforter.” The same word is applied to Jesus in 1 John 2:1. There, though, it is generally translated “advocate.”
oikodomē (οἰκοδομή) – edify
“Oikos” is the Greek word for “house.” It’s not much of a stretch, then, to grasp the meaning of oikodomē. When we edify we are building up one another. It is fitting that Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3). His earthly training was in building. His spiritual assignment was to build the church (Matthew 16:18). In 1 Corinthians 3:10-17 Paul describes his own task as a wise master builder. Hebrews 3:3 tells us that Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.
God expects us to edify one another. We need to understand that we are either building up or tearing down. There is no status quo in the construction process.
doxa (δόξα) – glory
In 1674 Thomas Ken wrote a hymn based on the 100th Psalm. It is known as the “Old Hundreth” or simply the “Doxology.”
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
ego (ἐγώ) – I
Isn’t it amazing how powerful a small word can be? The Greek word for “I” has made its way into our vocabulary as something we don’t usually consider to be very positive. Why is it that we capitalize “I” in English? Other languages don’t capitalize the first person singular pronoun. And why don’t we capitalize “you” or “he” or “she” or even “us” or “we”? At least we don’t capitalize “me.” Jesus presents a terminal case of ego in Luke 12:13-21.