Harry Whittaker
Word Studies



It seems that it means: “it seems”. In fact, there is a general opinion that it signifies “a man’s opinion, what he supposes to be true” about this or that.

Thus, according to the worthy Robert Young and his worthy concordance, dokeo is translated:

33 times
7 times
13 times,

plus a handful of less important variations on the same “seem” theme.

About all this there is a certain air of tolerant indifference — you can take it or leave it, there’s apparently nothing desperately important about dokeo one way or t’other; as when Jesus said: “What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children (subjects), or of strangers (foreigners)?”

So dokeo relates to a not over-dogmatic expression of opinion.

This is the normal meaning, to be found simply set down in every lexicon.

But for the careful student of NT words, this is hardly good enough. It needs only an attentive poring over those 63 passages to bring to light the fact that in a fair proportion of these 63, dokeo is much more emphatic. Full often it means not “I think” or “I suppose”, or “it seems to me”, but “I’m confident” or even “I’m sure” or “it’s definite”. Examples:

  1. Four times in Galatians 2:2,6,9 Paul refers to Peter and Jam as “those who seemed to be pillars (in the ecclesia)”. But there was no doubt about it in anybody’s mind — they were pillars! Yet (incredibly!) not a few commentators, wedded to their lexicon more than to their NT, dare to accuse Paul of being sarcastic at the expense of two fine men. How likely is that?
  2. “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...”, said James to the council at Jerusalem, as he summed up the best possible decision about a tricky problem. Is it conceivable that the Holy Spirit in the apostles was not too sure what guidance should be imparted? Or was James saying: ‘Without doubt this is the best solution’?
  3. “In them (the scriptures) ye think ye have eternal life,” said Jesus to his learned adversaries on the Sanhedrin (John 5:39). But there was no doubt about it. These men were confident that lots of learned attention to Holy Scripture would assuredly guarantee their everlasting life.
  4. At the trial of Jesus, Caiaphas came to the point of saying: “Ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye?” (Mat 26:66). He was not asking for a tentative opinion. He knew he was getting a cast-iron decision.
These illustrations will suffice, but there is no lack of others: eg, Luk 17:9; John 16:2; Acts 26:9; 1 Corinthians 10:12.

Once this slant on dokeo is grasped, it provides helpful illumination on quite a few other passages.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to set Peter free from Herod’s prison, the apostle “thought he saw a vision”, that is, he was quite sure he was dreaming (Acts 12:9).

Judas went out from the Last Supper, and “some of them (the twelve) thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast, or...” (John 13:29). This is not so much a speculation as a confident assumption. Evidently they were very used to the undertaking of such errands by Judas.

“What think ye?” said some of the crowd at the last Passover, “that he will not come to the feast?” (John 11:56). They were confident that Jesus would not appear in Jerusalem this time, for, at the Feast of Chanukah and again before that at Tabernacles, had not the rulers tried to get him (10:39; 8:59)?

On the other hand, when the Lord was going up to Jerusalem for the last time, the disciples “thought (they were pretty sure) that the kingdom of God would immediately appear” (Luk 19:11). But Jesus was to warn them that “in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh” (Mat 24:44). Did he mean an hour when disciples are bewildered and far from sure whether the time is ripe? Or, more strongly, did he mean the Second Coming will happen at a time when you are confident that it won’t?

When, in the introduction to his gospel, Luke wrote: “It seemed good to me write unto thee, most excellent Theophilus...” (Luk 1:3), he was not suggesting that the compilation of a gospel was a good idea that had occurred to him, but that he was confident that this was a task he should undertake. Whence this confidence, if it did not come from a divine directive via some Spirit-guided member of the church? Another phrase in the same verse might imply the same idea; and there is evidence that this is how John’s gospel also came to be written.

It is even possible that, in 1:3, Luke deliberately chose a form of the word dokeo to suggest also the word for “glory” (doxa) — as who should say: ‘And I count it my chiefest glory that I have been deemed worthy to write thus about Christ my Lord.’

John the Baptist challenged what was a settled conviction in the minds of his rabbinic contemporaries when he curtly bade them: “Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father” (Mat 3:9). And similarly Jesus when he said concerning them: “They think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (6:7).

Are finer definitions of meaning such as these worth noting, or not?


The ordinary Greek word for “show” is deignumi. Its co-relative deignatizo means “to show up”. Stranger still, para-deignatizo means to make a public shameful exhibition. The two occurrences of this word are both quite lurid.

Joseph, fearing the worst about the condition of his betrothed, was “minded to put her away privily, not wishing to make her a public example” (Mat 1:19) in a way that formal divorce proceedings would necessarily invite publicity.

And in Heb 6:6, those who fall away from the Faith “crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” The second phrase strongly underlines not so much the pain and wretchedness of crucifixion as its incomparable shame. The idea is there also in the drastic action taken against the Baal-peor apostates in Israel: “Take those men and hang them up (s.w. LXX) before the Lord” (Num 25:4).

Sin, Transgress

Trench, in “New Testament Synonyms”, comments on the NT words for “sin” forming “a mournfully numerous group”. Here, as with the words for “fool”, the problem is nearly the same: Derivations are somewhat easier to pick out, but whether NT usage really insists on these distinctions is another matter. There are probably few places where the root meaning of any of these synonyms is to be pressed.

For instance, hamartia, the most common of them all, originally meant “missing the Mar” with arrow or spear. Classically such usage was common. But there is hardly a passage in the NT where this is obviously the meaning.

Hamartema seems to describe the whole catalogue of sins. The sacrifice of Christ is “for the remission of sins that are past” (Rom 3:25), the great agglomeration of them committed before the Lamb of God was born. Here 1Co 6:18 is something of a puzzle: “Every sin (or, all the sin) that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” Other sins do not transfer the body from Christ to another; but fornication does (as vv 15-17 argue).

Parakoe means “disobedience of a voice or commandment” (akouo — hear). This seems to be the point of Rom 5:19: “By one man’s disobedience (against the word spoken by angels in Eden) many were made sinners.”

Anomia is lawlessness, the wickedness which flouts God’s law (as in 1Jo 3:4), and anomos is the man who so transgresses. Since nomos (law) stood also specially for the Law of Moses, there is a special barb in the Lord’s description of the Pharisees as “full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Law-lessness)” (Mat 23:28). So also Peter’s denunciation: “By wicked (Law-less) hands ye have crucified and slain” the Son of God (Acts 2:23). The unusual word paranomia is used in 2Pe 2:16 with reference to Balaam because he was outside the Law.

Parabaino means “to go across” a clearly marked-out moral boundary. “Transgress” is good Latin for exactly the same idea. There seems to be a suggestion of deliberate wilful sin about some of the NT examples. Judas’ betrayal of Christ (Acts 1:25), Adam’s calculated choice in Eden (1Ti 2:14; Rom 5:14), and the cool effrontery of the disciples (as the Pharisees chose to interpret it) in flouting rabbinic tradition with their unwashed hands. Thus 2Jo 1: 9 suggests a deliberate element of perversity in the false teacher, going from ecclesia to ecclesia, who caused such apostolic headaches in the first century.

Paraptoma has the idea of “falling aside” or “falling instead of standing” (pipto — fall). This word also is used repeatedly of the Fall in Eden (Rom 5:15-20, six times). And the verb parapipto is used of apostasy from the Faith (Heb 6:6). But this idea of “falling away” is not always present, at least not very obviously.


The Greek nustazo is used in only a few places to emphasize an overpowering disposition to sleep, as in the case of the wise and foolish virgins (Mat 25:5); and with a pointed negative: “He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Psa 121:4). 2Pe 2:3: “their damnation slumbereth not” may be intended to imply: These false teachers fall into the category of foolish virgins; they are spiritually asleep to what the coming of the Bridegroom will mean to them, but the judgment he brings does not slumber!


Pagis (from Hebrew pach) is the ordinary word for the usual means of catching birds or animals. Paul warns that they who want to be rich “fall into temptation and a snare” (1Ti 6:9) — a snare especially because money is never seen in this sinister light. No man who gains wealth considers himself to be wealthy — “not until I have twice as much as this”.

What is “the snare of the devil” which Paul writes about? In 1Ti 3:7 the context is fairly clear: a bishop “must have a good report of them which are without, lest he fall into reproach (from such) and the snare of the devil (them which are without).” The warning is two-pronged. It is important that the leader of a Christian community be not only a Christian but be seen to be a Christian truly. On the other hand, he must avoid the trap which socializing with worldly people may imperceptibly become in his life.

2Ti 2:26 speaks of certain who need to “recover themselves out of the snare of the devil”. This suggests a similar context to the preceding — men who have allowed themselves to be entrapped by the allurements of worldly associations and have thus been “taken captive by him (the world and the flesh, which is the devil)” unto his will instead of to the will of Christ. There is some ambiguity about the phrasing here, so one can hardly be dogmatic about this understanding of it.

The context of Luk 21:35 suggests a similar idea: “For as a snare shall it (the Second Coming) come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” The previous verse is a solemn warning against “hearts overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares of this life”, just as it was in the days of Noah.

In Rom 11:9 Paul quotes (from Psa 69:22) some of the most imprecatory language of the OT: “For David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap...” In the Psalm the context — the destruction of Jesus at Passover — suggests that the “table” referred to may be the Passover meal which the Lord’s enemies ate to their own condemnation and not at all for their redemption. Everything at that Passover added to their guilt with its rebuke, by every detail, of their wilful blindness (On this passage, see George Booker’s “Psalms Studies”). It was a suitable quid pro quo for their earlier efforts to “entangle (s.w. entrap) him in his talk” (Mat 22:15).

The LXX poses a problem with what appears to be a drastically mixed metaphor: “Upon the wicked he (Jehovah) will rain snares” (Psa 11:6). But here the NIV boldly substitutes “fiery coals”. This makes more sense and fits the context. But the only justification for it is the assumption of a confusion between two very similar Hebrew words.


The simple meaning of nepho and nephalleos is to be sober in respect of drinking, or sober in one’s thinking. 1Th. 5:6,8 has the former idea (yet using it in a figure, warning against spiritual torpor or self-indulgence). But Peter’s usage in his first epistle (1:13; 4:7; 5:8) has the other meaning of thoughtful level-headed behaviour. And so also Paul (1Ti 3:2,11; Tit 2:2).

The more emphatic ananepho comes only in 2Ti 2:26: “that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil” — a very effective figure of a drunken man coming round again to sobriety.

The other compound eknepho has this notion yet more explicitly. It is used in a very literal sense of both Noah and Nabal waking up sober after drunkenness (Gen 9:24; 1Sa 25:37). Then what did Paul mean when he wrote: “Awake (eknepho) to righteousness, and sin not” (1Co 15:34)? He seems to imply that the old worldly life is as despicable as a drunken stupor.


Something like 250 times the word laleo crops up in the NT, nearly always translated “speak”.

The interesting and rather strange thing is that in classical Greek laleo means “chatter, babble”. But hardly ever, if at all, is this the usage in the NT At its lowest, the cognate word lalia is used for “dialect”: “Thy speech betrayeth thee” (Mat 26:73). But nearly always, laleo is upgraded to the level of preaching or some dignified pronouncement. Indeed, students should consider whether or not it has been appropriated specially for inspired utterance. At least 90% of the NT examples are in this category. But there are a few palpable exceptions (Mat 12:46,47; John 9:21; 7:13; 2Jo 1: 12; etc.).

One passage is of very special interest. 1 Corinthians 14,34,35 carries nearly all the weight for the dogma that the voice of a woman shall not be heard in any assembly of believers: “It is not permitted unto them to speak... it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

Here, no less than four possible meanings of laleo need to be considered:

The meaning (a) is invariably assumed. But is it possible one of the others was meant by Paul? So far as is known, no one has ever argued for (b) But since Paul is pleading for seemliness in the meetings, (c) is a distinct possibility, especially if the early church had fallen into the synagogue pattern of putting the womenfolk in a gallery upstairs by themselves. It would be understandable that, if the discourse included some point of special concern or maybe puzzlement, the women in the gallery would begin chattering amongst themselves. So Paul bluntly declared: “It is not permitted for your wives to chatter in the ecclesia...if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home...Let all things be done decently and in order.”

All this is beautifully consistent. The only misgiving is that this classical meaning for laleo doesn’t appear to have NT support elsewhere. Now consider (d). It is an impressive fact that laleo comes in the same chapter another 22 times, always with reference to a gift of the Holy Spirit, and 20 of these refer to speaking with tongues.

It is understandable, then, that women in the church, endowed with the gift of tongues and perhaps with less self-discipline than the men, could create some disturbance in the services. In that case, Paul may have been requiring that sisters do not speak with tongues during the services. If this is the right idea, what bearing does it have on the 20th-century problem? Very little, it would seem, since the gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer extant.

Two compounds of laleo call for brief consideration.

The idea of dialaleo is given perfectly in Luk 1:65: “All these sayings (about Zacharias and John the Baptist) were noised abroad.” Luk 6:11 is less happy or exact: “They were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.” This is too weak. Nor is the NEB — “began to discuss” — really adequate. Some phrase is needed to suggest excited indignant interchange of ideas and reactions, something equivalent to a 20th-century frantic exchange of telephone calls.

Katalaleo is an uninhibitedly bad word. The LXX uses it of Miriam’s and Aaron’s envious talk about Moses (Num 12:8), and of the mutiny of the people when desperate for water (21:5,7). In the NT, “backbiting” is a good Anglo-Saxon equivalent (Rom 1:30; 2Co 12:20). So, “speaking evil of you” or “of one another” (1Pe 2:12; 3:16; Jam 4:11) is really rather mild. This word deserves to be more evil spoken of than that.


The Greek nardos (Mar 14:3; John 12:3) occurs only in Song of Solomon 4:13,14 (twice to match two gospel incidents? Luk 7 and John 12?), and 1:12: “when the king sitteth at his table”. “Sendeth forth the smell thereof” has its counterpart in John 12: “the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.”

Spue, Vomit

The Greek word emeo has a more respectable child: “emetic”. But there is nothing respectable about this word in the Bible: “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev 3:16). The allusion appears to be to a denunciation in Leviticus of the foul sexual perversions of the heathen. Refrain from these evils, is the exhortation, “that the Land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you” (18:22-28). If this is the reference, then it would seem that the church at Laodicea was in danger of relapsing into the Gentile vices from which it had been converted (as also Thyatira). The added warning: “that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear”, chimes in with this.

Did Laodicea give heed to the exhortation? It is difficult to tell. Certainly, by the standards of orthodoxy, in the fourth century Laodicea was the most notable church in that area. But Truth had already been greatly corrupted, so perhaps already Laodicea was reprobated. But in that case, what outward sign was there that the Lord had vomited out this renegade community? The reference to the Second Coming in v 20 (cp. Luk 12:37) suggests an act of open condemnation.

In the OT spewing is several times associated with the foul effects of drunkenness (eg Isa 28:7,8; Jer 25:27). But the only other NT reference is Peter’s almost over-vigorous figures of speech: “It is happened to them (the renegades from the faith, going back to the old evil life) according to the true proverb: The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2Pe 2:22). The original of Peter’s “true parable” is this: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so is a fool that repeateth his folly” (Prov 26:11, RV). But the other saying about the sow is not in Proverbs. The guess has been made that this is a quote from an uncanonical collection of proverbs, and therefore not a “true proverb” like the other.


Oddly enough, the Greek word has originated the English “ozone”.

It occasions a certain mild surprise that Martha should use so forceful a word about the condition of the corpse of Lazarus four days after death ensued (John 11:39). But the AV is correct here, as Exo 8:14 shows: “And the land (of Egypt) stank”, because of the accumulation of dead frogs.


Xenos normally means ‘one from another country, a foreigner’. This is the obvious meaning in most places. But the usage is extended to cover anything strange, out of the ordinary, as in “divers and strange doctrines” (Heb 13:9); Paul was regarded at Athens as “a setter forth of strange gods” (Acts 17:18), a very odd remark for Athenians to make, for the city had imported deities from all the known world (vv 22,23).

Judas’ thirty pieces of silver were used to purchase “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (Mat 27:7). Thus the price of the death of Christ provided a resting place in the Holy City for Gentiles.

But why should the savagery of the Nero persecution be regarded (by some of the brethren) as “some strange thing” happening unto the brethren (1Pe 4:12)? But it was natural enough that old pagan associates should “think it strange that ye (no longer) run with them to the same excess of riot” (4:4).

Two occurrences of this word are somewhat puzzling. Paul speaks of Gaius as “mine host and of the whole church” (Rom 16:23). Also, “some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2). Why should the word for “stranger” suddenly mean “host to strangers”? It needs explaining.


“The weapons of our warfare are...mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2Co 10:4). The suspicion that vv 1-6 here have a sustained allusion to Israel’s conquest of Canaan finds some support in the fact that this Greek word for “strongholds” is virtually the same as in Num 13:19, LXX. The same word is also to be found in Jos 19:29 (Tyre), Isa 34:13 (Edom), and Prov 21:22.

Suffice, Sufficient

Arketos is an unusual word occurring only three times in Holy Scripture. But when those three passages are put together, the word is seen to carry a distinctly sardonic flavour:

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Mat 6:34). ‘Indeed, yes!’ is the only comment that the disciple, completely disillusioned about human nature, can make.

“It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Lord” (Mat 10:25). Indeed, yes — if only he could achieve that standard or that experience!

“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness...etc., etc.” (1Pe 4:3). Yes, indeed! more than sufficient time spent on that!


There is special interest attaching to this Greek word choregeo. Originally it described the assembly of players or dancers on a stage (cp. English chorus), but from this it graduated to a different meaning, now describing the wealthy patron who at his own expense undertook to supply the special robes and equipment needed by the “chorus”. It is only in this sense (again somewhat modified) that choregeo appears in the Bible.

“If any man minister (in the ecclesial service), receive it as out of the strength which God supplies” (1Pe 4:11). The same verse carries an allusion to “the manifold grace of God”, ie the diversified gifts of the Spirit extant in the early church.

2 Corinthians 9:10 has a similar idea: “God will minister (supply) bread for your food.” This follows immediately on an allusion to the way in which Israel were fed in the wilderness by “angel’s food”.

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