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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Greek word: ειμι

Source: http://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/e/e-i-m-i.html

Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary

ειμι

The fascinatingly irregular verb ειμι (eimi) means to be. It expresses the mere fact of existence without adding a clause of condition (as does the verb υπαρχω, huparcho) or the specific emergence or development of existence (as does γινομαι, ginomai). Still, it should be noted that Greek's vast pallet of grammatical tricks is able to have our verb reflect pretty much any sense or form or process pertaining to being and becoming.

Our Greek verb is used quite in the same way as our English equivalent ("to be"), although it frequently carries an additional reference to defining behavior. Our verb's Hebrew counterpart, the verb היה (haya), is almost solely used to express defining behavior — that is to say, when in Hebrew a 'dog is outside', it is not simply existing but actively playing out behavior from which we may recognize the dog to be a dog. In Greek, the added clause of defining behavior might be implied by the context ("in the beginning the Word was", John 1:1; by Your will they are, Revelation 4:11).

Probably in this same way are we to understand Jesus' enigmatic statement in John 9:5, where the particle of conjecture οταν (hotan) is coupled with the subjunctive form of the first person single of our verb ειμι (eimi), namely ω (oi), meaning "if I were" (in stead of "I am"). With this Jesus is probably not saying that "if only He were to be" in the world He would be the light of it, but rather "when He would do [those things only He does]" in the world, He is its light.

This verb's participle, in its many forms, describes literally "a being" or "something that is", and this can cover anything from a person to an animal to some situation or an abstract mode of thought.

Our verb comes with the following derivations:

  • Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from: the verb απειμι (apeimi), meaning to be absent (1 Corinthians 5:3, Philippians 1:27, Colossians 2:5). From this verb in turn comes:
    • The noun απουσια (apousia), meaning absence (Philippians 2:12 only).
  • Together with the preposition εν (en), meaning in, on, at: the verb ενειμι (eneimi), describing inclusion among a given set: to be within (Luke 11:41, Galatians 3:28, James 1:17).
  • Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out: the verb εξεστι (exesti), literally meaning "out of the things that exist". It expresses a being incorporated in some social code of conduct, an idea or behavior being possible, allowable or acceptable in a moral or ethical sense, or a kind of conduct generally found and allowed in society (Matthew 14:4, Acts 16:21, 2 Corinthians 12:4). It that sense it parallels the statement in English of something "being proper", and in the negative, this verb would parallel the English prohibitory expression "that's not done". Translations often use words like "lawful" to interpret this verb but that's a touch too strong. Our verb expresses not formal stipulations but rather informal ones, those that are enforced by peer pressure and normative social influence (while keeping in mind that formal law indeed derives from social norms). From this verb in turn derives:
    • The noun εξουσια (exousia), meaning authority and denoting the allowableness of doing something or the faculty or liberty to do it (Matthew 9:8, Mark 3:15, Acts 1:7). It needs to be remembered that there is nothing arbitrary about social laws, as these are part of God's natural creation and are designed to have society operate at peak efficiency (with ultimate freedom of the individual; the New Jerusalem is like a beehive which comes from everybody being able to follow their own hearts; Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:15). Like the very Word of God, these social rules need to be distilled over time (Psalm 12:6, Matthew 28:18), and people with insight have consensual authority over people who don't. Formal authority comes from that (Luke 23:7, Romans 13:1, but see Colossians 2:15), and a just ruler differs from an unjust one by his following or pursuing God's laws instead of his own. From this noun in turn comes:
      • The verb εξουσιαζω (exousiazo), meaning to have or exercise authority (Luke 22:25, 1 Corinthians 7:4). From this verb comes:
        • Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from or down upon: the verb κατεξουσιαζω (katexousiazo), meaning to over-curtail one's subjects; to be authoritarian.
  • Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the verb παρειμι (pareimi), meaning to be nearby or to come near or close, often in a temporal sense rather than a spatial (Luke 13:1, John 7:6, Colossians 1:6). From this verb derive:
    • The important noun παρουσια (parousia), meaning a near presence, or a coming or an arrival. It's used to describe the physical nearness of a human person (Philippians 2:12) and for the mundane arrival of travelers (1 Corinthians 16:17, Philippians 1:26) but more significantly also for the "coming" of the Lord (Matthew 24:39, 1 Corinthians 15:23, 1 Thessalonians 2:19). Over the centuries this Parousia of Christ has been pondered exhaustively, to the wildest imageries and procedures, but here at Abarim Publications we suspect the "coming of the Lord on the clouds" (1 Thessalonians 4:17) to not have to do with Him coming from outer space and landing on suspended water vapor in earth's atmosphere, but rather of a gradual nearing of the insights and co-operations of people groups (clouds) that will at some point reach a critical mass, which in turn will result in a world-wide lights-on moment at which everybody on earth will finally and at once understand what the gospel has been about for all those years.
    • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συμπαρειμι (sumpareimi), meaning to be present with (Acts 25:24 only).
  • Also together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συνειμι (suneimi), meaning to be with (Luke 9:18 and Acts 22:11 only).