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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Greek word: γη

Source: http://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/g/g-et.html

Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary

γη

The feminine noun γη (ge) means earth (hence our English prefix "geo-") but predominantly as fertile and producing ground. In translations it may be interpreted as earth, land or ground but always with the underlying idea of being fertile and bringing forth. When our word is juxtaposed with "the heavens", it should not be understood to denote our planet in space, but rather as the dry land that had risen from the seas and now brings forth produce, and has clouds over it and water exchanging between all of them (see for more about the hydrological cycle in the Bible our article on the Hebrew equivalent of our word, namely ארץ, 'eres, meaning earth). When our word denotes the arena in which something like news propagates, it denotes basic humanity as the fertile field in which culture sprouts and grows (the actual world-wide human civilization is most often referred to with the familiar word κοσμος, kosmos).

It should be clearly understood and diligently remembered that where the English translations use words that expresses vastly different things and properties, the Greek consistently uses this same word: γη (ge), not a place or territory or particular substance, but "that in which things grow; anything in which whatever grows". Dry land sits in between sea and heaven. It sprang from the sea (Genesis 1:9, 2 Peter 3:5), which represents the formless beginning of all growth. And it evolves to be like heaven, which contains its final form (Matthew 5:48, Matthew 6:10, Revelation 21:1-2).

These metaphors are highly dominant in the world views of antiquity and are maintained consistently across the Bible. The feminine form of the Hebrew word for man, namely אדם (adam), is אדמה (adamah) or field, and the Hebrew word for mother, אם ('em), is closely related to the noun אמה ('umma), meaning tribe or people. Our word γη (ge) was doubtlessly associated (whether by true etymology or imposed sentiment) with the noun γυνη (gune), meaning woman or wife, and perhaps also with the verb γινομαι (ginomai), meaning to be, or begin to be, or even γερον (geron), meaning old man.

Our noun γη (ge) denotes land as the opposite of sea (Mark 4:1), and heaven (Matthew 5:18). It denotes land as that which yields vegetation and produce (Matthew 13:5), or land as supporting a political entity: a country or region (Matthew 2:20), or the whole human realm (Luke 11:31, Romans 9:17).

Our word also denotes the foundation of man's stance, poise and stride (Matthew 15:35, John 8:8, Acts 9:4), and is as such a metaphor for knowledge and certainty (see our article on πιστις, pistis, meaning faith, or "the dry land of the mind").

Note that quite often the various applications of our word in English make for quite diverse possible interpretations of Scriptures. Did, in Matthew 5:5, Jesus say that the meek would inherit the earth (as stewards of God's creation) or the land (as appreciated client state of the Romans)? The Great Jewish Revolt that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD was really the violent culmination of a period of remarkably meek protest that had begun well before Jesus' birth. Did Jesus, likewise, deny that He had come to bring peace on earth or just the occupied territories (Matthew 10:34)?

Derivatives of this word are:

  • Together with the noun εργον (ergon), meaning work: the noun γεωργος (georgos), meaning land-worker; farmer, that is: someone who works on and benefits from a large agricultural enterprise, but not necessarily as the owner (Matthew 21:33-41, Mark 12:1-9, Luke 20:9-16, 2 Timothy 2:6, James 5:7). Obviously, where the nature of the work of shepherds extends to any kind of governmental function (in case you were wondering: the shepherds of Luke and the wise men of Matthew are the same guys), the nature of the work that a farmer does extends into natural scholarship and engineering ("growing" theories and technologies and sustaining the masses with them). In John 15:1 Jesus applies this word to the Father. This word often appears as synonym of αππελουργος (ampelourgos), or vine-worker. Since, up until the industrial revolution, farmers customarily formed society's elite, the name George and perhaps even the adjective "gorgeous" denoted nobility, splendor and wealth. From this word in turn derive:
    • The verb γεωργεω (georgeo), meaning to farm (that is: to run a large agricultural business; Hebrews 6:7 only).
    • The noun γεωργιον (georgion), meaning a farm, or a big industrious enterprise that provided food, employment and general welfare for a great many people (1 Corinthians 3:9 only, where Paul uses it to describe what believers are to God). Obviously, a school of thought that investigates all things and harvest creation for useable information is precisely similar to a farm.
  • Together with the preposition επι (epi), meaning on or upon: the adjective επιγειος (epigeios), meaning earthly or terrestrial (Philippians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 15:40, James 3:15), the opposite of επουρανιος (epouranios), meaning heavenly. Note that these two words denote points of origin, and not essential characters, because the two approach all over the Bible and ultimately meet in Christ (Hebrews 8:5). Something earthly is something that's growing. Something heavenly is something that causes to grow and which provides a template to aim to grow into.