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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Greek word: ιερος
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Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary

ιερος

The noun ιερος (hieros) means sacred (thing). This noun never describes persons but always either rites (1 Corinthians 9:13), Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15) or priestly offices (see ιερευς, hierus, meaning priest below). This word differs from the adjective αγιος (hagios), meaning holy, and the related adjective αγνος (hagnos), meaning clean or unsoiled, in that holiness and cleanness have to do with righteousness, whereas ιερος (hieros) has to do with being solemn. Hence pagans may have sacred things but no holy things.

Additionally, the noun ιερος (hieros) denotes items that serve the practical side of religion as items of use. Our noun's antithesis is βεβηλος (bebelos), literally meaning thresholded: barred (from a temple or any religious service). The opposite of αγιος (hagios), meaning holy, is ακαθαρτος (akarthartos), meaning unclean.

Our important noun comes with the following derivations:

  • The noun ιερευς (hiereus), meaning priest, whether pagan (Acts 14:13) or Jewish (Matthew 8:4, Mark 2:26, John 1:19). The four named priests (not counting high-priests) of the New Testament are: Zechariah (Luke 1:5), Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1), Aaron (Hebrews 7:11), and Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:17). Those who follow Jesus Christ automatically become priests as well (Revelation 1:6). From this noun derive the following words:
    • Together with the prefix αρχι- (archi-) denoting chief rank or degree: the noun αρχιερευς (archiereus), which is the word for high priest (Matthew 26:3, Mark 2:26, Luke 22:50). The theocratic structure of Judaism allowed only one high priest, who was comparable to a combination of our present day prime minister and minister of justice and education, and was necessarily a man of great learning and authority, both political and religious. If there was a king, and often there wasn't, the high priest enjoyed similar if not greater respect than he. In the New Testament this word curiously occurs often in plural, and as such it denotes a member of a high-priestly family, a priestly division manager or a member of the Sanhedrin (Matthew 2:4, John 19:6, Acts 26:10). Named high-priests are: Caiaphas (Matthew 26:3), Abiathar (Mark 2:26), Ananias (Acts 23:2), Annas (Luke 3:2), Sceva (Acts 19:14), and Aaron and Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6:20). From our noun derives:
      • The adjective αρχιερατικος (archeitatikos), meaning pertaining to the high priest (Acts 4:6 only).
    • The verb ιερατευω (hierateuo, meaning to do what priests do (Luke 1:8 only: 'It was "in the serving as a priest" of him in the order of the course of him before God, according...'). From this verb come:
      • The noun ιερατεια (hierateia), meaning a doing what priests do (Luke 1:9 only: '...before God, according of the "serving of a priest"...').
      • The noun ιερατευμα (hierateuma), meaning a (collective) priesthood (1 Peter 2:5 only). This word emphasizes the practical part of the assignment; it's a job to do, not a state of holiness to assume.
  • The noun ιερον (hieron) meaning a sacred place or sanctuary, again either pagan (Acts 19:27) or not. This is one of two primary Greek words to describe the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 12:5, Luke 21:5, John 5:14, Acts 2:46); the other being ναος (naos), from a verb that means to dwell. The difference between the two is that ναος (naos) mostly describes the central building, whereas ιερον (hieron) may include the larger temple complex, complete with courts and auxiliary buildings. From our noun ιερον (hieron) comes:
    • Together with the verb συλαω (sulao), meaning to spoil or plunder: the noun ιεροσυλος (hierosulos), literally denoting a sanctuary-robber but used in the sense of someone who ruins or defiles religious goings on (Acts 19:37 only). Note that by robbing a people's temple, a conqueror would "prove" that his god was better than the defeated party's god, which would thus automatically lead to a conversion of the defeated people to the victorious god and thus allegiance to the victorious king. This is why political rulers love polytheism and division; it's very difficult to tyrannize a harmonized and monotheistic people, especially one that doesn't sport an effigy that a victor can swipe. Since the God of the Nazarene is not a God of swords or wallets, it's highly significant that the officials of Ephesus recognized that Gaius and Aristarchus weren't temple-robbers or in any way disrespectful about Artemis. From this noun come:
      • The verb ιεροσυλεω (hierosuleo), literally meaning to commit temple robbery; to be sacrilegious. In the New Testament it's used only in Romans 2:22, where Paul equates abhorring idols to refraining from robbing temples. This is probably not so much about swiping someone else's pretty golden statue, but rather engaging in the ways of idol-worshipping peoples, namely stealing the other nation's idol to demonstrate that your god is better than theirs. The Living Lord is served not by conquering others but by serving them, and by amending the failure of the other peoples' idol to have any effect.
    • Together with the noun εργον (ergon), meaning a work: the verb ιερουργεω (hierourgeo), meaning performing a sacred task, that is: doing something practical related to a religion (Romans 15:16 only).
  • Together with the verb πρεπω (prepo), meaning to be distinguished, to be proper or becoming: the adjective ιεροπρεπης (hieroprepes), meaning befitting a sacred person (Titus 2:3 only).
  • The noun ιερωσυνη (hierosune), meaning a priesthood and denoting the whole shebang of it, duties, honors, service, etcetera (Hebrews 7:11, 7:12, 7:14 and 7:24 only).

Note that the name Jerusalem in Greek is spelled either Ιεροσολυμα or Ιερουσαλημ, which makes it seem as if it consists of our word ιερος (hieros), meaning sacred. Also note that the second half of Jerusalem in Greek, namely ολυμα may have reminded a creative few of the name Ολυμπος (Olympus), the seat of the twelve main deities of the Greeks.


Associated Biblical names

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