Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The New Testament Greek word: καλεω

Source: http://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/k/k-a-l-e-om.html

Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The verb καλεω (kaleo) means to call. It stems from the same ancient proto-Indo-European root gal-, to call or scream, from which we get our English verb "to call" and which also yielded the Latin noun gallus, meaning rooster. That means that to the ancients the rooster was known as a caller, and that relates the rooster to the wolf, which was known in Latin as lupus, from the Greek λυπη (lupe), meaning sorrow. The German verb klagen means to lament or complain, and stems indeed from our root gal-. The name Galatia relates to the ethnonym Celt, which is of unknown origin but which would have reminded people of both our verb καλεω (kaleo), the noun gallus (which is identical to the Latin adjective meaning Gallic), and even the Greek noun γαλα (gala), meaning milk.

Mammals start their life drinking milk, and lactose persistence (the ability to digest milk after infancy) is a relatively new development in human history. The mutation was probably with us for a long time but didn't start to make much of a positive difference until the rise of agriculture. It ultimately took hold mostly in Europe, where a culture of adult-milk drinking emerged. In literature, however, drinking milk remained associated with infancy. That means that in literary conscience, white Europeans weren't "adult milk drinkers" but rather "perpetual babies". Milk is the proverbial food for those who can't sustain themselves and hence call out for help.

It's commonly thought that the Bible is the one and only, utterly unique and isolated Word of God, but the Bible itself calls itself the "milk" of wisdom, and all other sciences and skills the solid foods that follow (compare 1 Peter 2:2 to John 21:25, and see our commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16 in our article on the noun γραφη, graphe, meaning "writing"). The Word of God is not some religious concept but covers everything that can be known about the natural world (compare Colossians 2:3 to Romans 1:20). That means that professional Scripture Theorist, such as ourselves here at Abarim Publications, are professional milk-men! (We got cheese, curds, whey, yogurt, butter, kaymak, kefir; you name it, we churn it.)

The bottom line, of course, is that man is designed to operate in networks (the same is true on the material level for atomic particles and on the biological level for living cells). It's not good that a man is alone (Genesis 2:18) and in man's weakness he calls out, forms conventions and cooperations and ultimately becomes stronger than any strong man could have by himself (Matthew 12:29). The Word of God calls (Matthew 4:21) because strength lies in weakness (Isaiah 40:29, Zechariah 4:6, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Our verb καλεω (kaleo) is also closely associated with the activity of rendering names to items, animals and people, which in turn requires a thorough familiarity with them (Genesis 2:19). The ability to do so lies at the root of language, and this is the main reason why so very few animals learn to talk: they lack the ability to think in abstractions. Naming things is the same as representing things in nouns, which in turn is the basis of nominal reasoning, which in turn separates mankind from the animal world. The most encompassing concepts of rational thought are in the Bible commonly referred to as the Word (of God), and the Name (of God). See for more on this our article on the word ονομα (onoma), meaning name (or noun).

This majestic verb is used 146 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:

  • Together with the preposition αντι (anti), meaning in place of, or against: the verb αντικαλεω (antikaleo), meaning to call reciprocally: to invite as a reciprocal response to an earlier enjoyed invitation (Luke 14:12 only).
  • Together with the preposition εν (en), meaning in, on, at, by: the verb εγκαλεω (egkaleo), literally meaning to call in: to claim dues or invoke some rule or rank. Hence this verb became synonymous with to bring charge against someone, to prosecute. This verb is used 7 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
    • Prefixed with the particle of negation α (a): the adjective ανεγκλητος (anegkletos), meaning without reproach or without giving grounds for dispute. This adjective says nothing about being actually guilty or not, but rather describes someone who is able to remain unnoticed by faultfinders or prosecutors, someone able to stay out of trouble. This word is used 5 times; see full concordance.
    • The noun εγκλεμα (egklema), meaning an invocation of some rule, which comes down to an accusation or a charge made against someone (Acts 23:29 and 25:16 only).
  • Together with the preposition εις (eis) meaning in, to or toward: the verb εισκαλεω (eiskaleo), meaning to call into [a house, mostly]. This word is used only once in the New Testament, namely in Acts 10:23.
  • Together with the preposition επι (epi) meaning on or upon: the verb επικαλεω (epikaleo), meaning to call upon. This verb is used in the sense of "to surname" (Matthew 10:3, Luke 22:3, Acts 1:23) and the passive voice indicates that surnames were rather nicknames by which folks had become known. More often this verb is used in the sense of "to call upon" someone's name. This does not simply describe the act of uttering someone's name (Acts 7:59), but rather the claiming of intimate kinship with that person and assuming that person's last name for oneself. Name-claiming happened all the time in the Roman world; the famous historian Josephus, for instance, name-claimed the name Flavius to demonstrate his patronage from emperor Vespasian, who in turn name-claimed the name Caesar in honor of Julius (see Acts 25:11). The familiar idiom of "calling upon the name of the Lord" (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:12, 1 Corinthians 1:2), likewise, does not simply describe crying out the name of the deity, but rather claiming the deity's name as one's own surname, and thus claiming to be of His family. The name Christ, for instance, means Anointed and since we all share in the anointing (1 John 2:20-27), those who are in Christ are not Christians but Christs. Jesus Christ is of course the initial and most famous Christ but since Jesus Christ is incarnate in his people, the world is full of Tom Christs, Dick Christs and Harry Christs. Name-claiming is obviously an ancient practice; many Pharaoh's and other kings incorporated god-names into their own, and a large majority of Hebrew names incorporate references to the Creator via specific theologies: hence the many -ab, -yah and -el names. This awesome verb occurs 32 times; see full concordance.
  • The noun κλησις (klesis), meaning a call or calling. Being called or receiving a call obviously demonstrates the caller's familiarity with the called (1 Corinthians 7:20). As with the previous verb, επικαλεω (epikaleo), the Lord's famous assertion that He called Israel by name (Isaiah 43:1) does not necessarily mean that He called Israel by Israel's name but rather by His own. That's how Israel became His (see John 10:3 and 10:27). This noun is used 11 times; see full concordance.
  • The adjective κληος (kletos), meaning called. In the New Testament this word is used mostly as a substantive: the called. It's used 11 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition μετα (meta), meaning with or among and implying motion toward the inside: the verb μετακαλεω (metakaleo), meaning to call into [a group of people]. This verb is used 4 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the verb παρακαλεω (parakaleo), meaning to call to nearness; to call someone with the intent of bringing that person close, or to call into a group with the intent of bringing the members of that group closer to each other. This verb's bottom line is that of convergence, which it shares with words such as αγαπη (agape), or love, and αγιος (agios), meaning holy. It may describe the call to a spatial approach (to call someone to come close; Matthew 18:32, Acts 8:31), or a figurative approach: a call for care, support (Matthew 8:5) or consolation (Matthew 2:18). There are obviously many nuances to this one verb (to beseech, to comfort, to impute social cohesion), and since no proper equivalent exists in English a suiting translation has to be wrought from the context. It should be remembered, however, that wherever this Greek verb is used, all possible English interpretations are continuously and seamlessly represented. This verb used 108 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it in turn derive:
    • The noun παρακλησις (paraklesis), meaning a near-calling, an impetus to approach others and thus in a secondary sense: a consolation (Luke 6:24). The mechanism of this noun is closely similar to that of the noun αγαπη (agape), which is often translated with love, but which rather describes the mental equivalent of what in physics is called the release of thermodynamic energy; a cooling off. Because they cool off, individual particles drift toward a common center of gravity and thus closer together. The idea behind our noun παρακλησις (paraklesis) is a degree of convention that allows people to further approach each other in their convictions and opinions (Acts 15:31, Romans 15:4). This wonderful noun is used 29 times; see full concordance.
    • The noun παρακλετος (parakletos), which describes someone called near: a near-called one. In the Greek classics this word was often used in a judicial sense, and described a defense lawyer or legal assistant, but in the New Testament it applies mostly to the Holy Spirit (it's used 5 times; see full concordance). Popular translations usually interpret this word with "comforter" but that stems from a time when people thought that salvation is mostly an individual affair and mostly a matter of waiting inertly. More modern theologies, and particularly those theologies that are actually based on Biblical thought, recognize salvation to be a collective affair and closely associated with a lot of doings (though admittedly as a result of salvation rather than the cause of it). Certainly the Holy Spirit consoles, but His consolation is the effect of people's nearing to each other and thus to God.
    • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συμπαρακαλεω (sumparakaleo), meaning to jointly near-call, to collectively call each other to approach and support each other. This verb is used only once, in Romans 1:12.
  • Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before: the verb προκαλεω (prokaleo), meaning to before-call, to call someone to appear before oneself, which usually comes down to enticing or provoking someone into a challenge or fight. As a legal term this word was also used to describe calling someone before judges, or even to evoke some evidence, witness or principle that might influence the judge's decision. This word is used in the New Testament only once, in Galatians 5:26, where Paul urges his readers not to act this way.
  • Together with the preposition προς (pros), which describes a motion toward: the verb προσκαλεω (proskaleo), meaning to call toward oneself. This verb is used 31 times; see full concordance.
  • Again together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συγκαλεω (sugkaleo), meaning to call together. This verb is used 8 times; see full concordance.