Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun ναος (naos), means dwelling and is often used synonymously for temple. Temples mostly originated as storehouses of a people's surplus (which means that religion began as central banking), which became identified with a people's collective identify, and thus its totem deities. People like the Hebrews began to see knowledge of creation as a way to the divine (Romans 1:20), which drove them to study, to perfect writing systems, and to turn their temple into a library (for more on this, read our article on the name Exodus).
Etymologically, our word ναος (naos) derives from the unused verb ναιω (naio), meaning to dwell, which in turn is identical to the verb ναιω (naio) meaning to overflow or be full (of a storehouse), from whence derives the verb ναω (nao), meaning to flow, and from that verb comes the noun ναυς (naus), meaning ship. Ships brought in wealth and military security, and ships were doubtlessly recognized as the cousins of temples (Revelation 8:9).
Another word that looks rather similar to all these is the familiar adjective νεος (neos), meaning new or young, and read our article on that word for a closer look at these parallels.
Our noun ναος (naos) literally means dwelling place and is the Bible's most common word for the central temple building — the temple complex at large is mostly referred to with the noun ιερον (hieron), meaning sacred place or sanctuary.
Our noun may denote pagan temples, such as those of Artemis of Ephesus (Acts 19:24) and also the Temple of YHWH in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:5, Luke 1:9, John 2:19) and ultimately the living temple (1 Peter 2:5, Revelation 3:12). What this living temple in practice comes down to is a hotly debated issue, but here at Abarim Publications we surmise that the living temple complex will consists of the biosphere that contains a humanity that is fully synchronous with and wholly aware of the natural laws that make creation work.
Where pagans embodied their deities in effigies and placed these things in temples for them to live in, the Temple of YHWH was designed to achieve two goals:
- To provide a home for the worship of YHWH, which not only comes down to singing songs and distributing food, but also to researching the workings of creation (Exodus 33:13, Psalm 25:4, Romans 1:20), to teach God's natural law to the people (Nehemiah 8:8, Luke 2:46, John 8:20) and to preserve the library of Scriptures that dealt with natural law (1 Samuel 10:25, 2 Kings 22:8, Psalm 40:5-8).
- To center the entire temple complex on an ostensibly empty room that specifically reminded Israel that the Living Creator of the universe does not live in a common temple (Acts 7:48, 17:24, see 1 Kings 8:27).
When in 64-63 BC the Roman general Pompey conquered the nations of the Levant, his first order of business was to enter the temple of the defeated nation's national deity, to demonstrate his superiority over this national deity and even the deity's passive consent for him being there. When he entered Jerusalem's Holy of Holies in 63 BC, he found no deity and was thus unable to demonstrate his superiority.
Rome's subsequent hate for Jews and thus Christians stemmed from their atheism (that means: without an effigy, "a charge on which many others who drifted into Jewish ways were condemned," in the words of Cassius Dio, Hist.67.14) because Rome needed any kind of theism to make its monstrous world work.
Our noun has one derivative, namely the noun νεωκορος (neokoros), which combines our noun with the otherwise unused verb κορεω (koreo), meaning to sweep and which literally denotes a temple sweeper.
In time, as temples grew more elaborate, this word became the title of any temple worker, and by New Testament times it had become an honorary title of cities that housed and maintained certain famous temples. This word occurs ones in the New Testament, namely in Acts 19:35, where Ephesus is called the νεωκορος (neokoros) of the temple of Artemis.