Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
ο- πο- το-
The interrogative pronoun was to the ancient Greeks what snow is to Eskimos. It comes in a broad spectrum of nuances and peculiarities that may appear rather punctilious to modern tastes but which demonstrates the Greeks' obsession with inquiry and persuasion. Also note that Greek's interrogative pronouns are also often employed to introduce semi-questions such as our English "isn't it?" or "don't you think?" or "wouldn't you agree?" Greek also often poses a question, comparable to our modern rhetorical question, where English would rather produce a self-evident statement.
Like our English corresponding adverbs "when" and "then," the many Greek versions come in triplets that differ only in their first letter, and consistently follow the pattern o-, po-, and to- or e-, pe-, and te-:
ως πως τως
- It all starts with the granddaddy of inquisitive pronouns, namely the relative adverb ως (hos), meaning "as" or "so as/as like." This word in turn derives from the nominative masculine form of the relative pronoun, namely ος (hos), meaning "that/who/which". The relative adverb ως (hos) occurs 498 times in the New Testament (see full concordance) and comes with its own set of derivatives. Please refer to our article on the relative pronoun ος (hos) for the details.
- The interrogative pronoun πως (pos), meaning "how?" or "in what manner?". It occurs 107 times, see full concordance, and very often with such a weak power of interrogation that in translations the question mark becomes obsolete (Matthew 6:28, Mark 5:16, Luke 8:18).
- The demonstrative adverb τως (tos), meaning "so" or "in this wise". This word is not used in the New Testament.
A second word of the form πως (pos) is an adverb of manner πως (pos). This adverb expresses indefiniteness of manner ("in any way" or "by any means") and was probably not recognized as too much of a different word by the average user of Koine Greek. The main difference with its homographic counterpart is that this adverb is not interrogative. It means "how" without the question mark. In the New Testament this adverb does not occur unbound and only as part of a compound: together with the particle of negation μη (me): the conjunction μηπως (mepos), meaning lest somehow.
The much more common adverb of manner is οπως (hopos), which is most often used as a conjunction meaning "so that" or "how" or "in such a manner". It is used 57 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
Clearly inspired by the above (or vice versa) is the adverb of time εως (heos), meaning until, unto, as long as. This adverb occurs 147 times; see full concordance.
οτε ποτε τοτε
- The adverb of time: οτε (hote), meaning "when": when this and that happens, then [...]. It's used 105 times with no mysteries, see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
- Together with the curious emphatic particle αν (an), which denotes a supposition or wish: the conjunction οταν (hotan), meaning "when" but implying a wish: "when in case of ... " or "should such and such ..." This particle frequently triggers the subjunctive mood and occurs 122 times; see full concordance.
- The interrogative adverb of time: ποτε (pote) also meaning "when?": when/ what time will this and that happen? It occurs a mere 19 times; see full concordance.
- The adverb of time τοτε (tote), meaning "then." It is used 158 times; see full concordance.
The form ποτε (pote) may also mean "when" not as an interrogative but as an indefinite and enclitic adverb, somewhat alike οτε (hote; see above), but rather referring to a vaguely defined sweep of time: "whenever" or "at some time" or simply "then". It may mean "once [upon a time]" or "at any time" or "at last." It occurs 29 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the particle of affirmation δη (de): the adverb δηποτε (depote), which means whatever but with an emphasis on the wide range of whateverness: "what totally ever at all." It occurs only in John 5:4 where it describes what maladies the angel of Bethesda was said to heal: whatever ever.
- Together with the particle of negation μη (me): the adverb μηποτε (mepote), meaning lest ever, that not ever. This word occurs 25 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the conjunction ουδε (oude), meaning "neither": the adverb ουδεποτε (oudepote), meaning not yet ever or never yet. This word is used 16 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the enclitic particle πω (po), meaning yet or even: the adverb πωποτε (popote), meaning yet ever, or at any time. This word occurs 6 times; see full concordance.
οιος ποιος τοιος
- The correlative relative pronoun οιος (hoios), meaning "such as" or "what manner." It's used 15 times; see full concordance.
- The interrogative pronoun ποιος (poios), meaning "what?" or "which?": what kind? what sort? which ones? On occasion the interrogative momentum of this word wanes somewhat in the translations, but it should be remembered that not a simple wondering but indeed an active investigation is implied (Matthew 24:42, Revelation 3:3). On occasion our pronoun assumes a substantive character and inquires to the general nature of a thing examined: a blend of "how/why/to what extent/in what way?" (1 Corinthians 15:35). Our pronoun occurs 34 times, see full concordance, and from it comes:
- Together with the otherwise unused noun δαπεδον (dapendon), meaning "floor" either of a chamber, the soil of a field or the deck of a ship: the interrogative adjective ποταπος (potapos), literally meaning: [from] what ground? or [from] which shelve? It asks for the location where something was stored and was retrieved from, or even where it originated, ultimately to assess the category of its quality and character. Note that origin was a common way to establish someone's quality, which is why Paul stressed he was of Tarsus (Acts 21:39) and why it is so striking that Jesus' origin was proverbially connected to Nazareth, a hamlet barely anyone had heard of. Our adjective occurs 7 times; see full concordance.
- The correlative demonstrative pronoun τοιος (toios), meaning "such." This word does not occur in the New Testament but from it come:
- The strengthened form τοιοσδε (toiosde), meaning "such" while indicating qualitative similarity (2 Peter 1:17 only).
- The strengthened form τοιουτος (toioutos), also meaning "such" and also indicating qualitative similarity. This form occurs 61 times; see full concordance. This word and the previous are in meaning quite the same, but technically they relate the way the demonstrative pronoun οδε (hode), meaning "this/that one," relates to the demonstrative pronoun ουτος (houtos), also meaning "this/that one."
οσος ποσος τοσος
- The correlative relative pronoun οσος (hosos), meaning how great/large/much/many (Mark 5:19, Luke 8:39), as great/large/much/many [as] (Matthew 13:14, 14:36), as long as (Matthew 9:15), or simply "as" or "whatsoever" while implying greatness (Matthew 7:20, 18:18) or "however much" implying much indeed (Mark 3:28). In Mark 12:44 this word is used to describe the relative (or perhaps moral) greatness of the two copper coins deposited by the poor widow. In Hebrews 10:37 this word occurs double, which appears to serve as an intensifying: precisely as much as, or as very much as. In Philippians 4:8 our pronoun occurs a whopping six times in a row. All together it occurs 115 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it comes:
- The interrogative pronoun ποσος (posos), meaning how great/large/much/many? It spans the same range of meaning as οσος (hosos) but introduces a question rather than a statement. It occurs 27 times, see full concordance, and from it comes:
- The correlative demonstrative pronoun τοσος (tosos), meaning so great, so vast, so many. Only the strengthened form τοσουτος (tosoutos) is used in the New Testament, and that 20 times; see full concordance.
ηλικος πελικος τελικος
- The correlative (and exclamatory) pronoun ηλικος (helikos), meaning how great! (Colossians 2:1 and James 3:5 only). It stems from the noun ηλικια (elikia), which means age or time or life and implies adulthood (being of "age"). It clearly also reminds of the noun ηλιος, (helios), meaning sun.
- The interrogative adjective πηλικος (pelikos), meaning how great or large, or of what age or how ancient. It has to do with the unused noun πηλικοτης (pelikotes), which describes magnitude in size. Our adjective appears in the New Testament only twice, namely in Galatians 6:11 and Hebrews 7:4, but the contexts suggests a meaning beyond mere comparison with size or great age. In Paul's letter to the Hebrews our adjective is used to describe Melchizedek to be "great" or "ancient," and this quality made it subsequently logical for Abraham to give him a tenth of his possessions. Obviously, this invention of the tithe marked the beginning of a community's tax department separate from the office of chief, which in turn marked the beginning of the central storage of collective surplus, which in turn brought about the building of central temples (see our article on the noun ναος, naos, meaning temple). The second time this word is used in the New Testament, Paul ties it to his own handwriting. Some commentators believe that Paul found it necessary to interrupt his discourse on ancient truths with a quip on his wonky longhand, whereas others tend to lean more to the suggestion that Paul rather emphasized the ancient and most fundamental nature of the truths he was conveying (see our note to the noun χειρογραφος, cheirographos, meaning handwriting).
- The demonstrative correlative pronoun τηλικουτος (telikoutos), which is a strengthened form of the unused word τελικος (telikos), which basically means "the end" in the sense of "the greatest/highest" or "perfect." In the New Testament our pronoun can usually be translated as "so great" or "as great as." It occurs 4 times; see full concordance.