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

Source: http://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/ph/ph-a-g-om.html

φαγω

Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary

φαγω

The verb φαγω (phago) means to eat, but it's used only in a grammatical form called second aorist (which declares the action but says nothing about when it happened or how long it lasted). Its alter-ego is the verb εσθιω (esthio; see below), which takes care of the present and imperfect tenses. The verb φαγω (phago) is where the many English "-phagia" words come from, as well as the noun phage and words like sarcophagus (literally: flesh-eater). It ultimately stems from a Proto-Indo-European root bhag- that means to share out or to apportion, and from which also comes the name Bhagavad-Gita.

Still, in the Bible the activity of eating has not so much to do with chopping a meal into bite-sized bits but rather the sustaining of both one's physique and one's mind by adding material to it. The idea of eating differs from, say, adding stones to a building in that the food we assume is not readily assimilated but first gets broken down to its elements, which then are inserted where the body needs it to function according to its genetic design. This is why a horse will always stay a horse no matter what it eats. A horse may be a strong and healthy horse or a sick and dying one, depending on what it eats, but it will never be a mouse.

The mind works the same way (1 Corinthians 10:3): information is never copy-pasted to our internal hard drives but is always broken down and stitched onto to already existing structures. That's why the same data may mean vastly different things to differing observers. Without this "mental eating" there would be no such thing as art, and lovely as artificial intelligence might be, it won't be able to truly imitate life until it learns to store useful information in disagreement.

Our verbs that mean to eat are also applied to fire (James 5:3, Revelation 11:5), which is why in the Bible fire often relates to learning (Zechariah 13:9, 1 Peter 1:7), and while all lies and nonsense burn to ashes in fire (Revelation 19:20), the eternal Word upon which our universe is based won't singe an hair (Exodus 3:2, Daniel 3:25). Also see our articles on words like σαρξ (sarx), meaning flesh, and the verb διδασκω (didasko), meaning to learn, in which we show how the ancient Proto-Indo-European root dens- (to learn/teach) closely relates to the root dent-, meaning tooth (hence our word dentist).

Our verb φαγω (phago) is used 97 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it come:

  • Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb καταφαγω (kataphago), meaning to chomp down, to gobble up. This verb is the counterpart of the verb κατεσθιω (kathestio; see below), meaning the same. It's used 9 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition προς (pros), which describes a motion toward: the noun προσφαγιον (prosphagion), which describes something slaughtered in order to be eaten. This word is used only once, in John 21:5, where it comes from the mouth of Jesus, who of course was slaughtered in order to be eaten.
  • The noun φαγος (phagos), literally meaning an eater but used in the sense of a glutton (Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34 only).
  • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συνεφαγω (sunephago), meaning to jointly eat, to eat communally (Acts 10:41 and 11:3 only). This verb is the alter-ego of the verb συνεσθιω (sunesthio; see below).
εσθιω

The verb εσθιω (esthio) means to eat and is the side-kick of the verb φαγω (phago; see above), which also means to eat. The latter takes care of the second aorist (the grammatical form that declares action but not time) whereas our verb εσθιω (esthio) takes care of all present and imperfect tenses. Unlike the verb φαγω (phago), our verb εσθιω (esthio) has left very few traces in English: the most useful one is perhaps the noun esthiomene, which describes some thoroughly displeasant infirmity.

Our verb is used 65 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:

  • Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb κατεσθιω (kathestio), meaning to chomp down, to gobble up. This verb is the counterpart of the verb καταφαγω (kataphago), meaning the same (see above). It's used 6 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the particle of negation νη (ne): the adjective νηστις (nestis), meaning not having been eating. It describes someone who, for some reason, has skipped meal(s) (Matthew 15:32 and Mark 8:3 only). From this adjective comes:
    • The verb νηστευω (nesteuo), meaning to not-eat for whatever reason but usually to deliberately fast. This verb is used 21 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
      • The noun νηστεια (nesteia), meaning a not-eating or a fast. This noun is used 8 times; see full concordance, but not always necessarily in a religious or physical sense. When in Matthew 17:21 Jesus mentioned that some unclean spirits don't come out unless by praying and fasting, he may have been talking about somehow not feeding the spiritual demon rather than the physical host.
  • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συνεσθιω (sunesthio), meaning to jointly eat, to eat communally (Luke 15:2, 1 Corinthians 5:11 and Galatians 2:12 only). This verb is the alter-ego of the verb συνεφαγω (sunephago; see above).