Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb αρκεω (arkeo) describes structural resistance to an outside pressure — hence our English words "ark" (see below), "arc" and "arch," the latter of which describes a construction designed to resist gravity caused by the weight of stones atop the arch. Our words appear to derive from a very old Proto-Germanic word for bow or more specifically: having the qualities of a bow or pertaining to a bow (hence our word "arrow" which also derives from this word). These roots also provided the word αρκευθος (arkeuthos), which describes certain plants and trees with resilient or bendable branches, such as Juniper trees and Phoenicia's famous cedars.
Most generally our verb αρκεω (arkeo) means to ward off or support against collapse brought on by outside forces. Hence the noun αρκεσις (arkesis), meaning help; the adverb αρκεοντως (arkeontos), meaning strong enough or sufficiently supportive; the adjective αρκιος (arkios), meaning to be relied on, sure enough; and the noun αρκος (arkos), meaning defense. This latter noun is identical to an unusual variant of the much more common noun αρκτος (arktos), meaning bear, and see below for a discussion of this.
Our verb is used a mere 8 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, but from it stem the following important derivations:
- The adjective αρκετος (arketos), meaning sufficient or enough, with the implication of being sufficient to avert collapse (Matthew 6:34, 10:25 and 1 Peter 4:3 only).
- The noun αρκτος (arktos), meaning bear, the both docile but at times wildly fierce animal that was also known as αρκος (arkos), which is identical to a noun meaning defense. This suggests that this formidable mammal was proverbially known for both its latent strength and calm confidence and also for its propensity to defend itself and its young in bloody battle. The Greeks applied their word for bear to the familiar stellar constellation we know as Ursa Major, or Great Bear, and ultimately to the entire arctic north and even the arctic south. Note that our English word "bear" comes from the Proto-Indo-European root bher-, which puzzled scholars divide in two: root bher- (1) is thought to mean brown or bright, whereas the much wider attested bher- (2) means to bear or carry. Here at Abarim Publications we don't see the need to assume two separate roots, since the bear was evidently indeed known as the "bearer." Our noun occurs in the New Testament in Revelation 13:2 only, where the "feet of the bear" obviously don't refer to furry clumpers but rather to the constitutional basis of a non-belligerent but nevertheless heavily secured society.
- Together with the pronoun αυτος (autos), meaning self: the adjective αυταρκης (autarkes), meaning self-sufficient or capable of keeping oneself from structural collapse (Philippians 4:11 only). From this word derives:
- Together with the preposition επι (epi), meaning on or upon: the verb επαρκεω (eparkeo), meaning to add to support or to sustain support (1 Timothy 5:10 and 5:16 only).
The noun κιβωτος (kibotos) describes a box or chest, but specifically one of some formal and protective use, like a treasury or archive or container of special clothes. The Septuagint (and hence the New Testament) used this noun κιβωτος (kibotos) to describe both Noah's ark (in Hebrew: תבה, tebah) and the Ark of the Covenant (in Hebrew: ארון, 'aron), which is why English Bibles use the same obscure term for two widely different groups of items (ships and boxes), namely "ark". The noun "ark" comes from the Latin noun arca, meaning box, from the verb arceo, to confine or ward off (hence also "arcane"), from the same Proto-Indo-European root "herk-", to ward off, that resulted in the Greek verb αρκεω (arkeo), to bear or resist pressure (see above).
Beside the Ark of the Covenant, the Hebrew word ארון ('aron) also described Joseph's coffin and the Temple's money chest. The word תבה (tebah), beside the boat of Noah, also described Moses' floating crib. But that indicates that the Greeks and Latins reckoned both the ark of Noah and the crib of Moses not so much as ships to stay afloat, but rather as a safes or strongboxes: safe-keeping treasuries against external onslaught.
It's generally thought that our noun κιβωτος (kibotos) indeed comes from תבה (tebah), and that תבה (tebah) stems from an Egyptian word t-b-t, meaning chest or coffin. That would mean that the Hebrews used an Egyptian word for chest for ships, and named their chests after a word that appears to have been derived from the verb רנן (ranan), to produce a ringing cry.
Our noun κιβωτος (kibotos), strongbox (or "ark"), is used 6 times; see full concordance.