Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The adjective ασφαλης (asphales) means firm or immovable: not able to be cast down or overthrown. It consists of the familiar particle of negation α (a), meaning not or without, and the verb σφαλλω (sphallo), make to fall or overthrow (of buildings, of one's fortunes, or figuratively one's argumentations or one's solid reasons).
This latter verb isn't used in the New Testament and it isn't clear where it came from. But in our article on the noun σειρα (seira), cord, we note that many Greek words occur with and without a leading sigma. And in our article on the many Hebrew roots of Greek we note that many Greek word are actually Hebrew, or seem to be. All this directs our attentions to the formidable root פלל (palal), to intervene or intercede, and particularly the verb נפל (napal), to fall down.
From our adjective ασφαλης (asphales) comes the familiar English word asphalt, which originated in the bitumen that kept walls from toppling over. The Hebrew word for tar or bitumen, namely כפר (koper), is identical to כפר (koper), meaning the price of a ransom of a slave's life, in whose grim fate a generous benefactor would intervene. Verb כפר (kapar) means to atone or purge; hence the familiar term Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement.
But whatever the pedigree, our adjective ασφαλης (asphales), may mean immovable and describe a ship's anchor or perhaps the fidelity of one's friends, or describe some unshakable factual foundation or slightly less poetic, some position of security from which one cannot be moved. It occurs 5 times in the New Testament; see full concordance, and from it in turn derive:
- The noun ασφαλεια (asphaleia), meaning security of safety from being moved or toppled (Luke 1:4, Acts 5:23 and 1 Thessalonians 5:3 only).
- The verb ασφαλιζω (asphalizo), meaning to make safe or secure, unable to be moved or toppled. This verb is used 4 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
- The adverb ασφαλως (asphalos), meaning securely (Mark 14:44, Acts 2:36 and 16:23 only).