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

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Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The verb βαινω (baino) means to stand, or to step when the grammar implies motion. It is the source of our English words base and basis.

Our verb βαινω (baino) may denote the beginning of a stepping, which comes down to starting on a journey. But it may also denote the beginning of a standing, which comes down to getting off one's horse at the end of a journey. Our verb may emphasize a standing, which then may point to something's stability, firmness, or perhaps its overbearing qualities or well-established notoriety.

Our versatile verb is very common in the classics but had gone out of fashion by New Testament times (replaced by verbs like the enormously important verb ιστημι, histemi, meaning to stand, the verb πατεω, pateo, to walk, and compound verbs like καταβαινω, katabaino, to step down or arrive; see below). Our verb βαινω (baino) is subsequently not used independently in the New Testament but is nevertheless part of a colossal array of compounds and derivations:

  • Together with the preposition ανα (ana), meaning on, upon, again or in response to: the verb αναβαινω (anabaino), literally meaning to step on but in effect meaning to go up (or come up), to ascend or to get onto something: to get on board, or mount a horse or mule, or a platform to speak. It may denote the following of a coast (going up the coast), the overflowing of a river, the shooting up of a plant (Mark 4:32). In the classics our verb may describe the coming to a conclusion of a chain of events (Acts 21:31), the entering of thoughts in the heart (Acts 7:23, 1 Corinthians 2:9), and even describe a rising in knowledge and ascending to a higher place in understanding.
    In the New Testament this verb is also used as common colloquial describing going toward a place of honor or renown (to go up to Jerusalem or some feast) and equally commonly describes a journey into heaven. In the middle ages this "ascending" into heaven was explained spatially but modern theology commonly understands this as a currency in mental spheres (compare Acts 1:9 to Hebrews 12:1). Our verb is used 80 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
    • The noun αναβαθμος (anabathmos), meaning ascent; the act of ascending or a thing that ascends: steps or stairs (Acts 21:35 and 21:40 only).
    • Together with the prefix προς (pros), which describes a motion toward: the verb προσαναβαινω (prosanabaino), meaning to go in order to ascend, to go further up (Luke 14:10 only).
    • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συναναβαινω (sunanabaino), meaning to jointly go up, to go up together (Mark 15:41 and Acts 13:31 only).
  • Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from or out of: the verb αποβαινω (apobaino), meaning to step up out of. This verb may describe a stepping out of a ship onto shore, or it may describe a departure from a specified place or situation. It may be used as a synonym for to result, or even to turn out true (of dreams) or a reaching across a stretch of time or space. This verb is used 4 times; see full concordance.
  • The noun βαθμος (bathmos), meaning a step, rung, degree or rank. This word is used in 1 Timothy 3:13 only, but it's not immediately clear whether Paul speaks of a formal rank or an informal distinction. Since in Christ there are no formal ranks (Colossians 3:11, Galatians 3:28) it's most probable that Paul rather speaks of a step toward achieving an ability, or even a foundation to build on (in the classics this word also described the bulging base of a pillar or column).
  • The familiar noun βασις (basis) meaning a stepping, a stepper (that is a foot) or a stander or thing upon which one stands (hence our English word basis). This noun is used only once, in Acts 3:7, where it applies to the lame man's feet but refers his stability (as the common word for foot is πους, pous). From this noun in turn comes:
    • The verb βασταζω (bastazo), literally meaning to stabilize or provide footing, but in effect used to mean to support or to bear. It sometimes literally means to carry but mostly it means to bear in the sense of to suffer, endure or perpetuate. In John 10:31 the Jews "bear" stones to stone Jesus, which obviously refers to more than merely carrying rocks. A λιθος, lithos, or stone, also refers to a piece of wisdom which was once found but never further explored or developed. Just like the literal Stone Age was of enormous significance to mankind but still bound to be surpassed by the Bronze Age (see our article on Nehushtan), so culminated the intellectual Paleolithic period in Solomon's temple (compare Exodus 20:25 to 1 Kings 6:7 and John 2:20). Part of Jesus' ministry was to turn the lifeless stones into a living being (Ezekiel 11:19, 1 Peter 2:5).
      Our verb is used most famously by John the Baptist as he explained that he wasn't worthy to carry Jesus' shoes (Matthew 3:11). This is often explained to refer to a servant's duty to carry his master's shoes while the master goes about his shoeless business, but such duty isn't discussed much in the classics (books, wine cups and weaponry, yes, but shoes?). Instead, John referred to carrying Jesus' shoes with Jesus in them. He speaks of providing the footing that Noah's dove couldn't find (Genesis 8:9). In other words: just like Melchizedek's lack of a father and mother — that is: he represented a natural wisdom tradition that had sprang up spontaneously as part of human nature (like an uncut stone), and not based on a previous tradition or external authority — so was Jesus' ministry not based on John's, even though it sequentially followed it.
      Our verb is used 27 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
      • Together with the prefix δυσ- (dus-), from which we get our English prefix "dys-", meaning bad or difficult: the adjective δυσβαστακτος (dusbaktaktos), meaning hard to be borne, oppressive, burdensome (Matthew 23:4 and Luke 11:46 only).
  • The adjective βεβαιος (bebaios), meaning firm, steady or durable, both literally (of foundations) and figuratively (of solid ideas or reliable persons). What it doesn't mean is to stubbornly hold on to something that is founded on nothing at all. This adjective is used 9 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
    • The verb βεβαιοω (bebaioo), meaning to make firm or reliable (either of buildings or people), which is an activity that can either be accomplished by supplying further material for strength and support or else by a demonstration of durability and effectiveness under load (Mark 16:20). This verb has nothing to do with repeating the same unsubstantiated claim over and over. In the New Testament this verb applies most to the gospel and people who live by the gospel. It's used 8 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
      • The noun βεβαιωσις (bebaiosis), meaning a making firm or reliable; a confirmation, either verbally (a guarantee or warranty) or by demonstration (Philippians 1:7 and Hebrews 6:16 only).
      • Together with the preposition δια (dia) meaning through or throughout: the verb διαβεβαιοομαι (diabebaioomai), meaning to thoroughly make firm, to broadly affirm or widely demonstrate under load (1 Timothy 1:7 and Titus 3:8 only).
  • The adjective βεβηλος (bebelos), which describes something that is stepped on: something as common as dirt, something not special, something profane or vulgar. This adjective is used 5 times, see full concordance, and from it comes:
  • The noun βημα (bema), meaning a step; either a step in a horizontal direction, in which case this word served as a unit of length, or in a vertical sense in which case it denoted a platform. In New Testament times, this word mostly denoted the "Step" upon which magistrates and rulers were seated, and is as such equivalent with the English terms "Bench" or "Bar" (and note that our word "throne" stems from the same Proto-Indo-European root dher-, meaning to support, as the Latin word firmus and our word "firm"). In Acts 7:5 our noun βημα (bema) is incorporated in wordplay that helps to illustrate Abraham's lack of personal legal right to claim an inheritance in Canaan. Our noun is used 12 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
  • The noun βωμος (bomos), meaning a stand (a base that's part of a sculpture or display). This noun occurs only in Acts 17:23.
  • Again together with the preposition δια (dia) meaning through or throughout: the verb διαβαινω (diabaino), meaning to step through (Luke 16:26, Acts 16:9 and Hebrews 11:29 only).
  • Together with the preposition εν (en), meaning in, on, at: the verb εμβαινω (embaino), meaning to step in (mostly of ships: to board or embark). This verb is used 19 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition επι (epi), meaning on or upon: the verb επιβαινω (epibaino), literally meaning to step upon, but as broadly applied as to mean to mount a horse or step on board a ship. This verb is used 6 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb καταβαινω (katabaino), literally meaning to step down but in practice describing all sorts of descent, dismounting, and "going down" into places or situations. That not a true stepping but rather a descending (even from some abstract "level" to a lower "level") is emphasized in this verb is shown in Matthew 7:25, where the falling of rain is described by means of this verb.
    In the classics this verb was also commonly used to emphasize a mere arriving somewhere, without having anything to do with actual literal descent. As such it may be applied to one's arrival at some physical location but also at the conclusion of some discourse. This is probably how our verb should be understood in Acts 7:34, rather than the Creator soaring in from outer space, as more medieval exegetes tend to offer. Many cultures tell of the deity who reaches down into creation to pull up his creatures toward him, and here at Abarim Publications we surmise that this tells of the evolution of the universe's complexity toward an attractor of maximum diversity and synchronicity. This attractor accounts for all evolution, and the universe inevitably heads for the point of infinite entropy that it has yearned for since the beginning, but which has never existed within the universe (also see Ephesians 4:10).
    In the New Testament this verb is used 80 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
    • The noun καταβασις (katabasis), meaning descent or lower part (Luke 19:37 only).
    • Again together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συγκαταβαινω (sugkatabaino), meaning to jointly go down to or arrive at some place or conclusion, and so on (Acts 25:5 only).
  • Together with the preposition μετα (meta), meaning with or among and implying motion toward the inside: the verb μεταβαινω (metabaino), meaning to pass over from one place into another, or when speaking, from one topic to another, or even to transit from one state of mind into the next. This verb is used 12 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the verb παραβαινω (parabaino), literally meaning to step to the side of. In the classics this verb could mean to stand or step along next to someone else, but mostly it refers to the sidestepping of some custom or overstepping of a rule or law: quite literally to transgress. This verb is used 4 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
    • Together with the particle of negation α (a), meaning not or without: the adjective απαραβατος (aparabatos), meaning without sidestepping, without wavering (Hebrews 7:24 only).
    • The noun παραβασις (parabasis), literally meaning a stepping or standing to the side: a transgression, a sidestep. Classical theology has always explained the gospel in a legal sense, but more modern theology sees the law of God more as a natural law: sidestepping God's law doesn't lead to "punishment" but rather to failing health, injuries, weak economies and ultimately death. This noun is similar to αμαρτια (hamartia), which describes the missing of one's target or purpose (and which is commonly translated with sin). Our noun παραβασις (parabasis) is used 7 times; see full concordance.
    • The noun παραβατης (parabates), meaning a sidestepper. This noun is used 5 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before: the verb προβαινω (probaino), to step ahead, to advance. Like our English verb to advance, this verb is used both in a spatial sense and temporal sense (being advanced in years). This verb is used 5 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
    • The noun προβατον (probaton), which describes whatever advances, an advancer. This word was Greek's common word for cattle in general and sheep specifically. It denotes animals that lumber about in large herds and flocks, and whose private sensitivities are wholly absorbed and overwhelmed by that of the herd. Figuratively, this word denotes people who are not critical about what they believe and what they follow, and who simply follow the human herd to wherever it happens to go. This noun is used 41 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
      • The adjective προβατικος (probatikos), literally meaning pertaining to herd animals. This word occurs in John 5:2 only and describes a location in Jerusalem, most probably the Sheep Gate as mentioned by Nehemiah (3:1).
  • Once more together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συμβαινω (sumbaino), meaning to stand or step together. In the classics this verb mostly describes a coming to an agreement or to terms. When spoken of events or other normally unrelated phenomena, this verb expresses a perceived conspiring (or coincidental contingency), or the joint outcome of a string of events. This verb is used 8 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition υπερ (huper), meaning over or beyond: the verb υπερβαινω (huperbaino), meaning to step over. This word occurs in 1 Thessalonians 4:6 only, where it describes a personal violation against someone: to overstep a boundary set by someone (or society).