Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun βια (bia) means force, strength or violence. It mostly describes physical strength — of strong men, even of Hercules — but on occasion also of the mind or of an argument. Often our noun describes an act of violence, or an act against some receiver's will. In Attic law, this word equaled rape.
This word is thought to derive from the Proto-Indo-European root "gwey-", meaning to conquer or force. It's used 4 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The verb βιαζω (biazo), meaning to use force or visit violence upon someone. In the classics it often means to constrain, hold against one's will, or even enslave someone. But in a more active sense it means to overpower by force, do violence, break or dislodge, or carry away by force. This verb is used a mere two times in the New Testament, namely in Matthew 11:12 and Luke 16:16 only, and from it comes:
- The noun βιαστης (biastes), which describes a violent man, a man who visits violence upon someone, who forces someone against their will. This word is used in Matthew 11:12 only, where it describes men who visit violence upon the kingdom of heaven. How the kingdom of heaven might be violated, or how violent men get a hold of the kingdom in order to violate it, isn't explained. Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that the kingdom of heaven is a perfect republic in which all citizens are anointed (see 1 John 2:20 and the name Christ), and thus sovereign and thus kings (Exodus 19:6). In its maturity, such a kingdom is hard to violate, but when the heirs to the kingdom are infants (Isaiah 7:15, Luke 2:40, 1 Corinthians 3:2), a violator might trick these young kings with toys, deceptions, advertisements and psychology tricks, in order to grab power for himself. Such a violator won't last long, but he might do considerable damage before the infants have matured enough to stop him (1 Corinthians 15:24).
- Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the verb παραβιαζομαι (parabiazomai), literally meaning to be almost violated. It facetiously describes the act of zealous persuasion, so zealous and desirous that it feels like one is nearly being forced rather than dialogued with. This verb occurs in Luke 24:29 and Acts 16:15 only.
- The adjective βιαιος (biaios), meaning violent. This adjective is used in Acts 2:2 only, where it describes the sound the Holy Spirit made upon being poured out. This is rather remarkable, and perhaps even unexpected, as Elijah had met YHWH so typically in the sound of a gentle blowing (1 Kings 19:12).
The verb πιαζω (piazo) means to press down, squeeze or compress. It was once thought to relate to the noun βια (bia), violence (see above), but that appears to be not so, not etymologically, at least (linguists propose a PIE root "pisd-", that conveniently means to press, but is not very well attested). Whatever our word's pedigree, it's possible that these forms gravitated toward each other due to their similar meanings. The form πιαζω (piazo) is Doric (the dialect of Sparta, Crete and Rhodes) but was adopted by the Attic dialect (of Athens), at some late date. The Attic form had been πιεζω (piezo), see below. Our Doric form is used 12 times; see full concordance.
Our verb mostly describes the pressing down of a heavy object, or the squeezing of fingers (when testing the ripeness of figs) or arms (of wrestlers around each other). Figuratively, our verb may describe the burden of oppressive thoughts, the ardent haste of a marching army, or the zeal with which a point of argument is defended. Our verb may be used to mean to insist, repress, stifle, determine precisely, or outweigh.
In the New Testament, our verb is used mostly in the sense of to apprehend, mostly of suspects by figures of authority. But curiously, twice the text speaks of catching fish (John 21:3, 21:10), which seems to suggest a kind of idiom that commemorated the removal of the space between the fish, the fish' personal space and thus their personal freedom (one might imagine fishers colloquially speaking of "stacking" fish, or "squeezing" schools).
Once our verb describes how Peter grabbed hold of the right hand of a man who had been lame since birth. Peter ordered him to focus, and when he grabbed his right hand, strength entered his feet and ankles (Acts 3:7). This seems to suggest that Peter focused more than the man's attention.
- The verb πιεζω (piezo) means to press down, squeeze or compress (Luke 6:38 only). It is the same verb as πιαζω (piazo), but the older Attic variant.