Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb βραβευω (brabeuo) means to act as an umpire or to bestow a prize or award (or commendation). Originally a sport's term; in modern Greek the noun βραβειο (brabeio) means award or prize (as in Nobel Prize: Βραβειο Νομπελ, Brabeio Nompel). In the New Testament, this verb occurs in Colossians 3:15 only.
It's not at all clear where our verb may have come from, but it's generally considered to be pre-Greek, and that brings our attention to the Semitic language basin (the Phoenicians were celebrated trading partners of the pre-Greek tribes, and gave them their Hebrew alphabet to adapt, along with some helpful phrases to boot up their wisdom tradition; see our daring article on the link between Greek and Hebrew). That in turn inclines our attentions to the term בריבי (b'rabbi), which describes a membership to a rabbinic school of thought; and a ραββι (rabbi) back then was not a "religious" teacher but rather an eminent expert in all things pertaining to wisdom and skill (what today we would call an engineer or doctor or scholar).
The link between expert and umpire is of course wholly natural and obvious, but perhaps accidental, yet even though these words may technically have nothing to do with each other, this association may have helped a case of convergent evolution. But whatever the pedigree, from our verb βραβευω (brabeuo), to act as umpire, come the following derivations:
- The noun βραβειον (brabeion), which describes a prize assigned to someone whose superior expertise among peers was recognized by a broadly respected scholar or wizard or umpire (1 Corinthians 9:24 and Philippians 3:14 only). Specifically, this noun described a prize obtained in a sports competition, which demonstrates that where Jews aimed to excel intellectually, the Greeks were more into the celebration of physical (animal) powers (Psalm 73:22, Ecclesiastes 3:18, 2 Peter 2:12, Jude 1:10). This, of course, resulted in the most potent combination the world has ever seen: see for how the Naked Apes and Wimpy Wolves built he modern world, our article on the noun κυων (kuon), dog.
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down or against: the verb καταβραβευω (katabrabeuo), meaning to umpire against, or to award a prize to the other guy (whether deserved or not). This relatively rare verb differs in sentiment from the parent in that the parent looks positively for expertise, whereas our verb καταβραβευω (katabrabeuo) looks negatively and aims to disadvantage or deprive. This wholly unpleasant verb occurs in the New Testament in Colossians 2:18 only.