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

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/ch/ch-om-r-i-sfin.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The adverb χωρις (choris) means separately or apart. It's part of a group of words that emphasize the spatial aspect of individual being, and that is a bigger deal than intuition would dictate. Since deep antiquity it has been recognized that man's ability to differentiate — to recognize a separation between things — is what has given him his mighty powers of reason.

The Hebrew verb for to distinguish and thus to discern and understand is בין (bin), which is rather similar to the noun בן (ben), meaning son, which is rather similar to the verb בנה (bana), to build. The feminine form of בן (ben), son, is בת (bat), daughter, which looks similar to בית (bayit or beth), house. From the Greek word for "house", namely οικος (oikos), comes the word οικονομος (oikonomos), house-manager, from which we get our English word "economy".

The Hebrew noun קדש (qodesh) means sacredness or apartness. Likewise, the Greek adjective αγιος (hagios), meaning holy, is related to the verb αγνυμι (agnumi), to break or shatter. The name which we gave ourselves, namely Homo sapiens, means Man of Taste, from the Latin verb sapio, meaning to taste or discern by taste (and to pursue pleasurable tastes and to have great taste; see our article on the noun νους, nous, meaning mind), and even our word "science" comes from the proto-Indo-European root "skei-", to split and separate.

In antiquity, life was much more dangerous than today, and proper knowledge often meant the difference between life and death. Then as much as now, such knowledge was rarely independently obtained and came through social interactions and old fashioned networking. That means that most of our signature social activities (singing, dancing, talking, writing, making art) all have their roots in man's innate desire to survive, and thus to have and exchange knowledge (in the broadest sense of the word). Thus our adverb χωρις (choris) also appears to share a common origin with the familiar noun χορος (choros), meaning chorus or more general: an exclusive place for the pursuit of social merriment, and thus of social bonding, which in turn forged a unique social identity with distinct social norms, language and artistic traditions. That means that even a chorus was essentially a means to set a society apart from the neighboring society.

Our adverb χωρις (choris) emphasis a space not shared, a unique space. It's commonly followed by a genitive, to form the compound meaning of "beside" or "without" or the phrase "apart from".

This adverb is used 39 times; see full concordance, and from it derive:

  • The verb χωριζω (chorizo), meaning to separate, to make to be apart. In the Greek classics this word is used to describe spatial separation or division (between estates) and cogitative separation (of opinion, of cognitive method). A woman who separates from her husband ends up not merely spatially separate but rather separate in thought and economic operation (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Likewise, when Paul writes about being separated from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39), he does not suggest that some rift between the Lord and man will prevent "rays of love" to reach us, but rather that our methods of social interaction will no longer line up with those of Christ (the familiar phrase φιλαργυρος, philarguros, or "love of money", works the same way: it describes not a love for money but a methodology based on financial reimbursement rather than genuine concern). Our verb is used 13 times; see full concordance, and from it in turn derive:
    • Together with the preposition απο (apo), mostly meaning from: the verb αποχωριζω (apochorizo), meaning to separate from (Acts 15:39 and Revelation 6:14 only).
    • Together with the preposition δια (dia) meaning through or throughout: the verb διαχωριζω (diachorizo), meaning to separate wholly or through and through. This striking word occurs in the New Testament in Luke 9:33 only, where it describes the departure of Moses and Elijah from the transfigured Jesus. In a very complicated way, this word describes what physics calls a breach of symmetry. The Word of God is one and will always stay one, but the earthly and human form of the Word starts out in the legal authority of Moses, then morphs into the intellectual adolescence of Elijah (which is not meant derogatorily, buy transitorily) and finally assumes the intellectual maturity of Jesus of Nazareth: the formalized and consensual manifestation of natural law as enjoyed by all mankind.

The noun χωρος (choros) technically describes any kind of separated space but is in Greek literature the common word for a plot of uniquely designated land: anything from a garden to an estate, a country or territory or even a whole realm (such as the realm of the dead). Somehow this word was adopted into Latin as Caurus or Corus, but with the meaning of the northwestern intercardinal direction, and particularly a wind coming from that direction. This wind was deified as one of the Venti, and whose Greek counterpart was called Skiron.

Relative to Rome, the northwest would denote Gaul, and since the word for wind is the same as for spirit (namely πνευμα, pneuma), a northwestern wind could very well metaphorize the spirit of the Gaul. This is worth our consideration because our very common Greek noun χωρος (choros) occurs in the New Testament in Acts 27:12 only, but in the Latin meaning of northwest.

As part of the story of Paul's stormy trip from Jerusalem to Rome, author Luke tells how the ship was forced to seek refuge in Phoenix, a port of Crete, which was reported to somehow simultaneously face both southwest (λιψ, lips, also a Greek deity, whose Latin alter ego was Africus; the capital of Roman Africa was Carthage) and northwest (χωρος, choros). Luke goes on mentioning deified winds until Acts 27:14, where he reports that Paul's ship was wholly caught up by the Euroclydon, to finally end up shipwrecked on Malta.

In former times, Crete was of course a major cultural aggregate, if not the actual birthplace of the modern Western world. And the name Phoenix obviously points to the Phoenicians, who were once so culturally advanced that Solomon had built the temple of YHWH jointly with them. The Galatians of the Bible descended from the Gaul, and in Paul's famous complaint about the foolish Galatians who had let themselves get bewitched (Galatians 3:1), he also appears to state that the Gaul had reached Christ-awareness, but lost it.

In modern Turkey exists a city named Cörüs, directly to the south of were ancient Galatia once was.

From our noun χωρος (choros) derive:

  • The noun χωρα (chora), which describes the area of a society that is distinct from other societies: a cultural territory where people live within a shared continuum of social codes, language, law and artistic expressions; the social equivalent of a person's private space. Back in Biblical times, peoples didn't occupy countries as rigidly defined as in modern times, and although cultures were most commonly centered upon a capital or main temple, their borders were commonly rather fluid as thinly spread cultures blended over into each other, with people occupying the transition area borrowing from both sides. Often societies (clusters of people with a shared culture) were bordered by natural boundaries such as rivers and mountains. But if competing cultures (competing sets of normalcy, of technology, literature and artistry) evolved within each other's range, the border would commonly be marked by competition, trade and combat.
    A society's spirit is expressed in its body of literature (oral and written), which is equal to a person's soul and for that reason defended with the greatest zeal. If a culture's literary legacy would disintegrate, its historicity would be gone, and thus its meaning, and its people would quickly disperse like a corpse that turned back into dust. Only when information technology was able to attach data to a physical carrier (namely a small set of symbols that everybody could recognize: the alphabet), the souls of nations became literally immortal. The alphabet as we have it was completed in the time of David, which is why he exclaimed: "You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay" (Psalm 16:10). The temple which his son Solomon built together with the Phoenicians, was dedicated to YHWH, the "God of the vowel-people" or simply: the alphabet.
    Our noun χωρα (chora), meaning "region of cultural distinction" or simply "culture" (independent of its physical locality), is used 27 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
    • Together with the otherwise unused adjective ευρυς (eurus), meaning broad or wide: the adjective ευρυχωρος (eurochoros), meaning broad-spaced or wide-spaced (with the word "space" pointing to a culturally defined region). From the same adjective ευρυς (eurus) comes the adjective ευρυοπα (euruopa), meaning far-sounding. This adjective is one of two plausible etymologies of the name Europe (the other being from ευ, eu, good, and ωψ, ops, eye; see the similarly constructed name Ethiopia).
      Our adjective ευρυχωρος (eurochoros) occurs in Matthew 7:13 only. As noted above, the authors of the New Testament had quite some beef with the Europeans (both with the Gaul and their nemeses the Romans), and Jesus' use of this word to describe the "broad road" to perdition is an obvious wink to that. The actual objections aren't specifically named, but from the contexts (as well as that of the opposite, the verb στενοχωρεω, stenochoreo, see below), they appear to have to do with the familiar Roman policy of inclusion and religious tolerance (which is a great idea when issues such as technology, medicine and statecraft are backed by science, but not when not).
    • Together with the preposition περι (peri), meaning around or about: the adjective περιχωρος (perichoros), meaning around a culturally defined region. When used substantially this word describes the range around a culturally defined territory, where the culture of reference is interrupted or diluted with either ignorance or foreign influences, or displaced all together by an autonomous neighboring culture. This adjective is used 10 times; see full concordance.
    • Together with the adjective στενος (stenos), meaning narrow: the verb στενοχωρεω (stenochoreo), to narrow one's space, and particularly the bouquet of cultural influences one subjects oneself to (opposite to ευρυχωρος, eurochoros, see above). This verb occurs in 2 Corinthians 4:8 and 6:12 only, where Paul uses it in a metaphor involving constricted bowels or airways, in an apparent reflection on the constricting effects of religious and cultural obesity. Diversity is essential to life but when a cultural organism gobbles down every morsel it finds, nutritious and valuable data is quickly drowned out. Or in engineering terms: when tolerance is valued higher than precision, the machinery of state is bound to rattle apart. This verb resounds with the crucifixion of Christ: true insight into the working principles of nature must reject false beliefs. But when the norm demands that everything goes, that purifying principle of rejection (which is the working principle of the Scientific Method), is rejected itself. That is where the Christ is crucified. Closely related to this verb is:
      • The noun στενοχωρια (stenochoria), which either derives from the verb στενοχωρεω (stenochoreo), or is its parent noun (or, for the purists: was formed independently but from the same elements). It's commonly translated with distress or persecution but literally describes a narrowing of breathing space (in a cultural or intellectual sense) on account of an uncritical inclusion of whatever goes; what we moderns euphemistically call religious tolerance. We moderns are blessed with a robust scientific tradition but science (that is: the Scientific Method of observation, experimentation and rejection of falsified hypotheses: see Romans 1:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, Colossians 2:3) was for most of human existence the failing runt of a large family of much more popular methods based on rituals, incantations and the worship of deified natural forces. Particularly in societies where wealth allows great ease of living, people commonly yearn for entertainment much more than for insight into the working principles of nature. This causes them to open the door for any kind of lunacy, as long as this lunacy is provided in an amusing fashion and yields dopamine at regular intervals. When the situation is dire and the odds are contrary, everybody longs for some true insights. Our noun στενοχωρια (stenochoria) describes the experience of the few remaining critical thinkers in a complacent world gone mad on folly. It's used 4 times; see full concordance.
  • The magnificent verb χωρεω (choreo), which literally means to let individual spaces come about: to separate things (or people), to unravel things and sort them out, to break things apart into their constituent elements, to regard or review things or people separately or individually for what they are and to figure out how they serve whatever they were separated from. This verb describes the essential principle of food digestion (Matthew 15:17) but also that of intellectual discernment (Matthew 19:11) and of social differentiation (Mark 2:2). It's used 10 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
    • Together with the preposition ανα (ana), meaning on or upon: the verb αναχωρεω (anachoreo), meaning to do something following a discernment or a differentiation or a distantiation. This untranslatable verb is often used to describe the arrival in one region (that is: a "region" defined by its continuous culture, norms and scientific insights) following a preceding departure from another region (or rather: culture or normalcy). It's used 14 times; see full concordance.
    • Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from: the verb αποχωρεω (apochoreo), which is the opposite of the previous, and describes a departure from one "region", with the implication of a subsequent drifting about between regions or arrival at another (Matthew 7:23, Luke 9:39 and Acts 13:13 only).
    • Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out or from: the verb εκχωρεω (ekchoreo), meaning to get out of a "region" (Luke 21:21 only). This verb describes a similar action as the previous, and the difference is that this one implies a break out of an intimate oneness, whereas the former implies a departure of something that was never more than a mere guest.
    • Together with the preposition υπο (hupo) meaning under: the verb υποχωρεω (hupochoreo), meaning to secretly or privately differentiate. This verb occurs in Luke 5:16 and 9:10 only, and both times describes Jesus' withdrawal from the disciples into a "place" of his own.
  • The noun χωριον (chorion), which is a diminutive of χωρος (choros) and denotes a (relatively small) plot of land that was made separate, obviously by giving it a specialized purpose or by cultivating it into a garden or an orchard or acre. The familiar "garden" of Gethsemane was a place like this. This noun is used 10 times in the New Testament; see full concordance. See our article on the noun αγρος (agros) for a review of several words for agricultural lands (which are, of course, in the New Testament mostly metaphors for certain types of intellectual collectives).