Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb διωκω (dioko) means to hound — to cause to take flight, to run off, to coercively drive — and often occurs opposite the verb φευγω (pheugo), to take flight. The first verb describes the outward imposition of will (either combined with something desired or something rejected) and the determined initiation of pursuit. The second verb describes having one's own will overwhelmed by the will of someone else, and since one's soul is closely associated with one's self-determination, the loss of one's executable will is like dying and becoming like a lifeless object that's driven along by wind or waves.
Our verb διωκω (dioko) is often used to describe a hunt, which indeed commonly ends in the death of the pursued. Another signature use of our verb is to describe how the wind drives a sailing ship: with a continuous and consistent pressure and the occasional gust and blow. Since the word for spirit is the same as for wind — namely πνευμα (pneuma) in Greek and רוח (ruah) in Hebrew — our verb διωκω (dioko) is a deeply spiritual word, which commonly describes the singular personality and behavior of crowds.
Our verb may describe how crowds pursue certain outstanding individuals (Luke 17:23), drive them from town to town (Matthew 23:34), or grab hold of them to deliver them to some specific place of disposal or processing (John 5:16). When Jesus asked Saul why he "drove" him (Acts 9:4), he implied that Saul was not the lonely hunter of folklore searching for hidden Christians, but instead captained a large contingent of minions (see Acts 9:7) that "drove" the believers in Christ from their hideouts and onto places where they normally wouldn't have gone (Acts 26:11).
Our verb primarily describes how crowds naturally identify, target and kill any element that does not seamlessly blend into the homogeneous personality of the crowd. This rejected element is killed by expulsion (Luke 11:49), and is driven off with a spiritual force that might resemble anything from a gently driving breeze to a scourging, howling storm. Not rarely will a crowd, like any predator, consume the bodily residue of whatever soul it expelled, and confiscate de-peopled properties the way a predator devours its de-souled prey. And of course, the nature and behavior of the hunting crowd, like that of any predator, will adapt according to the nature and behavior of its prey, so that the prey, involuntarily but inevitably, helps to form its hunter.
Crucially important, our verb does not mean to follow; it means to propel: to impose one's will on someone or something and make it do something it wouldn't have done on its own. The action that hunter and prey share derives from the will of the hunter, not from that of the prey. The will of the hunter is roused by the nature of the prey, not by the prey's desire, will or actions. In fact, the hunter might even hunt for something that isn't even substantialized yet, and so cause himself to change as if the prey had been substantial. Thus, people don't "follow" righteousness, as if righteousness were an externally existing entity that would lead the way (as polytheism maintains), but "drive" non-existing righteousness until its substance is assumed by the crowd (Romans 9:30-31). The same goes for kindness-to-strangers (Romans 12:13), the attributes of peace (Romans 14:9, Hebrews 12:14), love (1 Corinthians 14:1) and every other virtue (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22).
When Jesus blessed the "persecuted" (Matthew 5:10) he didn't speak of externally stored rewards that will surely someday find their way to the botched and bungled, but rather discusses the internal working principle of social evolution: when peers seek wisdom, peer pressure leads to greatness. Jesus is not an icon to be looked at from afar; he is the Word of God, to be subsumed and absorbed by every person alive on earth (John 6:53-58). Being in Christ means mastery over nature (John 14:12), and that can only be obtained through many generations of diligence, study, discourse and corrective action.
Paul's lasting remorse certainly reminded him that he had hurt innocent people, but possibly in no less measure that he had forcibly driven people of freedom to where they had not chosen to go. As he himself later explained, people who know Christ are like precious living seeds who need FREEDOM to grow according to their own nature, toward the light of God. Hence, it is for FREEDOM that Christ sets his people free (Galatians 5:5), and that is a truth that many key players in many churches continue to not comprehend (1 Corinthians 15:9, Galatians 1:13).
Modern prophets of the Word of God proclaimed in vain for centuries that iron ships would float, that citrus cured scurvy, that unwashed hands killed women in childbirth, that unhealthy lifestyles caused cancer, that the entire universe is one and everything exists because of that unity and all activity is governed by that unity and that the only possible sustainable state of the universe and anything in it will always be unity; and they were hounded until the crowd had absorbed enough of them to have followed them into understanding (2 Timothy 3:12, Galatians 4:29).
Altogether our verb is used 44 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The noun διωγμος (diogmos), meaning a hounding; a being forcibly driven toward a place where the pursued doesn't choose to go. This noun occurs 10 times; see full concordance.
- The noun διωκτης (dioktes), a hounder; someone who drives someone else to where the latter doesn't choose to go (1 Timothy 1:13 only).
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out: the verb εκδιωκω (ekdioko), to hound off or drive out (Luke 11:49 and 1 Thessalonians 2:15 only).
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from or down upon: the verb καταδιωκω (katadioko), meaning to hound hard (Mark 1:36 only). This curious verb is rare, even in the classics, and its sole usage in the New Testament seems to imply that Simon and his companions had plans for Jesus to which he did not consent. Jesus, after all, had risen early after a very busy day and gone to a "lonely place to pray", certainly for a good reason to which Simon was not privy. This scene plays very early in the story, and knowing what Simon would do even after three years of getting to know Jesus, the use of this willful and domineering verb essentially tells that at the beginning of it, Simon was close to clueless about the nature of Christ.