Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun ελπις (elpis) means expectation or hope yet in our modern age the concept of "hope" is violently misrepresented.
Hope is not something wished-for but something worked-toward. Hope is a calm and unceremonious comprehension of something that is known to exist at the end of a process or path. Hoping involves no yearning or panting or supplication but rather knowledge, reason and calculation. Hope is not an emotional thing; it's a science thing.
The Scientific Method is a two-step program that demands that (1) verifiable observations must be explained by a falsifiable but unobservable logic system that produces that what is observed, and (2) the derived system must be able to predict the outcome of a subsequent experiment. That second part is hope.
The two-step scientific method wasn't formulated in snazzy modern terms until the scientific revolution of the 17th century but the gist of it has been known and revered since deep antiquity. The author of the letter to the Hebrews says it so: "Certainty is: (2) the knowledge of things hoped for, and (1) the confirmation of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).
Our noun ελπις (elpis) is used 54 times in the New Testament, see full concordance.
Why "Hope deferred makes the heart sick"
When the Romans invaded other people's territories, their first order of business was to compromise that culture's wisdom center. A classical culture identified itself with its templar nucleus and to keep people from mounting a unified defensive, the Romans destroyed their intellectual heart. As the ancients had long ago observed: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). The Romans had no interest in life. They were only interested in levying taxes, and that went best with a slavishly compliant population (see our article on the noun δουλος, doulos, meaning slave).
One of the functions of the wisdom centers was to store and interpret knowledge, which was done by the wizards (= wise-ards), who rather functioned as the culture's scholars, engineers and doctors. Since intellectual enlightenment too threatens any sort of totalitarian regime, the Romans aimed to destroy all intellectual congress and keep people stupid, scared and disconnected (which is also precisely why Hitler killed Germany's intellectual elite and Stalin Russia's). They sacked the incumbent scholars and replaced them with the village idiots.
The first generation of village idiots had doubtlessly seen the last generation of actual wizards perform their crafts (apply herbs to heal wounds, build ovens to create bronze, and so on), so they knew that great feats were possible but had no clue how to work them. And so procedures became rituals and mnemonic rhymes became incantations. The wizard's notebook became a book of magic spells, from which the village idiot read aloud in the hope of provoking some force he clearly didn't master. He sprinkled herbs galore and built colossal stoves that collapsed rather than produce valuable metals. After some such disasters the customers of the village idiot must have begun to question his legitimacy, which threatened the Roman order, and which lead to military intervention aimed specifically at the effort to keep people stupid.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love
The Roman Empire's demonic fight against scientific wisdom soon caused its own demise but the modern religion had been born and mankind entered into a 1,500 year nightmare of scientific darkness. Paul once wrote of three great things, namely faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13), which in modern times have become synonymous with sentimentalism and reek of the reverence of ignorance. "Faith" came to denote docile compliance to religious, and thus political authority. "Hope" promised a blissful afterlife that would follow a life of docile compliance. And "love" urged people to stay calm and docile and suppress the urge to rise up against corporate larceny and evil governments. When Paul wrote, however, these things meant something else:
- Faith is the calm understanding of the invisible system that governs the observable. It's covered by the first part of the Scientific Method — see our article on πιστις (pistis) for more on faith.
- Hope is the calm understanding of what the system inevitably will bring about next. Hope is covered by the second part of the Scientific Method.
- Love (but agape, not philos) is the formation of convention, that is the formation of a medium in which all people can express their unique views and be wholly understood and accepted by people who do not share those views — see our article on αγαπη (agape) for more on this.
From our noun ελπις (elpis) derive:
- The verb ελπιζω (elpizo), meaning to hope, that is: not to vainly wish but to expect because reason combined with a proper understanding of present conditions leads to an uncompromised view upon an inevitable future. This verb is used 31 times; see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
- Together with the preposition απο (apo), mostly meaning from or out of: the verb απελπιζω (apelpizo), which in the classics mostly describes a departure from hope: to despair, to hope on something that isn't going to happen. In the New Testament it only occurs in Luke 6:35, where it obviously juxtaposes the occurrence of the parent verb in the previous verse, which in turn describes the calculated expectation of return upon a loan (rather than an emotional "hope" that the borrower might be inclined to pay their interest). In this context, our verb literally means "to calculate returns from."
- Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before or in front of: the verb προελπιζω (proelpizo), meaning to pre-hope, or in modern terms: to hypothesize, to propose a system as basis for further inquiry and to predict what would be the outcome of an experiment if the system is indeed able to explain all present observations. This verb occurs in Ephesians 1:12 only, where it describe the Christ-hypothesis, or the understanding that "all treasures of knowledge and wisdom" (Colossians 2:3) add up to one single, unified Logos, even when that Logos is still unknown. This hypothesis is alive and well today, albeit it under the name Theory Of Everything.