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

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/et/et-d-u-sfin.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The adjective ηδυς (hedus) means sweet or pleasant. It stems from the widely attested Proto-Indo-European root "swehd-" that also gave English the word "sweet".

Our adjective occurs often in Homer to describe the pleasant taste or smell of meat or wine. In the classics our word may describe the sweetness of pleasant words, feelings, a sweet welcome given to friends, or even sweet friends themselves. Our word could be used adverbially, and describe the gladness with which an action was undertaken (to gladly ask or to be pleased with some situation).

Our adjective ηδυς (hedus) appears to mostly describe physical or sensual pleasure. It's perhaps closely similar to the Hebrew verb נעם (na'em), to be pleasant, delightful or sweet (hence names like Naomi and Naamah). Our adjective isn't used independently in the New Testament and only the following derivatives occur:

  • The adverb ηδιστα (hedista), meaning most sweetly (2 Corinthians 12:9 and 12:15 only). This adverb derives from the accusative, neutral plural of the superlative of ηδυς (hedus), sweet or pleasant.
  • The noun ηδονη (hedone), meaning pleasure (hence our English word hedonism). This noun formally stems from the verb ηδομαι (hedomai), to have pleasure, which doesn't occur in the New Testament. But that means that our noun doesn't really mean pleasure in some abstract sense, but rather pleasure had or experienced: that which pleasure-seekers seek or pleasure-havers have. It's essentially the Greek word for what we moderns call entertainment. Our noun is used 5 times; see full concordance. From it in turn comes:
    • Together with the familiar noun φιλος (philos), lover or friend: the adjective φιληδονος (philedonos), meaning pleasure-loving (2 Timothy 3:4 only).
  • Together with the verb οζω (ozo), to smell: the adjective-slash-noun ηδυοσμον (heduosmon), literally meaning sweet-smelling. It's the Greek word for mint, which occurs in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 only, both times as the first mentioned goods in a series of items proverbially taxed by the authorities. The familiar term μινθη (minthe) is actually pre-Greek, and here at Abarim Publications we wouldn't be surprised if it were actually Semitic and was imported into the Greek language basin along with the alphabet and words like, say, myrrh (מור, mor, from מרר, marar, to be strong or bitter). In that case, it could very well be adapted from the noun מנת (menat), portion or part, from the verb מנה (mana), to count or assign. And that, of course, would tie into the tithing mentioned in the gospels.

The adjective γλυκυς (glukus) means sweet and describes the taste of honey or wine (or fresh water, as in German: Sußwasser). It stems from the same Proto-Indo-European root "dlewkus-" that gave Latin the word dulcis (and thus Italian dolce). From the Greek word come the English word glucose and the many scientific glyco- terms (glycerin, glycemia, and so on).

Our adjective occurs 4 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derives:

  • The noun γλευκος (gleukos), which describes a kind of unfermented sweet grape juice, the same as mustum or mustus or dulce in Latin. Our noun occurs in Acts 2:13 only, in the curious report of the men who witness the divinely inspired disciples speak in multiple languages simultaneously:

On Acts 2:13

If the scoffers had intended to explain the disciples' sudden linguistic talents as the effects of an excess of alcohol (as some commentators curiously maintain), the scoffers would have used words like οινος (oinos), wine, and μεθυ (methu), liquor. Instead, they declared that the disciples were full of γλευκος (gleukos), which was a famously unfermented kind of grape juice: alcohol-free wine, if you will. When Peter subsequently stated that they were not drunk (μεθυω, methuo), he essentially declared that their actions did not stem from the abundance of ingress of any kind, alcoholic or otherwise.

According to records of the time, gleukos was the first juice that came out of a batch of grapes, before any pressure was applied — hence the juice of the ripest and thus the sweetest grapes that burst by themselves. This juice was collected, as a sort of first-fruits delicacy, and stored for moths in special airtight vessels. It was somehow kept from fermenting, which made it the liquid equivalent of unleavened bread (the bread of Passover). It also made it the drink of choice for children, literally because it contained no alcohol and figuratively because children had not yet experienced the pressures of life..

Since Pentecost (a.k.a. the Feast of First Fruits; Numbers 28:26), occurred at the start of the harvest, any available gleukos had to have been last year's. Before refrigeration, alcohol kept liquids free from pathogens (which is why the dying Christ had been given οξος, oxos, vinegar-wine). That means that any available gleukos that still hadn't gone bad by the time of Pentecost, was extremely rare and precious. The scoffers basically declared that the disciples were full of liquid gold, which puts their observation on a par with Nicodemus' outrageous 100 liters of myrrh (John 19:39).

We moderns sometimes forget what a privilege learning is. Our English word "school" comes from the Greek noun σχολη (schole), which describes freedom from manual labor in order to pursue learning. And that requires a great deal of available money. When the scoffers heard the disciples speak, they understandably assumed that the disciples were showing off their knowledge of foreign literature (John 7:15). This in turn suggests that the audience was not hearing actual foreign languages, but rather clear references to the body of literature that had natively sprang up in their home cultures. As we explain in our article on the name Hebrew, back then there were no dictionaries and encyclopedia, and everything about the language was stored in the stories: the stories are the language. For the same reason, there are people today who suppose that Jesus had spent time in India because many of his saying correspond to Vedic wisdom. The obvious real reason that ancient texts overlap is that they all draw from the same well, simply because there is no other law than natural law and no other wisdom than the Logos.

Like many people today, the scoffers had no idea that the Hebrew Scriptures contain all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom available in the entire world (Colossians 2:3), and in effect sum up all the books in the world and then some (John 21:25). They thought they saw a bunch of rich and privileged children feasting on what no normal person could afford: an intellectual barf-o-rama, brought on by the reckless excesses of rich people's breakfast tables.

Our noun γλευκος (gleukos) occurs also once in the Septuagint's version of the Old Testament, namely in Job 39:19. For thirty chapters, the three old and wise friends of Job had exhausted themselves by saying everything there was to say, and when they finally fell silent — without having hit any nail on the head or coming up with a practical and useful solution — young Elihu, son of Barachel the Buzite, cleared his throat and declared:

"I too will answer my share, I also will tell my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit [i.e. gas] within me oppresses me. Behold, my belly is like gleukos that hasn't been vented. Like new wineskins it is about to burst. Let me speak that I may get relief. Let me open my lips and answer...".

See our article on βδεω (bdeo), to fart.

The third hour

Peter's reference to the third hour also has nothing to do with being drunk, as drinkers rarely adhere to office hours and frequently drink through the night and into the next day. Instead, the 12 hours of the day were widely regarded to be self-similar to the 12 months of the year (hence both a Sabbath day and a Sabbath year; see our article on the mysterious Hebrew Calendar), which means that Peter dropped a wink to the third month, Sivan, the month in which the Jewish people were formally allowed to defend themselves against Haman and company (Esther 8:9). The death of the Jews had been declared in Nisan, the first month (Esther 3:7, 3:12), and the death of Jesus was obviously self-similar to the death of the whole of Jewry (or the destruction of the central temple, which in turn would have dissolved the Jewish people). The subsequent victory over Haman is forever celebrated in the 12th month, Adar, at the feast of Purim. That feast, indeed, is associated with exchanges and consumptions of food and (alcoholic) drinks.

The dialogue between Peter and the scoffers does not center on alcohol, but rather on the efficiency by which any kind of intake is processed, transformed and utilized. From what the scoffers observed the disciples do, they concluded that they must have absorbed vast quantities of the sweet stuff — and in the ancient mind, honey equals the technology that comes from the bees that are logicians: the Hebrew word for bee, namely דברה (debora), is the feminine equivalent of the masculine word for Word or Logos: דבר (dabar). Peter refutes this by stating that their intake was normal, and implies that rather their processing of their normal intake had become vastly more efficient: the intellectual equivalent of the difference between massive accumulation and nuclear fusion, between knowledge and intelligence.