Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun ηλιος (helios) means sun, and occurs 32 times the New Testament; see full concordance.
The Greeks had a god named Helios (Ηλιος) and the Romans had their Sol Invictus cult, but the New Testament appears to incorporate curiously little commentary on sun-worship. Still, see our article on the name Nazarene for a discussion on the competition between nationalistic solar cults and the message of personal freedom and responsibility of Jesus Christ. Also see our discussion of the Hebrew noun שחר (shahar), which is commonly interpreted as dawn but which rather refers to a solar eclipse.
Our noun ηλιος (helios) appears to stem from a hugely ancient Proto-Indo-European root from whence also stem the words sol (and hence solar) and sun. Equally old are the Latin words sollus (whole, entire), solus (alone, sole) and salus (being safe and sound; hence our word salvation), which share an etymological root in Sanskrit (says Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary). In Greek these words are reflected by the related word ολος (olos), meaning whole, entire, complete, and although it's not specifically mentioned, here at Abarim Publications we wouldn't be surprised if the Latin words sol, solus, sollus and salus arose simultaneously in a most primitive solar worship and associated theology. It's even conceivable that the formations of the very old Semitic divine names El (in Greek Ηλ) and Elohim were either helped along or else directed by this root.
The Hebrew word for sun is שמש (shemesh), from whence comes the name Samson. Also note that the genitive of the name Elijah in Greek (Ηλιον), namely Ηλιου is the same as the genitive of the name Ηλιος. Or slightly less cryptic: in Greek the phrase "of Elijah" is identical to the phrase "of the sun-god."
The noun ηλος (helos) refers to a stud or nail head (John 20:25). It probably stems from the PIE root "wel-", which means to turn (hence words like waltz and helix and the noun αλυσις, alusis, chain), but it also bears a striking resemblance to the noun ηλιος (helios), sun (see above). Our noun could describe shoe nails (or even warts) but also ornamental studs. There are even instances in the Greek classics where the stars are described by this noun, which makes it proximity to the noun ηλιος (helios) all the more remarkable.
Also remarkable is this noun's sole occurrence in the New Testament, namely in the scene where Thomas speaks of the imprint of the nail studs in Jesus' hands (rather than the holes made by the peg). The Romans used vast amounts of iron nails, but in the Bible iron nails are mentioned only in 1 Chronicles 22:3: "David prepared large quantities of iron to make the nails for the doors of the [temple] gates...".
From this noun derives:
- Together with the prefix προς (pros), which describes a motion toward: the verb προσηλοω (proseloo), meaning to nail something onto something else (Colossians 2:14 only).