Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun γαμος (gamos) means marriage and lives on in English words like monogamy and gamete. The similar English noun "game", we're sorry to report, is not part of these words, as it consists of two ancient Germanic elements, namely "ga" (together) and "mann" (person), although the first part "ga" may very well share its own origin with the ultimate core idea of γαμος (gamos).
Our noun γαμος (gamos) stems from the Proto-Indo-European root "gem-", which also means marriage, although it's not clear what precisely the speakers of that ancient language meant to express in it: did it express a mechanical joining, like the components of a piece of furniture, or a dynamic but lasting joining of two living people, or rather a social joining of two whole families?
Our noun occurs in the New Testament suspiciously often in plural (Matthew 22:2, Luke 14:8), and a group of Greek derivatives that describe various in-laws seems to suggest that indeed our root may have spoken of a broad social joining rather than that of only two people. Note that the name Levi comes from the verb לוה (lawa), to join, and that the Levites, like most priestly classes in antiquity, were to create social cohesion among the people at large. This may help to explain the presence of Mary, a Levite, and Jesus, a professional τεκτων (tekton) or joiner, at the wedding at Cana of Galilee (John 2:1).
Did a marriage remind the Proto-Indo-Europeans of a confluence of two comparable rivers, or of the interplay of a river and the land it traversed? Or were the PIEs perhaps not such deep thinkers and regarded marriage rather like a commercial transaction and a manifestation of property rights and transfer of ownership? Our root also gave rise to the Latin word gener, meaning son-in-law, which is not related to the familiar Greek γενος (genos), meaning offspring or familial stock, but does suggest that our PIE root has a generational clause to it, and was perhaps invested in reflections on procreation.
Animals have no marriage, and males spend much of their energies competing for females with other males. And in many species, all the females end up under the control of one bully, while all other males end up roaming the wilderness, in maddening frustration, wasting their lives and causing all kinds of havoc. The familiar command to "not lay with a male the way you lay with a female" (Leviticus 18:22) prohibits having substitutional sex with a male out of frustration of not having access to a female. The solution is to defeat the female-hording alpha, not by fighting him but by banding together with the other weaklings, in order to create an egalitarian society out of reach of tyrants.
Humanity's invention of marriage allowed for a much greater generational diversity. It greatly broadened the plain of peers, and allowed males to pursue science, technology, arts and the collective bliss and prosperity of their kind. What the invention of property rights did for economy, so marriage did for society. Hence, the Cardinal Commandment to not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14) has nothing to do with sexual purity (whatever that is), but with the stability of society, and is indeed on a par with the prohibitions of theft and murder.
As we discuss at generous length in our article on the verb περιτεμνω (peritemno), to circumcise, humanity evolutionary journey came with substantial costs to our sensory abilities. Since biological kinship among animals is mostly smelled, the reduction of humanity's olfactory prowess reduced the obvious difference between one's sibling and a potential mate. The blurring of these biological lines, combined with man's increasing desire to keep resources within the tribal group, resulted in the increase of the disastrous effects of inbreeding. In the Bible this problem is most obviously reviewed in the meta-narrative of the Ruler and the Compromised Couple:
This meta-story first surfaces in the account of Abram, Sarai and the Pharaoh, whose wholesale ignorance about these matters was demonstrated by terrible infirmities (Genesis 12:17). Its second installment tells of Abraham, Sarah and young king Abimelech, whose subconscious had already matured to the level where God could explain the matter in a dream (Genesis 20:3). The third installment tells of Isaac, Rebekah and old king Abimelech, who now had a rational understanding of the matter, which allowed him to consciously differentiate a sister from a wife (Genesis 26:8).
Our PIE root, and ultimately our noun γαμος (gamos), expresses early man's loss of the natural instinct to avoid taking a sister for a mate, and the subsequent installation of a synthetic social code to replace it. Mankind subsequently split into two groups: one group that began to actively pursue more of these synthetic aids that helped mankind break free from nature, and a second group that turned back, regained its sense of smell and reverted to the animal world it came from. The first group created the modern world, and is presently constructing a global artificial intelligence. The second group appears to have died out, but, judging from stories that are told the world over, may first have evolved back into an animal form (probably a kind of piglike creature).
Even within the first group, which embraced a synthetically supported social life, marriage (i.e. the merging of entire families) is social-gender opposite of the desire and need for central rule, and the wisdom of accumulating and storing resources and dispensing these exclusively among the members of one's own tribe. The dynamic stresses between the natural need for genetic diversity and the social need for centralization marks much of humanity's considerations (and artistic expressions) but a quick way to establish which of the two magnetic poles is dominant in any given society is to establish whether the society is matrilocal or patrilocal.
In a matrilocal culture, the couple moves in with the tribe of the bride, which means that the groom is in fact an adopted son of the tribe. In a patrilocal culture, the couple moves in with the tribe of the groom, which makes the bride an adopted sister. This also means that in a matrilocal culture, all the men of that tribe are first-generation aliens and all women are natives, and all society's institutions are drawn from and maintained by the female sentiments. In a patrilocal society, the bride moves in with the husband's tribe, which causes all women to be strangers and all men to be natives. A matrilocal society will tend to gravitate toward collectivity, hospitality, domesticity and cooperation, whereas a patrilocal society will tend to gravitate toward individuality, hostility, exploration and competition.
Patrilocal societies will glorify sports and combat until its quest for betterment in these fields exhausts its members and dissolves its social bonds, and the whole thing blows apart like a ripe pigskin poison puffball, leaving its suddenly abandoned buildings for later archeologists to scratch their heads over. An advanced matrilocal society will produce great art and literature, and will have perfected the use of social codes to the level where members can gauge each other's thoughts by merely reading each other's pose and complexion. Matrilocality is obviously the way to go, which is why mankind in its final stage of social evolution is always depicted as a female, whose groom comes to her (Genesis 2:24, Song of Solomon 3:4, Revelation 19:7).
The noun γαμος (gamos), marriage, is used 16 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the particle of negation α (a), meaning not or without: the adjective αγαμος (agamos), meaning unmarried or perhaps rather not-marrying. This word occurs only in the seventh chapter of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, and rather obviously does not denote an unmarried physical individual but rather anyone who is not at all occupied with the masculine end of the social spectrum, namely competition, combat and accumulation of wealth, and solely in the feminine end of it: arts and dialogue, science and technology (1 Corinthians 7:32). As any modern independent artist and researcher will attest: the trick to staying free from marriage is all about being able to entice the masculine element of society to provide one's sustenance without having to relinquish one's control over one's womb. Folks who cannot handle such self-control, but require commercial orders to be able to produce anything, should indeed marry (1 Corinthians 7:9). This adjective occurs 4 times, see full concordance.
- The verb γαμεω (gameo), meaning to marry, to achieve the core event of the entire social process we discuss above. Since the classical world was mostly patrilocal, this verb mostly describes the taking of a bride by the male. Since in Christ (as in science and art) there is neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28), there is also no marriage (Matthew 22:30). Our verb is used 29 times; see full concordance.
- The verb γαμισκω (gamisko), which is an alternate form of the more regular γαμιζω (gamizo), and which technically also means to marry (Mark 12:25 only). The difference between this verb and the previous, is that the previous verb speaks of doing the core event, whereas our verb γαμισκω (gamisko) speaks of facilitating it, and thus encompasses the entire process from the initial match-making to organizing and partaking in the feast, and including finding the money to pay for it all. From this verb come:
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out, from or of: the verb εκγαμιζω (ekgamizo), meaning to marry out. This verb again taps into the difference between patrilocality and matrilocality: the happy couple will move into the realm of the family of either, and the other is thus married-out, from the family of birth into the one of the spouse. Since the classical world was mostly patrilocal, the married-out one was usually the bride. This verb is used 6 times; see full concordance, not counting the following:
- The verb εκγαμισκω (ekgamisko), also meaning to marry-out (Luke 20:34 only). It's the same verb as the previous one but constructed from the alternative verbal form γαμισκω (gamisko), rather than the more regular γαμιζω (gamizo).