Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb καυχαομαι (kauchaomai) means to enthusiastically, confidently or emphatically declare. It derives from the otherwise unused noun αυχην (auchen), which means neck or throat, not only of humans and animals but also of sea straits and narrow passages in rivers, where the currents are strongest. The idiomatic phrase "to make one's neck to stand" was used to mean "to be high spirited", and a neck that was kept too high (on account of one's great wealth and subsequent pride) could even challenge a ruler's demand for humble subjection.
The derived verb αυχεω (aucheo), to "neck", subsequently means to loudly and confidently declare. Our verb καυχαομαι (kauchaomai) was possibly formed by merit of the suffix εκ (ek), out of, to form a verb — to "ex-neck-ize" — that describes the rushing of whatever medium through a narrowed canal, but specifically the forcible declaration of confidence: to speak loudly, to vent one's certainties on the authority of the volume of one's voice.
The subtleties of our verb are compound, also because certainty is a futile virtue when the thing so confidently expressed may, upon close examination, turn out to be false. Particularly children shout because their lack of depth entices them to confuse every little irritation with the eternal order of the cosmos. More mature people don't shout, but rather invest their confidence in an order that exists independently of their understanding of it, and lean instead of on their own knowledge upon the discourse enjoyed with others of mature mind, knowing that the Creator is never known by any lone ranger but always by a congregation that generously forgives and eagerly learns.
Modern English doesn't really have a proper equivalent of our verb since "boasting" is commonly associated with praise of what one has done, whereas καυχαομαι (kauchaomai) mostly emphasizes what one knows (whether valid or not). It stems from a time when thought about thought was new, when the principles, function and even purpose of systematic and logic contemplation were not widely understood, when the scientific method didn't have the authority it has today, and a statement was validated by one's own heated affirmations rather than by calm demonstration or even the consensus of insightful men. Apparently, such immature practices were still common in Corinth as more than half of the occurrences of our verb in the New Testament are in Paul's letters to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:18).
Paul warned that when everybody is shouting their own convictions, shouting the truth is a foolish thing to do, also since the validity of one's knowledge is really only affirmed by others (1 Corinthians 11:6, 2 Corinthians 12:6). Where verbal cacophony was the standard, loud affirmation was necessary but still worthless (2 Corinthians 12:1), and if he was indeed forced to shout along with the rest of them, he would do so solely to demonstrate his weakness (2 Corinthians 11:30, 12:5).
Our verb is used 38 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb κατακαυχαομαι (katakauchaomai), meaning to shout down, to loudly declare with the intend or effect to depreciate or derogate. This ugly verb occurs 4 times in three verses: see full concordance.
- The noun καυχημα (kauchema), which describes an instance, specific result or object of an act of the parent verb: a loud affirming, either a loud declaring of confidence, a boasting, a thing so boasted about, or even its perceived boast-worthiness. This noun occurs 11 times; see full concordance.
- The noun καυχησις (kauchesis), which describes the act, general result or process of boasting: a loud affirmation. This noun occurs 12 times; see full concordance.
The noun τραχηλος (trachelos) means neck or throat (hence our English word trachea, for windpipe). It's officially unclear where this word comes from, but here at Abarim Publications we're pretty sure it relates to the Aramaic verb תרח (tarah), to breathe, from the noun רוח (ruah), wind or spirit (see the name Terah). But there is also the adjective τραχυς (trachus), meaning jagged (the windpipe consists of cartilage rings), from the widely attested Proto-Indo-European root "drehg-", to irritate or be rough.
In Hebrew, the noun ערף ('orep), meaning neck, is used nearly exclusively figurative: to have one's dominant hand on someone's submissive neck (Genesis 49:8), to turn one's neck to someone in fear (Exodus 23:27), and being stiff-necked in arrogance and rebellion (Exodus 32:9, Jeremiah 7:26). The denominative verb ערף ('arap), literally to neck, means to break the neck of an animal (Exodus 13:13, Isaiah 66:3). Likewise in Greek, our word τραχηλος (trachelos) predominantly refers to one's will, or describes that body part that facilitates an aiming for whatever is desired. Hence a man's neck, from which he proclaims his will, is closely associated to the "seat" of his will, namely his membrum virile.
In our riveting article on the noun ירך (yarek), genitalia, we list several expressions that obviously bring to mind a man's erection, among them being "stiff-necked" (Deuteronomy 31:27), which combines קשה (qasha), to be hard, with ערף ('arap), to drip. This suggest that the proverbial millstone was not so much tied around the neck of a tyrant (where his will was proclaimed) but rather his jolly bundle, where his will was seated.
Long before there were hashtags and words like "uncouth", servants would indicate their respect for the will or their master by placing their hand under their master's genitals (Genesis 24:2). This fair bit of bodily poetry indicated that the hands of the servant were now under the will of the master (also see Luke 22:42). It appears that for reasons of decorum, the hands of the servants began to find their way to the neck of their master, but the idea remaining the same, namely that the hands of the servants were now under the directorate of the will of the master.
Our noun τραχηλος (trachelos), meaning neck (i.e. the seat of the voice, the extension of the will) is used 7 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the adjective σκληρος (skleros), meaning dried up or hard: the adjective σκληροτραχηλος (sklerotrachelos), meaning stiff-necked, to be stubborn and unmannered (Acts 7:51 only).
- The verb τραχηλιζω (trachelizo), literally to neck. This verb occurs in the Classics exclusively in various senses of to overpower: to bend one's opponent into a posture of submission, or to expose the throat of an animal in order to slaughter it. In the New Testament it occurs in Hebrews 4:13 only, where it describes the irrelevance of the will of any creature when confronted with the might of God, under whose will (i.e. word) all creatures are subjected.
The adjective τραχυς (trachus) means rough, jagged or uneven, and may describe a rugged landscape or someone's jagged voice or rough assertions. As noted above, this word stems from the Proto-Indo-European root "drehg-", to irritate or be rough but may also be related to the noun τραχηλος (trachelos), neck or throat (see previous).
All this suggests that our word τραχυς (trachus) is rather alike the word heathen (from heath) or pagan (from pagus, field), which describe a humanity void of civilized (from city) and polite (from polis, city) manners and refinement — hence too names like Rufus, Edom and even Plato, which all describe natural rude ruffians, as opposed to the sophisticated lords of the cultured classes.
In the New Testament, our word occurs only twice: in Luke 3:5 and Acts 27:29. The former quotes Isaiah 40:4, and does not necessarily speak of some rugged or jagged landscape that will be smoothened, but rather wild and lawless behavior that will be aligned and cultivated into a lawful code of conduct. Note that the familiar "highway" which is to be made straight (Matthew 3:3) is the result of many feet walking in the same direction (see our article on the verb τριβω, tribo).