Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb κειμαι (keimai) means to set, but in the sense of to instate or display conspicuously, for all to see, for the wide environment to react upon, and to herald great and awesome happenings to follow. This verb is commonly translated with to lay or lie down but that's not correct. Our verb does not speak of limp repose but is coiled tense with bottled up potential:
The ax that was famously "set" at the root of the trees (Matthew 3:10) wasn't casually dropped there by a lumberjack on his way to lunch, but was set up as an ominous token of what was surely to come. Likewise, a city "set" upon a hill (Matthew 5:14) was not a quaint rural hamlet but rather a fortified citadel from where the king secured his realm and sent forth his armies. Likewise, the body of Jesus wasn't simply "laid" in a cavern but was set up to be the spectacular beginning of the resurrection of all God's sons (Matthew 28:6), an event for which the whole of creation had always anxiously longed (Romans 8:19).
Our verb κειμαι (keimai) means to set up roaring with intent, and is similar to the verbs ιστημι (histemi) and τιθημι (tithemi) — the latter is expected to have yielded the very word θεος (theos), that is God, or He Who Sets. Hence in the classics our verb is associated with the will of the gods (Iliad 17.514, 20.435), of treasure stored up for later deploy (Luke 12:19), of law deposited in the legal core of a nation (1 Corinthians 3:11, 1 Timothy 1:9), and of conditions that require attention, of arguments posited, cities located, officials ordained, and so on.
Note that this verb appears exclusively in the passive voice, and is not deponent (as per popular understanding) but rather deliberately testifies of an implied setter and thus a purpose. Our verb is used 26 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the preposition ανα (ana), meaning on or upon: the verb ανακειμαι (anakeima), meaning to set up on. This verb means the same as the parent verb but emphasizes the context of whatever is set relative to the stage upon which it was set, or even to other items that were also set by a same setter. Most commonly, our verb is used to describe people "seated in order" at a formal meal, which is of course a euphemism for a council or conference (Luke 14:7-14). At these formal dinners, people were placed according to their importance or status, and were expected to partake in the goings on precisely according to the same. This verb is used 15 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
- Together with the preposition αντι (anti), meaning in place of, or against: the verb αντικειμαι (antikeima), to set or be set against, to be a zealous adversary, to assume an opposing position and stand eagerly ready to engage. This verb occurs 8 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition απο (apo), mostly meaning from or out of: the verb αποκειμαι (apokeimai), meaning to set or be set out of. In the classics this verb is used predominantly to describe the keeping in reserve of money (or laughter), or the reservation of a certain valuable name (like "wisdom") for things that are truly worthy of it. In the New Testament this verb is used similarly 4 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition επι (epi), meaning on or upon: the verb επικειμαι (epikeimai), meaning to set or be set upon, commonly indicating a pressure applied: of visitors in front of closed doors, of troops awaiting combat or enemies being driven back, of penalties looming, of names imposed or authorities invoked, or of helmets or crowns pressing down on heads (literally and figuratively). It's used 7 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb κατακειμαι (katakeimai), meaning to set or be set down. The lower position that this verb emphasizes often has to do with a being hidden or concealed (of a treasure or reserve), or a being notably far removed from general circulation (of stored records, of sick people on their beds, of neglected things, of idle loafers, of partakers in some all-encompassing event or feast of long duration). It's used 11 times; see full concordance.
- The difficult noun κοιτη (koite), which is commonly but incorrectly translated with bed. The confusion might in part be due to this word's accidental similarity with the familiar Latin word coitus, which in fact stems from the unrelated co- or com-, meaning together.
Words that really do mean bed or mattress, and which are much more common than our noun κοιτη (koite) are κλινη (kline) and its diminutive κλινιδιον (klinidion), literally meaning recliner, and κραββατος (krabbatos), literally meaning bundle. As discussed above, our noun's parent-verb speaks of the purposeful positioning of an item that will then proceed to have great effects, and our noun rather describes a marriage bed, or even marriage chamber, which was not proverbially used to sleep in but rather to proverbially generate offspring in. That's not a subtle difference.
Our noun κοιτη (koite) describes a "place of setting" and speaks of a house's centermost repository of authority, where a man's law was issued and where his heirs were established and organized — this also explains the Bible's curious obsession with royal beds: the iron bed of king Og (Deuteronomy 3:11), king David's helpful Abishag the Shunammite, the sixty men around Solomon's bed (Song of Solomon 3:7).
The κοιτη (koite) was a relatively private place but certainly not a place of quiet leisure and rather of enormous effort and care. It's a place of passion but not of lust, of long term preservation, of destiny and depth, of strategies and covenants. A house's κοιτη (koite) was where people passed their most intimate concerns over to the care of their offspring, with the hope that they would carry their legacy into eternity.
In Romans 13:13, Paul uses a dative form of our word in the sense of bossing people about, commandeering or bullying. This noun is used 4 times, see full concordance, and from it comes:
- Together with the adjective αρσην (arsen), meaning male: the noun αρσενοκοιτης (arsenokoites), meaning male-bedder (1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 only). Modern tradition long held this word to concern male homosexuality but, although the confusion is understandable, it really doesn't. As we discuss more elaborately in our article on αρσην (arsen), our noun's first part means male, not man, and refers to authority rather than physical gender. Its second part means place of governance, legislation and perpetuation, not place of sexual intercourse. Our noun αρσενοκοιτης (arsenokoites) does not occur anywhere else in Greek literature, while Greek literature contains much discussion of sexual intercourse among men. Instead of men bedding men, Paul spoke of the typical Roman trait of forcibly joining essentially incompatible formal systems of governance and legislation: having two captains on one ship (perhaps also alluding to the Seianus debacle under Tiberius).
- The noun κοιτων (koiton), meaning agent or place of κοιτη (koite), and thus chamberlain in service of the place of the consummation of marriage and bringing about of offspring. In the classics this word was also used to describe young children as "those being in [the care of] the κοιτων (koiton)". In the New Testament this word occurs in Acts 12:20 only, which discusses Blastus, the κοιτων (koiton) of Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great. The Herods were not Jewish or even Israeli but Idumean (descending from Esau), and Herod the Great felt sorely burdened by Jewish monarchists (the original Christians) who wanted him gone and someone from the royal Hasmonaean bloodline on the throne. Herod solved this problem by murdering the last of the Hasmonaeans: princess Mariamne, his wife, and Alexandros and Aristobulus, their two sons. This grim and incomprehensible crime appears to have inspired the story of the slaying of Bethlehem's innocents.
- The noun κωμη (kome), meaning village, or more precise: the satellite settlements around a central town or city. In antiquity, nations were city states, with a fortified central seat of government surrounded by a large agricultural complex to sustain it. If the cities became big enough, their territories would become so large that workers in subsidiary industries (shepherds, loggers, farmers) would prefer to establish local lodgings and facilities, which in turn would evolve into pseudo-autonomous hubs of logistics and sustenance and could even come to require their own mayors and town councils. This obviously reminded of a κοιτη (koite) and the children that came out of it.
Our noun κωμη (kome) is the New Testament's common word for village, and denotes an unwalled settlement that's dependent on a central city, and unconditionally accessible to any official or representative of that city or any other traveler. These places were open and exposed, and in case of an enemy attack upon the central authority, these villages would be the first to get hit. But in case a novel teaching began to make the rounds, these places would be the first to hear it. Our noun is used 28 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
- Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the verb παρακειμαι (parakeimai), meaning to set or be set near, to be at hand or available, ready to be utilized (Romans 7:18 and 7:21 only).
- Together with the preposition περι (peri), meaning around or about: the verb περικειμαι (perikeimai), meaning to set or be set around, to great and immediate effect. In the New Testament, this word describes the effect of being round-set by a millstone (Mark 9:42), or the figurative chain with which Paul was yanked around (Acts 28:20), the binding limitations of ignorance (Hebrews 5:2), or the formative guidance of a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). This verb is used 5 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before or in front of: the verb προκειμαι (prokeimai), meaning to set or be set before something or someone, to great and immediate effect. This verb is used 5 times; see full concordance.
Dictionaries commonly list this word separate from the above, but here at Abarim Publications we strongly suspect it derives from the same verb κειμαι (keimai), or even more specifically: from the noun κοιτη (koite), parental chamber (see Romans 13:13), or the noun κωμη (kome), dependent village.
Our noun κωμος (komos) describes a festive commotion, commonly in honor of deities and specifically of Bacchus or Dionysus: the god of the vine, the grape-harvest and of wine making and wine drinking. Bacchus, therefore, was mostly associated with the agricultural complex surrounding a city, and that suggests that our noun κωμος (komos) was associated as much with the noun κωμη (kome), village, as the term "Bacchanal" is with the name Bacchus.
The verb κοιμαω (koimao) means to repose, go to bed or fall asleep, and frequently occurs in tandem with καθευδω (katheudo), to lay down to sleep, which relates to the familiar noun υπνος (hupnos), sleep. It's obviously related to the verb κειμαι (keimai), to set (see above); both derive from the Proto-Indo-European root "key-", meaning to settle or lay down (from which also stems the Proto-German hiwo, from which also comes the Dutch word huwelijk, meaning marriage).
More precise, our verb κοιμαω (koimao) means to settle in for the night, and rather emphasizes storage, processing and safekeeping internally during a period of external inactivity. It may hence also mean to lie with one another (to engage in physical intimacy), to enter death (to enter the depository of dead souls), to remain on hold during the night (of money: Leviticus 19:13 in the Septuagint; of voices: Joshua 6:10).
Significantly, on rare occasions in the Classics, our verb may even describe the keeping of a night watch, obviously tapping into what the Bride described as "I sleep but my heart is awake" (Song of Solomon 5:2). That means that in Gethsemane, the disciples weren't "sleeping" for sorrow (Luke 22:45) but were inactively brooding or perhaps even frozen in a state of high-vigilance. Likewise, Peter was possibly not simply sleeping but rather alert yet framed in physical inactivity between the soldiers (Acts 12:6). This suggests modest credence to the old folklore that some deceased remain actively aware of the earthly goings on, but frustratingly unable to interfere (1 Corinthians 15:51).
Our verb is used 18 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it comes:
- The noun κοιμησις (koimesis), which describes the act and resulting situation described by the act of the verb: a reposing, a settling in for the night, a safekeeping during a period of inactivity. This word occurs in John 11:13 only, where it serves to describe an element (or result) of υπνος (hupnos).