Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The adjective κενος (kenos) means empty, in vain, spent, disenfranchised, void of purpose or lasting effect. It's of unclear but likely Semitic pedigree, and the opposite of πληρης (pleres), meaning full, filled or complete. That means our adjective may describe not only literally empty vessels (it does so in the classics; empty vessels are things designed and destined to be full), but also people without any possessions, purpose or say-so (Mark 12:3, Luke 1:53), assertions without any substance, or schemes or efforts without lasting effect (Acts 4:25, 1 Corinthians 15:14, Philippians 2:16), or faith without works (James 2:20).
Ultimately, the whole of creation develops toward the attractor of the New Jerusalem, and any brick or roof tile that for some reason will not be part of that New Jerusalem, will get destroyed before it gets here. And whoever toiled to bring forth that brick or tile might as well have taken the day off and gone fishing. Both the brick and the day spent on creating it were wasted. Some people waste their whole lives building things that have no lasting value (1 Corinthians 3:14-15).
Our adjective is used 18 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it come:
- Together with the noun δοξα (doxa), meaning "something made real via imagination": the adjective κενοδοξος (kenodoxos), meaning of empty imagination, of an inert fantasy (Galatians 5:26 only). From this adjective in turn comes:
- The noun κενοδοξια (kenodoxia), which describes an imagined thing that is so far removed from what is possible that it will not enter into reality (Philippians 2:3 only).
- Together with the noun φονη (phone), meaning sound or voice: the noun κενοφωνια (kenophonia), meaning empty-voicedness (1 Timothy 6:20 and 2 Timothy 2:16 only).
- The verb κενοω (kenoo) meaning to empty, to make empty. This wonderfully surprising verb may describe a literal outpouring of a bottle (it does so in the classics), but most often describes something being used up for a good reason, and emphasizes the usefulness of whatever is so used rather than the increasing uselessness of the container it came out of. In Philippians 2:7, Paul famously asserts that Christ Jesus existed in the form of God but "emptied" himself into the form of a servant (which is a theme obviously also explored in the character of Paris of Troy; see our article on Hellas for more on that). The whole idea behind Paul's statement is that although the Word of God had existed long before everything else (John 1:1, Colossians 1:16), and had interacted with mankind since the days of Abraham (Genesis 15:1), it took the slowly waxing wisdom and information technology of mankind (see our article on YHWH) for the Word to "come into the flesh" (i.e. for a social element within humanity at large to be formed according to the Word; see Luke 2:40, 2:52, and see our article on the name Stephen for a lengthy look at the actual physical component of all of this). This verb is used 5 times; see full concordance.
- The adverb κενως (kenos), meaning emptily, without permanent effect, vainly (James 4:5 only).