Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb κλαω (klao) means to break, but in the sense of arresting some natural progression and directing its energy into a bursting delta of fragments, streams, branches, etcetera. Metaphorically our verb may mean to weaken, such as emotions or one's voice — precisely as our evenly curious English synonyms: a breaking voice, a breaking heart. Our verb is also identical to an Attic variant of the verb κλαιω (klaio), meaning to wail or lament (see below).
In the New Testament our verb is used solely to describe the breaking of bread, which is quite unlike the usage of this verb in the classics but obviously matches the mysteries of the New Testament rather perfectly. Jesus, after all, is not merely some wise guru or distant deity but rather incarnate in his people. The bread that was his earthly body was broken and is now the many bits of bread that are the bodies of his people.
This verb occurs 15 times, see full concordance, and from it come:
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out or from: the verb εκκλαω (ekklao), literally meaning to break out, but used to describe how branches are removed from a tree's economy by being broken off (Romans 11:17, 11:19 and 11:20 only).
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb κατακλαω (kataklao), meaning to break down (Mark 6:41 and Luke 9:16 only).
- The noun κλαδος (klados), which describes one of the fragments of what was originally broken; this word can usually be translated with twig or branch. It occurs 11 times; see full concordance.
- The noun κλασις (klasis), which describes the act of the verb: a breaking (Luke 24:35 and Acts 2:42 only).
- The noun κλασμα (klasma), which describes a fragment of what was originally broken: a bit, a shard, a piece. This noun occurs 9 times; see full concordance.
- The noun κλημα (klema), which also describes a fragment of what was originally broken: an offshoot. This noun is used 4 times; see full concordance.
The noun κληρος (kleros) also probably comes from our verb κλαω (klao), meaning to break or to divide into constituents. Our noun means lot or share and also describes the items that were used in the art of cleromancy, that is divination by means of casting lots (and the clero- part of this word indeed comes from our noun kleros).
Our noun κληρος (kleros) denotes a representative part of something that can't actually be divided: a part of something that requires all its part to be functional and integrated in order to be what it is: whether a seamless garment (Matthew 27:35) or the ministry of the indivisible One God (1 Peter 5:3). This noun was also used to indicate ownership; a "lot" could be quite alike a modern receipt or promissory note, or demonstrate one's right to trade commodities that weren't portable — say, cargo capacity of a ship; a lot that demonstrates ownership of that would allow trade without having to bring the whole ship to a market place.
Cleromancy was very common in Judaism (Leviticus 16:8, Numbers 26:55, Judges 20:9, 1 Chronicles 24:5, Nehemiah 10:34), and its purpose was not to obtain the deterministic will of a tyrannic deity, but rather to mix available resources and maintain the freedom and unpredictability that is the very foundation of both the entire universe (a.k.a. quantum indeterminacy) and ultimately the perfect Republic of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:24).
Our word is the Greek equivalent of the familiar Hebrew term פור (pur), lot (hence the feast of Purim), from the verb פרר (parar), to split or divide. This verb may be related to פרש (paras), which in turn may have given rise to the name Pharisee: the lot-catchers. The more common Hebrew verb for casting lots is גרל (goral). A Greek synonym is λαγχανω (lagchano).
Our noun κληρος (kleros) occurs 12 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the verb νεμω (nemo), meaning to disperse: the noun κληρονομος (kleronomos), meaning shareholder; the recipient of a unified revenue divided by share among holders of such shares. This word is often translated with "heir" of an "inheritance" but where in English the act of inheriting is commonly associated with the passing away of a relative, this Greek word clearly also describes the sharing of the revenues of an existing enterprise without the transfer of ownership (Matthew 21:38; see Romans 8:17 relative to Psalm 24:1 and 50:12). In the New Testament this amazing word often describes the recipients of the "revenue" of the whole of creation and occurs 15 times; see full concordance. From this word in turn come:
- The verb κληρονομεω (kleronomeo), meaning to sharehold: to be or become a shareholder, to receive partial ownership or to receive dividend. This verb occurs 18 times; see full concordance.
- The noun κληρονομια (kleronomia), meaning a shareholding: either the act of dividing property among shareholders, or else the dividend or portion that one shareholder receives. This word is used 14 times; see full concordance
- Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the noun συγκληρονομος (sugkleronomos), meaning co-holder of one share and eventually a co-receiver of one portion. This word is used 4 times; see full concordance.
- The verb κληροω (kleroo), meaning to use lots, and lots were used to divide shares of something indivisible, to derive a decision or insight from otherwise to complex source material, or simply to generate a random outcome as a means to fairly assign something to someone (Ephesians 1:11 only). From this verb in turn comes:
- Together with the prefix προς (pros), which describes a motion toward: the verb προσκληροω (prosklero), meaning to assign a lot to. This verb appears to have had a proverbial force and could also speak of assigning one's life's lot to some purpose or idea. In that sense our word appears in the New Testament: Acts 17:4 only
- Together with the noun ναυς (naus), meaning ship: the noun ναυκληρος (naukleros), meaning ship-manager; the person who holds the lot that gives the right to decide about a ship's freight and passengers (Acts 27:11 only). In Athens this word was also applied to people who rented and sub-let tenement houses.
- Together with the adjective ολος (olos), meaning whole and which expresses the all-included completeness of a set: the adjective ολοκληρος (holokleros), meaning in full control of all one's faculties (1 Thessalonians 5:23 and James 1:4 only). From this word in turn derives:
- The noun ολοκληρια (holokleria), which describes the condition of being in full control of all faculties (Acts 3:16 only).
The verb κλαιω (klaio) means to wail. Unlike the more modest and private activity of weeping (δακρυω, dakruo), this verb describes the loudly communicated expression of grief or pain. Unabashed wailing was more common in the ancient world because, unlike in our modern world, wailing was not considered a sign of weakness or poor manners. Rather the absence of wailing when wailing was due was deemed inappropriate, which spawned a lucrative cottage industry of professional wailers (Mark 5:38, James 5:1). And since in the ancient world life was much more wrought with peril, injustice, violence and disease, wailing could be heard pretty much continuously.
In the Attic dialect, our verb κλαιω (klaio), to wail, was spelled the same as the verb κλαω (klao), to break, as discussed above. A comparable duality exists with the verbs θρηνεω (threneo), to loudly bewail, and the verb θραυω (thrauo), to break into pieces.
Our verb κλαιω (klaio) is used 40 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
- The noun κλαυθμος (klauthmos), a wailing. This noun occurs an additional 9 times; see full concordance.