Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The New Testament Greek word: κοινος

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/k/k-o-i-n-o-sfin.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The adjective κοινος (koinos) means common, profane, unrefined, unspecialized and multi-purpose, and is the polar opposite of αγιος (agios), which means specific, holy, refined, specialized and single-purpose. The latter speaks of the result of a long selective process, whereas the former speaks of the absence of it: the raw material that consists of as much dirt as noble bits. But alternatively, the purpose of anything, and that includes anything holy — anything patiently refined to perfection — is to be applied. And the only application of anything holy is to be released into the profane: to serve it, or govern it, or perhaps even both.

Our adjective stems from the same Proto-Indo-European root "kom", meaning beside, by or with, as the familiar preposition κατα (kata), meaning down or onto. It may describe "common" hands (Mark 7:2), which are hands that handle all sorts of things and are thus not purified (literally: unwashed) for the specific task of eating. But it may also refer to goods that are owned by all sorts of people and not specifically by one rightful owner (Acts 2:44).

As we discuss at length in our article on Hellas, the Greek alphabet was derived from the Semitic one in the late ninth century BC. But the Semitic alphabet itself had taken many centuries of painstaking development to mature. It was introduced to the Greek language basin and relatively swiftly adapted, but the most significant change was that the original Semitic read from right to left, whereas the Greek rip-off reads from left to right. This is significant because, according to long standing and broadly attested tradition, the right was considered holy and special whereas the left was associated with all things common and profane (see for a lengthy discussion of this our article on the adjective δεξιος, dexios, meaning right).

Koine Greek arose among the soldiers of Alexander the Great, who hailed from various localities and spoke different dialects. For reasons of efficiency, a general standard form of Greek was forged (hence the name, Koine), also to make it easier for foreigners to understand and participate in the global goings on (Titus 1:4, Jude 1:3). At first Koine was rightly regarded as a lesser form of Greek (its authors were often non-native speakers or first-time literates (illiterate in their native language but semi-literate in Greek), so Koine texts were often very simple and curt and came riddled with errors), rather comparable to how English purists maintained that American English was inferior to British. But as the colonies matured and began to produce minds of comparable greatness, the vulgar derivatives grew likewise into the formidable media they remained.

One of the defining qualities that the literary character of Jesus of Nazareth signified was the transition from the Jewish effort to refine mankind's understanding of God's natural Law (as summed up by the unchanging Logos and embodied by the growing Jesus), to the global application of this understanding. Up until the ministry of the mature Christ, the words of YHWH were being refined like silver in a furnace (Psalm 12:6, see Psalm 2:12) and the Child (Isaiah 7:14) kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:40, 2:52; see Luke 1:80 and 1 Samuel 2:26). But when maturity was reached, and childish things were surpassed (1 Corinthians 13:11), the promise that God had made to Abraham, namely that his seed would be a blessing for all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3, see Galatians 3:9), could begin to be fulfilled (Acts 1:1).

Salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22) but for all mankind (Psalm 22:27, Isaiah 2:2, Zechariah 8:23), even the whole of creation (Luke 3:6, Isaiah 40:5, Romans 8:19-22).

The Jewish alphabet and Scriptures were perfected over the centuries since Abraham (Genesis 15:1, Psalm 16:10) until it found perfection in Jesus. And when this perfection was attained, it was immediately surrendered to the world at large (John 12:32, Joel 2:28). Whereas the Old Testament was written in the most sophisticated writing system the world had ever seen — namely Hebrew; see our discussion of this in our article on Hellas, or Greece — the New Testament was written in a vulgar sort of Greek, not even the lofty Greek of the Classics but the common tongue of the open market of the Greco-Roman world, spoken mostly by non-native speakers (quite comparable to modern Twitter English).

Our adjective κοινος (koinos) is used 13 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:

  • The verb κοινοω (koinoo), meaning to commonize: to be, make or hold common or vulgar; to defile or surrender to common use. As discussed above, there's no simple paint-by-number correlation between holy and good and profane and bad, since the most holy thing has only been made holy specifically to be submitted to an unholy world, to serve it and possibly govern it (or said otherwise: there's no evil as great as uselessness, and satan is going to hell not because he lacks splendor but because he lacks application, and is thus literally good-for-nothing).
    When Jesus speaks of a man being made κοινος (koinos) by what comes out of him (Matthew 15:11), he does not necessarily speak of that man's vice but rather of his usefulness. Someone whose precise knowledge only applies to some very specific problem, isn't very broadly useful, but someone who has knowledge that applies to pretty much every situation (knowledge of fundamental principles of nature, that hence apply to science, logic, psychology and society) is always able to say words that help and solve practical problems.
    This verb is used 14 times; see full concordance.
  • The noun κοινωνος (koinonos), meaning a partner (of someone) or a partaker or sharer (in something). This word occurs 10 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn come:
    • The verb κοινωνεω (koinoneo), meaning to partner with, share in, or partake or participate in something. This verb is used 8 times; see full concordance, and from it derive:
      • The noun κοινωνια (koinonia), meaning participation. Specifically, this word may be translated with community or fellowship (Acts 2:42), or contribution (Romans 15:26), but with the emphasis on joining the defining goings on. This word is not about mailing lists and memberships, silent partners and best wishes, and certainly not about Sunday morning gatherings, listening compliantly to the guy up front or singing silly ditties about nothing at all. When Paul speaks of the fellowship of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9), he does not speak of joining an existing organization and singing along with the choir, but rather of becoming a molecule of the larger thing — and a molecule is the smallest bit of something that has all the qualities of that something, and which together with the other molecules form the greater whole, understanding that this greater whole would not exist if it weren't for its molecules doing their little things. Or said simpler: fellowship with Christ is being Christ, namely being Christ together with others who are also Christ, so that together we are Christ. This noun is used 19 times; see full concordance.
      • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συγκοινωνεω (sugkoinoneo), meaning to participate jointly or together with (Ephesians 5:11, Philippians 4:14 and Revelation 18:4 only).
    • The adjective κοινωνικος (koinonikos), meaning participatory, sociable, multiple-purposed, or prone to get one's hands dirty (1 Timothy 6:18 only).
    • Again together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the noun συγκοινωνος (sugkoinonos), meaning a partner or fellow partaker. This noun occurs 4 times; see full concordance.