Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb κοπτω (kopto) means to strike; to apply a sudden forceful blow in order to either arrest something moving or cut off something attached. It describes a brutal interference with an item's natural course of action (hence our English word "comma"), which in turn relates it to the verb πενομαι (penomai), meaning to toil or labor, from whence comes the adjective πονηρος (poneros), or evil. Paul wrote: "it's for freedom that Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1) and our verb κοπτω (kopto) describes precisely the opposite: to assume power over something to make it do something it wouldn't otherwise have; to impose one's will upon something.
In the classics our verb may mean to strike (a horse, to make it go faster than it would have it you didn't beat it) or to smite: to smite someone on the cheek with one's hand. It may describe to slay someone with weapons, or to slaughter an animal with an axe or mallet.
Our verb essentially means to bring under one's control, and when it describes the cutting down of trees, it does not so much emphasize the act of chopping the tree down but rather the act of taking control over the tree and putting it where it didn't naturally occur. Likewise this verb may be applied to ships that lay afloat, disabled and scattered in disarray by an enemy force.
Our verb may describe the hammering of metal into some shape, which relates it to the familiar noun εικον (eikon), which describes a mass-produced "icon," which in turn in the polar opposite of the endless variety with which God creates. Note that coins are essentially icons, and that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
Our word may describe the pounding of mortar, the gnawing of jaws, the state of being worm-eaten of wood. It may describe a setting of heavy things in place (like mill-stones) or the state of exhaustion of a laboring person (much alike the English idiomatic phrase: "I'm beat!").
In the middle voice (that's when the doer of the verb acts upon himself), our verb becomes κοπτομαι (koptomai) and refers to the beating of one's breast (or genitals). Most commentators appear to interpret this curious act as some sort of natural reflexive deed, perhaps akin to scratching ones' head while thinking, but here at Abarim Publications we suspect that it rather refers to one's conscious effort to bring one's subconscious will and intent in line with some desired result. It describes the hammering of one's mind into the mold of one's (or someone else's) expectations.
Translators of the New Testament tend to interpret this verb with to mourn, but it obviously doesn't mean that. It means to fall in, to be emotionally swept along, to join, to jump on board, to be grabbed by.
This striking verb is used a mere 8 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, but from it stem the following important derivations:
- Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from or out of: the verb αποκοπτω (apokopto), meaning to smite from, to repel with a violent blow. This verb is often translated with "to cut off," as if someone with any sense would "cut off" ropes that tie a ship to a dock (Acts 27:32). You don't "cut" these ropes because you want to use them again, so the shore-based rope-guy unties them and tosses them after the boat that's now drifting away. The sailors then pull these ropes into the boat, coil and store them until they dock again and toss them back to the rope-guy ashore. Likewise, one doesn't literally "cut off" one's own hand but rather hit it away as if it were someone else's hand that's going somewhere objectionable. Likewise, Paul simply tells pestering folks to buzz off! or beat it! (Galatians 5:12) rather that to "mutilate" (NAS) or even "emasculate" (NIV) themselves. This verb occurs 6 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the noun αργυρος (arguros), meaning silver: the noun αργυροκοπος (argurokopos), which describes a silver-craftsman. Note that the word αργυρος (arguros) also served to mean money (as in the term φιλαργυρος, philarguros, meaning money-loving), so our noun αργυροκοπος (argurokopos) also denoted someone who carved glyptic or nummary objects: a coin-maker or minter. This word occurs in Acts 19:24 only.
- Together with the common preposition εν (en), meaning in: the verb εγκοπω (egkopto), literally meaning to beat in. It may refer to the stamping or incising of coins but also to a general hindering of some procedure, to delay, oppose, manipulate or thwart some natural course of events by forcing one's mark on it. It is used 5 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
- The noun εγκοπη (egkope), meaning incision (or a coin) or hindrance (of some procedure): the act or result of someone forcing their will upon some goings on in order to make it more like themselves. This word is used in 1 Corinthians 9:12 only, where it is applied to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel covers the whole of created reality (see Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:3, Hebrews 1:3, and so on) and has obviously suffered quite a record amount of blows and markings. These beatings are said to bring about salvation to the onlookers (Isaiah 53:5) but woe to those who perform these beatings (Matthew 27:30). Any pastor or preacher who preaches a gospel that is not relevant to or descriptive of observable reality but rather tells of some soothing make-belief world, will be tried along with the very soldiers who crucified Jesus of Nazareth.
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out: the verb εκκοπτω (ekkopto), meaning to beat out. In the classics this verb occurs for all kinds of beating-out, but mostly in the sense of appropriating trees, repulsing enemy armies and stamping money. In the New Testament this word is used mostly for chopping down trees and chopping off limbs, but it needs to be remembered that the emphasis lies not on a mere severing and tossing away, but rather on halting a thing's natural progression and averting it by re-appropriating that thing in a more useful way. The famous injunction to "cut off" your hand if it offends you (Matthew 5:30), does not so much speak of physically chopping it off and thus wasting it but rather bringing it under your control: to extend your will over it as over all your extremities, to master the furthest reaches of your range and compass. This verb is used 10 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down: the verb κατακοπτω (katakopto), meaning to beat down. This verb occurs in the New Testament only in Mark 5:5, where the demoniac "beats himself down" with stones. To the uninspired eye this story might tell of some drooling lunatic who hits himself with pieces of rock, but the wording obviously forces a parallel with a very serious person who submits himself rigorously to a regime of rules and regulations.
- The noun κοπετος (kopetos), which describes a massive emotional reaction; a group of people who are all in the throes of the same emotional beating, and then particularly the deliberate display of that endeavor and the associated sounds. This noun occurs in the New Testament only in Acts 8:2. Liddell and Scott's Lexicon equates this noun with κομμος (kommos), which also derives from our verb, and which in turn resembles the verb κομεω (komeo), meaning to care for or envelop in a protective sense. This verb in turn reminds of the noun κομη (kome), meaning hair, which suggests that the ancient Greeks saw hair both as protective and a means to broadcast one's intentions.
- The noun κοπη (kope), also meaning a beating, or rather: [the act of] violently taking control over something. It occurs in Hebrews 7:1 only.
- The noun κοπος (kopos), also meaning a beating, or rather: [the concept of] violently taking control over something. In the classics this noun was often used as synonym for toil, trouble and fatigue: precisely the physical and emotional reaction to being forced in a direction one wouldn't have naturally taken; bending over backwards. As we noted above, the adjective πονηρος (poneros), meaning "evil" comes from the verb πενομαι (penomai), meaning to toil or labor, which in turn entailed the original curse of which death was the ultimate result (Genesis 3:17). Our noun κοπος (kopos) occurs 19 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the prefix ευ (eu), meaning good: the curious adjective ευκοπος (eukopos), which literally describes easy-to-get-in-synch-with: a force that forces one not all that far out of one's natural way, and is not that big of a deal to comply with. It occurs 7 times, see full concordance, always in a similar construction meaning "it is easier." This wording implies that although it takes the proverbial camel indeed some trouble, it certainly succeeds in going through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24).
- The verb κοπαζω (kopazo), meaning to come to rest or a point of saturation. In the New Testament this verb occurs three times, in Matthew 14:32, Mark 4:39 and 6:51, and only to describe how a stormy wind dies down, which is precisely the effect of this verb: submission and ultimately death.
- The verb κοπιαω (kopiao), meaning to wear out, to be knackered, to toil exhaustively; all with a strong connotation of to be subjected to evil, to be victim of evil (see above). This verb is used 23 times, see full concordance.
- The adjective κωφος (kophos), meaning stunted or impaired: with arrested natural development or thwarted natural abilities but mostly of speech and hearing. This adjective is used 14 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before: the verb προκοπτω (prokopto), meaning to beat whatever is right in front, and thus to forcibly go forward, to trail-blaze, to make progress with great effort. This verb is used 6 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
- Together with the prefix προς (pros), which describes a motion toward: the verb προσκοπτω (proskopto), meaning to strike against; mostly of one thing against another, mostly in order to move it out of the way. This verb describes an accidental or deliberate kicking against or busting some other thing or other person. It's a verb of conflict and violent engagement, and may also mean to offend or be disgusted by. It's used 8 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the common particle of negation α (a), meaning not: the adjective απροσκοπος (aproskopos), meaning not giving offense, not confrontational (Acts 24:16, 1 Corinthians 10:32 and Philippians 1:10 only).
- The noun προσκομμα (proskomma), which describes something offensive or confrontational in either a figurative or literal sense, or it describes the result of it: a bruise or an injury due to having been confronted or otherwise violently stopped from one's natural course of action. The famous proverbial "stumbling stone" (Romans 9:33) is of course not a hunk of rock but rather an "inconvenient truth". This noun is used 6 times; see full concordance.
- The noun προσκοπη (proskope), meaning a being offended, or an item that might offend and for which one looks out and which one avoids. This word occurs only once, in 2 Corinthians 6:3 only.