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

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/k/k-t-i-z-om.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The verb κτιζω (ktizo) is commonly translated with to create, but instead of emphasizing the beginning of that which is created, it rather emphasizes the will of the creator (Revelation 4:11). In the Greek classics our verb is used to mean to willfully found (of a city), to willfully plant (of a grove), to willfully set up (of an altar), to willfully establish (of a tradition), to willfully produce or create (of an invention or work of art), or even to willfully perpetrate (of any kind of deed).

Our verb stems from the Proto-Indo-European root "tkeyti-" of similar broad meaning, which in turn is a subset of the root "tek-", to beget, from which also comes root "teks-", to weave, hence English words like architect, technology, textile and text, and Greek words like the verb τικτω (tikto), to beget, and the noun τεκτων (tekton), assembler (Jesus' and Joseph's earthly profession).

In the New Testament, our verb and its derivatives are mostly used to refer to the creative initiative of God, but it must be emphasized that the authors of the Bible never regarded God as the distant Prime Mover envisioned by Aristotle (an erroneous pagan model that still strongly influences modern and popular concepts of God). As we discuss more elaborately in our articles on the verb πασχω (pascho), to experience, and the noun θηριον (therion), wild animal, the singular nature of the Creator is reflected in dynamic creation (Romans 1:20), which runs on a set of immutable laws called Logos (Matthew 5:18), humanity's waxing knowledge of which is embodied by Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:14), who thus reflects the Creator (Hebrews 1:3). That means that God is not merely the singular once-upon-a-time Creator, but continues as the perpetual Maintainer and Facilitator of all goings on the universe, and ultimately functions as the singular Attractor upon which all lines of evolution inevitably converge. In the New Testament, the Creator is only once described by the noun κτιστης (ktistes), creator (see below) and twice rather by the participle of our verb: κτιζων (ktizon), the creating (Romans 1:25, Colossians 3:10).

Our verb κτιζω (ktizo) means to come into being because of the will of a κτιστης (ktistes), a founder (see below), and applies to anything that's made to exist by anyone with a will to do so. In the New Testament, our verb is commonly translated with to create, but the obvious objection to this is the inevitable exclusive association with the divine Creator and the whole of the created reality in which we creatures live. Folks like Aristotle and Alan Guth imagine an instantaneous creation event that happened long ago, whose residual momentum still drives all action in the universe today. Models that derive from a casual reading of Genesis stretch the creation "event" to 144 hours (6 days), but agree that the universe still reels from the residual momentum of this one week.

There are many things wrong with these views. Time, to start with, is essentially a matter of particle interaction, and particle interaction is a function of the universe. That means that the universe did not begin at a point in time, but rather that time began at a point in the universe. The universe is more fundamental than time, and the word "creation" does not describe the earliest point in time (or the earliest event in time) from which the rest of time followed, but rather a most fundamental structure within complexity from which the whole rest of all structures within complexity forever follows.

As we discuss in some detail in our article on the noun αστηρ (aster), meaning star, the six days of creation are not about the first 144 hours of existence, but rather the basic pattern in which everything that naturally evolves must evolve, for all eternity. Nature is a fractal, and the six days of creation are the six most fundamental phases through which any kind of evolving continuum must transit, at any scale, at any level of complexity and at any time. This basic pattern roughly starts with a singularity, followed by a series of symmetry breaches, then global expansion and local contraction, the production of multiple singularities, which somehow find each other and begin to exchange information, which causes convergence, and ultimately the arrival at a whole new singularity, which is backed by the vast complexity it sustains.

The light that comes to be on day one (Genesis 1:3), again comes to be in the Messiah (Isaiah 9:2, John 1:5). The firmament that separates the waters on day two (Genesis 1:6) separates the murderers on Golgotha (John 19:18). The waters below the firmament gather into dry land (Genesis 1:9, Luke 23:43), over which the stars come out (Genesis 1:15, 15:5, Nehemiah 4:21, Galatians 3:7). In the Bible, the complexity-backed singularity upon which all evolution is designed to converge is envisioned as a city (a highly dynamic and complex society) called the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2).

Our verb κτιζω (ktizo) means to willfully initiate and is used 14 times in the New Testament; see full concordance. From this verb derive:

  • The noun κτισις (ktisis), which describes the happening of any kind of willful beginning: a founding, a settling, an establishing, a creating. In the New Testament, this word mostly refers to God's creating, but as we discuss above, the creation event did not result in the first second, or the first 518,400 seconds, but rather in the most basic evolutionary pattern of complex systems forever. This word is not about an event that happened long ago, but about a dynamic reality that all of us continue to be dynamic parts of. Additionally, our noun κτισις (ktisis) does not so much emphasize the event of creation but rather the will of it. Our noun declares that creatures don't originate at a point in time or a point in space but at a point in will: creatures exist because they began to be willed into being. Our noun is used 19 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
  • The noun κτισμα (ktisma), which describes the thing willfully begun: a creature, a creation, a created thing. In the Greek classics this noun tends to describe a colony or temple. It's used 4 times; see full concordance.
  • The noun κτιστης (ktistes), meaning founder or willful beginner. In the classics this noun commonly describes a city's founder, builder or restorer. In the New Testament, it refers to God as the Creator (1 Peter 4:19 only).

The verb κταομαι (ktaomai) means to procure or acquire: to add to oneself. It stems from the same PIE root "tek-", to beget, as the above.

In the classics, this verb's object may be any sort of object that one acquires and thus becomes one's possession (and makes one a property-owner). It may be a prize one wins, or a living one makes, a favor won, or some dire consequence that one brings upon oneself. By practicing, one may acquire mastery of some art, have benefits in store, or have a hand in what happens next.

This verb is not necessarily reserved for commercial acquisitions but is still closely associated to it. The invention of legal property, and subsequent property rights, is the fundamental tenet of any complex economy, which in turn is the foundation of modern humanity (see our article on Abraham). When property rights are violated, all economy (and humanity) immediately comes to a halt (and humanity reverts to jungle law: Jude 1:10). And when an economy must be restored (after, say, a war or destructive plague), the restoration and protection of property rights are the first and foremost item on any agenda. Property right is a crucial element of modern humanity, which is why it is guaranteed by three of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:15-17).

Our verb κταομαι (ktaomai), to acquire, is used 7 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:

  • The noun κτημα (ktema), meaning that what is acquired or possessed: a possession or an acquisition. In Acts 2:45, our noun κτημα (ktema), acquired or commercial possession, occurs in conjunction with υπαρξις (huparxis), essential, non-traded or non-moveable possession. Our noun κτημα (ktema) occurs 4 times; see full concordance.
  • The noun κτηνος (ktenos), also meaning acquisition or possession. The difference between this word and the previous is that the previous describes an instance of the verb (an acquiring), whereas this noun describes a thing to which the verb applies: an acquired thing. In the New Testament, this word exclusively describes one's personal pack animal or mount, which may seem a bit odd, until we realize that we moderns speak of property when we mean a plot of land or a building (and "property" is the Latin equivalent of our Greek word κτηνος, ktenos). Still, the use of this particular word, rather than ιππος (hippos), horse, or ονος (onos), donkey, gives the scene it occurs in a decided commercial subtone. Also note that in James 1:26 and 3:2, the author uses the verb χαλιναγωγεω (chalinagogeo), to lead by bridle, when speaking of the tongue, suggesting that one's tongue (and by extension the whole body) is the horse-property one rides. Our noun κτηνος (ktenos) occurs 4 times; see full concordance.
  • The noun κτητωρ (ktetor), meaning someone who possesses or has acquired: a possessor or owner (Acts 4:34 only).