Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun λυκος (lukos) means wolf, and in the classical world, the wolf did not have the romantically high standing as it does in our culture. The Latin word for wolf is lupus, which in turn is thought to derive from the Greek λυπη (lupe), meaning sorrow (see below). The Hebrew word for wolf, namely זאב (ze'eb), derives from the verb זאב (za'ab), to despise, frighten and drive away. Hence, to the classics the wolf was rather an underdog, a sorrowful one, a howler and a whiner.
It has always been common knowledge that wolves are related to dogs, and dogs had a very low status (see our articles on כלב, kaleb and κυων, kuon, both meaning dog). But where dogs could be expected to do some labor or guard a premise, wolves were seen as self-pitying and cowardly sneak thieves who preyed upon the defenseless (Ezekiel 22:27), and besides take some for food (all creature have to eat, so that's no reason to criticize), they also terrified and scattered the rest (John 10:12, Acts 20:29).
Calling someone a ravenous wolf (Genesis 49:27) was a dire insult. In Greece, molesters of children were called wolves, and Jesus called false prophets wolves dressed in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15).
This noun is used 6 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
The noun λυπη (lupe) means sorrow. Since sorrow frequently comes with a lot of howling, and wolves do to, the Greco-Roman word for wolf appears to have been derived from this noun — confusingly, the familiar Latin noun lupus, wolf, appears to come from the Greek noun λυκος (lukos), wolf (see above), which in turn came from our noun λυπη, lupe, sorrow. But these associations go far beyond the cute and actually stem from profound societal insight:
Very early humans were actually very nerdy great apes who failed to compete with their burly brethren and were subsequently pushed out onto the periphery of the tribal territory. There they met the flunkies of the neighboring tribe, and while their respective alphas ruled their respective tribes and congratulated themselves for being so very alpha, the flunkies united, developed speech and built cities and lived happily ever after. Dogs, likewise, were the nerds of wolf-dom, who failed to compete with their burly brethren and were pushed out onto the peripheries of their territories, where they met the flunkies of neighboring tribes and very early humans. The two nerd-tribes both decided to treat the other guys better than their own alphas had treated them, shook hands and paws and became each other's best friends.
And here is the insight: while early humans and early dogs joined forces and ignited the agricultural revolution and built cities where they could live in peace and security, the original alphas (of both ape and canine persuasion) remained in the outer darkness, where they wept and gnashed their teeth in retrospective regret (Psalm 35:16, Matthew 25:30, Luke 13:28).
The journey from the caves to the New Jerusalem is not about halos and grandiose revelations, not about obedience and following rules, but about learning how to live with one's own weaknesses and how to get along with folks who fail in their own various ways. It's not stressed often enough but the New Jerusalem is certainly not a matter of survival of the fittest, but rather survival of the weakest. Many generations of great ones, and fit ones, and successful ones will one day shudder and howl with regret when they see their tormented victims unite in unprecedented splendor, and enjoy a peace and enlightenment that the alphas could never have begun to image.
The noun λυπη (lupe), sorrow, is used 16 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the common prefix of negation α (a): the adjective αλυπος (alupos), meaning without sorrow. In the Classics, this fairly common adjective described an often pondered blissful state (painlessness, sorrowlessness), which obviously coincided with ελευθερια (eleutheria), societal freedom, which in turn was the ideal of δημοκρατια (democratia), or public self-government (a people's government of itself). This adjective αλυπος (alupos), sorrowless, is not used in the New Testament, but its comparative, namely αλυποτερος (alupoteros), more sorrowless (or less sorrowful), occurs in Philippians 2:28 only.
- The verb λυπεω (lupeo), to grieve, to be sorrowful or (perhaps somewhat milder) to be sorry. Not every expression of sorrow (not every "I am sorry") automatically warrants a reversal in attitude in the addressed, since such sentiments on occasion don't stem from an intimate understanding of what one apologizes for, and subsequently don't guarantee a recurrence of the infraction. Or as Paul writes: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:10). This verb is used 26 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
- Together with the preposition περι (peri), meaning around or about (and in this case probably expressing abundance): the adjective περιλυπος (perilupos), which is a word like the previous and appears to describe a multifarious grieving, a grieving caused by many pains or by pains from all around (perhaps comparable to the sentiment expressed in Psalm 22:12). This verb is used 5 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.