Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb μαχομαι (machomai) means to contend, wrangle, wrestle or fight. It's unclear where this verb may come from but here at Abarim Publications we propose an ultimate pedigree from the verb מכך (makak), to bring low or to humiliate. But where this Hebrew verb tends to emphasize an implied wish to defeat and annihilate an opponent, the Greek verb rather emphasizes the match between equal opponents and the potential betterment for either that results from the match.
Our verb may denote fighting between vast armies or individuals, or against forces of nature or heaven. It may denote a military conflict, a boxing game, a sporting match, a quarrel, a heated discussion, or even an opposition to sound logic or positional consistency. This verb is used 4 times in the New Testament; see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the preposition δια (dia), meaning through or throughout: the verb διαμαχομαι (diamachomai), meaning to thoroughly contend, to exert oneself through and through or strive earnestly (Acts 23:9 only).
- Together with the noun θεος (theos), meaning God: the adjective θεομαχος (theomachos), meaning god-wrangler (Acts 5:39 only). Note that this verb does not so much imply a desire to defeat God, but rather the supposition of equality with God as to warrant a "fight" that's actually a challenge for both (such as Jacob's signature fight with the angel in Genesis 32:24). From this adjective comes:
- The verb θεομαχεω (theomacheo), meaning to wrangle with God (Acts 23:9 only).
- Together with the noun θηριον (therion), wild or undomesticated animal (or people without civilization): the verb θηριομαχεω (theriomacheo), meaning to wrangle wild beasts. As with the adjective θεομαχος (theomachos), god-wrangler, this verb implies sustained combat with an animal that's one's equal. This verb occurs in 1 Corinthians 15:32 only, where Paul reviews the merits of beast-wrangling if it doesn't advantage the man (or beast, perhaps?). The point of beast-wrangling was not to kill the beast (that would have been easier done with a spear or sword) but to somehow derive benefit from it (perhaps some physical or mental training, entertainment or a tamer animal).
- Together with the noun θυμοσ (thumos), which describes intense mental agitation or anger: the verb θυμομαχεω (thumomacheo), meaning to wrestle angrily with, to engage someone out of great offense (Acts 12:20 only).
- Together with the noun λογος (logos), word: the verb λογομαχεω (logomacheo), meaning to wrangle about words (2 Timothy 2:14 only). From this verb in turn comes:
- The noun λογομαχια (logomachia), meaning a fight about words (1 Timothy 6:4 only).
- The noun μαχη (mache) derives from the action of the verb and means battle, combat, contest, a fighting, a struggle, a wrestling. It occurs 4 times; see full concordance, and from it comes:
- Together with the preposition α (a), meaning without: the adjective αμαχος (amachos), meaning without battle, without controversy, without the desire to wrangle others (1 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 3:2 only). In the classics this magnificent word is often used to mean unconquerable, or "with whom no one fights." Applied to a place, our word means impregnable. Applied to a woman's beauty it means irresistible. Applied to a statement it means incontestably or unquestionably. This quality signifies a mature mind, or the mind of someone who has found ways to grow and cause to grow other than through imposed frustration and violent retention.
The noun μαχαιρα (machaira) denotes a large knife, dagger or scissors, and obviously derives from the above or shares its root. This noun covers a broad range of knives, from an assassin's compact assault weapon to utility knives, and even served to proverbially describe a greedy person (after priests who carved generous helpings off sacrifices for their own consumption). In the modern age, this word came to describe the genus Machairodus, or saber-toothed tigers.
Our noun describes a relatively small and handheld cutting tool, and not particularly a military weapon that a soldier would wield in a military confrontation (that would be a ρομφαια, rhomphaia, or stick-sword). The core idea captured by our noun is not that of a hysterical head-on confrontation with the intention to destroy, but rather of calmly trimming small bits off the side, or fleshing a carcass and dividing it into useable and not useable parts.
Contrary to common perception, Jesus never instructed his disciples to buy combat swords and walk around like a heavily armed militia (Luke 22:36). Instead, they were fishermen (Matthew 4:19) and had to keep their cleaning knives continuously at the ready (Ephesians 4:16). The two-knives or duo-knives mentioned in Luke 22:38 denotes a set of scissors; a widely used tool for sheep-shearing that's been around since 2000 BC. When Peter sliced off the ear of Malchus (John 18:10), he did so because he deemed that ear useless. Had Peter wanted to kill Malchus, he would have stabbed him in the heart.
Science (Romans 1:20, John 1:18) is not the pursuit of truth but the pursuit of consensus (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Its job is to divide all hypotheses into a pile of rejected ones (which were experimentally proven false) and the rest (which were not experimentally proven false). The former group is the group of "proven false" hypotheses, but the latter group is not a group of "proven true" hypotheses, but rather a group of hypotheses that require further scrutiny and more precise experiments.
Truth is not something that's been proven true but rather whatever remains after everything disagreeable has been removed (Psalm 12:6). Truth is not a doctrinal thing but a synchronicity thing.
Truth is that which everybody finally agrees on; something against which no opposition exists, something to which nobody objects. Our noun μαχαιρα (machaira) is a word that pertains to purification and shaping up, to removing impurities and elements that stick out and don't properly fit in. It's a word that has to do with the familiar word שלום (shalom), meaning peace in the sense of completeness, and when Jesus says: "I came not to send peace, but a machaira" (Matthew 10:34), he doesn't deploy the machaira as polar opposite of peace but as an instrument toward it. He says: "I'm not giving you completeness; I'm giving you a tool to work it".
The Biblical promise of peace has nothing to do with peace rising fully formed upon a hapless bunch of infighters, but rather the troubled and arduous sifting out of the trouble-makers among the infighters, so that only the useful remain.
In the New Testament this noun is used 29 times; see full concordance.