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

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/m/m-e-l-i.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary

μελι  μελισσα

The noun μελι (meli) means honey and the related noun μελισσα (melissa) means honey bee (hence the extra biblical name Melissa). These words derive from an ancient Proto-Indo-European noun "melit", meaning honey (hence the French and Spanish miel for honey). A PIE synonym of "melit" is "medu" (see below). Our English word "honey" stems from yet another PIE word for honey, namely "knhonks" (European descendants of this word tend to emphasize the bee, the hive, the flowers and the color gold).

Why PIE had so many words for honey isn't clear, but it serves to demonstrate that in antiquity, honey was held in high esteem. In the Bible, hypersocial animals like bees and ants were regarded as embodiments of the social ideal. Proverbs 6:6 says "Go to the ant, O sluggard. Observe her ways and be wise". The Hebrew word for honey, namely דבש (dabash), closely relates to the word for camel hump, namely דבשת (dabashet), and see our article on noun καμηλος (kamelos), meaning "unit of new market creation", for the significance of this.

The Hebrew word for bee is דבורה (deborah), hence the name Deborah, and comes from the verb דבר (dabar), meaning to speak or pronounce. It is the feminine version of the masculine noun דבר (dabar), meaning Word (as in the term Word of God), which in Greek corresponds with the name Logos.

All this indicates that honey symbolizes the literary arts (or more general: information technology, or even more general: technology at large), whose evolution (that ultimately resulted in the human version of the Word of God we call the Bible) piggy-backed on that of international trade. Hence Abraham was both the "father" of international trade, of the Christ, and of all believers (Galatians 3:7). Equally important, perhaps, is the tendency of honey-products to ferment (see μεθυ, methu, below). The Bible makes it very clear that alcohol and its effects are created by God as a blessing to his people (Deuteronomy 14:26), but history also shows that too much fermentation and not enough sobriety causes delirium and horror and utter devastation.

Our noun μελι (meli), honey, occurs 4 times in the New Testament; see full concordance. In Matthew 3:4 and Mark 1:6 it describes a staple food of John the Baptist, and in Revelation 10:9-10 the taste of the little book in the hand of the angel.

The noun μελισσα (melissa) itself doesn't occur in the Bible, but older versions of the Bible speak of μελισσιος (melissios), meaning of bees (that is: honey comb) as part of the meal that the disciples gave to the risen Christ (Luke 24:42 only). Many modern scholars feel that this Lucan reference to the honeycomb is a later gloss, and most recent translations leave it out.


The noun μεθυ (methu) describes a kind of strong drink and as such became synonymous for drunkenness and carousals. It stems from the PIE word "medu", meaning honey (modern Russian for honey is med or milaya), and is the source of our English word "mead" (a strong alcoholic honey drink), and the "meth-" part of words like methyl, methane, methadone and methamphetamine (but not words like "method", which come from "meta-"; see below).

As we briefly discussed above, our scientific and Scriptural body of collective knowledge (and thus modern technology and the Internet), stems from the great human dialogue, which in turn is an outgrowth of international trade, as stories and perspectives traveled with the caravans and were exchanged on markets and pit stops, for free and largely for entertainment purposes (the name Isaac means He Will Cause Laughter).

Unfortunately, as our most recent history shows, literature tends to ferment and cause vast intoxication and madness in certain people groups. Knowledge should always add up to a unity, which is why science "believes" in a singular Theory of Everything and why the Bible is based on monotheism (Deuteronomy 6:4, Romans 8:28, Hebrews 1:3). Trained wizards (i.e. wise-ards) will confirm that wisdom is not merely about absorbing a lot of knowledge, but also of quiet contemplation and a proper digestion of what has been imbibed, in order to restore the unity of one's world view. People who don't first restore their proper singular vision will continue to see double, and will ultimately begin to believe their double vision and finally succumb to polytheism (which is the same as atheism, since God is One and there is no other: Isaiah 45:6-7).

Like children that discuss their latest exited "beliefs" with their more sober parents at dinner, so novice readers must always test and hone their understandings in discussions with peers and betters. Wisdom used to be taught in closed circles, where novices were forced to take their time to properly process what they had learned. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed vast armies of untrained readers to plunge in, and the Reformation was the result. Despite its optimistic name, the Reformation directly resulted in a popular uprising, which in turn resulted in the systematic slaughter of 100,000 German peasants. This was enthusiastically endorsed by Martin Luther, who backed this outrageous genocide with the first formal heaves of Protestant theology on human authority (a.k.a. the right of kings). The first formal Protestant martyr, a learned linguist and theologian named Felix Manz, was executed not by Catholics but by other Protestants, who disagreed with his ideas on baptism.

All this not only explains why Protestantism is the most fractured religion in the world, but also how Protestantism could open the door for the age of exploration (i.e. mass murder and widespread destruction so-called in the name of God), capitalism and finally Fascism.

Ask any child to connect random dots, and the picture that emerges says everything about the child and nothing about the dots. When enough stars are visible, any picture can be drawn. When information is limitless, any biased hypothesis can be confirmed. All models of reality (i.e. all conscious minds) have an event horizon, and mere accumulating data cannot alter the nature of the core. Only doubt can do that. Wisdom is marked by the ability to doubt, which is Hawking Radiation to one's core belief, and the only vehicle to a much wider world.

Whatever was left of the unity and thus the sanctity of knowledge was further compromised at the beginning of the industrial age, when people were forced to leave their ancient rural societies and support structures, and move like swarms of disconnected grasshoppers into the cities. First generation literates began to read books (like On The Origin Of Species and Das Kapital) without understanding the broader contexts in which these works were relevant, and were swept up in waves of Romanticism first and Nationalism later.

The final nail in the coffin of wisdom came with the Internet, which is a magnificent blessing to students who know how wisdom works but a maddening curse to everybody else. First time and unmentored "researchers" collect in the most breathless conspiracy theories, and while some hopefuls have declared War on Fake News, a fearful suspicion is growing that this war can't be won, simply because mankind is presently suffering the first symptoms of early onset dementia and can't be cured.

Mankind is going bonkers, and within a few years, observations will be irrelevant (neither true nor false, but both unverifiable and undeniable), and the only source of factual information that describes human reality will come from our memory of the Bible (i.e. that first set of core-texts that crystalized out of the great global conversation that piggy-backed on international trade). Mankind as a whole will split into (1) a very large group of folks who have quite literally lost their human mind, and (2) a very small group that has kept it and will go on with it. The large group in turn will continue to polarize and fracture and form a kind of biosphere of different post-human tribes with all their own character and identity. But all these will have a partial image of reality (like animals: Psalm 73:22, Ecclesiastes 3:18, 2 Peter 2:12, Jude 1:10), and none will remember the Oneness Of All Things of which the Bible speaks. Only the smaller second group will.

People from the first group are all orthodox in some way or other. They are convinced that they and their kind have it correct, and that the vast rest of mankind are misguided or malfunctioning or plain stupid. People of the first group live in a world they mostly don't understand, but also don't really consider, like a dog who lives in a human city, wholly unaware that humans built all the buildings and made all the cars and all the roads and parks and such. It simply does not cross the dog's mind that all the elements of his world are synthetic and put there by humans. Like a dog who considers humans as little more than funny looking dogs, so the people of the first group will certainly be able to observe the people of the second group, but will have no means to begin to imagine how very different these second-groupers are from the first-groupers.

People from the second group are not orthodox (or heterodox) but "metadox". They see the diversity of the first group the way a farmer sees his animals: he recognizes all the different species and variations of character and temperament within the species, but doesn't consider any of them more "right" than the other. The farmer even understands that he is an animal too, albeit an animal that can think outside its own box and into some other species' box, so as to understand that a cow eats grass and a plant likes water, and thus achieve the wisdom to make a kind of farm in which all animals can live happily and productively ever after. The farmers, but not the farm animals, also maintain a global economy of farms, in which farmers gather and trade and tell stories: a world that the animals cannot begin to image to exist.

The noun μεθυ (methu), strong drink or drunkenness, isn't used in the New Testament, but from it derive:

  • The noun μεθη (methe), meaning drunkenness or carousal (Luke 21:34, Romans 13:13 and Galatians 5:21 only). The Greeks personified this quality in Methe, the spirit of drunkenness, who understandably belonged to the following of Dionysus, and was in some circles even regarded as his daughter.
  • The verb μεθυσκω (methusko), meaning to make drunk or give intoxicating drink. The passive voice of this verb means the same as the verb μεθυω (methuo), to get drunk (see below). Our verb μεθυσκω (methusko) is used 4 times; see full concordance.
  • The adjective μεθυσος (methusos), meaning drunken, or when used substantially: a drunk (1 Corinthians 5:11 and 6:10 only).
  • The verb μεθυω (methuo), to be drunk — whether on fermented wine (Isaiah 5:1) or on literature or even the Holy Scriptures, drunkenness comes from imbibing more than one can process and not allowing the merry drinker a proper period of contemplation. This important verb is used 6 times, see full concordance, and from it comes a most curious word:
    • Together with the particle of negation α (a), meaning not or without: the noun αμεθυστος (amethustos), that is: amethyst, the name of a blue or violet gemstone. See directly below for a discussion of this important word.

The noun αμεθυστος (amethustos), means amethyst (same word), a deep blue or violet gemstone (Revelation 21:20 only). This word is formed from the verb μεθυω (methuo), to be drunk (see directly above), and the familiar particle of negation α (a), meaning not or without. The word amethyst means "not drunk" or simply "sobriety".

It's popularly explained that the Greeks believed that amethyst could prevent drunkenness, which is why they made drinking vessels from it — but that is nonsense. Judging from Plato's Symposium, the Greeks studied the effects of alcohol with great interest, also because Socrates could drink all night without keeling over, supplying everybody with the proof that a perfectly rational mind (particularly one that knows the art of Eros), is able to stay sober and composed under all circumstances, intoxication and temptation. Whether that idea would survive modern medical scrutiny is doubtful, but inquisitive Greeks would have figured out quickly that drunkenness is proportional to the amount imbibed and depends not on the vessel drank from. Something more sophisticated is going on.

In the Septuagint, our noun αμεθυστος (amethustos) translates the noun אחלמה ('ahlama), a word of uncertain pedigree but without the common prefix א ('a) and the suffix ה (he), similar enough to the verb חלם (halam), to dream, to suppose that to the ancients, the amethyst was a dream-stone — and see our article on οναρ (onar), meaning dream, for the enormous significance of that (to give a hint: οναριον, onarion, means donkey's foal).

As we discuss in our Hebrew article on this verb חלם (halam), to dream, and the noun אחלמה ('ahlama), amethyst: later Talmudists called this stone Calf's Eye, which appears to be a reference to the Egyptian myth that the starry night "births" the "calf" that is the rising sun — an obvious wink to the relationship between subconsciousness and consciousness, which in the Greek New Testament became personified by dreamy Joseph and Mary of Nazareth and the solar Logos.

The color red (ερυθρος, eruthros) signified primitivity, hotness and rudeness (and animal life, emotions and instincts), whereas blue and purple (πορφυρα, porphura), signified cool dignity, rationality and wisdom. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3) but the love of Christ surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). This is perhaps why the rainbow of gems as witnessed by the Revelator serve as a foundation (and see Matthew 5:13) of the wall around Jerusalem, which itself is perfectly white (λευκος, leukos), i.e. the sum of all colors (see Revelation 20:11 relative to Revelation 21:22).


The familiar preposition μετα (meta), meaning with or among and implying motion toward the inside, is under certain circumstances written as μεθ- (meth-), and that makes it rather similar to our words based on μεθυ (methu), strong drink or drunkenness.

An example of such a meth-word is the verb μεθιστημι (methistemi), to translocate (see full concordance), which might be a good thing when one is translocated from a bad place to a good one, but which also may describe the unsteady gait of a drunken person.

Another example is the adjective μεθοριος (methorios), which describes a territory within boundaries (Mark 7:24 only), but which might also be applied to the self-imposed limitations of a drunk.

Most striking, however, is the noun μεθοδεια (methodeia), meaning method. This decidedly negative noun occurs in Ephesians 4:14 and 6:11 only, and describes a mechanical and lifeless approach to reality, rather than an innovating and creative one. Of course, the invention of methods, algorithms, rules and thus law in general are great blessings, but the Bible makes clear that the only purpose of the law is to point out sin (i.e. to declare guilty), and although it must remain, its ultimate destiny is to be fulfilled and transcended by love. Long story short: methodology is the fabric of orthodoxy, but love is the fabric of wisdom. And love, not orthodoxy, will prevail.


The verb νηφω (nepho) means to be sober: to not be overwhelmed by alcohol but rather be self-contained, alert and wary. This verb is the opposite of μεθυω (methuo), to be drunk (see above).

It's not clear how this verb was formed but some have suggested from a Celtic root "nagh-", to be sober, as cognate of the German nüchtern, although that word appears to stem from the Latin nocturnus, from PIE nekwt-, night, hence also νυξ (nux), night. Another possibility is that our verb was formed from the negating PIE prefix ne- and a derivative from the PIE stem "heg-", to drink (hence the Latin ebrius, drunk, hence our English word "inebriated").

But whatever its origin, our verb νηφω (nepho), to be sober, came to look enticingly similar to the noun νεφελη (nephele), cloud, which might help a native Greek speaker to understand sobriety not so much as being dry but rather as a containment of whatever liquids one holds: not the opposite of drinking but the opposite of spilling. In the classics, our verb νηφω (nepho) indeed has an emphasis on self-control (i.e. control over what comes out rather than what goes in). This association may be even furthered by both these words' proximity to the verb νιφω (nipho), to snow (snow being dry rain; νιφα, nipha, means snow, νιφας, niphas, means snowflake; all from PIE "sneyg-", to snow).

Above we contemplate that drunkenness comes not only from being overwhelmed by strong drink, but also (and perhaps more so) from being overwhelmed by strong literature. That means that a novice reader who is first introduced to the power of the Scriptures and not properly mentored may actually not immediately benefit from it but become drunk from its power and slip into psychotic beliefs rather than a sober understanding of the mechanisms of the observable world (Romans 1:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 Kings 4:33). Experienced readers who can "hold" their Scriptures without getting hammered can be recognized by the calm dignity with which they expel the darkness of ignorance and hate, and heal the physically, mentally and socially sick, lift poverty, build cities and create technologies to make life on earth a true godly feast (Matthew 11:4-5, John 14:12).

Our verb νηφω (nepho), to be sober, is used 6 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:

  • Together with the preposition ανα (ana), meaning on, or in this case, again: the verb ανανηφω (ananepho), to become sober again, to sober up, to awake from some sedating substance or a vain pipe dream (2 Timothy 2:26 only).
  • Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out or from: the verb εκνηφω (eknepho), meaning to sober-out or sober-up: to snap out of a drunken stupor and into sobriety (1 Corinthians 15:34 only).
  • The adjective νηφαλιος (nephalios), meaning sober, self-controlled or contained: not drunken by wine, drugs, music or psychotic beliefs and not swayed by carnivalesque ecstasies (1 Timothy 3:2, 3:11 and Titus 2:2 only).

Associated Biblical names