Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The origin of this verb is obscure. A fitting Proto-Indo-European root has been proposed, but support for it is scant and its faint traces in extant languages may very well derive from our verb, rather than from a shared root (one thinks of the ever useful Dutch verb mopperen, to grumble; see μομφη, momphe, below). Here at Abarim Publications we don't know either, but we are rather struck by the similarity of our verb and the name Memphis (Μεμφις), which in antiquity was a city both of proverbial glory and proverbial failure. Perhaps its most notable quality was its fault-finding in others (Matthew 7:1, Romans 2:1), which may have incited the others to find fault with it and subsequently raid and sack it.
Another verb that may be derived from the name Memphis, and which actually may shine some light on our present verb, is the verb λαμπω (lampo), to shine. This verb too is of unclear origin, but could convincingly pass for a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew compound למף (l'mep), of "onto Memphis" or rather: to be shone a light on so as to be checked for faults.
But regardless of whether the name and the verb are formally related, a Greek native speaker might have assumed so, which in turn might have licensed the poets (Jeremiah 11:4, Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:15, 5:14). From our verb derive:
- Together with the preposition α (a), meaning without: the adjective αμεμπτος (amemptos), meaning without fault-finding. This tricky adjective not only means blameless but also not-blaming. Our adjective describes a situation that is not in any way involved with blame-assignment, one way or the other, but (as implied) rather with generosity, healing, helping, carrying each other's burdens and being friends on a shared journey. The purpose of the law is to reveal sin (Romans 7:7), which is why the covenant of the law had to be replaced by the covenant of the fulfilment of the law (Hebrews 8:7).
Many theologians and religious people insist that a proper faith is based on proper dogma, and the Bible is there to harvest and glean this dogma from. But others propose that proper faith is based on love, and the Bible is there so that humans can immerse themselves in God's thought patterns, so that the thought patterns of the reader will eventually begin to resonate with those of God. The first group will invest in orthodoxy, and split the world into a very small cluster of appropriateness and a very big remainder of faulty stuff (and assign themselves, generously, a place among the appropriate things). The second group will not look for fault, but will heal and repair and encourage where they can, whilst keeping their eyes on God alone. This adjective is used 5 times; see full concordance. And from it in turn comes:
- Together with the otherwise unused noun μοιρα (moira), lot, part or portion: the adjective μεμψιμοιρος (mempsimoiros), which (when used substantively) describes someone who continuously finds fault with the cards he's been dealt: someone who keeps complaining about his lot in life (Jude 1:16 only).
- The noun μομφη (momphe), a fault-finding or fault-found: a complaint (Colossians 3:13 only).