Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The familiar adjective μεσος (mesos) means middle, or rather: the midst, in the middle of or in between (hence Mesopotamia, or in between the ποταμα, potama; rivers). It stems from a broadly attested Proto-Indo-European term "medyos", meaning the same (and hence also the Latin mediud and the English words middle and medio).
It's not always emphasized but the idea of a middle is right up there with the number zero and the notion of infinity. It argues the concept of division, which the author of Genesis associates with the second creation day and contrary to what is commonly believed, not the upper half of the waters but rather the dividing firmament was called heaven (Genesis 1:6).
Division is a very big a deal (Matthew 10:34-35), superseded only by the familiar command "Let there be light!" The cosmic reality of division allows energy to polarize into matter and anti-matter, without which there would be no atoms and molecules and any objects or life. Division of the waters saved Israel on its escape from Egypt (Exodus 14:21). Division sat at the core of the most signature demonstration of Solomon's wisdom (1 Kings 3:25), and this child of sacrifice returned now dividing the two robbers who hung beside him (Matthew 27:38).
Division occurs in nature in principles such as mitosis, in which one autonomous and wholly functioning entity is broken in two, only to give rise to a new form of unity that rises from a restored harmony between the fragments. In nature this restored unity tends to be greater, more diverse and more successful than the original unity. It happens when energy breaches into particles to form atoms and molecules, when a zygote becomes a multi-cellular creature, when human minds congregate into societies. In mythology this principle was celebrated as the Phoenix, and in the Bible it's told as the birth, death and resurrection of the Christ, and of course the descent of New Jerusalem.
Division is the beginning of all discernment and thus all variation and all progression and all structures. The Hebrew word for discernment is בין (ben), which derives from the verb בין (bin), to understand. It bears a striking resemblance to the noun בן (ben), meaning son, which in turn resembles the verb בנה (bana), meaning to build, and the noun אבן ('eben), meaning stone.
The mathematical application of our adjective not only allows a number to be broken into its factors, but it also allows a whole set to be represented by its mean or average. In that sense, our word expresses an ambassadorial function, a number like a spokesperson that averages a much larger constituency. Greek speaking people who were not familiar with Hebrew lore might have been forgiven to note a perceived similarity between our word μεσος (mesos) and the title Messiah, the anointed, who was after all said to be the people's mediator (μεσιτης, mesites; see below).
This awesome adjective μεσος (mesos) occurs 61 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the noun ημερα (emera): the noun μεσημβρια (mesembria), literally meaning mid-day (Acts 8:26 and 22:6 only).
- The noun μεσιτης (mesites), meaning mediator; not merely someone who stands in between two unrelated groups but rather someone who is intimately involved with both groups and is able to represent them both. If there is a conflict between two groups, a true mediator embodies this conflict, and suffers the blows exchanged in his own body. This magnificent word is used 6 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it comes:
- The verb μεσιτευω (mesiteuo), meaning to be a mediator, to mediate, to represent two much larger collectives and embody their collision and suffer their violence. This verb occurs only in Hebrews 6:17 only but is an obvious reprisal of the ways covenants were manifested in the old world; see Genesis 15:17-18.
- Together with the noun νυξ (nux), meaning night: the noun μεσονυκτιος (mesonuktion), meaning midnight. Only the day had hours and there was no real way to tell time by night, so instead of a particular hour, our noun denoted the period corresponding to the night watch or night shift. It occurs 4 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the noun τοιχος (toichos), which denotes the wall of a house, temple or enclosure (not a city wall): the noun μεσοτοιχον (mesotoichon), which evidently describes a partition wall, a wall through the middle or a wall of division. This word appears to be unique in Greek literature and only occurs in Ephesians 2:14.
- Together with the noun ουρανος (ouranos), meaning heaven: the noun μεσουρανημα (mesouranema), literally meaning mid-heaven but referring to what today is called meridian. This common navigational term occurs only in Revelation 8:13, 14:6 and 19:17.
- The verb μεσοω (mesoo), meaning to be in or at the middle, or in this case: half-way over (John 7:14 only).
- Together with the preposition μετα (meta), meaning with or among and implying motion toward the inside: the adverb μεταξυ (metaxu), meaning in the midst, in between. This word may apply to places or items, or to points in time, in which case it means meanwhile. In grammar this adverb referred to the neutral gender. This word is used 9 times; see full concordance. In Acts 13:42 occurs the phrase "between-Sabbath," which most translators interpret to mean the "next Sabbath." Here at Abarim Publications, however, we surmise that the word Sabbath may also refer to a whole week (Matthew 28:1, Luke 18:2), and the phrase "between-Sabbath" is obviously something similar to our modern term mid-week. The Gentiles who asked to hear more may not have fancied having wait for the next Sabbath, and asked whether it would be possible for the speakers to keep going on weeknights. In the following verse we are indeed told that Paul and Barnabas continued to speak with the people, and did so until the actual next Sabbath-day, as mentioned in verse 44.
In the classics, this word was most often used for persons, which makes it likely that our word derives from the above and originally referred to one's expanding waist. In the classics as well as in the New Testament, this word also often describes a mind that is "full" with certain cognitive aspects or feelings. This adjective occurs 8 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
- The verb μεστοω (mestoo), meaning to fill (Acts 2:13 only).