Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb μιαινω (miaino) means to stain or sully: to introduce or reveal a contaminant, either in a physical sense (a stain on a cloth or a dye in water) or in a moral sense (to defile someone's reputation or to dishonor a woman). In the classics, this word was commonly associated with blood, and see our article on the noun αιμα (haima), blood, for a look at what a blood-stain or defilement by blood would have meant in the ancient world. A woman's blood flow would defile and disgrace her because it marked her failure to get pregnant, which in turn could be construed as a sign that either God didn't like her, or else her husband didn't, or else, perhaps, that she was uppity and unwilling to submit to either.
Blood only exists within a properly isolated and contained organic circuit, within a living and breathing creature. And when blood appears outside of one, it always marks a disarray of natural righteousness. The visibility of blood always testifies to chaos and violence and beastliness, whereas the invisibility of blood testifies to order and peace and high human culture. Hence, a piece of art that makes no consistent sense and falls apart and testifies mostly of the inadequacy of the artist, may figuratively be deemed as blood-stained. But a marvel of unity and perfection, whose every element is perfectly honed to complement all others, which testifies solely of its own greatness and whose artist has become invisible, such an item may be deemed inspired (and its spirit to sit within its "blood" within its parts).
In other words, any of the great many forms of polytheism is always bloodstained, whereas monotheism isn't. Lawlessness is always bloodstained but lawfulness is not. Playing out of tune and botching the rhythm is bloodstained but a perfect fidelity to musical harmony is not. Freedom is not bloodstained and neither is love. The perfectly unified Hebrew Bible is without blemish, but anything else, from Homer to Shakespeare, is bloodstained.
It's a mystery where our word μιαινω (miaino) comes from, although it may indeed be Indo-European and relate to our English verb to smear, or even to smile, suggesting it essentially conveys sport or a successful hunt (Greek has a curious tendency to drop or add leading sigmas; see our article on σειρα, seira, for a discussion of this phenomenon).
Even more outlandish is a possible connection with the ubiquitous Hebrew term מאין (m'ayin), which introduces a rhetorical question (literally: is it not such-and-such?). Since the alphabet was introduced to the Greek language basin by Phoenician traders (see our article on this), one may imagine that a potential Phoenician buyer would express his reservations about the quality of a certain article that a Greek manufacturer offered, and by trying to duly reduce the price he also linked his native particle of inquiry to the Greek sense of sulliedness. But perhaps not.
Whatever its pedigree, our verb occurs 5 times in the New Testament; see full concordance. From this verb derive:
- Together with the particle of negation α (a), meaning not or without: the adjective αμιαντος (amiantos), meaning without bloodstains, that is to say: without a wound or without having caused a wound. Something free of bloodstains is something that is whole and perfect and that causes no damage, incompleteness or imperfection in creatures around itself. This adjective appears 4 times; see full concordance.
- The noun μιασμα (miasma), meaning a stain, and more specifically a bloodstain, indicative of an act of violence or an instance of damage and thus incompleteness and decomposition (2 Peter 2:20 only).
- The noun μιασμος (miasmos), which describes the act of bloodstaining (2 Peter 2:10 only).