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

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/o/o-r-o-sfin.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The noun ορος (horos) means boundary and by extension a boundary marker and hence a mountain. Most dictionaries will state that the word ορος (horos), meaning boundary and the word ορος (oros), meaning mountain are wholly separate words that are accidentally spelled the same and pronounced slightly different, but here at Abarim Publications we doubt that this distinction would have crossed the conscious mind of any average ancient speaker of Koine.

The noun ορος (oros), mountain, is thought to relate to the verb ορνυμι (ornumi), to rise or excite (see below), and ultimately derive from a widely attested Proto-Indo-European root "heros" or "her-", with a triple meaning of to move or stir, to rise, or to quarrel. Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that our word may actually be Semitic (and imported along with the alphabet), or else that its formation was helped along by its proximity to the noun הר (har), meaning mountain. The derived verb הרה (hara) means pregnant. The Greek equivalent of that is κυω (kuo), to be pregnant, which relates to the noun κυων (kuon), meaning dog. As we discuss in our articles on Hellas and Hebrew, Hebrew relates to Greek the way a shepherd relates to his dog.

The origin of the noun ορος (horos), meaning boundary, is obscure, although it seems to have existed in Mycenaean Greek. Why it came to be spelled confusingly similar to the word for mountain is also not clear, and it may even be that these words converged upon each other because their meanings seem to complementary. From the noun ορος (horos), meaning boundary comes our English word "horizon," which is the limit of our field of vision. The familiar idiom of "moving mountains" (Matthew 17:20) does not talk about accomplishing something very difficult (as most commentators curiously maintain) but rather about expanding one's field of vision, or even assuming a whole new center of vision, a brave new stand point in order to comprehend what someone else is on about.

The Psalmist gazed at the mountains while wondering from where would come his help (Psalm 121:1). This does not imply that the Psalmist expected the Helping Lord to descend from outer space to land of earth's most elevated features but rather that he would come from outside one's common field of vision. Standing at the very apex of a high mountain, likewise expands one's field of vision (Matthew 4:8) but anyone with any sense knows that no earthly mountain can ever be high enough to allow a person a view on everything there is to see.

Still, what we today would call focused research or a "looking into a certain subject" has its Biblical equivalent of "going up a mountain" (Matthew 5:1). When you're not sure what precisely you are looking for you go "upon the mountains" (Matthew 18:12). And when you obsessively scout the observable and survey mankind's many legacies, you are like a madman wandering mountains and dwelling among tombs (μνημειον, mnemeion; Mark 5:5).

Standing on a mountain is the opposite of being blind; see our article on the adjective τυφλος (tuphlos).

Our noun ορος (oros) meaning mountain is used 65 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and has one true derivation:

  • The adjective ορεινος (oreinos), literally meaning mountainous. This word occurs only twice, in Luke 1:39 and 1:65, where it is used substantially to refer to the "mountain region" of Judea. This is of course a rather open allusion to Judea's world famous and highly diverse wisdom schools.

The noun ορος (oros) meaning boundary does not occur independently in the New Testament, but it does survive in several derivations. One derivation that doesn't occur in the Bible but which is nevertheless important to it is the name of one of Greek's verbal tenses, namely the "aorist," literally "unbounded." This is the tense in which mere action is stated without reference to time or duration, which in essence is rather how the present simple tense works in English (the present simple statement "Bob writes" says nothing about when Bob writes or for how long). In the flow of the narrative, the Greek aorist is usually most practically interpreted with an English simple past ('and so "Bob wrote" a whole new chapter').

Other derivations of our noun ορος (oros), meaning boundary, are:

  • Together with the particle of negation α (a), meaning not or without: the noun αοριστον (aoriston), which in the New Testament only occurs compressed as αριστον (ariston). This word refers to a snack or even a whole meal that was taken at no particular time, or rather whenever one felt like eating, or when the eating was done recreationally or as a feature of a feast: a banquet. This obviously reflected a certain degree of luxury that not many people enjoyed, which in turn may have helped cement the resembling word "aristocrat" (which ultimately derives from αρι, ari, meaning best or top-notch). This noun is used 4 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
    • The verb αρισταω (aristao), meaning to take food irrespective of proper mealtimes: to snack or to eat for pleasure; to banquet (Luke 11:37, John 21:12 and 21:15 only).
  • Together with the preposition μετα (meta), meaning with or among and implying motion toward the inside: the substantially used adjective μεθοριος (methorios), which describes the region within certain borders: a territory. This adjectival noun is used in Mark 7:24 only and obviously refers to Jesus' review of the Phoenician wisdom tradition rather than any geographical area. The Phoenicians, it must be remembered, were one of the main contributors to the world's wisdom. They had invented the alphabet and had built Solomon's temple of YHWH (1 Kings 5:1).
  • The verb οριζω (horizo; hence our word horizon), meaning to terminate in the sense of to mark out or determine the boundaries of, and thus to define in a formal sense: to establish character, reach and compass of an item or event in an intellectual, scholarly and conventional fashion. This verb is used 8 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derive:
    • Together with the preposition απο (apo), mostly meaning from: the verb αφοριζω (aphorizo), meaning to separate by marking off its own boundaries and thus also the boundaries of that to which it does not belong: to differentiate and isolate, to diverge or divaricate. This exercise too is predominantly intellectual and scientific, as it requires an intimate knowledge and formal definition of both the thing separated and the thing separated from. This verb is used 10 times; see full concordance.
    • Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before: the laden verb προοριζω (proorizo), meaning to define on forehand, to predetermine. This verb is used 6 times; see full concordance.
      Entire churches have crumbled and disintegrated due to a combination of the power of this formidable word and the eagerness of people to condemn others and forgive themselves. Our word simply describes the initial boundaries of a process. Or more descriptive: a horse-embryo can either grow into a healthy horse or a sick horse, but it can't become a rabbit. A rabbit too can grow into all sorts of forms and fashions but it can't become a parsnip. Glorious humanity is endowed with a vast set of initial boundaries that allows it to evolve into a vast spectrum of diversities: musicians and artists, prophets and teachers, geologists and astronauts, athletes and philosophers, engineers and navigators. The whole of humanity is designed to receive the Logos, or Word of God, which is to the universe what DNA is to an organism. The whole of humanity is designed to operate as a single entity of which the elements (the human individuals) are entirely autonomous, free and unrestricted, and entirely logged onto each other through a convention of expression (language and such). When humanity reaches its full compass, its entire history will be recognized to consist of three main groups:
      1. Folks who people New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2);
      2. Folks who settle around New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24);
      3. Folks whose earthly lives have had no positive relevance to the bringing forth of the New Jerusalem. These people are like pre-historic animals that once may have roamed the earth but of whom neither descendants survive nor fossils remain nor any other indication exists that they ever were. These folks may today hold powerful positions, but they will then be as if they had never been born (Mark 14:21). The remaining people will no longer consider these worthless folks, but the New Testament strongly suggests that these people don't actually cease to exist.
  • The noun οριον (horion), which is a diminutive of our parent noun ορος (oros), but not so that it denotes a "little border" (whatever that might be) but rather in an intimate sense. It refers to regions, environs or parts that are associated to some stated hub or town. It's a word like γυναικαριον (gunaikarion), meaning "little lady" (2 Timothy 3:6), or the appellation τεκνια (teknia), meaning "little children" when the audience is obviously mature (1 John 2:1). It is used 11 times, always in plural; see full concordance.
  • Together with the verb τιθημι (tithemi), meaning to set or put: the noun οροθεσια (horothesia), meaning a setting of boundaries, a marking out, a defining (Acts 17:26 only).
  • Together with (1) the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with, and (2) the adverb ομου (omou), meaning together at the same place, together as one: the rather elaborate verb συνομορεω (sunomoreo), to jointly have a shared border. The only occurrence of this verb in the whole of Greek literature is in Acts 18:7, where it describes the relationship between the synagogue of Crispus and the house of Titius Justus. Most translations will lamely state that the house and synagogue were next door to each other (or shared a hallway, of something like that) but in our article on the name Crispus we argue that there's more going on.

The noun ορνις (ornis) means bird, and relates to the verb we mention and link to above, ορνυμι (ornumi), meaning to excite of arouse, and thus possibly to the noun ορος (oros), mountain (see above).

This noun literally means high-flier or easily-excited, and in the classics it may refer to any bird, from ostrich to rooster to eagle. It occurs in the New Testament in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 only, and while Bible translators like to translate this word with "hen", both these verses obviously reference Deuteronomy 32:11: "Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings."

The New Testament's more common word for bird is πετεινα (peteina), winged one, from πτερυξ (pterux), wing.

The noun ορνεον (orneon) is a much rarer variation of the previous (Revelation 18:2, 19:17 and 19:21 only). How this word differs from the previous isn't immediately obvious, but in his play The Birds, Aristophanes uses ορνις (ornis) countless times and ορνεον (orneon) a mere once or twice, but in a context that seems to suggest that ορνεον (orneon) rather describes the undecided element of a vast and terrible swarm of birds, whereas ορνις (ornis) tends to describe an individual bird or a bird species. Hence ορνεον (orneon) occurs mostly in plural. The neutral plural of our word described the bird market, again with an implied emphasis on very large numbers.


The verb ορυσσω (orusso) means to dig: to dig up (of stones or soil), to dig through (a human a canal) or burrow (a mole a tunnel). On rare occasions, it may be used to describe a burial, or a wrestler who digs into the soft parts (or the eyes) of his opponent.

Our word is thought to stem from a Proto-Indo-European root "hrew-", to tear out, dig up or till, from which we also get our English word "rock" and the ever useful Dutch verb rukken, to yank. A creative enough Greek poet, however, may perhaps have assumed relations between our verb ορυσσω (orusso) and the noun ορος (horos), mountain, or the verb ορνυμι (ornumi), to excite of arouse. That would mean that, to our Greek poet, our verb would come with a connotation of disturbance or even violence and chaos, much rather than creating a calculated and architected hollow or tunnel. Another word for to dig, namely σκαπτω (skapto), emphasizes the tool with which one digs: to shovel.

Our verb occurs in Matthew 21:33, 25:18 and Mark 12:1 only. From it derive:

  • Together with the preposition δια (dia), meaning through: the verb διαρυσσω (diarusso), meaning to dig through or wholly mess up. This verb is used 4 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out or from: the verb εξορυσσω (exorusso), meaning to dig out or to mess up by taking out (Mark 2:4 and Galatians 4:15 only).