Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun ποιμην (poimen) means shepherd, but where our English word shepherd brings to mind this word's constituting elements of "sheep" and "herd", our noun ποιμην (poimen) rather reminds of words like the verb ποιεω (poieo), meaning to make, and specifically the derived noun ποιημα (poiema), which denotes a thing made, a production. Or else, our noun might bring to mind the noun ποινη (poine), meaning fine or penalty (hence the Latin poena). And of course, there is the interrogative pronoun ποιος (poios), meaning "what?" or "which?": what kind? what sort? which ones?
The pronoun ποιος (poios) inquires after the relative nature of things, and although these words are etymologically not directly related, to the associative mind it might seem that the nature of a penalty is to be proportional to the infraction it's paid for, whereas a shepherd is not so much someone who exerts his will on a subdued herd but rather someone who understands which parts the elements of a herd play in the greater herd-dynamics. A shepherd is someone who is able to create order out of chaos, by aligning the natural inclinations of individuals within a synthetic whole — a symbiotic whole that none of the individuals would have been able to bring about but which is so attractive that the individuals willingly participate once it has been established.
Likewise, the act of domestication is not simply the act of subduing, but rather that of bringing into synchronicity. Modern humanity could not have existed without man's adoption of dogs — see κυων (kuon), dog — and although it's commonly stated that early humans domesticated dogs, the truth is that wild humans and wild dogs teamed up and freely began to work together, both benefitting from the other's talents. Dogs and humans domesticated each other and thus began to create the world of modern humanity. Better yet, it's commonly accepted that the dog was the first domesticated creature, but actually, it was the wife: see our article on the name Damaris, meaning wife (whose name relates to Damascus, the name of the splendid capital of Aram).
The miracle of domestication is the miracle of how unrelated species came to work together and began to form a symbiotic world that none of the species separately could have brought about, or even have conceived of. Despite the myth, very early humans were not the Tarzans among the apes, but rather weaklings and naked failures, doubtlessly despised and rejected by their strong and hairy brethren. Dogs, likewise, were not the kings of wolves but rather the weaklings and outcast. These widely diverse loser tribes of Naked Apes and Wimpy Wolves managed to find each other, and each submitted to serve the other, and the two came to rule the herds. These herds, likewise, were not forcibly subdued, but consisted of the most docile and cooperative creatures of their kind (which is why there are no domesticated zebras and giraffes; they didn't want to).
The agricultural revolution began sometime between 25,000 and 15,000 years before Christ, when the runts of the great ape family and the runts of the canine family willingly began to domesticate each other. And although the biosphere is as chaotic and dynamic as earth's atmosphere, both are governed globally by natural forces that always remain the same, and which make both spheres to consist of patterns that repeat again and again, at various levels of complexity. This is called a fractal, and the repeating patterns are called self-similar. As we discuss in our article on the noun αστηρ (aster), meaning star, the Bible not merely tells the story of creation but literally imitates it, by being a fractal itself, repeating patterns again and again.
As we discuss in our article on the number χξς (ch-x-s) or six-hundred and sixty-six: society, matter and life all evolve according to the same basic pattern. In the words of John: "There are three that witness, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three are one" (1 John 5:7).
The dust of the earth, life and human society are self-similar, so that when the evolution of one is understood, so are those of the others (Genesis 13:16). That means that within mankind's social evolution, there is a moment of "agricultural revolution" where the mental equivalents of Naked Apes and Wimpy Wolves find each other and begin to domesticate the mental equivalents of bovines, swine, camels, and sheep. Then follows a step into agriculture and a subsequent absorption of the mental equivalent of feline energy.
All mammalian predators are either caniform (dog-like: dogs, wolves, bears, foxes, badgers, walruses) or feliform (cat-like: Felidae, hyenas, meerkats, mongooses), and only the dog and felix catus (house cat) joined with homo sapiens in creating modern humanity. Domestic cats entered humanity when rodents invaded granaries and helped themselves to the stock. Without dogs there would have been no animal husbandry but without cats there would have been no agriculture (and if medieval Europe hadn't killed off its cats, there would have been no Black Death). But this means that most of the greater mind of mankind (which is self-similar to the biosphere) is either prey, caniform predator, feliform predator, aquatic (whales, dolphins and orcas relate to pigs and deer; see προφητης, prophetes), bird (see αγγελος, aggelos), or simian (ape), with only very little of our collective mental energy stored in domesticated complexes, where predation is kept at bay and otherwise unrelated species exist in synthetic harmony.
As with any self-similarity, there is no paint-by-number correlation between the stadia of the evolution of life and those of the evolution of society, but a certain overlap is readily observable. Our great human world consists of "houses" — guilds, schools of thought, religions, cultures — and although these houses all strive to maintain their own identity, borders and activities, they all exist by merit of their membership of the same, single global economy of ideas, sciences, technologies, skills and crafts. All houses, no matter how exclusive, use the larger world's common resources — common languages, the alphabet, pens and paper, books, iPads — and supply the world with whatever they happen to produce (which is often their garbage and refuse, rather than the products they themselves appreciate and consume internally).
These houses that make up our greater human world are what farms are to the biosphere. And all farms have dogs, and these dogs think that their house is the greatest place on earth and the center of the world. Their prime concern is the approval of their master, and all their actions are based on the rewards they have learned to expect from their master. Dogs have no understanding of the work they do — they don't know why they herd the herds — but do it faithfully because their master told them to. These dogs are literally not equipped to begin to comprehend that their master is one of many, and their house is one of many, and all exist by virtue of the larger economy they form. The houses of the world are like the cell-types of an organic body: they vary widely, but they all derive from the same genetic constitution. That constitution is the Word of God, and it describes the entirety of human society, not just one of the houses.
As we describe at length in our article on Stephen, the literary character of Jesus depicts the societal equivalent of an organic ovum, which is essentially just another cell within a much larger maternal economy (in this case, the population of the Roman empire). As the story famously tells, the ovum was killed (ovulation) and resurrected (conception) and became a zygote, which is essentially a single cellular equivalent of the mother — ergo, a one-man empire.
Jesus was never meant to remain the only one Christ, but rather the first-born of a much larger group, a tribe of Christs, of you will (Exodus 19:6). None of those who would follow Jesus Christ into the resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11) would ever be wholly like Jesus, because Jesus was the first one and perfectly summed up all who would follow, plus their Oneness, and so he will forever be the only one who existed within the resurrection without context to others. But still, all who followed, and who would always exist in context to all others, were manifestations of the same Word that Jesus embodied, and intimately loved all others like themselves, even though they were as widely diverse as the cells of a body (from transparent eye-cells to contracting muscle cells, electricity conducting nerve cells and even acid producing stomach cells; all based on the same DNA).
Our modern human world is self-similar to the biosphere in the early stages of domestication. Since the Semites created the alphabet and thus modern information technology (see our article on the name YHWH), and also eased mankind off its dependency on the natural cycles and onto the road toward a wholly synthetic and thus perfectly governed existence (see our article on the name Sabbath), it's a pretty safe bet to say that the Jews relate to mankind at large the way the naked great apes relate to animal-kind at large. As we explain in more detail in our article on Hellas, the canine element of our modern world is represented by the Greeks first and later by the Romans — all forms of Christianity are essentially the Greco-Roman pagan pantheon wrapped in Jewish terminology, like a dog learning a few dozen human commands. Even schools and churches are shaped like a Roman legion, with a commander up front dispensing instructions, and are not at all like Jewish synagogues and wisdom schools, which are much rather circles of free debate.
The later assumed feline element of our modern world is both in the Bible and in history mostly associated with Arabia. Rodents are to the agricultural world what inefficiencies are to the business world, and the Arabic number system did to business what the alphabet had done to wisdom: make it far more efficient. Arabic numerals allowed far greater numerical precision than Greek or Roman letter-notation, and they were introduced to Europe by north African Muslims, starting in the tenth century AD. And although it's commonly deemed a mystery what fabulous "magic" the Knights Templar obtained in Jerusalem, the chances are excellent that the core of it was the art of complex calculus and business administration. The Templar order very quickly became a vast financial enterprise, and at its height, there were as many as 50 clerks and administrators, mostly Jews and Muslims, for every largely illiterate Christian Templar knight.
If Hebrew script is the shepherd, then Greco-Latin script is canine and Arabic numerals are feline. Script trains the conscious mind to imagine, to think analytically and abstractly, because that's the only way to unlock the meaning of otherwise meaningless symbols. It's also the only way to imagine one's own future and willfully head for it. Realistic images do that to a far less degree. Yet script evolved from pictures via hieroglyphs, and after the invention of the alphabet, artistic imagery continued to evolve and obviously took on a life of its own. In the Christian era, pictures became the means to tell the story of the gospel to the illiterate masses — also demonstrating that Christianity doesn't really understand the gospel, which is not about a new dogma but about a new way of thinking, not about a single new tune but a new way of making music — until it finally morphed into motion pictures in the 20th century and graphic gaming in the 21th.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with watching moving pictures (particularly Hollywood pictures have always honored the classics and pursued a huge level of complexity, whose patterns aren't visible to everyone), but the way the proverbial flesh relates to the mind, so relates graphic imagery to text. Recent research has shown that watching movies switches the brain of the average viewer into a dream state. The chances seem excellent that in the coming few generations a large section of humanity will be diverted away from reading and training the conscious mind, to solely absorb information via graphic imagery and basically go through life dreaming. These people will literally lose their imagination and thus their higher mind, which will cause them to mentally revert back to a Neolithic level of consciousness. Meanwhile, the readers will continue to cause their actual reality to evolve, whilst providing more movies and games to the masses. All this helps to explain the Bible's snake-motif, from the talking snake in Paradise to the Dragon cycle of Revelation 12-13 (see our articles on δρακων, drakon, dragon, and χξς, ch-x-s, 666).
Dogs attach themselves to their masters, and cats attach themselves to their houses. But the herds themselves couldn't care less what house or master they belong to, since to the common masses, religion is mostly about codes of conduct and these are pretty much the same everywhere. The word for cattle in general or sheep specifically is προβατον (probaton), from the verb προβαινω (probaino), to step ahead or lumber along (in turn from προ, pro, before, and βαινω, baino, to step). The noun αρνιον, arnion, meaning lamb, looks like it came from the verb αρνεομαι (arneomai), meaning to deny or reject. Our English words textile, text and technology all derive from the Proto-Indo-European root "teks-", to weave. This root also resulted in the Greek verb τικτω (tikto), to produce or "weave together" one's offspring. From this verb stems the noun τεκτων (tekton), meaning assembler or joiner, which was the earthly profession of Jesus (Mark 6:3).
Our noun ποιμην (poimen), meaning shepherd, or assembler-of-living-things, is used 18 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the prefix αρχι (archi-), meaning chief: the noun αρχιποιμην (archipoimen), meaning chief-shepherd (1 Peter 5:4 only).
- The verb ποιμαινω (poimaino), meaning to shepherd or rather: to organize into a symbiotic whole. It's used 11 times; see full concordance.
- The noun ποιμνη (poimne), a herd or flock of sheep; not simply a bunch of them but a symbiotic whole, governed and guided. This noun is used 5 times; see full concordance. From this noun in turn derives:
- The diminutive noun ποιμνιον (poimnion), which literally means "little flock" but which in practice describes one of the flocks: one flock within a larger economy of many flocks — something similar happens with the words αρνιον (arnion), little lamb, which is a diminutive of αρην (aren), lamb, and θυγατριον (thugatrion), little daughter, which is a diminutive of θυγατηρ (thugater), daughter. Our noun ποιμνιον (poimnion), little flock, is used 5 times; see full concordance.