Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The adverb περαν (peran) means across, or on the other side, and rather reminds of the Hebrew root עבר ('eber), to pass over, from which comes the familiar name עברי ('eberi), or Hebrew (and the name עברים, 'abarim, or Abarim).
Our adverb περαν (peran) comes from the adverb περα (pera), beyond, which isn't used in the New Testament, but which ultimately stems from the Proto-Indo-European root "per-", meaning to traffic, to sell. From this same PIE root we get our English words price, precious and appreciate. That means that our adverb περαν (peran) not merely speaks of the beyond in a geographical sense, but rather in a commercial sense: a supply-and-demand and import-export sense. The "beyond" as described by our adverb περαν (peran) is primarily where local products are transported to and payments come back from. It's used 23 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it come:
- Together with the preposition αντι (anti), meaning counter, or in place of: the adverb αντιπεραν (antiperan), meaning on the (commercially) opposite shore of (Luke 8:26 only).
- The noun περας (peras), meaning end or limit, either in a geographic sense, or a mercantile one (the farthest destination of one's trade journey), or even in the sense of the perfection of a manufactured thing or development. Our noun is used 4 times (see full concordance), three times to describe the "ends" of the earth, which are obviously not the boundaries of our planet, but rather that of the traversable lands, or even (in a more poetic way) the slightest exchange of the least valuable goods and services anywhere.
- The verb περαω (perao), meaning to export for sale across the seas. This verb itself isn't used in the New Testament, but it's identical to a verb that means to pass or pierce through (of a ship the seas, of travelers a boundary, of a spear a body), and it's actually not overly obvious that these really are two separate verbs. In the New Testament the meaning of a piercing comes with the suspiciously similar noun πειρα (peira), from which in turn comes the noun εμπορος (emporos), a commercial traveler or trafficker. From the unused verb περαω (perao), to export for sale across the seas, come:
- The verb πιπρασκω (piprasko), meaning to sell. This verb is used 9 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
- The noun πορνη (porne), an immoral or corrupt female trader or traded one (see below).
- The noun πορνος (pornos), an immoral or corrupt male trader or traded one (see below).
The feminine noun πορνη (porne) derives from the verb περαω (perao), to export for sale across the seas, and means seller, trafficker or trafficked one. It's the source of our English words porn and pornography, which most people think have to do with pictures of naked people. But no, these words have to do with pictures of commercial people. Likewise, prostitution is not a matter of sex-gone-wrong but of commerce-gone-wrong.
The oft-evoked Babylon the Great and the Mother of all πορναι (pornai) is, likewise, not a sexually immoral entity but a commercially immoral entity. In the words of John the Revelator: "The kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality" (18:3). "And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes anymore; cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives." (18:11-13).
So no, the many mentions of whores and harlotry in the Bible have nothing to do with nudity and sexual misconduct and everything with trade and commercial misconduct. A whore in the Bible is not someone who drops her veil and puts out, but someone who'll do anything for money, and nothing for anything but money.
Unlike most moderns, the ancients understood that the human mental realm is a fractal, and consists of patterns that repeat on different levels of complexity. Since masculinity (in language and literary narrative) describes the tendency to be individual, and femininity describes the tendency to be a collective, God, who is one, is masculine, whereas humanity, which is many, is feminine. This explains the idea that the Creator is the Groom and creation is the Bride (Matthew 9:15, Revelation 19:7), and it also suggests that every husband is self-similar to the Creator, who issues the Law, or the Logos, whereas every wife is self-similar to creation, who executes and thus embodies the Law; the Logos in the flesh.
If mankind is to survive, she must naturally evolve toward a state of entire femininity: wholly unified and entirely united, with no traces of social individuality (masculinity) left within her: no more nations and governments, and no more dominion of one group over others (1 Corinthians 15:24, Ephesians 1:21), governed only by the masculinity of the Creator (2 Corinthians 11:2, Song of Solomon 2:4, Revelation 21:22).
There's only one God, one law, one creation and one humanity; one husband for one wife, and one government for one people. This means that every human government (or husband) that does not rule wholly in synch with God's eternal Logos is in fact a usurper and a rapist — hence the image of the "watchmen" who found the Bride in the street and beat and wounded her and robbed her of her veil (Song of Solomon 5:7). The very same theme is depicted in Homer's Odyssey in the many suiters of the righteous Penelope, whose husband, like the Jewish Messiah, returned after a lengthy absence and sorted them out (see our article on Hellas for a thorough look at the link between Homer and the Bible).
In antiquity, the king (masculine) spoke for the law, and the queen (feminine) spoke for the people (the Hebrew word for mother, namely אמ, 'am, also means people or society, which is why Eve, the "mother of all living", is the biosphere and not some naked lady of old). That means that peoples related to their governments the way a queen related to her king. Human governments (which are held together by men's wills, which are temporary) tend to collapse more frequently than peoples (which are held together by deeply rooted cultures and long standing traditions — hence also Paul's enigmatic statements about hair in 1 Corinthians 11:1-15), which explains the conspicuously uneven ratio between widows (sheep without a shepherd) and widowers (shepherds without sheep) in the Bible.
If a people is old, her culture and traditions are deeply rooted, and her stories and memories are entirely integrated in the economy and artistic minds of her people. Should her government then disintegrate (this happened of course when Judah was conquered by Babylon), her people will nevertheless live on, but as a widow (χηρα, chera), clinging to a culture that no longer evolves but consists of perpetual rituals that recollect the days of joy. If a people is young, her culture is new and her traditions are still novelties. Should her government then succumb — and this of course happened on a broad scale during the Bronze Age Collapse, 12th century BC, and again at the Slaughter of the Kings and the birth of the modern European republics, 8th to 5th centuries BC — the chances are excellent that the people will prostitute themselves out to whatever fancy system of government offers the most security and the shiniest trinkets. Ultimately, of course, the beauty of such a society will quickly wane and her lovers will abandon her, and her people will be forced to revert back to a natural or animal state in which the fit survive and the weak succumb.
Paul wrote that φιλαργυρια (philarguria), or silver-love, is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). This difficult word does not describe the love for money but the love from money, and in this context, the word "love" is like gravity: it does not describe some intense emotion but rather the quiet and ever-present baseline of the fundamental principle that underpins whole webs of complex interactions, explains motivations and governs behaviors. The word silver-love describes a mind that is wholly driven by commerce and entirely filled with concerns of return on investment, supply and demand, business plans and objectives, markets and customers, competition and survival of the fittest. The opposite of φιλαργυρια (philarguria) is αγαπη (agape), which marks a mind that is wholly driven by generosity, synchronicity, attaining the unimagined and achieving the unintentioned, cooperation and ultimately: the survival of the weakest.
The principle of survival of the fittest forms the heart of fascism, declares its own supremacy and the superfluousness of everything else, and is ultimately destined to die wholly alone. The principle of survival of the weakest is based on the natural and organic contraction of society as a whole, and the burning away of contaminants in a decentralized quest for efficiency. The quest for survival of the weakest will ultimately result in the New Jerusalem, which is a city.
Like life itself, love keeps no track of who took what from whom, but gives itself wholly to a greater world, to be applied in whatever way, and to serve a greater community.
Our feminine noun πορνη (porne) occurs 12 times in the New Testament (see full concordance), but is conspicuously rare in the Greek classics, and that too helps to explain its meaning. We moderns like to think of sex as having its own category: we value sexual modesty and have well-defined words that allow us to nevertheless refer to certain taboos. In the classical world, these considerations didn't exist yet. Romance hadn't even been invented, and copulation had little to do with showing affections and everything with marking territories and property rights.
Back then, sex was still a very common part of everyday life, and people engaged in it publicly without anybody thinking anything of it. Sex was considered a necessity of life, like having to eat, drink and sleep, and not necessarily to be reserved to the confines of marriage (which, instead, emphasized the partners' economic contract, and the subsequent union of their parental houses). Men who owned properties (houses, lands) also owned slaves, and had sex with them whenever they pleased. And men who didn't own properties, could rent someone else's slave and do with them whatever they liked.
Prostitutes, therefore, were almost always slaves, and slaves were wholly owned and permanently engaged by their master. Their sex work was just work, no different from any other kind of work, and simply part of their larger portfolio of activities. The key to all this is that a πορνη (porne) could not follow her own desires (Job 19:27, Psalm 63:1, Isaiah 26:9, James 4:5) and instead had to follow other people's desires, and that is precisely how modern market making works: a modern market maker does not pursue the voice of her own heart (or the voice of the Creator within her own heart: Jeremiah 31:33, Luke 17:21, Romans 2:15), but instead goes to great lengths to ensure that the world at large does neither. A market maker is not concerned with the bliss of her customer, but harvests his data for his weaknesses. She knows him better than he knows himself and ensnares him with flattery and addictions, until she sucks him dry like a spider does its prey (Proverbs 5:3-6).
The society of Greek's classical age was a republic and a democracy — δημοκρατια, democratia, or public self-government; a people's government of itself, from δημος (demos), people, and κρατος (kratos), power — whose ideal was ελευθερια (eleutheria), which describes a governed freedom; a freedom brought about and guaranteed by people's intimate understanding, concurrence with and voluntary adherence to society's constituting law. But crucially, in Greek democracy not everybody had the right to vote. The slaves (δουλοι, douloi) had somehow forfeited or never attained their own freedom and could therefore justly be expected to know little about how to guarantee and perpetuate the freedom of society at large. The only people who were allowed to make policy were the ελευθεροι (eleutheroi), the free. Everybody else only knew bondage, and people who only know bondage only spread bondage.
Civilized Greek societies existed in cities that in turn were like islands in an ocean of wilderness. In the wilderness, the wild animals (θηρια, theria) competed and the fit survived, but in the πολις (polis), city (hence our words polite, politics and police), the people cooperated and the weak survived.
That means that human civilization had emerged when the weak and defeated had teamed up and had found a way to extract themselves from the wilderness and remove themselves from the reach of its natural anarchy in which they had only suffered. At night, safe in their cities, the united weaklings could still hear the mighty howl in regret outside their city walls. The Greek and Latin words for wolf come from the noun λυπη (lupe), meaning sorrow. In antiquity, wolves did not have the romantic stature they have today, but were considered whimpering cowards and sneaky thieves. Child molesters were known as wolves, and when Jesus called the exploited Temple a den of robbers (Matthew 21:13), he clearly aimed to bring to mind a roving pack of wolves.
Our noun πορνη (porne), and its related words, have nothing to do with what some call "sexual vice" but everything with "commercial vice" and ultimately with living a life of all kinds of bondage as oppose to a perfectly whole state of freedom.
The masculine equivalent of πορνη (porne), namely πορνος (pornos), also means seller or trafficker, but a male one. Significantly, this word occurs 10 times in the New Testament (see full concordance) and about as many times in the entire extant library of all Greek classics. Since sex among men was very common in the classical world, our word πορνος (pornos) obviously does not simply describe a male prostitute. As with the feminine version, the emphasis is on the mercantile aspect, and the sex is implied.
A πορνος (pornos) is someone who partakes in the intimacies of life for the sole reason of getting paid — whether because he is wholly owned by a human master, or dominated by ignorance or addictions; whatever. A πορνος (pornos) is a man who works for money and only for money; someone who only knows and spreads bondage.
The crucial difference between a female πορνη (porne) and a male πορνος (pornos) is that a female πορνη (porne) is someone who partakes or pertains to a greater network of actual immoral trade, whereas a male πορνος (pornos) is a legislator who enables such networks by decree and selective enforcements (whilst accepting bribes, of course).
In the Greek mind, a corrupt company was like a harlot, and an entire corrupt economy was like a proverbial Great Harlot, who in turn was a proverbial breeding ground for gangs of petty thieves (small harlots). Since a king represented the law and his queen the people, a πορνος (pornos) would be the same as a member of a senate of legislators, who liked to debate rules for the entertaining sake of dominating the debate rather than for any beneficial effect these rules might have had on society at large (i.e. the intersex copulation of king and queen). As with the great and lesser harlots, such companies of πορνοι (pornoi) would naturally attract the attentions of weaker wannabe rulers in the form of sadistic drill sergeants, harsh policemen and overly strict school masters and such. In the Greek classics, the masculine noun πορνος (pornos) on occasion referred to a so-called catamite: a young boy who was the sexual plaything of an older young man.
(And to call out the obvious elephant in the room: It should be emphasized that the classical experience of sexuality is incomparable with the modern one. In the classical world, sexuality was an expression of ownership, and thus related to governance and the issuing of rule. Masters had sex with their subjects, and all women were servants; even in enlightened Athens, women were of lower rank than many male slaves. In the classical world, there was no such thing as equality between sexual partners, or concerns for mutual consent. Instead, these things were mutually exclusive, since sex defined rank. That means that homosexuality the way we moderns know it — a sexually expressed affection between two equally ranking partners — did not exist and is as such not discussed in the Bible. That's not to say it's right or wrong; it's just to say that in Biblical times, homosexuality the way we know it, just like poodles, iPhones and labor unions, did not yet exist).
From the masculine version of our word, πορνος (pornos), in turn derive:
- The verb πορνευω (porneuo), to be corrupt, to be commercially or legislatively vicious, to trade and rule only for financial gain. This verb is used 8 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derive:
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out, from or of: the verb εκπορνευω (ekporneuo) to do something out of commercial vice or viciousness, to act out of the lust for financial gain, to act out of corruption (Jude 1:7 only).
- The noun πορνεια (porneia), meaning corruption or commercial or legislative vice. Like this verb's parent nouns, it does not at all specifically refer to sexual immorality but rather to any kind of interaction that is governed by a lust for private gains rather than for a fair distribution of resources and communal vibrancy. Commercial and legislative vice arises from competition, which in turn stems from factionalism, self-aggrandizement and the rejection of anything other. Such vice is ultimately unstable and any concentrations of energy and subsequent synthetic structures it manages to generate must always deteriorate, as entropy inevitably increases in nature.
The accumulation of private wealth or power, is very much alike an inanimate object absorbing energy, which causes it to heat up. Inanimate objects have no means to perpetually retain their private heat and will eventually radiate it all back out again. A living cell, however, is a "thing" that is able to absorb energy without getting hotter, namely by converting it into a chemical equivalent (glucose), from which it can build its own components. Likewise, commercial and legislative virtue is all about resisting the natural tendency to use money and political power for one's own hotness, and instead investing these into the community, to be allocated by the community in ways that best serve the community.
This noun is used 26 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.