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

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


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The noun πους (pous) means foot (hence one octopus, two octopodes). It stems from the ancient Proto-Indo-European root "ped-", from which also came our English word foot (and words like antipode, pedicure, expedite, impede, pajama, pawn, pedal, pedigree, pessimism, pew, pilot and podium).

The foot of an item or organism is its lowest point and the part of which upon it stands and rests. In Greek quite a bouquet of sayings and idiom surrounds the foot, most of it is rather literal and easily interpreted ('put under foot' means to subdue, 'lift the feet' means to get going, 'at one's feet' means to recline in one's close proximity). In our article on the Hebrew counterpart of this word, namely רגל (regel) we have a long look at the often cited assumption that in the Biblical languages feet often euphemize male genitalia.

The noun πους (pous) is used 93 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derives:

  • Together with the adjective ορθος (orthos), meaning straight or upright: the verb ορθοποδεω (orthopodeo), to walk uprightly (Galatians 2:14 only).
  • Together with the verb αρω (aro), to fit together: the adjective ποδηρης (poderes), which describes a garment that reached to one's feet (Revelation 1:13 only).
  • The noun πεδον (pedon), literally a place of footing, or simply: base. In the classics this word is used to refer to the ground or the earth in general, or some specified plot such as some hallowed ground (such as the Acropolis, which was also the "base" of the city of Athens). This word isn't used independently in the New Testament but from it derive:
    • The adjective πεδινος (pedinos), meaning plain-like or pertaining to the plains rather than, say, mountains (Luke 6:17 only). This adjective derives from the unused noun πεδιον (pedion), which is a diminutive of the noun πεδον (pedon), and denotes a specified field. This word reminds both of the "broad plain" of the earth (Revelation 20:9, which uses πλατος, platos), and the noun τριβος (tribos), the smoothness that results from a countless multitude of pedestrians going all the same way, and so making a highway. Our noun πεδιον (pedion) appears to have served as a unit of agriculture, which is a field upon which many hands labor. In the Bible's greater metaphor of language-formation (which runs from Adam's sweaty brow to Jesus sowing seeds) corresponds to any fertile mythology or legendarium. Homer used this word clearly as such (Iliad 5.222, 12.283), and Luke too seems to have chosen this word for its obvious figurative sense.
    • The noun πεζα (peza), which is actually a proper variant of πους (pous) and originally meant the same. In Koine Greek this particular word came to denote the bottom end of something: the foot of a pole, the lower edge of a garment, the foot of a mountain, even a beach or bank or the coastline of a landmass. This particular word also isn't used independently in the New Testament, but from it come:
      • The noun πεδη (pede), meaning shackle (Mark 5:4 and Luke 8:29 only). In Latin this became pedica. In the classics, our noun occurs mostly in plural and mostly describes the means with which to immobilize men. Sometimes it's used to describe the fastening of horses, and even the mode of breaking one in. On occasion this word is used to describe a ornamental ankle bracelet.
      • The verb πεζευω (pezeuo), meaning to travel by land, rather than sea (Acts 20:13 only). This verb does not so much mean to go by foot, to go walking, but rather by "footing" or dry land. Author Luke tells us that Paul chose to travel to Assos "by land", which is also a poetic way of saying that he was trying to make it to whatever Assos stood for, via well-established doctrine, rather than via the mercurial sea of prophetic intuition (this ties into the cognitive aspect of the hydrological cycle: see our article on the noun νεφελη, nephele, cloud).
      • The adverb πεζη (peze) meaning pedestrianly, on foot (Matthew 14:13 and Mark 6:33 only). It derives from the unused adjective πεζος (pezos), pedestrian, which in the classics could refer to land animals (animals other than fishes and birds) but frequently referred to infantry in contrast to cavalry or navy. Our word could identify a journey over land, rather than sea, or by foot rather than chariot or horse. As in English, our word could also be used to describe anything base or elementary and unembellished: of a performance without music or inelegant (unpoetic) speech.
      • Together with the prefix τετρα (tetra), meaning four: the noun τραπεζα (trapeza, hence our English words "trapezoid" and "trapezium"), which denotes a (four-legged) table of any kind (but in antiquity, tables were used to do business on, not to eat from). This word occurs 15 times, see full concordance, and from it comes:
        • The noun τραπεζιτης (trapezites), meaning a money changer or banker (Matthew 25:27 only).
    • Together with the noun στρατια (stratia), army: the noun στρατοπεδον (stratopedon), army base or military camp (Luke 21:20 only). From this word in turn comes:
      • Together with the verb αρχω (archo), to rule over: the noun στρατοπεδαρχης (stratopedarches), meaning camp commander (Acts 28:16 only).
  • Again together with the prefix τετρα (tetra), meaning four: the adjective τετραπους (tetrapous), meaning four-footed (Acts 10:12, 11:6 and Romans 1:23 only).
  • Together with the preposition υπο (hupo), meaning under, beneath: the noun υποποδιον (hupopodion), literally an underfoot thing: a footstool. In several quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Greek term υποποδιον των ποδων (hupopodion ton podon) translates the term הדם רגלי (hedem regelai), or a cast-low thing for the feet. It is used 9 times; see full concordance.

The verb πηδαω (pedao) means to jump or leap. It may seem like an obvious derivation of the PIE root "ped-", meaning foot, we discuss above, but it probably branched off before the Greek language emerged. In the classics this verb was used to describe leaping or stumping of anything with feet, but also of things decidedly without them: fish out of a frying pan, a heart in one's chest, of the mind that changes, or a change that suddenly occurs. Note the curious similarity with the verb πεδαω (pedao), to shackle, which derives from the noun πεδη (pede), shackle (see above). Neither πεδαω (pedao), to shackle, nor πηδαω (pedao), to leap, are used in the New Testament but from the latter comes:

  • Together with the preposition εις (eis), meaning into or toward: the verb εισπηδαω (eispedao), meaning to leap into (Acts 14:14 and 16:29 only).

The noun πηδαλιον (pedalion) describes a steering paddle of a ship (hence the English word "pedal"), and Greek ships had two, so this word mostly appears in plural (Acts 27:40 and James 3:4 only). This word obviously stems from the same root as the above, and perhaps these things were known as such because a ship's two steering paddles reminded of two feet. However, in Acts, our word occurs in the curious description of Paul's shipwreck, which rather obviously also (or even primarily) serves as a metaphor for imperial government (see ναυς, naus, meaning ship), and particularly its military faculties and general populations that buzz like nested swarms around the emperor: the ship's pilot, his soldiers, and the prisoners.

Our word πηδαλιον (pedalion) derives from the noun πεδον (pedon), meaning oar (not used in the New Testament). Paul's ship was a sailing vessel, without oars, and thus without rowers, but it is a bit of a mystery why the desperate men — the storm had been raging for fourteen days, and was obviously not a "normal" storm, or at least not a storm in earth's atmosphere but rather in the human κοσμος (kosmos); see our article on ανεμος (anemos), wind, and compare Jeremiah 30:23 to Acts 22:10; see our article on the name Aeneas — untied the mechanism (ζευκτηρια, zeukteria) that yoked the ship's two rudders in a tandem. Note that the noun πεδητης (pedetes) means prisoner and derives from πεδη (pede), shackle; see above.

This strange and rather late act effectively "crippled" the ship, which in turn reminds of the great cripples of canon: in the Semitic library there is prince Mephibosheth, and in the Greek one the godly smith Hephaestus. But the most famous of them all is doubtlessly Israel himself (Genesis 32:31; see our article on the noun ירך, yarek, genitalia). Luke's mentioning of the unbinding of the ship's twin rudders would have reminded Jews who knew their classics, first of the great and irrevocable Abrahamic and later Jacobite covenant of wisdom, peace and servitude. And probably immediately also of the story of Esther, in which an original and irreversible edict (Esther 3:14, kill all Jews) is amended by a second one (Esther 8:11, the Jews may arm and defend themselves).

Also note the link between Jason (means Healer) and the Argonauts (means Economic Forum; see αργυρος, arguros, silver or money), in relation to the proverbial duo: the lame and the blind, that together sum up all forms of illness and malady.