Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun πυρ (pur) means fire and both these words, as well as English' many "pyro-" words, stem from the widely attested Proto-Indo-European root paewr- meaning fire (and our word "pure" doesn't, in case you were wondering). Up to the age of electricity, all artificial light came from fire, and since light has since deep antiquity represented wisdom, fire represented a means to get it.
In early human cultures, fire sat literally at the center of the tribal community. It literally kept people together and at night guided wayward members back home. A tribe's central fire rendered light and warmth, but also kept wild animals at bay. People prepared their food on fire and burned their wastes in it. Later people even learned to disinfect non-combustible items (combustible and living items were disinfected with water and soap; Numbers 31:23), which aligned fire-purification with water-washing and explains the "baptism with fire" mentioned in Matthew 3:11. Later still, people learned how to extract metals from stone and how to build hotter fires to make ever stronger metals.
The hotter a people could make their fire, the stronger these people could make their tools and weapons. That correlated the quality of a people's wisdom (that is: their practical skills and understanding of science and technology) both with their chances with the forces of nature and their international clout (Daniel 3:19).
The hotness of a fire in turn correlates to energy density, that is: how much energy you can pack into a unit of space, and thus how much work you can generate. This in turn translates to a general principle that also explains human fervor, enthusiasm and powers of persuasion. In our modern age we don't build actual fires anymore, but the nation that can pack the most energy in one device (such as an A-bomb) is still king of the hill. Fortunately for all of us, the Internet has enveloped the world in a lattice of blazing fire and it's becoming increasingly difficult for evil men to vest large amounts of energy in evil things. Mankind's central fire has never been this big and this hot, and never has so much waste and accumulated garbage been so festively consumed.
Our word πυρ (pur) occurs 73 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The noun πυρα (pura) is a collective word denoting beacon or watch fires; a pattern of fires specifically organized to show nightly travelers a safe route. This word occurs in the New Testament only in Acts 28:2 and 28:3, where the helpful people of Malta light a beacon fire to guide Paul and his scattered and beached shipmates to their town. Paul, being quite helpful himself, brings wood along and drops it onto the beacon when he reaches it.
- The noun πυργος (purgos), meaning tower. Dictionaries don't usually list this word under the fire-words because this word appears to denote any sort of tower. Certain towers may have originated as storage houses for wheat, or πυρος (puros), a word which possibly derived from an Egyptian word pr, meaning "brought forth" or simply "a produce"; hence also the word πυραμις (puramis), or pyramid. But Greeks, and particularly Greeks who didn't speak Egyptian, could be forgiven to surmise that most if not all ancient towers would burn fires in the night. Those creative Greeks would probably agree that our noun πυργος (purgos) fits perfectly what we moderns call a lighthouse (the "-gos" part is a very common extension of agency or meaning place-of). This is turn suggests that the mysterious pyramids of Giza may have (also) served as line-of-sight beacons, to serve as literal centers of the local economy — a practice that may have enveloped the whole Bronze Age world in an Internet-of-fire, the general principle of which may be discussed in Genesis 11:1-9.
As we discuss in our article on the Hebrew word for tower, namely מגדל (migdal), in antiquity most societies had towers upon which society was centered, and such central towers may also have originated as elevated beacon fires. Note that the name Magdalene derives from this Hebrew word for tower. Our Greek noun is used 4 times; see full concordance.
- The noun πυρετος (puretos), meaning fever. Note that the body induces a fever in order to combat viral infections. Both body heat and fire are oxidation processes, and a fever is quite literally a fire. This noun is used 6 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
- The adjective πυρινος (purinos), meaning fiery. This adjective is used only in Revelation 9:17, where it modifies the noun for thoracic plating. Most translators appear to assume that our word describes the color of the armor, but even if these items were gleaming bronze, the author would probably not have described them as fiery. Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that these items didn't simply reflect sunlight but produced light from within.
- The verb πυροω (puroo), meaning to be affected by fire. This verb occurs only 6 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, but that is because many of the specific uses of fire (to light up, to make warm, to sacrifice, to ignite, to burn) are covered by other verbs. Our verb πυροω (puroo) literally means to "fire-ise", and appears to speak mostly of the purifying nature of fire and its luring powers. In 1 Corinthians 7:9 Paul says nothing other than that it's better to marry than to be constantly drawn to every pretty face. Likewise the enemy's fiery darts are specifically honed to meet their target's weaknesses (Ephesians 6:16). From this verb comes:
- The adjective πυρρος (purros), which in the classics describes a color, namely that of egg yolk, sediment in urine, blushing cheeks, or (red) hair. In Revelation 6:4 this word describes the color of a horse, which appears to correspond to Zechariah 1:8, where this color is called אדם ('dm), red. The second time this word occurs in the New Testament is to describe the fiery-red dragon of Revelation 12:3. Our noun occurs only these two times, and from it in turn derives: