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

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/ph/ph-u-om.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The verb φυω (phuo) describes a sprouting and growing up of plants primarily and secondarily of people. It stems from the same Proto-Indo-European root "bheu-" from which English gets the important verbs to be, to bear and to build. The Greek verb occurs in a mere two contexts in the New Testament (Luke 8:6 and 8:8, and Hebrews 12:15) but gives rise to a small cluster of important derivatives:

  • Together with the common preposition εκ (ek), meaning out: the verb εκφυω (ekphuo), meaning to produce out or bring forth (Matthew 24:32 and Mark 13:28 only).
  • Together with the familiar adjective νεος (neos), meaning new or young: the adjective νεοφυτος (neophutos), meaning newly sprung up (1 Timothy 3:6 only).
  • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συμφυω (sumphuo), meaning to spring up together (Luke 8:7 only). From this verb comes:
    • The adjective συμφυτος (sumphutos), meaning sprang up together, united with, innate (Romans 6:5 only).
  • The noun φυλη (phule), meaning race or tribe, or pretty much "that which sprouted as one" or "a collective of persons with the shared identity of one thing growing (like leaves on a tree)". This word is often used to describe all the peoples of the earth (Matthew 24:30, Revelation 1:7, 5:9, 7:9), and with which obviously not the artificial political nations of today are meant but rather naturally formed/forming cultures. Our word is even so often used to describe the tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28, Luke 2:36, Acts 13:21, Romans 11:1). This noun is used 31 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it in turn derive:
    • Together with the adjective αλλος (allos), meaning another: the adjective αλλοφυλος (allophulos), meaning "other-tribely"; not a Jew but from another people (Acts 10:28 only).
    • Together with the cardinal number δωδεκα (dodeka), meaning twelve: the noun δωδεκαφυλον (dodekaphulon), meaning twelve-tribe, which is a synonym for Israel (Acts 26:7 only).
  • The noun φυλλον (phullon) meaning leaf. Note that although fruits and blossoms were known by their own words (ανθος, anthos and καρπος, karpos), this word for leaf literally denotes whatever grows on a tree (or even in general). It's used 6 times; see full concordance.
  • The noun φυσις (phusis), which denotes naturally produced things: that which naturally sprouts up, or what moderns may refer to as "nature". In the New Testament this word is commonly deployed to refer to the natural man: the mentality of a person who hasn't had the benefit of a formal education or suffered the distraction of a corrupt culture. It occurs 14 times, see full concordance and from it in turn comes:
    • The adjective φυσικος (phusikos) meaning natural (Romans 1:26, 1:27 and 2 Peter 2:12 only). From this word in turn comes:
      • The adverb φυσικως (phusikos), meaning naturally (Jude 1:10 only).
  • The noun φυτον (phuton) describes any sort of plant but especially a garden plant or tree. Still, it technically may describe anything that has sprouted, which includes any creature and even man. (Our English word futon is not related to this Greek word, but is of Japanese extraction). The noun φυτον (phuton) is not used in the New Testament, but from it come:
    • The verb φυτευω (phuteuo), meaning to plant: to put a seed or seedling in the ground in order that a great plant may come from it. In the New Testament, this verb is used almost entirely figuratively, to describe how from a single seed of faith, a whole bustling ecosystem may grow. Obviously, what matters is not the size of the original seed (one way or the other) but its completeness. An entire forest may grow from a single complete genetic set, when that set is wholly present in the tiny living seed that wafts in on the breeze. A hugely impressive pile of whittled and varnished dry timber, on the other hand, will not grow into anything but a heap of dust. Said otherwise: if one's faith is not in some way or form derived from the singularity presented in Matthew 7:12, it's a pile of timer. Our verb φυτευω (phuteuo) is used 11 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
      • The noun φυτεια (phuteia), meaning a planting, an act of planting a seed or seedling so that it may become a fruit-bearing tree and ultimately a whole garden of them (Matthew 15:13 only).

The verb φυσαω (phusao) means to produce wind, and stems from noun φυσα (phusa), which described a bellows or any bladder or pouch that can produce a jet of air. And, we're happy to report, in the Classics this noun could also describe the common fart, or the signature joyful sound of one (which was often deployed in Greek and European comedy routines). The verb βδεω (bdeo) means to fart in the negative sense of producing an offensive smell. The word for naturally, not artificially of bodily produced wind is ανεμος (anemos).

It's not clear where this word comes from but since bellows are essential elements of ovens and furnaces, from which come bread, bricks and metal, it is not unthinkable that they were named after the productivity they facilitated and hence from the same PIE root "bheu-" as the above. Any Greek could certainly be forgiven to think that our verb φυσαω (phusao), to make wind, had something to do with φυσις (phusis), which describes naturally produced things. A verb derived from this latter noun (not used in the New Testament) is indeed identical to the verb φυσιοω (phusioo; see next) and describes how some trait or skill becomes deeply engrained like a second nature.

And because bellows were probably preceded by fans, it's also not unthinkable that the emergence of our word was helped along by proximity to the Hebrew verb פסס (pasas), to spread out, which in turn puts it in proximity of the verb ψαω (psao), to touch lightly, to rub, polish or wipe.

The Hebrew word for bellows is מפח (mappuah), from the verb נפח (napah), to blow forcefully, in turn from verb פוח (puah), to exhale.

Our verb φυσαω (phusao), to make wind, is not used independently in the New Testament but from it come:

  • The verb φυσιοω (phusioo), meaning to inflate or rile up: to fill with air (or spirit) that is not natural to a person but comes from an external blower. As mentioned above, an identical verb (or the same one) describes an acquired skill or trait that has become "second nature" to someone. Our verb does not simply mean to "puff up" in the sense of being arrogant or hostile, but rather to be zealous out of tribal allegiance rather than any true conviction (i.e. when one finds one's own native heart resonate with some doctrine or idea that thus could have been one's own). In uncertain times, people often seek comfort in groups and clans and subsequently find themselves on battlefields (for the king! for the truth! for the brotherhood! for the fatherland!) fighting some other army without having a true sense of what the fight is about. This verb is used 7 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
    • The noun φυσιωσις (phusiosis), which describes an instance of the parent verb: an up-riling, a case of being riled up (2 Corinthians 12:20 only).
  • Together with the preposition εν (en), meaning in: the verb εμφυσαω (emphusao), to blow into. This curious and rare verb occurs in the Classics to describe blowing into a flute, but on rare occasions in the passive form also a being inflated or swollen. In the New Testament this verb occurs in John 20:22 only, where it describes Jesus transferring the Holy Spirit onto the disciples in an obvious reprisal of Genesis 2:7 and an obvious prologue to Acts 2:4 (these two instances are self-similar, meaning that they are two manifestations of the same singular miracle of animation; see Genesis 13:16 and Galatians 3:7; also see 2 Timothy 3:16). The Septuagint uses our verb in the enigmatic Ezekiel 37:9. Also note that the name Terah (of Abraham's father) derives from the Hebrew word for breath or spirit, namely רוח (ruah), but came to mean "just be breathing", i.e. to be patient, to patiently wait out some delay.

Associated Biblical names