Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun φυραμα (phurama) means a mix or "that what is mixed". It derives from the verb φυρω (phuro), to mix, which is not used in the New Testament but in the classics describes a wide range of mixing and always of granular substances (dust, seeds, earth, people), or granular substances with some kind of liquid (water, blood, oil). Our verb may also describe one's mixing or confounding of words and thoughts, but equally so of one's personal mixing with others of society.
Our noun φυραμα (phurama) may likewise denote anything mixed but often specifically a lump of clay (that is minerals mixed with water), or a lump of dough (that is flour mixed with water or oil), or a mixed group of people — in the Bible of course most spectacularly featured as the "mixed multitude" of Exodus 12:38, and the "great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues" mentioned in Revelation 7:9 (and by extension Israel as a whole and obviously also the Body of Christ; see for more on the signature mixed nature of God's people our article on the Gospel of Impurity).
Obviously, all these proverbial mixes are designed to be baked in some sort of fire, and note the similarity between our verb φυρω (phuro) and the noun πυρ (pur), fire, although this similarity appears to be accidental.
Our verb φυρω (phuro) is of obscure origins. Albeit somewhat reserved, Emile Boisacq (Dictionnaire etymologique de la langua grecque) lists our verb φυρω (phuro) among the descendants of the Proto-Indo-European root "bhr-" or "bhreu-", to boil, burn or cook, which also yielded the familiar Latin verb fervo, to boil (hence English words like ferment and fervor), and, wouldn't you know, also the English word bread (and the German Bratwurst and the Dutch verb braden, to roast).
This suggests that our noun φυραμα (phurama) does not simply describe any old mix, but rather a mix that is purposed to change into a hardened form through exposure to heat: either a physical (or chemical, rather) fire, or else the fire of wisdom. In heat, clay becomes pots to store food and treasure in (Romans 9:21, 2 Corinthians 4:7), and bricks to build houses from (Exodus 1:11). Likewise, dough becomes bread to eat. Likewise, mixed multitudes make laws and polite societies — and the word polite, like civilized, means "of cities", and cities are only possible when people adhere to common social codes and laws, and behave "precisely right".
The Greek word for bread, namely αρτος (artos), looks very much like the adjective αρτιος (artios), meaning precisely right. The democratic ideal that was so rigorously contemplated by the Greek philosophers was called ελευθερια (eleutheria), or freedom-by-law. To the Greeks, this ελευθερια (eleutheria) signified a perfect society; the kind of polite (i.e. based on cities) society that John the Revelator would dub the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2). This is also why Paul thundered: "It is for eleutheria that Christ has set us free!" (Galatians 5:1).
The Hebrew equivalent of our verb φυρω (phuro), to mix, is בלל (balal), which describes the ritualistic mixing of grain and oil. This very specific verb is used 44 times in the Old Testament, and, rather significantly, also in Genesis 11:7-9, where God "mixes" the languages of man. Folklore tends to explain this as God having felt threatened by the Tower of Babel and "confusing" the languages as punishment, but obviously, God rather anointed the languages of man, and formed the kind of verbal mix that could ultimately be baked into the Bread of Life, a.k.a. the Word (and read our article on Abraham for how that came about).
Similarly, the members of the Body of Christ (and Christ means Anointed One; anointing is done with oil) are living stones, being built up as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5). The Hebrew word for brick is לבנה (lebenah), and the denominative verb לבן (laban) means to bake [bricks]. Both noun and verb are used in the same scene of the Tower of Babel: "Come, let us bake bricks..." (Genesis 11:3).
A final crucial element of dough, the "mix" that would be bread, is leaven, which produces the gas that gives bread its signature bubbly nature, its pleasant taste and its ease of digestion. In our article on ζυμη (zume), leaven, we demonstrate that what leaven is to dough, so culture is to a society: both stay largely unchanged and are passed on from generation to generation. But in order for true progress to occur, any baker should, on occasion, start out with a whole new batch, or at least check out the other available strains.
The annual Feast of Unleavened Bread, or Pascha (1 Corinthians 5:7), which the city of Jerusalem proudly hosted until its destruction in 70 AD, was specifically designed to expose the known world's great many different human cultures and normalcies to all the others, in a kind of yearly carnival of cultural curiosities. The purpose of this, we might surmise, was to make it easier for the students of human nature to establish which elements of humanity were local and thus arbitrary, and which global and thus part of humanity's most intimate nature.
Human nature (and the broader natural law that human nature is part of) is ultimately a matter of consensus, precisely like language, an emergent property rather than some absolute entity. Neither human nature nor human langue can be imposed or dictated from some central ruler but must emerge organically, like a baby in the womb, from within the greater basin of human interaction: amidst people who slowly, voluntarily and willingly transcend the details of their specific cultural legacies, in order to embrace the humanity we can all find ourselves in (Luke 17:21). Christ, the Word, natural law and human language are all based on this same, wonderful principle.
Our very precious noun φυραμα (phurama), mix, is used a mere 5 times in the New Testament; see full concordance. Its parent verb φυρω (phuro), to mix, appears to be a constituting element of the following:
- The verb πορφυρω (porphuro), meaning to heave (of the sea), from which in turn comes the noun πορφυρα (porphura), which describes the mussel from which a costly purple dye was extracted (hence the word purple). Since purple is the opposite of red (that is: on the rainbow, red and purple are the two extremes; infra-red is just below and ultra-violet is just above the visible spectrum), and red signifies primitivity and vulgarity, purple signifies sophistication and nobility. This noun is used 4 times; see full concordance. From it come: