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

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/s/s-i-t-o-sfin.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


In the classics, the noun σιτος (sitos) is a collective word for grain, and the word grain denotes the edible kernels of any cereal. It forms the second element of our English word parasite, which was named after the Greek word for someone who partook in someone else's meal or at someone else's cost. Our noun σιτος (sitos), grain, generally comprises κριθη (krithe), barley, and πυρος (puros), wheat. But unlike us moderns, the ancients did not name plants and animals after some abstract genus, but rather after behaviors and activities associated to them.

The origin of our noun σιτος (sitos) is obscure but it appears to ultimately derive from (or relate to) a Proto-Indo-European root "gweyh-to", meaning to live or be healthy (hence too Slavic words like zivot, life; and note the consonantal overlap with zuto, yellow, and zlato, gold). But it may also relate to the noun we discuss below, namely σινιον (sinion), a sieve (hence too the enigmatic "sift like grain" remark of Luke 22:31), from the verb σινομαι (sinomai), to hurt or harm, perhaps referring to the threshing of grain (hence too, perhaps, the enigmatic "do not hurt the oil and the wine" of Revelation 6:6).

Barley, or κριθη (krithe), appears to have been named too after the process of separating the kernels from the chaff, via the verb κρινω (krino), to separate, and κριτηριον (kriterion), a means to separate. Wheat, or πυρος (puros), appears to have been named after the fire over which it was baked (see πυρ, pur, fire). This indicates that barley was predominantly associated with the primary process of extracting the food from its natural environment, whereas wheat was mostly associated with the secondary process of manufacturing the natural resource into a synthetic product.

The noun πυρος (puros), wheat, does not occur in the New Testament, which many take to indicate that by the first century, our word σιτος (sitos) had become synonymous with πυρος (puros), wheat. But whether this is so or not should not relate to our translation: σιτος (sitos) means grain (which also in English, colloquially, denotes wheat). Another assumption that's generally made is that wheat was predominantly used for bread and human food, whereas barley was predominantly used for animal fodder. But although barley indeed appears to have been three times as cheap as wheat or grain (Revelation 6:6), it was nevertheless also consumed by humans — the noun κριθινος (krithinos), means barley-bread. Jesus used five of these barley-breads to feed the 5000 (John 6:9-14).

Some older translations speak of corn, which was once an old-English equivalent of the word grain (like the modern Dutch word koren and the German Korn), but has since the 17th century shifted to specifically denote maize, the cheerful yellow cereal that was first cultivated in Mexico in 7000 BC and was exported to the wider world only in the 1500s — so no, there is no corn (maize) mentioned in the Bible.

One kernel of grain is called a κοκκος (kokkos), and an ear of grain is called σταχυς (stachus).

Note that the process of beating, sifting and baking grain into bread is very similar to the cognitive cycle we moderns associate with the Scientific Method. But contrary to folklore, science is a herbivorous endeavor, not a carnivorous one. There's no such thing as a scientific debate, since debating one's position is not part of the Scientific Method (which instead is all about observation, forming a falsifiable hypothesis that predicts an outcome, testing this in an experiment, and publishing the result so that peers can repeat the experiment and verify its validity). Debates are part of the non-scientific realm. And whether one wins a debate or loses it depends very little of knowledge of the matter at hand, and almost wholly on one's fighting skills: distracting the other, tipping him off balance, twisting his words, intimidating him and confusing him. Debates are carnivorous hunts rather than herbivorous conversation, and have nothing to do with learning from and purifying each other, and everything with the study of war (Isaiah 2:4) and the lust for domination (1 Corinthians 15:24).

Again contrary to folklore, science never proves right and only wrong (hence the demand that experiments must be verifiable but hypotheses must be falsifiable). This in turn means that our understanding of natural reality remains clouded but slowly but surely becomes less clouded as it is, little by little, being rid of falsehoods (1 Corinthians 13:9-12), like a harvest of grain that is tossed to have the wind blow away the chaff, and so that the grain gets cleaner with every toss.

The grain of theoretical knowledge never really gets perfectly clean, but when it's clean enough, technicians may pound it into flour, then kneed it into dough, and then bake it into the bread of technological products — and in case you are wondering: the difference between us living in caves and us living in the modern world is solely a matter of technology. Everything around you is technological, from the furniture you're sitting on, the house you live in, the city you dwell in, down to the very text you are reading now (see Exodus 31:1-11). Without technology there would have been no fire, no writing, no pets, no domesticated herds, no metals, no humanity as we know it. We humans are biological only in the flesh; mentally we are technological.

It's not often enough stressed that both the names YHWH and Logos (Word) strongly relate to writing, which is a technological endeavor (more specifically: the alphabet and paper are Information Technology, as much as JavaScript and USB flash drives). Our English words text and technology both stem from an ancient verb meaning to weave (hence too the word textile) or assemble, which in turn also gave us the word for Jesus' earthly profession: not "carpenter" but "assembler" (τεκτων, tekton, from the verb τικτω, tikto, to beget).

When Jesus said: I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 6:48), he probably didn't mean to say that he's a cinnamon bun, but rather that he embodies the entire library of humanity's scientific knowledge (John 21:25, 1 Corinthians 2:10, Colossians 2:3, 2 Timothy 2:7) that will ultimately result in the descent of New Jerusalem from the heavens (and see for how that might work our article on the noun νεφελη, nephele, cloud). The name of the original bread from heaven, or Manna, derives from the interrogative pronoun מן (man), meaning "what?" and signifies scientific inquest. Paul wrote that "since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made" (Romans 1:20), and the name of Israel's protector angel and captain of the heavenly armies is Michael, whose name means What Is God Like? And that again relates to scientific inquiry.

The Hebrew word for barley is שערה (se'ora), from the root שער (se'ir), which primarily expresses intense negative emotion, fear, or the experience of violence (hence too the name Seir). That seems to suggest that in the Bakery of Nutritious Wisdom, barley denotes a being driven to science and technology out of dire desire to escape some snarling and drooling threat, whereas πυρος (puros) much rather denotes a positive desire directly for wisdom, wisdom's beauty and the safety and security that results from wisdom.

The Hebrew word for a kernel of grain is בר (bar), which comes from the verb ברר (barar), to clean, and is identical to the adjective בר (bar), meaning pure or clean, which also described the ideal of metallurgy, which obviously also served as emblem for the pursuit of wisdom (see our article on χαλκος, chalkos, copper). Significantly, the verb ברר (barar), to clean, in turn relates to the verb ברא (bara'), meaning to create (and which is limited to the creative activity of God), as well as to the verb באר (ba'ar), to engrave on tablets, which is not unlike the verb γραφω (grapho), to write.

The word בר (bar) is also identical to the Aramaic word בר (bar), meaning son (hence names like Bartimaeus and Barabbas), which in Hebrew is בן (ben), from the verb בנה (bana), to build (such as a house). The feminine of בן (ben), son, is בת (bat), daughter, which is not unlike בית (bayit or beth in constructs like Bethlehem), which means house (or temple). The similar verb בין (bin) means to be able to see a difference, to perceive or discern. A derivative of this verb is the substantive בין (ben), meaning between. Our English word science relates to the Greek verb σχιζω (schizo), to break, split or divide, not unlike our noun σιτος (sitos), grain, or things that come in bits — also see the noun σιτευτος (siteutos), below.

Our noun σιτος (sitos), grain, is used 14 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:

  • Together with the particle of negation α (a), meaning without: the adjective ασιτος (asitos), meaning grain-less, fasting, or without consuming processed food (with the obvious symbolic meaning of without learning new information or being without new technology). This word is used in Acts 27:33 only.
  • The adjective σιτευτος (siteutos), meaning grain-fed or grain-fattened (Luke 15:23, 15:27 and 15:30 only). This adjective technically derives from the unused verb σιτευω (siteuo), to "do the grain thing": to supply with grain in order to eat. Note that the name of the alphabet's first letter, namely א (aleph), is believed to denote an ox-head, while its name derives from the verb אלף ('alep), to learn or to produce thousands. Noun פר (par) means young bull and פרה (para) means young heifer, and both stem from the verb פרר (parar), to split, divide and multiply (hence names like Euphrates and Ephraim), which is not unlike the afore mentioned Greek verb σχιζω (schizo), from which comes our word science.
  • The adjective σιτιστος (sitistos), meaning grain-fed (Matthew 22:4 only), implying the same as the previous, namely a being fattened on grain. This adjective technically derives from the unused verb σιτιζω (sitizo), to "grain-ize", to feed grain.
  • Together with the noun μετρον (metron), measure: the noun σιτομετριον (sitometrion), a measured portion of wheat, grain or corn (Luke 12:42 only).

The verb σινιαζω (siniazo) is commonly thought to mean to sieve, and stems from the unused noun σινιον (sinion), a sieve, which is of unknown pedigree but looks like a thing that results in a σινος (sinos), a hurt or lesion, from the verb σινομαι (sinomai), to hurt or damage, from which also come the adjective σεννιον (sennion), winnowing, and the noun σινις (sinis), a criminal plunderer (all unused in the New Testament). Our verb σινιαζω (siniazo), to sieve, occurs in Luke 22:31 only, in the enigmatic statement of Jesus that satan wanted to sieve Simon Peter like wheat.

Part of the enigma of this statement is that our verb's proposed parent noun, namely σινιον (sinion), sieve, doesn't really exist in classical Greek. The regular word for to sieve is σηθω (setho), and the regular word for sieve is σηστον (seston). This seems to suggest that our verb doesn't really mean to sieve, but rather to hurt or damage, which rather logically would refer to the act of threshing and winnowing.

Threshing and winnowing is of course precisely what we do in science. As noted above, the Scientific Method is designed to identify incorrect assumptions, and a hypothesis that survives an experiment simply needs to be hit harder. Said otherwise, whenever a scientist achieves some morsel of certainty, the Scientific Method compels her to whack the crap out of it until it breaks, and the certified bad stuff can be separated from the we'll-get-to-that-later stuff.

The pun further expands when we realize that the name Peter means pebble, and a pebble in a threshing mill wrecks the mill, rather than the pebble. Of course, pebbles can't be eaten, but from stones we build houses in which to eat (1 Peter 2:5). Or as professor Lambeau said: it all about grouping the terms.

Also note the playful similarity between our verb σινιαζω (siniazo) and the name Sinai (Σινα, Sina).


The noun σιναπι (sinapi) denotes the mustard plant (not the yellow condiment mustard, which is made from ground mustard seeds, and which stems from post-Biblical times). A kernel of mustard is the proverbially small seed that is compared to the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:31) and a person's individual faith (Matthew 17:20). Folklore explains this to mean that even if one's faith is little more than a faint hunch, it's enough for a ticket heavenward, but this is pagan nonsense, of course.

A seed is a thing of any size that contains a complete genetic code, and because of that may Big-Bang into an entire forest that is still and wholly based on that same single and complete genetic code. A thing that does not contain a complete genetic code (but, say, half of one, or 98% of one), no matter how big it is (could be the size of a colossal statue or a skyscraper), will never expand into a forest and will ultimately destabilize, fall apart and disintegrate into dust.

The Hebrew word for completeness is the familiar שלום (shalom), which also means peace. The word for incompleteness or brokenness is רע (ra'), which is usually translated with evil or calamity, and comes from the verb רעע (ra'a), to crush or break to pieces. The difference between a scientific breaking into pieces and a calamitous breaking into pieces is that science pursues oneness (or should), and always tries anything new to the established canon, to establish its context.

Our noun σιναπι (sinapi) is not native Greek and, like the following word, probably comes from its equivalent in Egyptian. But perhaps its adoption into Greek was helped along by its similarity to our present cluster of words. It occurs 5 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, consistently in combination with the noun κοκκος (kokkos), kernel, which is the defining format of σιτος (sitos), grain (see above).


The noun σινδων (sindon) describes a sheet of fine linen or anything made from such: bandages, corpse and mummy wrapping, fancy garments, napkins, sails of ships, flags. Like the previous, this noun is probably a loanword from Egyptian, although its Hebrew equivalent, namely סדין (sadin), looks suspiciously like a derivative from the verb סדד (sadad), to join, and thus the verb יסד (yasad), meaning to assemble into the foundation of a societal structure: a temple plus congregation, a nation plus government, making the white toga a signature attribute of the rich and powerful (the societal assemblers, or builders).

All this would fit right into our article on σιτος (sitos), grain (see above). From the noun κοκκος (kokkos), kernel, comes the adjective κοκκινος (kokkinos), meaning scarlet (Matthew 27:28), the signature mark of society's αρχιτεκτων (architekton) or highest social builder (1 Corinthians 3:10).

Our noun σινδων (sindon), fine linen, occurs 7 times in 6 verses; see full concordance.