Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The versatile verb στελλω (stello) describes a putting, setting, placing something in its designed, wished or intended position, situation or installation. Not surprisingly, it has its root in the Proto-Indo-European root stel-, meaning the same, from which we get our words star and stellar, install (and Gestalt), stalls for stallions, to stall and become still, distill, and of course wholly adopted Greek derivations such as apostle and epistle (see below). There also seems to be a link between this verb and the name Anatolia, the traditional name for Asia Minor (modern Turkey); see our article on the verb ανατελλω (anatello), meaning to rise, i.e. of the sun.
Our verb στελλω (stello) occurs all over the classics but only twice in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 8:20 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6), both times in the passive voice, which declares a removal (or avoidance) rather than a placing. Our verb nevertheless comes with a formidable list of derivatives:
- Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from: the verb αποστελλω (apostello), meaning to send out on a specific mission or task, not at all exclusively religious tasks but any sort. It's a fairly common verb in the New Testament and it's used in all sorts of contexts, ranging from Herod sending his mugs to kills Bethlehem's innocents (Matthew 2:16) to angels being sent from God (Revelation 22:6). Jesus applies this verb seven times to himself in his prayer to the Father (John 17:3-25).
Our verb αποστελλω (apostello) emphasizes being charged with a specific mission and being endowed with the authority to accomplish this mission. As such it contrasts the verb πεμπω (pempo), which simply means to send, to make someone or someone go away, irrespectively of the reason of this sending or the status of the one (or the object) sent.
Our verb αποστελλω (apostello) is used 132 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The noun αποστολη (apostole), which either describes the act of sending forth, being sent forth, or the thing sent. In the New Testament, this word is commonly translated with "apostleship" or "apostolic ministry" but it should be remembered that this word does not specifically imply a religious context. It is used 4 times; see full concordance.
- The familiar noun αποστολος (apostolos), which describes someone sent out on a mission or task. As said before, this word does not at all imply a religious context. In the days before email or even a regular postal service, all correspondence was carried out by emissaries, and any type of ruler, boss or businessman would have countless "apostles" in the field carrying out previously discussed protocols. If this word has any specific connotation it's the desire of some sender to influence people beyond his private reach. Our noun is used 81 times in the New Testament — see full concordance — and although it's most often applied to the famous twelve (Matthew 10:2), Jesus was also an apostle (Hebrews 3:1, see John 17:3-25). From this noun in turn derives:
- Together with the adjective ψευδης (pseudes), meaning false: the noun ψευδαποστολος (pseudoapostolos), meaning false apostle (2 Corinthians 11:13 only). A false apostle is someone who claims to have been sent by someone far away but who is in fact making it up. Someone who is rich enough to send people out to do his bidding obviously also imparts his authority, dignity and right to collect revenue to those he sends out. And this means that charlatans will try anything to make people believe that they are legit — they'll threaten folks, use violence or create gangs of slithering political smoothness. In our modern world there aren't very many true apostles of God left and the vast majority of people who claim to be apostles are lying (often even to themselves). A true apostle is able to create wealth for poor people, heal physical and mental illnesses and walk on water (Matthew 11:5, John 14:12, 2 Corinthians 12:12). The only talent a false apostle has is explaining why he isn't able to do these things.
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out or from: the verb εξαποστελλω (exapostello), which means to send out, just like the parent verb. The doubling of particles of moving away ( εκ, ek, and απο, apo) isn't unusual in Greek and strengthens the out-part of the sending, and perhaps emphasizes the autonomy and independence of the person sent: to send off. This verb is used 11 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συναποστελλω (sunapostello), meaning to jointly send out (2 Corinthians 12:18 only).
- Together with the preposition δια (dia), meaning through: the verb διαστελλω (diastello), literally meaning to put-through-and-through. In the classics it may denote the expanding of one's lungs, or similarly some complicated issue. It hence takes on the meaning of to thoroughly instill or impress upon, which in turn implies to exhort or command. It's used 8 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
- Together with the preposition επι (epi) meaning on or upon: the verb επιστελλω (epistello), meaning to set upon, which usually comes down to: to send toward (Acts 15:20, 21:25 and Hebrews 13:22 only). From this verb in turn derives:
- The familiar noun επιστολη (epistole), which is a thing set upon or send toward. From this word comes our English word "epistle" which is not a thing written but a thing set or placed upon (someone or some spot). It occurs 24 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb καταστελλω (katastello), literally meaning to put or set down and used in the sense of to pacify a rioting mob, to calm down (Acts 19:35 and 19:36 only). From this verb comes:
- The noun καταστολη (katastole), which would literally describe the result of the verb: a state of (collective) calmness. In the classics this word was used to describe modesty and reserve and even reduction and subjugation. It occurs in 1 Timothy 2:9 only and its unique usage seems to suggest that this noun also served as the name of a certain sort of garment (literally a let-down; perhaps some long robe? see στολη, stole, next) but more likely Paul referred to general modesty and accessorial restraint.
- The noun στολη (stole), which describes garment (and from which we get our English words stole and stola). In the classics this word clearly described not a specific element of garment but rather one's whole outfit or equipment, sometimes including weaponry: apparel. In the rare cases in which this word describes a specific garment, it refers to a full-body robe. In the New Testament it is used 8 times; see full concordance.
- Again together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συστελλω (sustello), literally meaning to jointly put or set, but often used in the sense of to compact, draw together, huddle up (or wrap up), contract, reduce (Acts 5:6 and 1 Corinthians 7:29 only).
- Together with the preposition υπο (hupo) meaning under: the verb υποστελλω (hupostello), meaning to conceal or withdraw, with nuance or this happening under some cover or upper element. This verb is used 4 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
- The noun υποστολη (hupostole), which describes a thing concealed or withdrawn (Hebrews 10:39 only).