Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun στομα (stoma) means mouth and stems from the ancient Proto-Indo-European root stom-, meaning the same. It mostly denotes the body part through which we speak and eat, but its connotation is rather surprising. To the ancients, the word(s) for mouth primarily described something that protruded, something that stuck out; the place where the owner of the mouth connected to the surroundings and exchanged commodities. Since one of the functions of the Son is to provide an area of transit and exchange between the Father and his creation (John 14:6), the Son is not only the same as the Word of God, but also the Mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3, Isaiah 40:5).
The mouth of a river was where the river reached the sea, where during low tide the river flowed into the sea and during high tide the sea streamed up the river. Weapons such as swords had mouths too, namely their points and cutting edge — and these connotations weren't poetic inventions of the Greeks but reflected widely accepted truths. In the Semitic language area the edge of a sword was also known as its mouth (פה, peh).
Of an army, its front rank was considered its mouth, and when two armies met, their mouths locked like the jaws of lions fighting (Hebrews 11:33). During the act of kissing mouths meet too and although the motivation isn't violent, the effect is the same, namely an exchange of microbial environments and of course one's loving hearts.
The mouth is primarily an organ of exchange, what a market is to society, or a Bible discussion group to a modern popular church (Matthew 15:8). And whatever comes out of the mouth and is exchanged (words, smells, stuff spewed out) is a witness of the situation deeper within (Matthew 12:34). Even time has a mouth, namely the presence. And with the right kind of ears, one can hear words that tell ancient stories that are alive and well in time's vast belly (Matthew 13:35).
Our noun στομα (stoma) meaning mouth occurs 79 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from: the verb αποστοματιζω (apostomatizo), meaning to cough up, to produce via the mouth (Luke 11:53 only). In the classics this verb was mostly used positively, to describe teaching by word-of-mouth or by dictation, or to interrogate or verbally examine a pupil. Luke's use of this verb implies that the Pharisees examined Jesus the way a professor would examine a student who had just accidently blown up the science lab.
- Together with the adverb δις (dis), which comes from the familiar cardinal number δυο (duo), two, and which means twice: the adjective διστομος (distomos), literally meaning twice-mouthed; endowed with two areas of exchange. In the classics this word may apply to double-edged weaponry (Greco-Roman swords were all double edged, so this wasn't often mentioned) but also to a double-mouthed cave ("Come, it is your task to serve as my ally in what remains, and to seek where in this region there is a cave with two mouths" — Sophocles, Phil.1.15), or a river that had two mouths rather than a rumored five, or even a place where two road-mouths met.
In the New Testament our word occurs 4 times, see full concordance, and applies only to blades. The author of Hebrews speaks of a double-mouthed μαχαιρα (macharia), which wasn't a sword but rather a cutting knife which indeed often came with a single cutting edge, but John the Revelator mentions three times a double-mouthed ρομφαια (romphaia), which also wasn't a sword but a pole-arm (a metal blade on a stick, like an scythe). But most striking, the Rhomphaia was always single-edged and it was practically exclusively used by the Thracians. What John's curious image refers to is unclear, but it does remind of Odysseus and Diomedes' attack on the Thracian camp (Iliad.X.256 speaks of a forked sword: φασγανον αμφηκης, and read our article on the name Homer for arguments why also the Iliad is not just a story, but rather a highly sophisticated item of data-compressed information technology). Another possible connection may be to the double-edged city of Byzantium, which originated as a Thracian trading post and whose emblem since the 2nd century BC consisted of a lunar crescent and a star, possibly the morning star. In antiquity the lunar crescent appears to have been likened to two horns (see our article on the verb קרן, qeren). Since our word literally means twice-mouthed, also remember the two-witness confirmation rule (Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1) and the curious two witnesses the Revelator mentions (Revelation 11:3).
- Together with the preposition επι (epi), meaning on or upon: the verb επιστομιζω (epistomizo), meaning to mouth-cover, that is: to muzzle, to prevent both the offering and absorbing of nutrients and information (Titus 1:11 only).
- Together with the verb εχω (echo) means to have or hold: the noun στομαχος (stomachos), which describes the repository space just behind the mouth. In the classics this tended to denote the throat or gullet but by New Testament times it denotes the stomach (hence indeed our English word stomach). Figuratively, this word denoted anger (having a figurative upset stomach), which may be how Paul meant it. This word is used in 1 Timothy 5:23 only.