Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb τεινω (teino) means to stretch tight (of reins, of a sheet, of a bow, of tendons), or in general, to exert a force to something so as to stretch it to its limit. It derives from the same Proto-Indo-European root "ten-" that also yielded the Latin verb teneo, to reach for, to hold, to grasp, from which English gets words like tenet, tenor and tenure.
In the classics our verb τεινω (teino) is likewise used in the sense of to strain or exert oneself (in order to reach something), to strain an issue or dispute, to run off at full speed, and so on. It may be used in the sense of to aim at (to stretch a bow and thus aim an arrows toward some target), to lay out in one's full length, to stretch or hold out, to stretch or reach for, to lengthen (of time). Our verb does not occur independently in the New Testament, only as part of the following compounds:
- Together with the intensifying prefix α- (a-), meaning very much: the verb ατενιζω (atenizo) , meaning to look intently, to stare (comparable to our English word attention, from the Latin equivalents). In the classics as well as in the New Testament, this word is applied mostly to staring eyes, and on occasion to an otherwise probing (or obstinate) mind. This verb is used 14 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out: the verb εκτεινω (ekteino), meaning to stretch out. In the New Testament this verb is nearly exclusively used to describe the stretching out of one's hand(s), but certain usages suggest that more is implied. In Acts 26:1, for instance, the stretching out of Paul's hand is equated with him speaking for himself. Note that the word χειρ (cheir), hand, also denotes one's personal power, and whatever is in one's hand(s) is in one's power. In Acts 27:30, this same verb is used to describe the casting off of a ship's anchors. This verb is used 16 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derive:
- The noun εκτενεια (ektenia), which literally describes the act (or instance) of reaching or stretching out, but which is used to describe zeal or enthusiasm (Acts 26:7 only).
- The adjective εκτενης (ektenes), literally meaning stretched out, but used to describe the warm bond between friends who reach out to each other, with zeal and eagerness (Acts 12:5 and 1 Peter 4:8 only). From this adjective in turn come:
- Together with the preposition επι (epi), meaning on or upon: the verb επεκτεινω (epekteino), meaning to reach onto or toward (Philippians 3:13 only).
- Together with the preposition υπερ (huper), meaning over or beyond: the verb υπερεκτεινω (uperekteino), meaning to overstretch, to overdo (2 Corinthians 10:14 only).
- Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the verb παρατεινω (parateino), meaning to stretch beside, along or nearly onto (Acts 20:7 only). In the classics this verb may mean to prolong or protract, which is how it appears to be used in the New Testament.
- Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before, in front of: the verb προτεινω (proteino), meaning to stretch out before (Acts 22:25 only). In this case, the "stretching" relates to the tight thongs, and the "before" relates to the beating that was to follow and for which Paul was bound.
The adjective στενος (stenos) means narrow (hence English words like stenosis and stenography) or confined. In the Greek classics, this word is used largely the same as "narrow" is in English, with "the narrows" describing sea straights (the straights of Gibraltar, the Hellespont), and "narrow minds" referring to folks of petty mental means. This word was also used to describe a "narrow spot", either literally or figuratively, in the sense of being driven in a corner, or being stuck in a difficult place where one can barely move or escape from.
It's formally unclear where this word comes from, but here at Abarim Publications we surmise it's one of a small list of words that were amended with a leading sigma (see our article on σειρα, seira, for a discussion of this phenomenon), and hence is the counterpart of our verb τεινω (teino), to stretch (see above). In the classics, our adjective στενος (stenos) also occurs as the variant στεινος (steinos).
Our adjective occurs in Matthew 7:13, 7:14 and Luke 13:24 only, and only to describe the narrow (i.e. difficult to get to and through), gate onto life, as opposite the broad (i.e. easy to get to and through) one that leads to destruction. In modern evangelical climates it's not always emphasized, but if the going seems easy, the chances are excellent we're not really going anywhere. Not all difficulty leads to life, of course, but life is a difficult trait to get right, and the gospel of bliss and fun might be the worst good news anyone has ever received.
From our adjective derive:
- The verb στεναζω (stenazo), meaning to groan or sigh deeply, to vocally demonstrate that one is in a tight spot or trying to figure out something very difficult. This verb does not describe a state of defeat and placid sorrow, but the roar of flexed muscles, bent backs and a hell-or-high-water kind of can-do attitude. In James 5:9 the author warns to not loudly wail when carrying a brother's failings, as this would make everybody feel bad, but simply carry what we can, knowing that those who carry our failings are quiet not because our failings are light but because they are dignified about them. This mighty verb is used 6 times; see full concordance, and from it in turn come:
- Together with the preposition ανα (ana), meaning on, upon or again: the verb αναστεναζω (anastenazo), meaning to groan out loud, or several loud groans in a row. This verb is an amplified version of the previous (Mark 8:12 only).
- The noun στεναγμος (stenagmos), meaning a groan or groaning (Acts 7:34 and Romans 8:26 only). In Acts, the author quotes Exodus 2:24, but Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks of "un-talkable groanings", which doesn't so much emphasize the non-verbal nature of the Holy Spirit's groaning, but rather that the Holy Spirit's most arduous efforts can't be joined or spread out over a broader conversation.
- Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συστεναζω (sustenazo), meaning to groan together or jointly groan (to be engaged in a communal effort that has everybody groaning together). This important verb occurs in Romans 8:22 only, where it describes the collective groaning of creation, not out of defeat but out of the unshakable conviction that it is bringing forth something very much worth the effort. If we are correct and our parent verb indeed comes from the PIE root "ten-", then our verb συστεναζω (sustenazo) is very closely related to the English verb to sustain.
- Together with the noun χωρα (chora), "region of cultural distinction": the verb στενοχωρεω (stenochoreo), to narrow one's space (2 Corinthians 4:8 and 6:12 only). From this word in turn comes:
- The noun στενοχωρια (stenochoria), which is commonly translated with distress or persecution but literally describes a narrowing of breathing space (in a cultural or intellectual sense). It's used 4 times; see full concordance.