Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb θλιβω (thlibo) means to squeeze, compress or constrict. It comes from a verb that doesn't occur in the New Testament, namely θλαω (thlao), meaning to crush or bruise, and our verb θλιβω (thlibo) appears to describe a focused or directed application of pressure, or pressure applied for a specific reason or to a particular end. In the classics, our verb may describe a chaffing buckle or poking stick, a pinching shoe or the shoulder of a discouraged man leaning against a doorpost.
In general, our verb tends to be accompanied by a motion to reduce or make smaller, to compress or compact. As such, this verb serves excellently to describe a domineering evildoer's methods of oppression: he forcibly reduces someone's liberties, movements, theater of operation, range and compass. But, curiously, someone who seeks wisdom (i.e. any kind of skill, craft or knowledge) will subject herself to a regime of exactly the same sort of reduction (Matthew 7:14).
The obvious difference is that an oppressor compresses the living space of his victim on all sides, whereas a searcher of wisdom will clip her own freedoms in one particular dimension (say, the liberty to smoke, drink and sleep in every day) in order to gain freedom in another (by feeling much better, having more energy and more time).
An oppressor will hem his victim in as if in a concrete container that only get smaller and smaller. A searcher of wisdom will hem herself in on every side but one, like a hut with a hole in the roof, and bring the walls ever closer until she can escape through the window in the ceiling and take flight.
Our verb is used 10 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the preposition απο (apo), from or out of: the verb αποθλιβω (apothlibo), meaning to squeeze out (Luke 8:45 only). This verb would describe how one squeezes wine from grapes, and this same principle on a social scale is precisely what brings about the Word of God in human form.
- The noun θλιψις (thlipsis), meaning pressure or [social] constriction. This noun is often translated as tribulation or trouble but that's far too specific and emotional. Instead, our noun describes a decidedly mechanical presence of a force that comes from all sides, which cannot be immediately acted upon and has only to be endured.
A person who knows what she wants to achieve will sacrifice liberties on one end of the experiential spectrum in order to gain liberties on some other end. But collectively, humanity has no real idea where we're going (for all kinds of complicated reasons, but mostly because collectively we have the self-awareness of a toddler), and so it's also not clear which kinds of human expressions will eventually be sacrificed as humanity waxes toward its inevitable maturity. Endeavors such as murdering and stealing are presently broadly condemned, but it has taken mankind hundreds of thousands of years to figure out that life without such freedoms is collectively much more desirable than with them (the increase of violent fiction, by the way, indicates that these convictions are being forgotten, and our present civilization is coasting on the fumes of tradition). Likewise, Jews, gays and autists were once freely persecuted but are now protected on general principle, whereas once widely accepted activities such as pedophilia, smoking and environment-destroying production processes are presently being phased out.
It's often not clear what should be abandoned, but mankind's perpetuation is contingent on its ability to sever its tethers to the abyss. Mankind's sacrifices have been formidable but one particular obscene instance of religious perversion is the fashionable declaration of Tribulation by a generation that has it better than every generation before it, and that only on account of allegiance to a truncated creed that very few truly comprehend or would consider dying for. What's not often enough considered, particularly not by those whose religious job it is to feign suffering, is that virtually everybody is feeling the heat of social pressure, and that society is widely skewered by the fear that one's defining characteristic might someday be dubbed inappropriate by an uncaring jury of meatheads. The solution to all of this, of course, is to treat others the way we want to be treated, and explain the wholesale benevolence of this principle to everybody. Mankind is in the continuous process of being born, and feels pressure like a baby in a birth canal: not as a bad thing but as a trustworthy guide that gives direction. This formidable noun occurs 45 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συνθλιβω (sunthlibo), meaning to squeeze together. This verb is used only twice, in Mark 5:24 and 5:31, and both times describes a crowd squeezing itself together.