Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
Dictionaries commonly list two separate verbs of the form θυω (thuo), but the two seem similar in temperament and one is perhaps a specialized form of the other. But even if that is not the case, the fact that these two verbs are spelled identical certainly invited authors to word play, and their audiences to decide whether the implied connections are deliberate or accidental.
The verb θυω (thuo) means to sacrifice in the ritualistic sense, or to kill in a violent (or simply practical) sense when an animal was killed for food. The act of offering was in the Greek world strongly associated with inquiring of deities or oracles, as well as with felicitous homages that implied congress between the offerer and the deity. When in the old world a man sacrificed an animal from his herd, or one purchased with his money, he did so in the expectation that, through whatever mechanism, his social, mental or intellectual life would be enriched, usually through congress with either the deity or else with his guests or family.
Note that the sacrifices proscribed in the Old Testament were like the scaffolding in which a mature mind could be built but which was designed to be discarded in time. Hence the Lord says "I delight in loyalty (or compassion) rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13). And a mature mind is one that communicates freely with man and God, without the aid of mechanisms. This verb is used 14 times; see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the noun ειδωλον (eidolon), object of visualization (our English word "idol"): the adjective ειδωλοθυτον (eidolothuton), which describes an item (mostly food) that was dedicated to an idol. In the first century everything was dedicated, and it was impossible to avoid such items, which is why the New Testament discusses dealing with these idol-offered things at length. This adjective occurs 10 times see full concordance
- The verb θυμιαω (thumiao) means to make what a sacrifice makes: smoke (and ashes). In the classics this verb could describe the production of any kind of smoke of fumes but was also used to specifically describe the burning of incense. In the New Testament this verb occurs in Luke 1:9 only, and from it derive:
- The noun θυμιαμα (thumiama), meaning incense. In the classics this noun also frequently appears as θυμια (thumia), which explains the parent verb. This noun is used 6 times; see full concordance. In the Bible, pleasing smoke is often equated with prayers (Psalm 141:2, Luke 1:10, Revelation 8:3; also see 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, Ephesians 5:2, Philippians 4:18).
- The noun θυμιαστηριον (thumiasterion), which literally describes an incense item: either a censer of the smaller incense altar (Hebrews 9:4 only).
- The noun θυσια (thusia), which primarily denotes the act of sacrificing (Luke 2:24) or its institution (Matthew 9:13), and which may subsequently refer to a thing sacrificed (Mark 9:49). This noun is used 29 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
- The noun θυσιαστηριον (thusiasterion), which describes a thing that lets you make a sacrifice, and which actually stems from the intermediate verb θυσιαζω (thusiazo), to make a sacrifice (not merely the slaughtering but the whole ritual, bells and whistles and all). Our noun θυσιαστηριον (thusiasterion) appears to be a Jewish invention, as it appears nearly solely in the Bible and Josephus, as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word מזבח (mizbeah), altar, from the verb זבח (zabah), to slaughter. Our noun θυσιαστηριον (thusiasterion) appears 23 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
The second verb θυω (thuo) means to rage or seethe, which in Greek literature is used for both the sea and people (and horses and even snakes). It's not used in the New Testament but from it derives the important noun θυμοσ (thumos):
The noun θυμοσ (thumos), which describes intense mental agitation for whatever reason, but commonly with aggressive effect and accompanied by a strong will. Although the familiar term "the wrath of God" uses this word (Revelation 16:1, 19:15), the mental state that this word describes is commonly characteristic of an undisciplined mind, and in the New Testament (as well as by the Stoics) categorically condemned. This is significant because the requirement of sacrifice too is considered a form of mental adolescence, to be transcended by maturity. This noun is used 18 times; see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the particle εν (en), meaning in or at: the verb ενθυμεομαι (enthumeomai), to have one's mind agitated by the ingress of a specific concern. This verb occurs in Matthew 1:20, 9:4 and Acts 10:19 only, and from it derives:
- The noun ενθυμησις (ethumesis), a thought within an agitated mind, an agitation. This noun is used 4 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition επι (epi), meaning on or upon: the verb επιθυμεω (epithumeo), to direct one's strong will upon something, to obsess or think with agitation toward a certain objective. This verb is commonly translated with to lust or desire. It is used 16 times; see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the adverb ευ (eu), meaning good: the adjective ευθυμος (euthumos), meaning of good agitation, righteously stirred or eager to tackle a challenge and act accordingly (Acts 24:10 and 27:36 only). From this word comes:
- Together with the verb μαχομαι (machomai), meaning to fight or quarrel with: the verb θυμομαχεω (thumomacheo), meaning to fight angrily with, to engage someone out of great offense (Acts 12:20 only).
- The verb θυμοω (thumoo), to agitate, to cause to flare up one's will, to provoke to anger, to be violently upset (Matthew 2:16 only).
- Together with the familiar adjective ομος (homos), meaning same or of the same kind: the adverb ομοθυμαδον (homothumadon), meaning like-mindedly in the sense of same-temperedly. This adverb occurs 12 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before or in front of: the verb προθυμος (prothumos), meaning to be fiercely willing, tended toward agitation, easily or readily stirred (Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38 and Romans 1:15 only). From this verb come:
The noun θειον (theion) means sulfur or brimstone, and it is spelled identical to a noun (common in the classics but unused in the New Testament) that means divinity or divine things (attributes, acts, etcetera), from the adjective θειος (theios), divine, in turn from the familiar noun θεος (theos), which means god or God — which in turn appears to stems from the verb τιθημι (tithemi), to set, put, place or establish for all to see, from whence also the familiar words theatre (a place for showing), theory (a thing shown), theme (a main thing to show) and thesaurus (a treasure to look upon). Hence, Paul stated that the divine nature of God can be clearly seen through what has been made (Romans 1:20) and Peter went as far as to claim that humans can partake in the very same divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
But anyway, our noun θειον (theion), sulfur, has nothing to do with any of that. That is to say, in strictly etymological terms. Poetically, all bets are off and sulfur is literally a divine attribute or divine deed.
Our noun θειον (theion) morphed into its present form from an older and original version θεειον (theeion), which stemmed from a Proto-Indo-European root "dewh-", smoke or haze; hence words like dusk and dew, fume and suffocate, as well as the verb θυω (thuo), to sacrifice, we discuss above.
Brimstone (i.e. burning stone) is the older name of sulfur, which is a yellow crystalline solid and a chemical element (number 16), the tenth most abundant element in the universe and the fifth so on earth (Venus is covered in it). On earth, sulfur usually occurs in compounds. Organic ones give skunks and garlic their signature zest.
Brimstone has been known about since deep antiquity, mostly as a means to clear rooms from pests. When Odysseus had destroyed the suitors, he ordered fire and brimstone to fumigate his house (Od.22.480). In a similar way and for a comparable objective, Sodom and Gomorrah were inundated in fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:24, Luke 17:29). In the Septuagint's version of this story, our noun θειον (theion) translates גפרית (goprit), a word of unknown pedigree but reasonably thought to relate to גפר (goper), the kind of wood from which Noah made the ark (Genesis 6:14), which is possibly not some tree but rather processed wood: cleared, fumigated and tarred.
It appears that the ancients had recognized sulfur's antibacterial and antifungal properties. But brimstone was mostly a battery for the cleaning qualities of πυρ (pur). Also see the verb θερω (thero), to heat, and the derived noun θεραπων (therapon), therapy.
Our noun θειον (theion), sulfur, is used 7 times, see full concordance, and from it comes: