Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
Our word υπερ (huper) literally means over or beyond and is the source of the English word "up" as well as our many "hyper-" words (hyperactive, hyperbole, hyperdrive; all those). It's also the opposite of κατα (kata), which describes a downward motion or a contrary attitude. In Mark 9:40 Jesus says: "he who is not kata of you is huper of you" (also see Luke 9:50, Romans 8:31).
Similarly, our word may denote a surrendering or handing over (Luke 22:19-20, John 6:51, 10:11, Romans 8:32) or serving for or as a purpose (John 11:4, 15:13, Acts 5:41) or on behalf of (Acts 26:1, Romans 5:6, 2 Corinthians 5:12).
Quite like our related English word "over," this ancient Greek word connects surrendering, joining and serving not to submission but rather to superiority. Our preposition υπερ (huper) may denote superiority due to a mental maturity (Matthew 5:44), higher social rank (Matthew 10:24, Philemon 1:16) or greater measure of affection (Matthew 10:37). It may provide the scope or compass of concern (he cried over Israel; Romans 9:27) or awareness (not being ignorant about someone's trouble; 2 Corinthians 1:8) or thoughts (to think about a lot of people at once; Philippians 1:7), or a certain topic (about the coming of our Lord; 2 Thessalonians 2:1).
In that sense, the name of Christ is not simply above all others, it contains or envelops all others (compare Philippians 2:9 with John 14:20 and Ephesians 3:15). Subsequently, our preposition υπερ (huper), meaning "over" is also an opposite of υπο (hupo), meaning "under" as gracefully juxtaposed in Ephesians 1:22: he put all things in subjection under [hupo] his feet, and gave him as head over [huper] all things to the church.
Our preposition υπερ (huper) may help establish a comparative clause: wiser than proverbial others (Luke 16:8), above the sun's brightness (Acts 26:13), more of a minister than others (2 Corinthians 11:23). It may describe beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Corinthians 8:3) or see (2 Corinthians 12:6) or profit (Galatians 1:14). In Ephesians 3:20 Paul doxologizes he who is more powerful to do anything far beyond what we can ask.
In 2 Corinthians 11:5 and 12:11 Paul speaks facetiously of "mega-super" apostles, which of course is a brand of devotee that still thrives in churches today. In 2 Corinthians 12:13 he speaks tongue-in-cheek of churches that are "more less" than comparable congregations (Paul was clearly either in a very good or a very bad mood when he wrote Second Corinthians). In 1 Thessalonians 3:10 he uses the phrase υπερ εκπερισσος huper ekperissos or "hugely exceeding," which corresponds to the word υπερπερισσευω huperperisseuo of similar meaning.
The preposition υπερ (huper) occurs 159 times independently, see full concordance, and countless times as part of compound words. But it also comes with a modest array of true derivations (or so it's generally assumed):
The only direct (assumed) derivation of our preposition υπερ (huper) is the adverb υψι (hupsi), meaning aloft or on high. It's most notably used to describe a being "way out" on the "high" seas. This adverb is not used in the New Testament but from it in turn comes:
The noun υψος (hupsos), meaning height, elevation or rather: far-out-ness. This noun occurs 6 times, see full concordance, virtually only in a figurative sense or relating to heaven.
Although a physical elevation may sometimes be implied, the usage of the parent adverb is mostly to do with a rather horizontal trek over the ocean. The bottom line is of course that dry land represents not merely physical footing but also mental footing: the things we know and upon which we build. The water is that mental substance from whence our certainties once emerged (Genesis 1:9), from which we extract much of our nutrition (Matthew 4:18) and upon which most of our global trade depends (Revelation 18:17) — and which on occasion lays siege to our most dearly held beliefs (Matthew 7:24-27, also see 14:30), but which will no longer exist in the age to come (Revelation 21:1).
From our noun υψος (hupsos), meaning height, elevation or "far-out-ness", in turn derive:
- The superlative of the noun υψος (hupsos): namely the adjective υψιστος (hupsistos), meaning highest, or rather: farthest out. This word is used 13 times; see full concordance, most notably as epithet of God, as synonym of the Hebrew epithet Elyon (Acts 7:48).
- The adjective υψηλος (hupselos), meaning high or far out. This adjective occurs 11 times, see full concordance, once in the form of a comparative (Hebrews 7:26). From this adjective in turn comes:
- The verb υψοω (hupsoo), meaning to raise or to move out of reach. This amazing verb describes both the engine behind the formation of aristocracy (Luke 1:52), but also how Jesus could disappear from sight upon his ascension (Acts 1:10) while still being very much with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Every child can attest that knowing the Lord comes down to one very simply thing (Matthew 22:37-39, 19:14), but since this very simple thing also sums up all the law (Matthew 22:40), it can also unfold to cover more books than the earth can hold (John 21:25). Coming to know the Lord also comes with the knowledge that one person can never know the whole of all of the Lord. Every human being may know the Lord as intimate as a sweet and personal friend, but only the whole of humanity can know all of him (Hebrews 12:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
In essence, this verb describes specialization, which is a primary requisite for complexity. In the days of Moses, government and technology developed separate administrations and disciplines (hence perhaps Nehushtan; John 3:14), and in Jesus the knowledge of creation (Romans 1:20). This verb is used 20 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
- The noun υψωμα (hupsoma), describing something far-out or a move far-out (Romans 8:39 and 2 Corinthians 10:5 only).
- Together with its own grand-parental preposition υπερ (huper), meaning over: the verb υπερυψοω (huperupsoo), meaning to hyper-elevate, to place above all else. This word occurs only once, in Philippians 2:9, where it obviously refers to Christ. In somewhat impersonal terms: Christ is the largest set of creation. In him are summed up all other things (Ephesians 1:10), and in him are contained all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom (Colossians 2:3). Since Christ contains all created things, he is not part of creation but rather of the Creator (John 1:1-3).