Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun υπνος (hupnos) means sleep, which is a hitherto unexplained condition of the mind in whose unconsciousness we exist about a third of our time here on earth. Our English word "hypnosis" comes from this noun. The Hebrew equivalent is שנא (shena'), which comes from the verb ישן (yashen), to sleep.
The Greeks personified sleep as the god Hypnos, who lived in the underworld with his twin brother Thanatos (Death personified), which suggests an association with the preposition υπο (hupo), under or below.
In the Hebrew model, dry land was associated with consciousness, and cities with the formal stories from which we weave our conscious realities. Sleep and thus the sub- and unconscious were subsequently associated with the sea, which explains both the existence of "waters under the earth" (Exodus 20:4), and the "fishers of men" that the disciples would be (Matthew 4:19). But it also equates sleep to not having words to establish a formal definition of something encountered, which means that this something can't be discussed or shared with someone. And that in turn equates waking from sleep to the formalization of thoughts for which no words or descriptions existed (Matthew 1:24).
Jesus' father Joseph was able to save Jesus from the wrath of Herod by doing what his famous namesake had done two millennia earlier: explain his dream (οναρ, onar). Quite telling, in his adulthood, Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem upon a donkey (ονος, onos), even a colt (οναριον, onarion).
Our noun υπνος (hupnos) occurs 6 times in the New Testament; see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the particle of negation α (a), meaning not or without: the verb αγρυπνεω (agrupno), meaning to be without sleep, to be without unconsciousness, to have words and descriptions for everything (which is a condition demanded in 1 Peter 3:15). This verb speaks of not entertaining subconscious instincts but rather conscious and formalized reason. It is used 4 times; see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
- Together with the preposition εν (en), meaning in, on, at or by: the noun ενυπτιον (enuption), meaning a sight that occurs during sleep or, crucially, because of lack of reason and formality (Acts 2:17 only). For more on dreams, read our article on the specific Greek word for dream (οναρ, onar, mentioned above) or its Hebrew equivalent, namely חלום (halom). From this noun derives:
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out or from: the adjective εξυπνος (exupnos), meaning out of sleep, woke, awoken (Acts 16:27 only). From this noun derives:
- The verb εξυπνιζω (exupnizo), meaning to wake out of sleep, to awaken, to get woke (John 11:11 only).