Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The New Testament Greek word: ζεω

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/z/z-e-om.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The verb ζεω (zeo) means to seethe or boil, originally literally of water and other liquids but secondarily in the sense of becoming impassioned, fervent or getting worked up about something. Note that in Hebrew the verb for to boil is זיד (zid), which has the secondary meaning, not of being passionate but of being proud or insolent. Also note the similarity with the verb ζητεω (zeteo), to search for or endeavor, ζαω (zao), to live, and the noun ζωνη (zone), belt or girdle.

Our verb ζεω (zeo) occurs only twice in the New Testament: in Acts 18:25, Apollos is called fervent in spirit, and in Romans 12:11 Paul likewise declares that every man should be fervent in spirit.

It should be noted that a passion for truth does not result in swinging from the rafters or trying very hard to feel "in love" with the Lord, or even to feel any other way (or, God forbid, persecute "those of other faiths," if such a thing could exist), but rather a diligence toward composure, calmness and self-control, as well as justice in any sense; a soundness of knowledge, a scientific understanding of whatever one discusses, as well as a general street-level fairness, kindness and generosity (see our article on the word πιστις, pistis, meaning faith, for more on this).

From this verb come the following derivatives:

  • The adjective ζεστος (zestos), meaning hot. In the New Testament this word is used to mean fervent or passionate, in tandem — but not necessarily juxtaposed — with ψυχρος (psuchros), meaning cool or cooled off, which is an evenly good quality. Both are considered opposite of χλιαρος (chliaros), meaning lukewarm, which is a bad quality (Revelation 3:15 and 3:16 only).
  • The important noun ζηλος (zelos), meaning hotness or fervence, and that specifically with the objective of emulation or rivalry. In other words, this noun stems from comparing one's own situation with that of someone else, the realization that one prefers the other person's situation, and the subsequent dedication of getting there as well or even instead of the other.
    From this Greek word comes our English word "jealousy", but it should be noted that where the English word does not include any action, in Greek it does, namely of imitation (1 Corinthians 4:16). Our word may reflect a virtuous fervence (John 2:17, Romans 10:2, 2 Corinthians 7:7), but it most often describes a vicious one: envy or jealousy (Acts 5:17, Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:20). This noun is used 17 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive the following words:
    • The verb ζηλοω (zeloo), meaning to be filled with or driven by ζηλος (zelos); to be lovingly zealous (1 Corinthians 12:31, 2 Corinthians 11:2) or hatefully jealous (Acts 7:9, 1 Corinthians 13:4, James 4:2). This verb is used 11 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn come:
      • The noun ζηλωτης (zelotes), denoting someone who is filled with or driven by ζηλος (zelos); a zealous person, a fanatic, an enthusiast or perhaps (in its modern sense) an extremist (1 Corinthians 14:12, Titus 2:14). This word appears to have been a colloquial label for people who were ardently fanatical about adhering to Jewish laws and customs (Acts 21:20, 22:3, Galatians 1:14; see Numbers 25:13), and was in the first century AD either shanghaied as a self-explanatory name (Zealots or Zealous Ones) by militant rebels or else derogatorily applied to them by commentators. This word is used 7 times; see full concordance.
      • Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the verb παραζηλοω (parazeloo), meaning to turn someone to ζηλος (zelos); to enthuse someone or make someone fanatically driven (Romans 11:11) or provoke someone to fierce jealousy (1 Corinthians 10:22). This word is used 4 times; see full concordance.
  • The noun ζυμη (zume), describes long-term, tradition-based cultural zeal (whether in a positive or negative sense), and also, fittingly, became the word for leaven or yeast — the naturally occurring, ubiquitous and airborne fungus that causes bubbles in bread and beer (the term zymology, for the science of fermentation, comes from our noun). Bread and beer are hugely old inventions, and the proverbial "salvation of a remnant" made leaven possibly the earliest true domesticated organism. Still, it's probably prudent to remember that our word ζυμη (zume) literally describes long-term and popular cultural zeal and figuratively cultured leaven (rather than the other way around; Matthew 16:12).
    See for a closer look at leaven in the Bible our article on the Hebrew nouns שאר (se'or), leaven, and שאר (she'ar), remnant.
    The Greek word for bread is αρτος (artos), which literally means "exactly right", suggesting a precise harmony of constituents. The Hebrew word for bread, namely לחם (lehem), also meant war, which suggests a lack of harmony. In modern times, and contrary to common parlance, wars don't "break out" but are declared. Modern wars don't spontaneously erupt but are willfully designed and architected. In the old world, on the other hand, wars did occasionally break out, spontaneously and because of some population-wide fermentation. Fermentation produces alcohol and CO2, and the Hebrew word for gas or wind, namely רוח (ruah), also means spirit: that which drives populations (see our article on the Greek equivalent πνευμα, pneuma).
    Noun שאר (she'ar), meaning remnant, is also similar to the noun שאר (she'er), meaning flesh (which is, technically, digested food minus excrement). A more common word for flesh is בשר (basar), from the verb בשר (basar), to bring glad tidings, which, like leaven, would stir the mix to passion.
    Our noun ζυμη (zume), leaven or cultural zeal, is used 13 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
    • Together with the particle of negation α (a), meaning not or without: the adjective αζυμος (azumos), meaning unleavened, and by extension: not or newly enthused, even stoic or patient (pretty much all the fruits of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22). The core idea of this adjective is the radical but controlled break with one's entire past, a new beginning, a new creation even (2 Corinthians 5:17). The pun, of course, is that this word signified the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is another word for Passover, or πασχα (pascha), which relates to πασχω (pascho), to experience. This indicates that our word does not simply describe abandonment of everything learned, but rather a transcendence of one's emotive reflexes toward a more solid foundation of reason. As we argue elaborately in our article on the gospel of impurity, neither Israel nor the Body of Christ were ever about chosen elites but always vast melting pots of many different cultures, backgrounds and normalcies. Our adjective speaks of a radical transcendence of everybody's separate legacies, in service of the greater and much more detached knowledge of created realty (Romans 1:20, Hebrews 1:3). A similar melting-pot experiment was conducted in the early days of the US, to obvious great success.
      Our adjective does not demand an absence of leaven, but rather an absence of fermentation. Fermentation is the conversion of sugar into ethanol and carbon dioxide by yeast, so a state of non-fermentation can either be achieved by a sterile environment (which is undoable outside a lab), or else the avoidance of sugar (the mental equivalent of which is pleasure for pleasure's sake). Our adjective means cultureless (and when used substantively: culturelessness, and since it only occurs in plural: culturelessnesses) but certainly not in favor of iconoclasm, but rather of transcendence: the understanding that only natural law is of any consequence, and all other fashions and customs are decorative at best.
      The inevitable Jewishness, Greekness, Scythianness, and even masculinity or femininity of natural and physical people should never be denied or destroyed but are of no consequence in the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). Said otherwise: E is always m times c-squared, no matter whether you are a man, woman or Scythian. The yearly feast of Pascha, or Experiencing, was literally an exercise in diversity and tolerance, a world-fair hosted by the broadly minded people of Jerusalem, who also knew how to effectively police such a carnival and prevent a descent into what some would later, rather aptly, call an "intergalactic kegger".
      Our adjective αζυμος (azumos), cultureless or culturelessness, is used 9 times; see full concordance. Also see our article on περιτεμνω (peritemno), to circumcise.
    • The verb ζυμοω (zumoo), meaning to culture, to enthuse or inject with established strains of cultured leaven, so as to impart old traditions in a new population. There is, of course, nothing intrinsically wrong with bringing back old values, as long as these make sense. Bringing back traditions of literacy, learning and cooperation ultimately generates diversity and much stronger social networks, and thus peace and prosperity. But bringing back traditions of, say, mindless vandalism, the glorification of alcohol abuse, promiscuity and competition of all forms ultimately drives the quality of living down, until entire cities disintegrate and become smoldering holes in the ground.
      As we've seen above, the feast of Pascha celebrates the leaven that is from God, which makes one out of many (Matthew 13:33). The leaven that is from the world makes many out of one (1 Corinthians 5:6).
      Pagans breathe, sleep, love their friends and family, take care of their children and desire to make their societies healthy, safe and wealthy. So, no, it's not always a wholly bad idea to absorb and perpetuate pagan virtues. But if one's religion was once based on wisdom and learning and information technology, but has become little else than dancing breathlessly around a sparkless altar crying "lord! lord!", while vainly hoping for a response, and sporting one's vehement disagreement with some identical worshipper next door as one's most intimate identity, one has descended into a kind of paganism from which one can only emerge either very dead or else with a monstrous hangover (1 Kings 18:21). Neophytes get heated; veterans stay cool. Pagans are moved; Christ is composed.
      Our verb is used 4 times; see full concordance.

Associated Biblical names