Biblical Concept: Biblical Words And Their Definitions


In the process of human communication, verbal or written, a general statement is: “Words have definitions but sentences have meaning.”  


Particularly in Biblical Hebrew and Greek, a sentence and its relation to other sentences in a paragraph, can make definitions for certain words in the sentence. 


The Biblical Greek word kataluo (kata,luw) provides an interesting demonstration of sentence contexts defining a word.  Kataluo is a compound word made by prefixing the preposition kata to the verb luo. Kata means “down, down from.”  Luo means “to loosen, to destroy.”  Literal definitions are “down destroy” or “down loosen.”  The following is a list of all the verses containing katalou and I have underlined the translation of the word in each verse:  


NAS Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.

NAS Matthew 24:2 And He answered and said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down."

NAS Matthew 26:61 and said, "This man stated, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.'"

NAS Matthew 27:40 and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."

NAS Mark 13:2 And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down."

NAS Mark 14:58 "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.'"

NAS Mark 15:29 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, "Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,

NAS Luke 9:12 And the day began to decline, and the twelve came and said to Him, " Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place. "

NAS Luke 19:7 And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner."

NAS Luke 21:6 "As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down."

NAS Acts 5:38 "And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action should be of men, it will be overthrown;

NAS Acts 5:39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God. "

NAS Acts 6:14 for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us. "

NAS Romans 14:20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.

NAS 2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

NAS Galatians 2:18 "For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.

NAS Mark 14:14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"'

NAS Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

NAS Luke 22:11 "And you shall say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says to you," Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples? "'


Observations: These examples of kataluo display sentences in various contexts which require a variety of translations, within the root meaning of “down loosen, down destroy,” to make the best sense in the sentence.  (Homonyms[1] in United States of America English are examples of words dependant on sentence context for definition.)


Conclusions: When Greek sentences are translated into English sentences, multiple decisions are required before individual word translations can be realized.  Factors in translation decisions are: objective approach, Divine inspiration, authorship, genre, style, isagogics, textual variants, greater context, local context, immediate context, literal meaning, grammatical observations (many), grammatical relationships (many), hyperbole, rhetoric, ellipsis, purposeful ambiguity, concordance word studies, etc.



[1] A homonym is: “A word that is used to designate several different things.”  Example: The sky is blue.  I am feeling blue.  In these sentences, blue describes a physical phenomenon of earth’s atmosphere and a human emotional status—a very diverse range, depending the on context.