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3 Greek words every Christian should know

Yehoshoa Dray | timesofisrael

Daniel Esparza - published on 01/07/20

If you’ve been to Mass or Sunday school, these are probably not Greek to you.

Even if you are not aware of it, you do speak some Greek daily. If, for instance, you find your handwriting unreadable and realize you need to work on your calligraphy, well, you’re speaking Greek: calligraphy derives from the Greek kallos, “beauty,” and the verb graphein, “to write.” Also, if you are not feeling too well and think you need to see your gastroenterologist, you are speaking Greek again: gastro is the Greek word for “stomach,” and enteron is the word for either intestine or, more broadly, simply “gut.”

In sum, plenty of words in everyday use (not to mention the long list of more discipline-related terms found in philosophy, theology, law, medicine, and other sciences) are indeed Greek. So, if you’re thinking about learning some of it, you will not necessarily be starting from scratch. In fact, you might eventually discover you have a better grasp of some basic Greek vocabulary than you think. Even more so, if you happen to be a Christian: since the Gospels were written in Greek, plenty of the words used in liturgy, prayer, or in overall Christian culture might not have necessarily been fully translated into your mother language. Have you ever considered, for instance, where does the word “ecclesiastic” comes from?

Here, we want to present you with three very common words you might be familiar with, and with their meanings in the original Greek.

  1. Eukharistós: The original Greek word for “Eucharist,” is still used today to thank someone. If you walk into a Greek restaurant, make sure to thank your server saying “eukharistós.” Commonly translated as “thanksgiving,” and referring to the Lord’s Supper, the Greek word “eukharistós” is a composite of the prefix eu, “well” (as in “Eugene,” meaning “the well-born”) and kharizesthai, a verb meaning “to show favor.” This verb is itself derived from the word “kharis,” meaning “favor,” or “grace.” In fact, it is from this “kharis” that we get our word “charity.”
  2. Ekklesia: In most Latin languages, one can still see the original Greek word ekklesia (meaning “gathering”) in the words used to refer to the Church. The Spanish “iglesia,” the Italian “chiesa,” and the French “église” still preserve some of the original sound of the Greek word. The English “church,” however, derives from another Greek expression, kuriakon doma, “the House of the Lord,” to refer to the same assembly.
  3. Agape: There are more than four words for different kinds of love in Greek. This kind of love, agape, is a very specific one, and the Church identifies it with the love of God for man and of man for God, a love that resembles charity in its unconditional gratuity. Some etymologists claim the word includes an intensifying prefix, aga, which would make the word mean something like “to love greatly.”

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