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

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/a/a-g-o-r-a.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The noun αγορα (agora), means market place. It comes from the verb αγειρω (ageiro), which isn't used in the Bible but which means to gather or collect. This verb brings to mind both the Hebrew verb ארה ('ara), meaning to gather, from whence comes the noun ארי, 'ari, meaning lion, and the two verbs אגר (agar), one of which means to gather (food) and the other to hire (labor).

Our Greek noun αγορα (agora) denotes a place, a street or square where people gather or cluster for whatever reason. It also specifically came to denote a market place (hence our English word "agoraphobia") where goods were exchanged, workers were hired, concerns were vented and civil trials were conducted — in other words: a society's designated communal area (Mark 7:4, Acts 16:19).

Some Greek word that to a poetic eye might bear a useful resemblance to our noun (without necessarily being etymologically related) are the verb αγω (ago), meaning to lead or bring, and the laden but mostly misunderstood adjective αγιος (hagios), meaning holy or rather "fittest."

Our noun occurs 11 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and comes with the following derivations:

  • The verb αγοραζω (agorazo), is usually translated with to buy or purchase, but note the important nuance that is suggested by the root of this word, namely that its essential meaning lies not so much in the solitary act of acquiring (by means of money), but rather in the collective activity of a gathering of people that give, take and interact, and collectively progresses.
    In the Bible this verb is used to describe actual economic traffic (Matthew 13:44, Mark 6:36, John 4:8), but also to explain the redemptive work of Christ, who has "bought" us with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20, Galatians 3:13, Revelation 5:9). This redemptive purchase, therefore, is not so much an isolated act of acquisition, but rather the result of continued economic activity. This verb occurs 31 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
    • Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out: the magnificent verb εξαγοραζω (exagorazo), which literally means to out-buy — it's the verb that describes the freeing of a slave by purchasing him or her. Slavery was very common in the Roman Empire, but it had more in common with the modern idea of employment (work for a salary or starve) than with the brutal form of slavery that built the American colonies (see our article on the noun δουλος, doulos).
      That means that if someone wanted to "buy" someone "out", he wouldn't simply pay the slave's price, but wholly extract that person from the rat race. The redeemer would thus give that person enough to stay free without having to go back into slavery to make ends meet. Our verb εξαγοραζω (exagorazo) describes the complete release from bondage by paying a price that is far more than the market value of the person. It's used 4 times; see the full concordance.
  • The adjective αγοραιος (agoraios), literally meaning "belonging to the market place" (Acts 17:5). This word occurs only twice in the New Testament, but when in the classics it's applied to a person (a marketeer), it's usually meant derogatorily, mostly denoting slaves whose job it was to buy or sell their master's goods, but who (as many modern CEO will still attest) commonly prefer laziness over diligence (see Matthew 20:3). Since civil courts were held on markets, lawyers and such were, fittingly, also referred to as marketeers (Acts 19:38). Likewise Jesus frees his people from the bondage of the Law (Romans 8:2).
  • The verb αγορευω (agoreuo), which literally means to do what an αγορα (agora) does, which in practice comes down to the gathering of participants into a broad web of exchange of some sort. In further practice, the currency of exchange thus described tends to be verbal, which means that our verb predominantly means to speak publicly, or rather to instigate a public discourse. This verb isn't used by itself in the New Testament, but it forms:
    • Together with the noun δημος (demos), denoting either a country or its people: the verb δημηγορεω (demegoreo), meaning to address a group of people or make a public oration (Acts 12:21 only).
    • Together with the adjective αλλος (allos), meaning an other: the verb αλληγορεω (allegoreo), meaning to say the same thing in another way (Galatians 4:24 only). This verb is the source of our word "allegory".
    • Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb κατηγορεω (kategoreo), which doesn't simply mean to talk down (to speak derogatorily) but rather to administer a label upon something in order to separate that thing from the larger continuum, and cast it into a restricting category (same word). When we categorize something, it's forced to take on the qualities of that category and can no longer assume qualities from elsewhere.
      To stick to the market terminology, anyone who's been cast down into any kind of category has become insolvent and can nevermore attain the liquidity required for a re-entry into the market. The word Christ refers to personal sovereignty, and since Christ sets free (Galatians 5:1), there are no categories in Christ (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11) other than the category-of-one whose qualities are identical to our own: that's the category of our name, which is a symbolic representation of all our qualities, without leaving any out and without adding any that aren't ours, through which we are truly known and thus truly freed (Genesis 2:19, Isaiah 43:1, Revelation , Revelation 2:17). Any categorizer who categorizes people in joint categories (whether by inflammatory words or accusations, or flashy amulets, lofty symbols, flags, uniforms, oaths, titles, all that nonsense) reduces these people to the category's common denominator and is Anti-Christ.
      The principle idea behind any sort of formal legislation is to apply general laws to specific situations, and by so doing reducing any uniquely complex situation (and people that make up the situation) to a general category. Contrary to popular perception, a judge does not provide justice but application. The job of a judge is to establish which general rule applies to a given situation, and administer the penalty that was attached to that rule long before the actual situation came to pass or was even specifically perceived of. Legislation, no matter how complex, must always generalize and thus cast the fluidity of human reality into the solid mechanisms of state.
      This grim verb is used 22 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it come:
      • The noun κατηγορια (kategoria), meaning category, that is a general label whose absolute application voids the subject of further personal qualities, and thus personal sovereignty, autonomy and liberty. This noun is used 4 times; see full concordance.
      • The noun κατηγορος (kategoros), meaning categorizer, that is someone who applies the general labels whose absolute application voids the subject of further personal qualities, and thus personal sovereignty, autonomy, dignity, liberty and ultimately life and the participation in the great exchange of thought that signifies humanity. This horrid word is used 7 times, see full concordance, and is among the epithets of the law (the purpose of the law is to categorically point out sin: compare Revelation 12:10 to Romans 3:20 and John 5:45).
    • Together with the preposition προς (pros), which describes a motion toward: the verb προσαγορευω (prosagoreuo), meaning to address as, to greet as, to call by name (Hebrews 5:10 only). This word is obviously the polar opposite of the previous verb κατηγορεω (kategoreo), which groups multiple people under a single name, which causes all of them to be diminished to the group's greatest denominator. This latter verb prohibits any so categorized person from partaking in unrestricted human congress, whereas our verb προσαγορευω (prosagoreuo) describes the granting of such congress. Our verb means to know someone deeply intimately and to declare this knowledge publicly by means of a verbal symbol.
  • The noun αγυρις (aguris), meaning assembly. This noun also doesn't occur in the Bible, but it forms:
    • Together with the preposition πας (pas), meaning all or whole: the noun πανηγυρις (paneguris), obviously denoting a massive gathering. This word occurs in Hebrews 12:23 only, but and it appears to denote the whole of human economic activity; the global congregation or world-wide market place.