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

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/b/b-a-l-l-om.html


Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The verb βαλλω (ballo) means to throw or cast, hence English words such as ball, ballistic, anabolic, metabolic, hyperbole, parabola (and parable) and of course the all-time favorite: diabolic. Its ultimate origin is a Proto-Indo-European root "gwelh-", to throw or hit by throwing.

Our verb is used in a wide variety of applications but always emphasizes thrust and impulse and is mostly on a par with our English verbs to throw and to cast. It's used 125 times; see full concordance, and comes with a colossal array of derivations:

  • Together with the preposition ανα (ana), meaning on, upon or again: the verb αναβαλλω (anaballo), meaning to throw back (or up): to defer, deter, put off, distract, diffuse, and all that. In ancient Greek this verb describes the flinging of one's robe over one's shoulder but also denoted to vomit; in modern English it came to describe the metabolic synthesis of complex substances and their incorporation into body tissue: anabolism. In the New Testament, our verb is used in Acts 24:22 only, and from it in turn derives:
    • The noun αναβολη (anabole), which describes that which was thrown back or up (a mound, a robe), or the act of deferment, determent, distraction, delay, all that (Acts 25:17 only).
  • Together with the preposition αντι (anti), meaning counter, or in place of: the verb αντιβαλλω (antiballo), meaning to throw against or in turn, to compare or collate (Luke 24:17 only).
  • Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from or out of: the verb αποβαλλω (apoballo), meaning to throw from, to cast off or away (Mark 10:50, Hebrews 10:35 and Revelation 3:2 only). From this verb derive:
    • The adjective αποβλητος (apobletos), meaning cast away, rejected (1 Timothy 4:4 only).
    • The noun αποβολη (apobole), meaning a rejection, a casting away, forfeiture (Acts 27:22 and Romans 11:15 only).
  • The noun βελος (belos), which describes any sort of ballistic missile (Ephesians 6:16 only). In antiquity our word would have described anything from arrows to catapulted boulders to a hunk of a dead cow famously flung at Odysseus (Od.20.305). Figuratively, our word became applied to anything both violent and swift, even swords, birth pangs, or the sudden demise of celebrated heroes.
  • The adjective βλητεος (bleteos), assumed to mean "must-be-put" or "is-to-be-cast". This curious word appears to be an invention of the evangelists, which in turn suggests that the statements in which it occurs (Mark 2:22 and Luke 5:38 only) contain more information than meets the glancing eye. Two similar adjectives, namely βλητος (bletos) and βλητικος (bletikos), mean stricken or smitten.
  • The noun βολη (bole), meaning a throw. In the classics this word may describe the path or journey of anything cast, including thunder-bolts and sun-beams. It was also used to describe the casting of glances, which in English is done similarly. As in Dutch (werpen) and German (werfen), our noun βολη (bole) may also describe a litter of young animals. Our word occurs only once in the New Testament, in Luke 22:41, where it describes a stone throw (and note the connection to Matthew 3:9).
  • The noun βολις (bolis), also meaning something cast, thrown or shot. It occurs in some manuscripts only in Hebrews 12:20, where the line "or shot through with an arrow" is added. From this noun comes:
    • The verb βολιζω (bolizo), meaning to sound; to drop a plummet to see how deep water is (Acts 27:28 only).
    • The noun τριβολος (tribolos), literally three-shoot, which described both the water chestnut with its eatable, triangular fruit, and the Tribulus terrestris, a shrub whose fruits sit in detachable thorned patches. Once shed, these patches lay like thumbnails on the ground and are prone to wound pedestrians. The Romans recognized this natural nuisance and based their feared tribulus (a caltrop; a star of four iron spikes of which always one sticks up) on them. Partly because of their faith in their tribulus, the Romans had lost the Battle of Carrhae (53 BC), which helped the fall of the Roman Republic and ultimately the rise of the monstrous Roman Empire. Our noun τριβολος (tribolos) occurs in Matthew 7:16 and Hebrews 6:8 only.
  • Together with the preposition δια (dia), meaning through or throughout: the verb διαβαλλω (diaballo), literally meaning to throw through. This versatile verb occurs all over the classics, generally with the sense of running someone through with words: to accuse, slander, misrepresent, blame or discredit someone, to fill some audience with poisonous thoughts concerning that person. This verb does not per se describe conveying falsehoods but it is implied. What is also implied is that the primary objective of the doer of this verb is to entice his audience to rip his victim apart. The doer will use any words necessary to accomplish this and will even resort to telling the truth if need be. It's a pure hate-driven verb that holds no regard for truth or context and solely seeks the singularity of utter destruction of its target. This deeply nasty verb occurs only once in the New Testament, namely in Luke 16:1, and from it comes:
    • The familiar adjective διαβολος (diabolos), meaning slanderous, backbiting (1 Timothy 3:11, Titus 2:3). This adjective is often used substantially, in which case it appears to describe satan. But since Jesus is the Word of God in the flesh, and the Word of God is manifest in all natural law and natural manifestations (Colossians 1:16-17), the literary entity known as satan has its real-world counterpart in any kind of mockery, slander or libel: those attitudes that make it impossible for a person to know the Creator, his perfect love and his perfect law, which are all personified in Jesus. Our adjective διαβολος (diabolos) is used 38 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out or from: the verb εκβαλλω (ekballo), meaning to cast out or throw out. This verb is used 82 times, see full concordance, and from it derives:
    • The noun εκβολη (ekbole), meaning an out-throwing, a jettisoning of cargo from a ship (Acts 27:18 only).
  • Together with the preposition εν (en), meaning in, on, at or by: the verb εμβαλλω (emballo), meaning to cast in. This verb occurs in Luke 12:5 only, but from it comes:
    • Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the noun παρεμβολη (parembole), literally meaning a cast-in alongside. This noun was used in linguistics to describe an interpolation or insertion of some text into another. As a military term it first described the insertion of spare troops into depleted ranks, and then became a common term for a drawn up battle order, then simply a military camp, or even any kind of soldier's quarters: a garrison. This noun occurs 10 times in the New Testament; see full concordance. Strikingly, in the Letter to the Hebrews, it describes the camp of the Israelites.
  • Together with the preposition επι (epi), meaning on or upon: the verb επιβαλλω (epiballo), literally meaning to cast upon but often used in the sense of to grab or to take hold of. It's also often used in the sense of slapping on a patch to fix a tear, which hence doesn't so much describe the slapping on but rather the grabbing of the two sides of the tear. This verb is used 18 times, see full concordance, and from it comes:
    • The noun επιβλημα (epiblema), which describes a patch that holds together two otherwise diverging sides of a rip (Matthew 9:16, Mark 2:21 and Luke 5:36 only).
  • Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb καταβαλλω (kataballo), meaning to cast down. This verb may describe any kind of casting down but also, specifically, that of a foundation. It's used in 2 Corinthians 4:9 and Hebrews 6:1 only, and from this verb comes:
    • The noun καταβολη (katabole), literally describing the result of the verb: a casting down, or specifically: a foundation. In the classics this noun was also used to describe the act of sowing seed, and as such became synonymous with begetting an offspring. It was also used to describe a down payment. It is used 11 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
  • Together with the noun λιθος (lithos), meaning stone: the verb λιθοβολεω (lithoboleo), meaning to stone-throw, to stone, to execute someone by throwing stones at him. This verb is used 9 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition μετα (meta), meaning with or among and implying motion toward the inside: the verb μεταβαλλω (metaballo), which in the classics is mostly used to describe a forced, sudden change in direction, perhaps of a plough or a river, but mostly of humans and their attitudes or behaviors. This verb often implies introspection and change of heart. In the New Testament it occurs in Acts 28:6 only.
  • Again together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the verb παραβαλλω (paraballo), meaning to cast near or throw beside; to approximate, to approach. This verb may speak of bringing something in physical nearness, or in figurative nearness in order to compare items for whatever reason. The practical scope of this verb is enormous, but in the New Testament it occurs in Mark 4:30 and Acts 20:15 only. From it, however, comes:
    • The important noun παραβολη (parabole), which describes the result of the verb: something that's brought near to something else; an approximation. In the New Testament this noun is most often used to describe Jesus' favored narrative modus, which also happens to be the favored way of nature (and its Creator) to do business (Psalm 78:2, Matthew 13:3-35). From particle generation to DNA replication and the generational passing on of knowledge, nature works in parables — near-casting, approximating — all the time. A second century BC philosopher named Apollonius of Perga also applied our noun to one of three conic sections, namely the one which presents the locus of points that are equidistant from both the focus and directrix. The other two conic sections, namely the hyperbola and the ellipse, also have linguistic applications, which helps to demonstrate the ancients' baffling mastery of language theory. Our noun is used 50 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition περι (peri), meaning around or about: the verb περιβαλλω (periballo), meaning to cast around, mostly of clothing but also of military encampments (Luke 19:43). This verb is used 24 times, see full concordance, and from it comes:
    • The noun περιβολαιον (peribolaion), which describes something you throw around yourself: a robe, cloak or mantle (1 Corinthians 11:15 and Hebrews 1:12 only).
  • Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before: the verb προβαλλω (proballo), meaning to cast or thrust into conspicuous view. This verb is also used to describe the growing spurt of plants in early summer (Luke 21:30 and Acts 19:33 only).
  • Together with an augmenting leading sigma and the dative plural of the noun κυων (kuon), dog: the noun σκυβαλον (skubalon), meaning dog-throwings, that which is thrown to the dogs: entrails and bones of butchered animals and other food wastes (Philippians 3:8 only).
  • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συμβαλλω (sumballo), literally meaning to cast together: to contribute, to partake, to consult together or to gather a bunch of facts to mull over as a unit. This verb is used 6 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition υπερ (huper), meaning over or beyond: the verb υπερβαλλω (huperballo), meaning to excel or surpass. It's used 5 times, see full concordance, and from it comes:
    • The adverb υπερβαλλοντως (huperballontos), meaning exceedingly (2 Corinthians 11:23 only).
    • The noun υπερβολη (huperbole), meaning excess (hence our English word hyperbole). This noun is used 8 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition υπο (hupo) meaning under: the verb υποβαλλω (hupoballo), meaning to cast under: to cast under one's feet (garbage) or sweep under the rug (embarrassing secrets), or to act covertly or motivated by a secondary agenda (Acts 6:11 only).

The noun βαλαντιον (balantion) means purse, and although it also appears in the form βαλλαντιον (ballantion), says Emile Boisacq (Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque), its etymology is obscure (says Emile) and its form condemned (say Liddell and Scott, in reference to Phrynichus Arabius, who evidently knew about such things; Phrynichus preferred the form βαλαντιοκλεπτης, balantiokleptes, which incorporates the familiar verb κλεπτω, klepto, to steal).

To a creative Greek poet, our noun βαλαντιον (balantion) would surely have resembled the verb βαλλω (ballo), to throw or cast (see above), making the item so named not unreasonably a thing to throw things in. Another word of obvious similarity is the noun βαλανος (balanos), meaning acorn, from a broadly attested PIE root "gwelh-", which is identical to the root that yielded βαλλω (ballo), but according to the experts not related. A creative Greek poet, especially one lacking expertise in PIE roots, may have thought otherwise, and instead pointed to several Greek authors who used our word βαλανος (balanos), meaning acorn, to refer to the glans penis (hence, the Dutch word eikel refers to both acorn and glans; this probably due to the efforts of Erasmus of Rotterdam).

The issue of the acorn-slash-glans was one of national identity. The Greeks enjoyed public baths and took pride in sporting in the nude, whereas the Jews strove to keep their clothes on and were circumcised. The noun βαλανειον (balaneion) described a bath or bathhouse. Experts continue to struggle with this word's etymology but a creative Greek poet would have interpreted it as "acorneum", a place where acorns could dangle freely while their owners steamed and conversed. Likewise, the noun βαλαντιον (balantion) may have attracted the more Jewish consideration of keeping one's acorns covered, in a ducks-in-a-row sort of way.

Our noun is used 4 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.

Note that the Hebrew words for oak, namely אלון ('allon) and אלה ('alla), relate to the verbs אלל ('alal), to be worthless, אול (awal), to be foolish, and אול (awal), to stick out or to protrude.