I am the Way - the base of empire

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/o/o-d-o-sfin.html

I am the Way

— An empire is its roads —

Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary


The noun οδος (hodos) is the common Greek word for road or street (Matthew 22:9, Luke 14:23, Hebrews 9:8), but it's also used in the sense of travel: being underway (Luke 9:3) or the "way" of a Sabbath, meaning a Sabbath's journey (Acts 1:12).

Our noun is also used in the sense of manner or mode: way of thinking (Matthew 21:32, 1 Corinthians 4:17, Acts 13:10) or the means by which one gets somewhere (Luke 1:79).

Our noun is thought to stem, via the form "sodo-", to set out, from the Proto-Indo-European root "sed-", to sit, which suggests that the original idea of a road was a connection between two settlements. This in turn demonstrates that roads did not exist until the agricultural revolution, and is very much a part of it and the civilized society (i.e. a society based in cities) that arose from it.

Roads originally form when people no longer travel randomly but rather consistently along the same route, which happens only when people live in settlements. That means that roads form in precisely the same way as the elements of a language: when the random grunts of nomads begin to home in on a shared sound, that arises as an emergent quality of society. Words, like roads, form when the ways of people converge onto agreement. When a spontaneous road system is in place, professional road builder might choose to fortify the natural roads and endow them with facilities and governance. And likewise, when a spontaneous language is in place, professional linguists might choose to establish standards and rules.

Crowds naturally choose the most efficient way to get from A to B, and kings will build highways from naturally emerged roads in order to easily and most effectively move their armies around. Likewise, linguists will create written language from natural speech to move their ideas around. In our modern world, roads mostly facilitate the transport of goods, and national borders have either vanished or can be crossed with ease. Likewise, particular languages are no longer associated with specific ideologies, and our modern world of script has become a network via which all ideas can be freely exchanged.

Our noun is used 102 times in the New Testament, see full concordance

I am the Way

Jesus applied the word οδος (hodos) to himself when he called himself the Way (John 14:6), and followers of Jesus were subsequently called Hodosites (Roadies; Those Of The Way), by either themselves or others (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, 24:22; see Isaiah 35:8).

It may be tempting to think of "the Way" as referring to a method — and particularly a method to get to God or at least the Kingdom, which is also where the Methodists get their name from — but the teachings of the Bible have much more to do with social salvation than with personal salvation (see Genesis 18:24-32 relative to Matthew 5:13-16).

The idea is that all humans, utterly regardless of their background and leanings, are part of an unbreakable society that sits like a Dyson sphere around the stellar deity (Matthew 2:2). All thoughts we have, even our own intimate thoughts, are expressed in words that are always shared by a great many others (Matthew 18:20, 2 Corinthians 13:1). Our sense of reality is built from the archetypes we share with everybody in our broader culture, and the guy whose offensive beliefs we yesterday so piously rejected might be the same guy who's fixing our computer today and serving our lunch tomorrow (and curing our diseases and rescuing our kids the day after).

Our precious beliefs are really the tiny details in which we only very slightly differ from the next guy, because for the most part we are utterly alike and wholly in the same societal boat, from which we all derive our individual identities. The society may contract or expand, but only as a whole, because when only a part of society contracts or expands, it will rip a hole in society that will make the whole thing collapse like a burst balloon (Matthew 9:16-17). People wonder why God doesn't remove their weaknesses and addictions, even when they repeatedly pray for it (2 Corinthians 12:7), not understanding that there are folks around them who suffer from the same sins, but don't know God. God can only reach those people through a believer with the same affliction, and he won't cure the one who suffers only from his sin without also rescuing the other who is suffering additionally from not knowing the Lord (Luke 17:17).

When the whole of society contracts (learns to get along, invents speech, then writing, then the Internet, and so on), all its members will move closer to God at the center of it all, and simultaneously also to their fellow men to one's every side. When society expands, all men move away both from God and their neighbors. The space between man and God is proportional to the space between man and man. Any change in either causes a change in the other, and the two cannot really be regarded separately (Matthew 22:37-40).

The Romans built their highly advanced road system quite literally to tie the whole empire together, but followers of Jesus are called to provide the Kingdom of God with a binding network much stronger than that coming from fancy pavement. Remember that Jesus, his disciples, Israel's priestly Levites and even the Celtic Druids were all typically peripatetic rather than stationary, and by their traveling, preaching and teaching kept entire cultures together. The name Levi comes from the verb to bind and the name Hebrew means Passer Through or Passer On.

Modern followers of Jesus should not refer to themselves with some label at all, but when pressed, Hodosite would do much better than Christian, which is based on the word Christ, and which probably originated in a political faction that purported to place a Jewish king (an anointed one, or Christ) on the Jewish throne (John 6:15). The last Jewish dynasty, that of the Hasmoneans, was discontinued by general Pompey in 63 BC and the last of the Hasmonean bloodline were killed by Herod the Great.

Our noun οδος (hodos) comes with the following derivatives:

  • Together with the prefix αμφω (ampho), meaning both: the noun αμφοδον (amphodon), which denotes a place where two roads meet; a crossroads (Mark 11:4 only).
  • Together with the preposition εις (eis), meaning into or toward: the noun εισοδος (eisodos), meaning a way into, or entrance. This word is employed 5 times; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out: the noun εξοδος (exodus), which literally means out-way, but can properly be translated with departure or a going out. It is also the source for the familiar Anglicized word Exodus. In the New Testament our noun is used three times but in two ways: First with the meaning of the departure from Egypt; the Exodus (Hebrews 11:22). Secondly (and quite telling) our word is also used to euphemize the act of dying: to depart from the earthly life (Luke 9:31, 2 Peter 1:15). This noun occurs only these three times, and from it in turn comes:
    • Together with the preposition δια (dia), meaning through or throughout: the noun διεξοδος (diexodos), which denotes a place where one road divides into many, or vice versa; an intersection (Matthew 22:9 only).
  • Together with the adverb ευ (eu), meaning good: the verb ευοδοω (euodoo), literally meaning to be of good way but used in the sense of to have a successful or prosperous journey, or even simply to be prosperous. On rare occasions in the classics, this verb could express help or assistance on one's way (let me good-way you = let me help you). This verb is used 4 times in three verses; see full concordance.
  • Together with the preposition μετα (meta), meaning with or among and implying motion toward the inside: the noun μεθοδεια (methodeia), meaning a method or means to get something done: a device, and that usually in a negative sense (Ephesians 4:14 and 6:11 only). See for why a "method" is actually a very negative thing, our article on μεθυ (methu), strong drink or drunkenness.
  • The verb οδευω (hodeuo), literally meaning to be on the way; to travel (Luke 10:33 only). From this verb derive:
    • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the verb συνοδευω (sunodeuo), meaning to travel together (Acts 9:7 only).
    • Together with the preposition δια (dia), meaning through or throughout: the verb διοδευω (diodeuo), meaning to travel through (Luke 8:1 and Acts 17:1 only).
  • Together with the verb ηγεομαι (hegeomai), meaning to lead: the noun οδηγος (hodegos), which literally means a leader of the way; a guide (Acts 1:16) or teacher (Matthew 23:16, Romans 2:19). This noun occurs 5 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
    • The verb οδηγεω (hodegeo), which means to lead the way. This verb occurs 5 times; see full concordance. Both the noun and the verb occur in the same verse in Matthew 15:14.
  • Together with the preposition παρα (para), meaning near or nearby: the noun παροδος (parodos), meaning a passing by or through (1 Corinthians 16:7 only).
  • Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the noun συνοδια (sunodia), which denotes a company of travelers or caravan (Luke 2:44 only). This noun is also the source of our English word "synod".

The noun οδους (odous), also written as οδων (odon), means tooth, and its plural, οδοντεσ (odontes), gave us familiar words like dentist and orthodontist. It stems from the PIE root "hdonts-", tooth or spike, but appears to have gravitated toward the other nouns on this page due to the similarity between the act of chewing and wearing out a path between settlements.

To the Hebrews, learning was a painful pleasure. They took their noun שן (shen), meaning tooth, from the verb שנן (shanan), to sharpen (of both tools and minds), from the root שנן (shanan), which speaks of repetition or the creation of distance between elements (mostly by removing material). Noun שנינה (shenina) denotes a "sharp" word; a taunt. Verb שנה (shana) means both to repeat and to change or create a difference.

The Greeks, however, loved their tragedies — literally an Ode to Goat, from ωδη (ode), song, and τραγος (tragos), goat; the Hebrew word for goat is שער (se'ir), which also means horror, hence the name Seir, hence Malachi 1:3 and Romans 9:13; the name Isaac means He Will Laugh and is quintessential un-Goat — which means that in Greek, one's teeth were mostly associated with grief and gnashing (βρυχω, brucho, see below) in agony.

Our noun is used 12 times; see full concordance.


The noun οδυνη (odune) means a grinding pain (physical and psychological), and, not surprisingly, stems from the PIE root "hed-", to eat, to bite, to hate. It occurs in Romans 9:2 and 1 Timothy 6:10 only, and from it in turn comes:

  • The verb οδυναω (odunao), meaning to cause a grinding pain or distress in body or mind. It is used 4 times; see full concordance.

The noun οδυρμος (odurmos) means a grinding lamentation or a wailing (Matthew 2:18 and 2 Corinthians 7:7 only). It stems from the unused verb οδυρομαι (oduromai), to lament or bewail, which obviously shares its root with the noun οδυνη (odune), pain (see above).


The verb βρυχω (brucho) means to gnash or grind, and it and its derivation, occur in the New Testament only in tandem with οδοντεσ (odontes), teeth. It's a mystery where it came from, although it obviously relates to the verb βρυω (bruo), to bite, chew or gnash, of equally obscure pedigree. Yet another verb of unknown origin is the not dissimilar βρυω (bruo), meaning to burst forth with, to teem abundantly with (mostly of vegetation), and thus to abound and grow luxuriantly.

And that diverts our admittedly biased attentions to the familiar Hebrew verb ברך (barak), meaning to bless (hence the name Baruch). This verb, in turn, comes from the noun ברך (berek), meaning knee, and the act of blessing, or receiving a blessing, literally equals a bending of the knee. Although folklore tends to associate bending the knee with kneeling, it actually speaks of walking, and secondarily of having the freedom and safety to do so. The term "bending one's knee" is an idiom closely akin to "lifting one's feet" and speaks of unrestricted freedom.

Then there is the verb βρυχαομαι (bruchaomai), meaning to roar or bellow, which is also of obscure origin. Although this curious verb typically describes the vocal expressions of a lion, who is proverbially teethed, it also brings to mind the synonymous verb βοαω (boao), to roar (albeit mostly of oxen). This verb in turn associates to the name Boanerges, the Sons of Thunder. Hebrew for lightning is ברק (baraq), hence the name Barak.

Our verb βρυχω (brucho), to gnash, occurs in Acts 7:54 only. But from it comes:

  • The noun βρυγμος (brugmos), meaning a gnashing, but only of teeth. It occurs 7 times; see full concordance. In the Septuagint's version of Proverbs 19:12, this verb translates נהם (naham), the roaring of a lion, which obvious parallels the verb βρυχαομαι (bruchaomai), to roar, mentioned above.

The verb τριζω (trizo) means to produce a shrill, high pitched sound. In the classics, this verb mostly describes the crying of young birds but also of locusts and even elephants (or creaking shoes, snapping joints, cracking musical strings, and so on). In the New Testament, it occurs in Mark 9:18 only, where the demoniac boy grinds his teeth. It appears to be a synonym of the Hebrew verb יבב (yabab), hence the name Jobab.

Associated Biblical names