Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Acts 1:20: A hapax legomenon, and the etymology of the English words 'Episcopal', and 'Bible'

So far we have focused on the verbs in Acts 1:20.  We'll take a look now at a few of the nouns.

Γέγραπται γὰρ ἐν βίβλῳ Ψαλμῶν, Γενηθήτω ἡ ἔπαυλις αὐτοῦ ἔρημος, καὶ μὴ ἔστω ὁ κατοικῶν ἐν αὐτῇ· καί, Tὴν ἐπισκοπὴν αὐτοῦ λαβέτω / λάβοι ἕτερος.

“For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, ‘May another take his position.’ 


1  ἡ ἔπαυλις, 'habitation, farm, estate', is the hapax legomenon.  

2  ἡ ἐπισκοπήν, 'an overseeing', 'inspection'.  Derived from the preposition ἐπί ('on, upon') and the verb σκοπέω ('I look at, look over, consider').  Latin has episcopus for 'bishop', which is related to the Greek ὁ ἐπίσκοπος, 'overseer'.  From bishop, then, we get the episcopate, and the Episcopal Church.  

3  ἡ βίβλος:  The English 'bible' is, of course, related to this word.  In ancient and New Testament Greek, however, it means 'book' or 'scroll'.  

The derivation is via the papyrus plant, which provided paper for early scrolls and books: one of the ancient names for papyrus is ἡ βύβλος; the other is πάπυρος.  The word 'πάπυρος' is found in the Septuagint, although not in the New Testament.

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