Harry Whittaker
Word Studies



Pipto always means “fall, fall down”. It is a word marvellously free from ambiguity.

Antipipto comes once only, in Stephen’s speech: “Ye do alway resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51). There can be no doubt that he had Num 27:14 in mind: “Ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife (antipiptein) of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes.” Then Israel’s stubbornness led Moses into sin. There is perhaps a hint that Stephen feared his own indignation might lead him into a like sin. It had the makings of a parallel situation, for the Holy Spirit these men now resisted was the inspiration in himself.

Epipipto means precisely “fall upon”, in all its occurrences, except perhaps two. John 13:25: “John, falling upon Jesus’ breast...” This suggests that John had been sitting up, eager and alert. Now, in response to Peter’s gesture, he seeks a quiet intimation about the traitor from Jesus. Mar 3:10 says the crowd “fell upon” Jesus. It is a vivid description of a tremendous surge of enthusiasm.

Katapipto is “fall down”, and parapipto is “fall away from beside”. Peripipto means “to fall by chance, to happen upon” — falling into temptation (Jam 1:2), Paul’s ship happening to come into a place of raging seas (Acts 27:41), the man in the parable falling among thieves (Luk 10:30).

Prospipto, with one exception, describes the act of falling down before someone to seek aid. But Mat 7:25 describes how the rain, floods, and winds “fell down before” the house founded on a rock. It suggests very neatly that all this had no effect whatever.

Anapipto means “sit down to a meal”. The only place where LXX uses it is in Gen 49:9: “he stooped down, he couched as a lion.” It is tempting to associate this ancient prophecy of Messiah with Luk 11:37: “he went in, and sat down to meat” in the house of “a certain Pharisee”. It was in the character of a lion that the Lord accepted this invitation, for his table-talk was only biting invective (vv 39-44) against the palpable hypocrisy of these Pharisees.


Paul’s exhortation to “comfort the feeble-minded” (1Th. 5:14) may suggest to the modern mind a condescending attitude to the dim-witted. Not so! Oligopsuchos (literally: little of soul) is best illustrated by examples from the LXX: “Of a contrite spirit” (Isa 57:15). It describes the “anguish of spirit” of Israelites in Egyptian bondage (Exo 6:9). And NIV translates 1Th 5:14: “Encourage the timid.”

Fill, Full, Fulfil

Pleres means “full”.

Pleroo is an extremely common verb in both NT and LXX. Its simple meaning is “fill”; eg “I am filled with comfort” (2Co 7:4). “The house was filled with the odour of the ointment” (John 12:3).

Hence, also, the idea of “to complete”; eg “As John fulfilled his course” (Acts 13:25). “After these things were ended” (19:21). “When he had ended all these sayings” (Luk 7:1). So also of the joy of the Lord and his disciples being “fulfilled” (John 16:24; 17:13) in a mission fully accomplished.

An extremely common NT usage is for the fulfilment of OT Scriptures. Is it in this sense that Luk 9:31 is to be read? At the transfiguration Moses and Elias spoke to Jesus “of the exodus which he should accomplish (fulfil? — the rounding off of the type of the Exodus — or complete? — as in Acts 13:25).

One usage is of special importance. “The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exo 40:34,35). This filling of the sanctuary by the Shekinah Glory comes in plenty of passages, and leads on to Habakkuk’s great vision of “the earth (Land?) filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (2:14).

Paul picks up this usage and applies it to the Glory of Christ filling the Church. In Ephesians and Colossians he cannot get away from this idea: “That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph 3:19). “The fulness of him that filleth all (his ecclesias) in all (places), or by means of all (gifts)” (1:23).

Pleroma, “fulness”, is associated with this imagery a good deal. “In him (Jesus) dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col 2:9). “The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us; and we beheld his glory....full of grace and truth...and of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:14,16; on the last phrase, see Against, anti). This use of pleroma is very important.

Anapleroo: two of the six occurrences of this word are specially interesting. Quoting prophetic words about the judicial blindness inflicted on Israel, Jesus said: “In them is fulfilled the prophecy...” (Isa 6:9; Mat 13:14). The usual NT word for the fulfilling of prophecy is pleroo. But here, and here only, it is anapleroo, filled up. Then did Jesus choose this more emphatic word as an expression of his own indignation? Or was he implying: “That prophecy has had one fulfilment. Now here is another, even more significant”?

A similar word comes in Dan 9:2, LXX: “the word of the Lord by Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolation of Jerusalem”. No further fulfilment beside this which Daniel now understood! It was “filled up”.

Paul’s unexpected tirade against Jewry (1Th. 2:15,16) has the words: “to fill up their sins alway”. This is an unmistakable allusion to Gen 15:16: “For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (the Greek words are the same as in the LXX). Thus Paul writes off his own perverse nation as like the Amorites in their wickedness — indeed worse, for in Abram’s day Amorite iniquity was “not yet” full; but Israel’s rebellion is there “alway”, says Paul.

Paul learned this indignation from his Master, for it was a very angry Jesus who had blazed at the Pharisees in Jerusalem: “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers!” (Mat 23:32,33).

Sumpleroo presents no problem in Luk 8:23: “they were filled up (with water)” in the storm on Galilee, the sum here being intensive, as it so often is. There is more doubt in Acts 2:1, which should probably read as RV mg.: “when the day of Pentecost was being fulfilled”. Luk’s mind, well-stocked with OT knowledge, sees here a new and better Pentecost than what Jewry emphasized. The rabbis were probably correct in their assessment that the giving of the Law at Sinai began at Pentecost. Now the same wind and noise announce a new and better theophany in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

There is real doubt in Luk 9:51, where — following the pattern of Acts 2:1 — it is perhaps correct to read: “And it came to pass as the days of his taking up (or, arrest; or, ascension) were being fulfilled...” But in that case, why “fulfilled”? If there were some suitable OT type or prophecy to point to, all would be well. But is there?


There is a wide variety of fools in this world, and also in the Bible. The NT has four words (and their cognates) for “fool”. The OT has more than this. Learned men have laboured to establish fine distinctions of meaning between these various terms, but have not been wonderfully successful. In their ordinary everyday mode of usage, do people really discriminate between...stupid, silly, ass, simpleton, dullard, blockhead, daft, nitwit? And so also in the NT So whatever distinctions may be discerned between the four expressions considered here, it would be unwise ever to insist on them in any dogmatic fashion.

Anoetos means “unintelligent”.

Asunetos is “without understanding”.

Aphron means “senseless, silly, an empty-head”.

Moros suggests folly that is perverse, a folly verging on downright badness.

The important thing above all others, about these terms, is that they are all used with a sense which implies “blameworthy” (cp the various uses of “fool” in Proverbs, where folly is mostly culpable folly).

The “foolish Galatians” (anoetos) ought not to have been led astray. The two on the way to Emmaus — “fools, slow of heart” — ought to have been able to read their Bible to better purpose. And when Jesus healed the paralytic, the deputation of learned men present there were “filled with madness” (anoia), but they shouldn’t have been. Gladness, not madness.

Asunetos is not always blameworthy lack of understanding (eg Rom 10:19), but it mostly is. “Are ye also yet without understanding?” Jesus complained to the twelve. And in his great diatribe in Romans 1, Paul twice uses this term in a way which implies a good deal more than sorrowful head-shaking.

Similarly, when Paul takes up in detail the question of resurrection — “With what body do they come?” — his first answer is: “You silly” (aphron), implying: ‘You shouldn’t be asking a question of that character (1Co 15:36). Isn’t the answer obvious?’ Accordingly, his explanation is an explanation for children, but has been turned into learned nonsense by many of his expositors.

In that tremendous catalogue of listed qualifications in Christ — both academic and practical (2Co 11) — Paul six times uses this word aphron, aphrosune: ‘I’m a chump, talking like this.’

In modern English “moron” means someone with only half a brain. In the NT this is not the emphasis. Now and then moros is slanted that way. The gospel is “unto the Greeks foolishness” (1Co 1:23). But again, more often, there is emphatic moral reprehension implied: “Ye fools and blind” (Mat 23:17,19). “Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of Gehenna fire” (Mat 5:22). Perhaps in these places it is used as equivalent to the Hebrew moreh, rebel (Num 20:10; Deu 21:18,20). The foolish virgins were morai.


This is rather strange. The lexicons all say that koluo means “hinder, prevent”, but, 17 times out of 23, King Jam’ men put “forbid”, and judging from the context they were usually right. There is a difference between the two. You can tell a child to stop its naughtiness without necessarily taking steps to prevent a continuation of his bad behaviour.

The man casting out demons was forbidden but not hindered (Mar 9:38,39). One of the accusations against Jesus was that he forbad tribute to Caesar (Luk 23:2); but this, even if true, could not refer to anything more than teaching. No man would take practical steps to stop a man from paying his income tax. “Forbidding to marry” (1Ti 4:3) likewise refers to misguided teaching, and not to active hindrance. It may be right that Peter intended reference to the ass forbidding Balaam’s madness (2Pe 2:16), but there was no literal forbidding in Numbers 22; only an uncomfortable hindering. This is the best example available of koluo signifying “prevent”.

There are one or two instances where the AV suggests “hinder”, but where the other meaning might be more happy. Paul wanted to get to Rome, “but was let hitherto” (Rom 1:13). Was he hindered by circumstances? or forbidden by the Holy Spirit? (Cp Acts 16:6.) Peter, telling about his vision of the great sheet, comments: “Who was I that I should withstand God?” (Acts 11:17) — or was he saying that he could not forbid God sending out the gospel to Gentiles? The case of the Ethiopian eunuch is interesting. He was, of course, not a Negro but a Jew domiciled in Ethiopia. His worship in the temple had been hindered, his participation in sacrifice and the service forbidden by his physical disability (Deu 23:1). Now, learning of forgiveness of sins in Christ, his immediate apprehensive reaction is: “What doth hinder me to be baptised?” In other words, “Does my disability forbid me this salvation as it forbad me sacrifice in Jerusalem? Is there a Scripture which forbids baptism to such as I?”

At Jordan, John’s forbidding of Jesus was specially emphatic and strenuous. Mat 3:14 uses the intensive diakoluo. But of course John did not actively try to stop Jesus from going into the water.

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