Word Study: αποτιθημι

Submitted June 2015

Choose a significant word from 1 Peter 2:1-10 and write a word study of it. Be sure to draw conclusions and show what this study contributes to your understanding of the passage.

My chosen word is taken from 1 Peter 2:1:  “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander…” In Greek, this verb is αποτιθημι (apotithēmi), which occurs eight times in the Greek New Testament. Other forms of the verb occur a total of eleven times in the Septuagint and nine times in the Greek New Testament (including 1 Peter 2:1).

According to the Bagster Analytical Greek Lexicon (1870), pg. 48, this word has three meanings:

  • to lay off, lay down or aside, as garments (Acts 7:58), to lay aside, put off, renounce (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:22, 25; Colossians 3:8)
  • a putting off or away, laying aside (1 Peter 3:21, 2 Peter 1:14)
  • a place where anything is laid up for preservation, repository, granary, storehouse, barn (Matthew 3:12, 6:26, 13:30; Luke 4:17, 12:18, 24)

In my own comparison, I discovered four, or possibly five, distinct meanings, which I have included here with the translations (from NIV and NKJV) and references:

  • to cast off, put or lay aside, putt off or away, throw off, get rid of, or to rid oneself of former behaviours, works, or emotions (Romans 13:12; [Ephesians 4:22[1]]; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:8; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:21; 1 Peter 2:1)
  • to put or keep in custody or in prison, to place under guard (Leviticus 24:12; Numbers 15:34; 2 Chronicles 18:26; Matthew 14:3)
  • to leave or lay down garments (Leviticus 16:24; Acts 7:58)
  • to place or put as a sign or reminder (Numbers 17:22, 24; Joshua 4:8)
  • to place, put or lay up for safe-keeping (Exodus 16:33-34)

Of these, two meanings occur both in the Old Testament (LXX) and New Testament: #2 (to put or keep in custody or in prison, to place under guard), which occurs three times in the Old Testament and once in the New; and #3 (to leave or lay down garments), which occurs once in each.

The meaning used in the passage in question, 1 Peter 2:1, is found only in the New Testament, but occurs the most times of all meanings (7 out of 18), four times in the Pauline epistles and thrice in the non-Pauline epistles, and refers in each of the instances to the ridding oneself of behaviour or emotions associated with the former (unsaved) life.

Of the two other New Testament occurrences, it appears once in Matthew ([he] put him in prison) and once in Acts ([they] laid their clothes down at [his] feet), reflecting the two meanings which are present in both the Old Testament (LXX) and New Testament.

I don’t believe the study of this word has contributed to my understanding of the passage and, if anything, I think it has confused my understanding. With the exception of meaning #3 (to leave or lay down garments), the other contexts in which I encountered this word all have something to do with things being kept for safekeeping (#2 and #5) or placed as a sign (#4)[2]. Although the context of the word used in the epistles makes it clear that these things are to be got rid of for good, it does lead one to wonder if the word doesn’t have a shade of meaning which implies storage for a later time.

 

[1] I have included Ephesians 4:22 in square brackets because I was unable to identify which word(s) in either English translation [NIV, NKJV] ἀποθέσθαι was being translated as, although the meaning in the translation was clear. Likewise, I was unable to identify the translation of ἀποθήσομεν in Joel 1:18 and have not included it in my list of meanings.

[2] Even in context #3, I can’t imagine someone would place his clothes down without the intention to retrieve them at some point in the future!

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