Re: Etymology of QEOS

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Oct 15 1998 - 12:33:15 EDT

At 4:16 AM -0500 10/15/98, Jon Robertson wrote:
>Hi list!
>Just a quick (somewhat off-topic) question. I have been reading
>Stephen Charnock's Existence and Attributes of God and there he
>asserts (in discourse VIII, "On God's Knowledge") that QEOS is
>derived from QEISQAI, "to see" or "to contemplate". Also, he says
>that DAIMWN comes from DAIW and relates that to the latin SCIO. I
>don't think I've ever heard this, what do "los eruditos" of the list
>think on this? Charnock's erudition was at times astonishing, but I
>would like to know if he's off the track here. Unless you believe
>this impinges on the meaning of some text of NT, it would probably be
>an "off-list" sorta thang.

While I don't really think this impinges on the meaning of any text of the
NT, it just could, if someone were to take it seriously, which I think
would be a perilous thing to do.

Insofar as the etymology of QEOS is concerned, I must say that, however
astonishing the erudition of Charnock may otherwise be judged, it is most
astounding here indeed! In the first place, there is no Greek verb
QEISQAI/QEOMAI, although there is a verb QEASQAI/QEAOMAI, "contemplate," a
verb more commonly related to QEATHS, "spectator," QEATRON, "viewing place,
theater," and QEA, "spectacle." So far as I can tell, this is pure
guesswork that isn't even observant of phonetic rules of etymological
correspondence. I've checked a couple etymological dictionaries of Greek
(J.B. Hofmann, Emile Boisacq) and I find a common etymology of the Greek
word QEOS (from DHWESO-)which, although interesting, is not really at all
relevant to the ordinary historical usage of the word in Greek.

On the other hand, there is indeed a relationship of DAIMWN to DAIW that is
significant at least for the earlier usages of the word DAIMWN. DAIW means
to "divide" or "allot" or "distribute," or even "dispense." Early theogonic
narratives speak of the primal DASMOS (also from this verb) of Zeus,
wherein the sovereign god allotted to each of the Olympians his or her own
proper sphere and privilege in the divine "dispensation." DAIMWN is an
agent noun from DAIW and means "one who allots" or "one who authorizes a
dispensation." The earlier usage seems to point to a supernatural spirit
that assigns a destiny and/or assures that it is fulfilled. I would have
thought, if Charnock sees some relationship to DAIW to Latin SCIRE, that he
was thinking of the Homeric verb DAHNAI, "know," "discern." I think,
however, that there's not really any relationship of DAIMWN to that verb,
and I'd guess that it's not an etymological relationship of DAIMWN to Latin
SCIRE that is meant but rather to the meaning of Latin SCIRE as "know,"

I have to say that this is the sort of etymologizing that obfuscates rather
than assists understanding of ordinary historical Greek texts, in my
opinion. It's fun, but it usually isn't very illuminating.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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