My New Favorite Greek Word

I had to blog on this today.  I have just discovered my favorite Greek word in the New Testament.  This is one they don’t teach as a vocabulary word when you study Greek in college or seminary, because it isn’t used very frequently in the biblical text.  But it is used in Philippians 2:14 and it is beautiful.

The word is gongusmos.

The context in Philippians 2:12-18 is the Apostle Paul challenging the Philippians Christians to live like Christians.  In 2:14 he says,

Do all things without grumbling or questioning,

As I mined deeper into this verse, I wanted to find out a little bit more about what “grumbling” meant in the original language. 

The word used here is gongusmos.  Most lexicons define it simply with the word “complaint.”  “Do all things without complaining…”  Two of my favorite resources, BDAG (Bauer, Danker, Ardnt, and Gingrich) and The Greek and English Dictionary of the NT go a little deeper.  I love this, because it helps us go beyond simply “complaining” or “grumbling.”  We can understand what both of those words mean, but for application purposes mining deep is always helpful. 

BDAG not only defines the entire range of meaning of the Greek word, but assigns context as well, helping to pinpoint the nuance and exact aspect of the meaning of a specific word in a given context. 

Here’s what they said about gongusmos:   

“Grumbling: behind-the-scenes talk, utterance made in a low tone of voice, complaint, displeasure, expressed in murmuring.”

Similarly the GEDNT says, “grumbling, whispering, complaining.” 

What a perfect word Paul uses here.  What a perfect Holy Spirit breathed word.  It’s not just complaining (loudly or otherwise) about something, but whispering in other’s ears, talking behind-the-scenes (i.e. in a church lobby, hallway, dorm room, or through a secretive phone conversation), uttering things in a low tone of voice, or murmuring.

Conflicting thoughts are not bad.  The “other point of view” is not destructive.  Differing opinions can be healthy and produce growth and excellence.  Diversity of thought and outlook has the potential to sharpen and develop any group, community, team, or church. 

It’s all in how it is expressed. 

Because although healthy conflict can transform and mature, all gongusmos does is destroy community, peace, unity, and witness.  I love the context in Philippians chapter 2.  Paul makes some pretty bold all-inclusive statements.  He says one “do nothing,” and one “do all things.” 

Philippians 2:3   

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 

Philippians 2:14  

Do all things without grumbling or questioning,  

That’s a great Greek word.  For more on this join us Sunday at LifePoint for my sermon on Philippians 2:12-18 entitled “The Most Obvious Greatest Kept Secret in the World.”

About Pastor Andrew

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Carissa, Daddy to four daughters, Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Vancouver, WA.
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5 Responses to My New Favorite Greek Word

  1. Joseph says:

    This word shows up often in the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, especially in the stories of the Israelites complaining after God had delivered them from Egypt. It gets so bad that God Himself gets tired of Israel’s bad attitude: “Now when the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, the LORD heard it and his anger was kindled. Then the fire of the LORD burned against them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1).

    Please LORD, don’t let me be a grumbler.

  2. Joseph says:

    A story is told of Jesus and His disciples walking one day along a stony road. Jesus asked each of them to choose a stone to carry for Him. John, it is said, chose a large one while Peter chose the smallest. Jesus then led them to the top of a mountain and commanded that the stones be made bread. Each disciple, by this time tired and hungry, was allowed to eat the bread he held in his hand, but of course Peter’s was not sufficient to satisfy his hunger. John gave him some of his.
    Some time later Jesus again asked the disciples to pick up a stone to carry. This time Peter chose the largest of all. Taking them to a river, Jesus told them to cast the stones into the water. They did so, but looked at one another in bewilderment–think Peter might have been grumbling? Then Jesus asked, “For whom, did you carry the stone?”

  3. Dan says:

    Gongudzmous even sounds like grumbling when you pronounce the word. How appropriate.

  4. danwitwer says:

    Gongudzmous even sounds like grumbling/muttering when you speak the word. How appropriate?

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