Notes on the nature of God — the roots of θεός

As I have covered the word “God” in previous posts/articles, the word θεός is one of the oldest words for “God” in the Ancient Greek religion, and it carried over into the early Christian traditions, and the Greek Orthodox Church. It is also one of my personal favorites in terms of etymological depth and fundamental meaning.

θεός in Ancient Greek derived from the Proto-Hellenic term tʰehós, and likewise from Proto-Indo-European dʰéh₁s. This word has the conventional meaning of “deity” or “god”. In the Greek sense, the nature of θεός had no end, as being ἀθάνατος, or “undying”. θεός has also historically been used for a ruler, king or a magistrate.

The word could be attributed to anything that resembled divinity or could be likened to divinity. The term is in many respects attributed to Zeus the most, as we can see that the term θεός becomes θιός/θῐός in the Boeotian (800–300 BC) and Laconian (800–100 BC) dialects, is the same term used for Zeus, giving us some insight into how Zeus was viewed and understood.

The word θεός derives from dʰéh₁s primarily, which means “to do”, and is derived from dʰeh₁, meaning “to put, place, or make”. On a phenomenal level, this brings to mind the an active nature – a mover, placer, and maker in the sense of an active participant. The root dʰeh₁ arises when an aspiration is added to an earlier root deh₁, which means “to bind”.

Cross-cultural analysis of the root reveals a function of “putting down” or a “laying down”, akin to laying out a mat or a rug; or rather, the putting down, or laying down of a thing. The Eurasiatic branch gives us D-ʕ which can be pronounced as “Daah” and another rendition gives D-ɣ which is pronounced similar to “D’gha”, with the “-ch” sounding akin to a lighter version of Scottish “loch”.

Other examples are as follows: Afroasiatic has day- for “put”, the Uralic branch has teke for “do, make, put or place”, the Kartvelian branch has dew/dw- as “lay or lie”, the Sino-Tibetan branch has dhăH/thăH as “to put, place, or to stand something up” and the Amerind branch has taʔ for “to make”. Along with descendant forms in the subsequent languages, these forms go beyond the Indo-European language family specifically and repeat the same fundamental notions.

These forms ultimately detail an action-oriented nature of the root, and thus the same can be attributed to the nature of θεός. The term does not merely mean “deity”, but instead deeply implies the participation in the order of operations of the world, cosmos and reality as a whole.

θεός is that which is made, put in place or laid out in existence, being the active operating force which moves all, and the undying force that binds all things in existence together.

θεός as the sovereign, is the creator, yet is also the created, as that which is created is an extension or emanation of Himself.