ὕδωρ / ὕδατα - water / rain / rainwater

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.

ὕδωρ / ὕδατα - water / rain / rainwater

Postby David Lim » January 5th, 2012, 11:03 am

I have a question about the meaning of the singular and plural of this word. After looking at LSJ, it seems to me that the singular is used for normal "water" or "rain" while the plural is used for "rainwater", so does "υδατα πολλα ην εκει" in John 3:23 mean "much rainwater was there"? Or would it refer to the puddles of rainwater? Or does it have nothing to do with rain?
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Re: ὕδωρ / ὕδατα - water / rain / rainwater

Postby cwconrad » January 5th, 2012, 11:47 am

Perhaps a citation from BDAG regarding the usage of this word will convince you of this reference work's indispensability -- and its pricelessness even at its high cost (and I cite only the first sense -- material element):

ὕδωρ, ατος, τό (Hom.+; loanw. in rabb.) water
1. in a material sense, as an element Dg 8:2 (Ar. 5, 1f; Ath. 18, 3; s. στοιχεῖον 1). Of the ocean 1 Cl 33:3; pl. Hv 1, 3, 4 (cp. Ps 135:6, w. the sing. as v.l.; JosAs 12:3; Just., A I, 60, 6). The earth (before the Deluge) formed ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ δι᾿ ὕδατος 2 Pt 3:5 (cp. HDiels, Doxographi Graeci 1879 p. 276, 12 [Θαλῆς] ἐξ ὕδατός φησι πάντα εἶναι καὶ εἰς ὕδωρ πάντα ἀναλύεσθαι; JChaine, Cosmogonie aquatique et conflagration finale d’après 2 Pt: RB 46, ’37, 207–16. S. also Artem. 1, 77 p. 70, 6 al. ἐξ ὕδατος ἢ δι᾿ ὕδατος). Of the waters of the Deluge 1 Pt 3:20; 2 Pt 3:6. σίφων ὕδατος a water-pump Hm 11:18. κεράμιον ὕδατος a water jar (s. κεράμιον) Mk 14:13; Lk 22:10. ποτήριον ὕδατος (Just., A I, 65, 3; 66, 4; PGen 51, 9) a cup of water Mk 9:41. Water for washing Mt 27:24; Lk 7:44; J 13:5. Cp. Hs 9, 10, 3. Water fr. a well J 4:7 (TestAbr A 3 p. 79f [Stone p. 7f] ὕδωρ ἀπὸ τοῦ φρέατος); fr. a spring Js 3:12 (γλυκὺ ὕδωρ; s. γλυκύς, also Demetr.: 722 fgm. 4 Jac.; ParJer 9:18; Just., D. 86, 1; Herm. Wr. 13, 17); of a stream Rv 16:12 (cp. ParJer 6:25 τοῦ ὕδατος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου; Just., D. 88, 3).—τὸ ὕδωρ specif.=the river Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10; =the pool J 5:3f, 7; =the lake Lk 8:24, pl. Mt 8:32; 14:28f; =the spring, etc. pl. Rv 8:11ab; cp. πηγαὶ (τῶν) ὑδάτων vs. 10; 14:7; 16:4 (Just. A I, 64, 1); =the mountain torrent pl. Hv 1, 1, 3; cp. GJs 18:3. Of waters gener., or not more exactly defined Mt 17:15. ὕδωρ τι Ac 8:36a. Cp. vs. 38f. Pl. Mk 9:22. ὕδατα πολλά (Ps 28:3) J 3:23; Rv 17:1; ὕδατα ταῦτα GJs 3:2. φωνὴ ὑδάτων πολλῶν the sound of many waters (Ps 92:4) Rv 1:15; 14:2; 19:6 (Mussies 82). χεόμενα ὕδατα water that is poured out Ox 840, 32f. γεμίσαι ὕδωρ draw water GJs 11:1 (cp. TestAbr A 3 p. 79, 34 [Stone p. 6]).—After Num 15:16ff of trial by water ὕδωρ τῆς ἐλέγξεως GJs 16:1. W. bread as that which is necessary to maintain life Hs 5, 3, 7 (cp. Am 8:11; JosAs 10:2; 4 [6] Esdr [POxy 1010]); AcPl Ha 4, 4. In contrast to wine J 2:9 (ApcEsdr 4:27). W. blood J 19:34 (s. αἷμα 1a). Christ came δι᾿ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος and ἐν τῷ ὕδατι καὶ ἐν τῷ αἵματι 1J 5:6abc; cp. vs. 8 (s. διά A 1a, ἐν 5aβ and ἔρχομαι 1bα). Gener. of John’s baptism by water (alone), opp. πνεῦμα Mt 3:11; Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16; J 1:33 (26, 31); Ac 1:5; 11:16. Of Christian baptism, the new birth ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ πνεύματος J 3:5 (on the originality of the rdg. ὕδατος καί s. Hdb.3 ad loc.; Bultmann 98, 2; cp. {p. 1024} Just., D. 138, 3 δι᾿ ὕδατος καὶ πίστεως καὶ ξύλου), 8 v.l. Cp. Ac 10:47 AcPl Ha 3, 32. καθαρίσας τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος ἐν ῥήματι Eph 5:26. λελουσμένοι τὸ σῶμα ὕδατι καθαρῷ Hb 10:22 (καθαρός 1). Even the OT points to the water of baptism B 11:1ab, 8ab, which Christ has consecrated by his own baptism IEph 18:2. The symbolic language of Hermas makes many allusions to the baptismal water: δι᾿ ὕδατος ἀναβαίνειν s 9, 16, 2. εἰς ὕδωρ καταβαίνειν m 4, 3, 1; s 9, 16, 6. The tower (=God’s assembly, church) is built ἐπὶ ὑδάτων Hv 3, 2, 4; 3, 3, 5ab, ὅτι ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν διὰ ὕδατος ἐσώθη καὶ σωθήσεται 3, 3, 5c. Acc. to D 7:1, when at all poss., ὕδωρ ζῶν running water (ζάω 4) is to be used in baptizing. Cp. 7:2.
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Re: ὕδωρ / ὕδατα - water / rain / rainwater

Postby David Lim » January 6th, 2012, 6:34 am

cwconrad wrote:Perhaps a citation from BDAG regarding the usage of this word will convince you of this reference work's indispensability -- and its pricelessness even at its high cost (and I cite only the first sense -- material element)


I am sure BDAG looks very useful, but I don't think I found an answer to my question in the section you quoted. Do you mean that it is the same "many waters" as in Psa 29:3, Psa 94:4..? Those seem to be a figurative description of the oceans and their sound, but it doesn't seem to be similar to John 3:23.
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Re: ὕδωρ / ὕδατα - water / rain / rainwater

Postby cwconrad » January 6th, 2012, 7:42 am

David Lim wrote:
cwconrad wrote:Perhaps a citation from BDAG regarding the usage of this word will convince you of this reference work's indispensability -- and its pricelessness even at its high cost (and I cite only the first sense -- material element)


I am sure BDAG looks very useful, but I don't think I found an answer to my question in the section you quoted. Do you mean that it is the same "many waters" as in Psa 29:3, Psa 94:4..? Those seem to be a figurative description of the oceans and their sound, but it doesn't seem to be similar to John 3:23.


Sorry. I thought you were hung up over some difference between usages of the word in the singular and plural. In that regard, it's probably worth noting that the Hebrew word for water is a plural (mayim). I'm reasonably confident that what's meant by ὕδατα πολλὰ is "lots of water," and that the reference is to points in the Jordan river at the locale indicated that are better suited to dunking. We do speak (in English, at any rate) of the "waters" of a river -- perhaps derivative from the Biblical usage? I don't know. But the plural ὕδατα seems common enough in Biblical Greek with reference to rivers. I take it that ὕδατα πολλά means "lots of water."
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Re: ὕδωρ / ὕδατα - water / rain / rainwater

Postby David Lim » January 6th, 2012, 12:28 pm

cwconrad wrote:
David Lim wrote:
cwconrad wrote:Perhaps a citation from BDAG regarding the usage of this word will convince you of this reference work's indispensability -- and its pricelessness even at its high cost (and I cite only the first sense -- material element)


I am sure BDAG looks very useful, but I don't think I found an answer to my question in the section you quoted. Do you mean that it is the same "many waters" as in Psa 29:3, Psa 94:4..? Those seem to be a figurative description of the oceans and their sound, but it doesn't seem to be similar to John 3:23.


Sorry. I thought you were hung up over some difference between usages of the word in the singular and plural. In that regard, it's probably worth noting that the Hebrew word for water is a plural (mayim). I'm reasonably confident that what's meant by ὕδατα πολλὰ is "lots of water," and that the reference is to points in the Jordan river at the locale indicated that are better suited to dunking. We do speak (in English, at any rate) of the "waters" of a river -- perhaps derivative from the Biblical usage? I don't know. But the plural ὕδατα seems common enough in Biblical Greek with reference to rivers. I take it that ὕδατα πολλά means "lots of water."


I asked because I saw "ὕδατα πολλά, συνεχέα μαλθακῶς" in a quote in LSJ which clearly referred to rainwater, and I did not see any references where the singular was used for rainwater. Neither did I see the plural used for simply water itself. So I was supposing that if the plural was used for rainwater or those watery things which are somewhat countable like waters, then the plural in John 3:23 might refer to rainwater since I was thinking John only needs much water and not many places with water, and for the sense of "much water" I would have expected "υδωρ πολυ" instead. I suppose I must be wrong about "rainwater" being referred to in John 3:23, but why? Of course if the singular and plural are completely interchangeable then I have been completely mistaken haha.. Actually when I saw the use of "υδατα" for "rainwater" in LSJ, I thought of the Jewish custom of immersion for ritual cleansing that requires "living water" which is either flowing water or specially collected rainwater. It could be irrelevant though.
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Re: ὕδωρ / ὕδατα - water / rain / rainwater

Postby Vasile Stancu » July 28th, 2012, 6:26 pm

I think that references such as Mtt 14:28 (κέλευσόν με ἐλθεῖν πρὸς σὲ ἐπὶ τὰ ὕδατα) and Mr 9:22 (εἰς πῦρ αὐτὸν ἔβαλεν καὶ εἰς ὕδατα) show that ὕδατα does not necessarily mean 'rainwater'.
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Re: ὕδωρ / ὕδατα - water / rain / rainwater

Postby David Lim » July 29th, 2012, 2:32 am

Vasile Stancu wrote:I think that references such as Mtt 14:28 (κέλευσόν με ἐλθεῖν πρὸς σὲ ἐπὶ τὰ ὕδατα) and Mr 9:22 (εἰς πῦρ αὐτὸν ἔβαλεν καὶ εἰς ὕδατα) show that ὕδατα does not necessarily mean 'rainwater'.


Yes I know it does not necessarily mean rainwater, but I did not "see the plural used for simply water itself", but only for "those watery things which are somewhat countable like waters", and possibly "rainwater" as the quotes in the LSJ show. Matt 14:28 and Mark 9:22 will both be instances where "υδατα" means "waters", in the first referring to "the waters of the sea" and in the second referring to "places of water". I was just wondering if John 3:23 may be referring to rainwater rather than places of water. Anyway I think Carl's suggestion that it refers to sites along the Jordan river is a very plausible one if "rainwater" is not correct.
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Re: ὕδωρ / ὕδατα - water / rain / rainwater

Postby Vasile Stancu » August 7th, 2012, 6:31 pm

David Lim wrote:
Vasile Stancu wrote:I think that references such as Mtt 14:28 (κέλευσόν με ἐλθεῖν πρὸς σὲ ἐπὶ τὰ ὕδατα) and Mr 9:22 (εἰς πῦρ αὐτὸν ἔβαλεν καὶ εἰς ὕδατα) show that ὕδατα does not necessarily mean 'rainwater'.


Yes I know it does not necessarily mean rainwater, but I did not "see the plural used for simply water itself", but only for "those watery things which are somewhat countable like waters", and possibly "rainwater" as the quotes in the LSJ show. Matt 14:28 and Mark 9:22 will both be instances where "υδατα" means "waters", in the first referring to "the waters of the sea" and in the second referring to "places of water". I was just wondering if John 3:23 may be referring to rainwater rather than places of water. Anyway I think Carl's suggestion that it refers to sites along the Jordan river is a very plausible one if "rainwater" is not correct.


In the first example, at least, ὕδατα does not mean 'the waters of the sea', but simply 'water'. I am proposing this as I imagine the situation: the water involved in the scene was indeed the 'waters of the sea', but at the same time it was the very water where Jesus was walking and Peter was invited to walk on. The feelling of astonishment Peter experienced was not caused by the nature of the waters Jesus was walking on (waters of the sea), but by the fact that it was simply 'water'. If the event had occued on a river, I expect the same words would be used by Peter. (My feeling is that if the singular ὕδωρ were used, the sentence would have to have a structure/meaning like this, "Lord, if it is You, command me to [always] be able to walk on water [as a substance].")
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