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I'm trying to get a precise meaning /translation to the word ἐκοιμήθησαν from 1 Corinthians 15: 6 that seems to be ancient greek since os took from original greek manuscripts.

I've looked for greek dictionary online like perseus but said this word not found.

Below is the complete verse: 1 Cor 15,6 ἔπειτα  ὤφθη  ἐπάνω  πεντακοσίοις  ἀδελφοῖς  ἐφάπαξ,  ἐξ  ὧν  οἱ  πλείονες  μένουσιν  ἕως  ἄρτι,  τινὲς  δὲ  ἐκοιμήθησαν· 

Thanks in advance

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    Look under κοιμάω.
    – fdb
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 19:56
  • Hi fdb. You gave me another greek word and in english means fall asleep, lull. But is there a definition of ἐκοιμήθησαν? I'd like to understand why in some bibles is translated as fall asleep and in others like die, died.
    – Ger Cas
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 20:29
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    @GerCas ἐκοιμήθησαν is an inflected form (First Aorist Passive) of κοιμάομαι / κοιμάω, meaning "to sleep" in the literal sense (Matt 28:13; Luke 22:45; Acts 12:6), and also as a euphemism of "to die" (Matt 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 13:36). Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 1:32
  • Thank you Paul for your explanation and link shared. I understand better. The thing is due to different translations of this word some Christians believe one thing and others another thing about crucial situations like what is the state of the person after die.
    – Ger Cas
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 16:11

1 Answer 1

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This is a good question, GerCas, because in Greek times, people often used "to fall asleep" as a metaphor or euphemism for "to die," which we never do today. So it raises the question, "When did a Greek author mean which?" (Even the disciples were confused; see below.)

Although your root question can be answered from the context, to address your first question, ἐκοιμήθησαν is indeed third-person plural, aorist (past tense), passive of κοιμάω, one of the New Testament words meaning, "to sleep."

It's Koiné Greek (of the New Testament era), rather than Ancient Greek (e.g., Plato). You couldn't find it in a Greek dictionary because it's an INFLECTED form (such as "bought"), and you first must look it up in a "lexicon" to get the UN-INFLECTED form (such as "buy"), κοιμάω. Then you can look THAT up in a dictionary to get its meaning. (That's true of 90% of the words you want to look up in a dictionary.)

Although I couldn't find an online lexicon, I highly recommend the hardbound, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, by Harold K. Moulton (Editor); Zondervan, 1978.

Now here is your verse, in three pieces:

ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ, 
Then He was seen by more than 500 brothers at one time,

ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι, 
of whom most are abiding [alive] until now,

τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν·
although some have fallen asleep [died].

The key is that the last 2 segments are in contrast: "most are 'X,' but some are not 'X'." It could mean, "most are awake, but some are home sleeping in bed," but that wouldn't fit the semantics and grand scope of the context, verses 15:1-15.

The first "X" is μένουσιν, meaning "remaining" or "abiding" or "living," but it never means "awake." The second "X" is ἐκοιμήθησαν, which could mean "gone to sleep in bed," but that would destroy the contrast. The contrasting context forces ἐκοιμήθησαν to mean, "have died."

Why didn't Paul just say "died"? He was using an idiom appropriate to his day and his audience (the Corinthians). I guess he wasn't looking 2 millennia into the future to speakers of English.

Exegesis hint: analyzing the context is always necessary, and often bears more fruit than finding the precise meaning of a Greek word.

Here is an example of κοιμάω (sleep) being mistaken for death.

John 11:11-13

After he had said this, He went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus 
has fallen asleep (κοιμάω); but I am going there to wake him up.”  
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps (κοιμάω), he will get better.”
Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought He meant
the 'sleep' (κοιμάω) of 'sleep' (ὕπνου).  So then He told them plainly,
“Lazarus is dead." 

Although the first word for sleep, κοιμάω, is often used metaphorically for death, the second word, ὕπνου, never is.

References:

Moulton, Harold K (Editor). The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised. Zondervan, 1978.

Vine, W.E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Oliphants LTD, 1966.

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  • I was searching for a commentary on John 11:11-14 when I found this post. My question was similar to the OP’s, but mine was specific to John 11: 11-14. That portion of your answer was a simple, straightforward answer to my question. (+1). After applying your answer to my question….it created another question in my mind. So, I posted that question here <hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/87158/…>
    – matt
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 16:05

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