Flabbergasted

What is the Greek translation of the word “flabbergasted” and why is it so important!!!?

For many of you, it won’t be obvious where this subject came from.

At the end of the posts on “Angels” (Discussion started Jan 20 2008), my wonderful eldest son remembers back to the days when I would answer every teeny question with a whopping answer, and he would fall off his concentration perch part-way through.

As a jocular example – which, I insist, bears no relationship whatsoever to the truth – he suggests I would spend seven hours talking about the Greek translation of the word “Flabbergasted” and why it is important.

Never one to miss a trick, and sensing an opportunity for some irreverent fun at my expense, a good friend then asked the above question.

So here’s my answer; I’ll try to keep it brief!

“Flabbergasted” doesn’t appear in any Bibles I own.

The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that flabbergasted is an 18th century conflation of “Flabby”, and “Aghast”. As there were no New Testament writers still in business at this time, we don’t have the benefit of a direct translation into New Testament Greek.

So, if the word itself doesn’t appear, are there Greek words which express its MEANING?

Here we strike gold!

Three Greek words DO translate our words “Amazed” and “Astonished” which are regularly met with in the accounts of Jesus.

1. Ekplesso (ek +plesso – to be struck)
To be “knocked out” in the modern colloquial sense.
This is the exact meaning of the words “Astonished” and “Astounded”. Both of these words are essentially the same word, derived from the same place we get our word “Stun”. We get the same meaning when we say “Knockout!” and “A Stunner”.

2. Thaumazo (pronounced thau – mad – zo)
To marvel, to wonder at.
In archaic English, a “Thaumaturge” is a magician, from Thauma (a marvel) and Ergos (work).
This word has another close relation:
Thambeo
To be frightened.

3. Existemi (ex + istemi – to Stand)
This one is interesting, because the Romans had exact equivalent Latin words (Ex + Starē {pronounced “star – eh”} – to stand). They used these words to mean “to Exist”, which is where we get that word from.

In contrast, the Greeks took the more literal meaning: “to stand outside yourself”.

In modern English we have an almost perfect colloquial match when we say, “He was beside himself”. We get “ecstatic” from the same root and it has the same meaning.

Flabbergasting in the Gospels:

Over 40 times in the Gospels, these four Greek words are used to describe people’s reactions to Jesus. He was a significant cause of Flabbergastation!

Jesus himself was astonished or amazed only a few times, usually by lack of faith when he expected it, or finding it in unexpected circumstances.
Mark 6 6 Jesus was “thaumazo” at their lack of faith.

Matt 8 10 & Luke 7 9 Jesus was “thaumazo” at the centurion’s great faith.
[NB The NIV translates “thaumazo” as Astonished in Matthew and Amazed in Luke. The rest of the story is identical. Why is there no consistency?]

In the rest of the New Testament, the doings of the church were met with Flabbergastation (Acts 4 13, 8 13), and the whole world will be Flabbergasted when Jesus returns! (2 Thess 1 10)

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