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* Notes on Apo and Ek - Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words


The primary meaning of apo is "off"; this is illustrated in such compounds as apokalupto, "to take the veil off, to reveal"; apokopto, "to cut off"; hence there are different shades of meaning, the chief of which is "from" or "away from," e.g., Mat 5:29-30; Mat 9:22; Luk 24:31, lit., "He became invisible from them"; Rom 9:3. The primary meaning of ek is "out of," e.g., Mat 3:17, "a voice out of the heavens" (RV); 2Co 9:7, lit., "out of necessity." Omitting such significances of ek as "origin, source, cause, occasion," etc., our consideration will here be confined to a certain similarity between apo and ek. Since apo and ek are both frequently to be translated by "from" they often approximate closely in meaning. The distinction is largely seen in this, that apo suggests a starting point from without, ek from within; this meaning is often involved in apo, but apo does not give prominence to the "within-ness," as ek usually does. For instance, apo is used in Mat 3:16, where the RV rightly reads "Jesus ... went up straightway from the water"; in Mar 1:10 ek is used, "coming up out of the water"; ek (which stands in contrast to eis in Mar 1:9) stresses more emphatically than apo the fact of His having been baptized in the water. In all instances where these prepositions appear to be used alternately this distinction is to be observed.

The literal meaning "out of" cannot be attached to ek in a considerable number of passages. In several instances ek obviously has the significance of "away from"; and where either meaning seems possible, the context, or some other passage, affords guidance. The following are examples in which ek does not mean "out of the midst of" or "out from within," but has much the same significance as apo: Joh 17:15, "that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil one"; 1Co 9:19, "though I was free from all men"; 2Co 1:10, "who delivered us from so great a death" (KJV); 2Pe 2:21, "to turn back from the holy commandment"; Rev 15:2, "them that had come victorious from the beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name" (ek in each case).

Concerning the use of ek, in 1Th 1:10, "Jesus, which delivereth (the present tense, as in the RV, is important) us from the wrath to come" [or, more closely to the original, "our Deliverer (cf. the same phrase in Rom 11:26) from the coming wrath"], the passage makes clear that the wrath signifies the calamities to be visited by God upon men when the present period of grace is closed. As to whether the ek here denotes "out of the midst of" or "preservation from," this is determined by the statement in 1Th 5:9, that "God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation"; the context there shows that the salvation is from the wrath just referred to. Accordingly the ek signifies "preservation from" in the same sense as apo, and not "out from the midst of."

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Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words