Harry Whittaker
Word Studies


Abide, Wait, Tarry

Meno is a word of very frequent occurrence. Its simple meaning is “abide” in the sense of “dwell, or stay, in a house”. It is commonly used in this sense in the gospels. “Zaccheus, today I must abide at thine house” (Luk 19:5). “The servant abideth not in the house for ever” (Joh 8:35). And so on — lots of them.

From here the meaning moves on to the idea of “remaining, or continuing an existing condition”. Eg “Labour for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (Joh 6:27). “Let her remain unmarried” (1Co 7:11). “Let brotherly love continue” (Heb 13:1).

From these simple ideas there springs the deep spiritual meaning which makes “abide” one of the key words in Joh’s gospel and epistles: “close spiritual fellowship”, the result of being in the same “house” with the Father and the Son and the brethren. It is a fellowship which has an abiding, lasting quality — it goes on and on, world without end, Amen.

“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God....God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 Joh 4:15,16). “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (Joh 15:4). The reader of Joh is never far away from this pregnant word. Yet Paul never uses it in this sense.

Meno has got itself augmented with nearly every preposition in the language; in some cases the new meanings are particularly interesting.

Hupomeno means “to continue in hardship or suffering”. Mostly, the AV very beautifully translates “endure”. This is usually just right. “He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved” (Mat 24:13). “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons” (Heb 12:7). The translation, twice in 1Pe 2:20, “take it patiently”, hardly conveys the right idea.

When Jews from Thessalonica stirred up opposition in Berea also, the brethren, anxious for Paul’s safety, sent him on to Athens, “but Silas and Timotheus abode (hupomeno) there still”, putting up with the trouble, enduring the persecution, but the narrative does not indicate by one word what they had to put up with.

Somewhat surprisingly, the same word comes in the story of the boy Jesus at Jerusalem for his first Passover: “he tarried behind in Jerusalem” (Luk 2:43). Here the idea probably is: “he hung on”, unwilling to leave the holy city, with its wonderful associations and spiritual opportunities.

Another instance calls for slight correction. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2Ti 2:12). But it is not suffering which guarantees reward, but the right enduring of suffering.

The noun which goes with hupomeno — hupomone — is all but once translated “patience”. But in modern English this word presents a picture of placid waiting and tranquil inactivity, whereas hupomone really suggests the notion of tenacious hanging on and grim clenched-teeth endurance. Every occurrence of the word needs re-scrutinizing from this point of view.

The modern idea of patience is more in evidence in anameno, the one occurrence of which speaks of “waiting for his Son from heaven” (1Th 1:10). But even here there is something of endurance, as the two occurrences in LXX show. “Thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day” (Psa 25:5). “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine hear: wait, I say, on the Lord” (27:14).

Epimeno means, quite literally, “stay upon”, and accordingly in the AV appears as “continue, abide” and especially “tarry”. All the 18 occurrences are straightforward except perhaps Phi 1:23,24: “I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart (ie go away into retirement for the study of Scripture and the experience of “revelations from the Lord”) and (so) to be with Christ: which is far better. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh (ie continue a personal active presence in the ecclesias) is more needful for you.” So Paul, the aged, who would dearly have loved to “retire” (as everyone does nowadays as a matter of course), hung on, giving his converts assurance of his continuing care: “I know that I shall abide (meno) and continue (parameno — prolong my stay) with you all” (v 25).

There is a terribly important lesson to be learned from the next word in this family: emmeno. AV translates it rather tamely “continue”, but “stay in” gives the idea more exactly. “They continued not in my covenant” (Heb 8:9). Especially Acts 14:22: “exhorting them (the new disciples) to continue in the faith”, ie to stay on regardless of all discouragements. This is also the idea in most of the LXX passages, where it is used on confirming a vow (Jer 44:25) or standing firm in an undertaking (Dan 12:12; Deu 27:26).

It is not easy to see why Jesus, bidding his apostles “wait for the promise of the Father (the Holy Spirit)” in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), should use another meno compound: perimeno, “wait around”, when meno itself or one of the others already discussed would appear to be as good. The solitary OT occurrence of perimeno in Jacob’s prophecies to his sons (Gen 49:18) doesn’t help much: “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord”. The apostles’ obedience to their Lord’s command is neatly indicated by mention of how they “stayed put” (katameno) in the house of the upper room (Acts 1:13).

Parameno seems to carry the idea of prolonging a stay or visit — as in Phi 1:25, already cited. This is certainly the idea in 1Co 16:6, where Paul considers the possibility of spending the approaching winter in Corinth.

There is a nice emphasis about James’ use of parameno in his figure of the mirror: “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and so continueth (ie instead of a casual glance, a protracted gaze) — this man shall be blessed in his doing” (Jam 1:25).

In prosmeno the prefix very neatly implies abiding for the sake of continuing face to face with someone. Jesus insisted that the multitude must be fed because they had “stuck to him” into the third day (Mat 15:32). When Barnabas encountered the first Gentile converts in Antioch, he exhorted them to “stick to the Lord” (Acts 11:23) — this, whatever else.

In 1Ti 5:5 Paul picks out one of the essential characteristics of a true widow in Christ as one who “continueth in supplications and prayers” — sticking to her person-to-person contact with the Lord.

But in 1Ti 1:3 Paul had a different kind of person-to-person contact in mind. “I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus — that thou mightest charge certain not to teach a different doctrine.” And timid Timothy needed the exhortation, for prolonged encounters of this kind were not at all what he relished.

Diameno sometimes emphasizes continuance without end: “They (the heavens and the earth) shall perish, but Thou remainest” (Heb 1:11). And similarly in several of the psalms: “His name shall continue as long as the sun” (Psa 72:17). “The fear of the Lord endureth for ever” (Psa 19:9). Those who mock the promise of Christ’s return confidently assert that “all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2Pe 3:4). Such people need reminding that “the foolish shall not stand in thy sight” (Psa 5:5).

In a more limited sense, diameno describes an experience more long-lasting than might have been expected. “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations,” Jesus said to the eleven (Luk 22:28). And the deaf and dumb Zacharias beckoning and “remaining (continuing) speechless” provides a vivid picture of the old man’s desperate and persistent attempts to communicate.

Absent, Present

The antithesis presented by these two words comes three times in 2Co 5:6,8,9; and these are the only occurrences. So what is called for here is the explanation of a decidedly tricky passage.

The key to the situation lies in recognizing that here, as in 1Co 12 (often) and 1Co 10:16,17 and Eph 1:23; 2:16; 4:4,12,16; 5:23,30 and Col 1:18; 2:17,19; 3:15, “body” signifies “the body of Christ, the ecclesia”.

Then what did Paul mean by “at home in the body, and absent from the Lord”. There is here an indication of the tension which must often have existed in the mind of Paul, and which is not unknown in the experience of men a good deal smaller than Paul — the desire to go into retirement and seclusion in order the better to enjoy the spiritual stimulus and satisfaction which Bible study and the Truth in Christ can impart. In Paul’s case, it could mean more than this — the enjoyment of personal (not mystical) fellowship with Christ through the “visions and revelations of the Lord” which at times he was privileged to experience.

But as long as Paul was busy and active in the ecclesias (“at home in the Body”), such blessings were necessarily cut to a minimum. At such times especially Paul walked by faith, and not by sight (2Co 5:7).

The apostle’s own much stronger inclination was the other way — to be “absent from the Body” (in retirement from his heavy ecclesial responsibilities), and so free to be “at home (in a very real personal fashion) with the Lord”.

However, Paul accepted life as it came. He was content for Christ to decide how his life and activities should be spent. Accordingly, he made it his ambition, “whether present or absent”, for his life to be such that in the Last Day he would be “well-pleasing unto him”.

This view of the passage may be queried on the grounds that in the very next verse (v 10) the word “body” is used in a literal sense. But this is by no means obvious. Let the italics in AV be noted.

The literal reading is: “in order that each one may receive the through-the-Body things according to (?) what he did whether good or bad.” If the capital B be allowed here, the passage seems to stress the importance of a man maintaining his personal link with the Body of Christ.

But if “body” is read, then there is an altogether lop-sided emphasis on what a man has done. Yet are not words and thoughts every bit as important?

In an admittedly problematic expression, it would appear to be by no means certain that the physical body is referred to here. Certainly the notion of receiving in a resurrection body the Lord’s approbation or reprobation is not to be read here.


Seven times the AV translates apeimi as “be absent” — as in 1Co 5:3: “Absent in body, but present in spirit.” This is the straightforward meaning. Then why not exactly the same idea in Acts 17:10?: “The (Thessalonian) brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went (absented themselves!) into the synagogue of the Jews.” The implication seems to be that after the Jewish uproar in Thessalonica, the brethren from that city who accompanied them to Berea were unwilling to chance more Jewish hostility in the synagogue. So, undeterred, Paul and Silas went off to the synagogue by themselves.


In the NT this word means, nearly always, “acceptable to God”. Three Greek words come in this sense quite often: dektos and its more emphatic cognate euprosdektos and another not dissimilar word euarestos.

The first two are mostly equivalents of the Hebrew words ratzah, ratzon, which normally have reference to acceptable sacrifice or to one of the Jewish feasts when sacrifice was specially acceptable.

The first meaning is obvious in 1Pe 2:5: “Ye also....offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable (euprosdektos) to God by Jesus Christ.”

And in Rom 15:16 Paul uses the figure of himself as a priest ministering at an altar and offering up as a gift to God a multitude of Gentile converts: “....that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable (euprosdektos), being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 10:35 is interesting as being a modified quote of Pro 12:22 LXX (the Hebrew is distinctly different). But why did Peter say “he that worketh righteousness is accepted with him” (note the idea of sacrifice in v 4), when LXX has “worketh faith”? Wouldn’t this have served Peter’s purpose even better? Was he adjusting his language so as not to offend “them of the circumcision” who were with him?

This is also one of the meanings attached to euarestos. So in Phi 4:18 Paul uses two of them together for emphasis: “The things which were sent from you are an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable (dektos) well-pleasing (euarestos) to God.”

In two places dektos is used in NT quotations of OT passages. In the synagogue at Nazareth the Lord read from Isa 61 about “the acceptable year of the Lord”, where there is one allusion after another to the Year of Jubilee. Jesus was proclaiming the time of release from sin.

Similarly, 2Co 6:2 quotes Isa 49:8: “Behold, now is the accepted time.” Again, the primary reference is to Hezekiah’s Passover and the great deliverance which took place then. But in the NT that dektos time was the Passover when Jesus died, thus inaugurating a new and continual Passover which is all deliverance.

The euarestos passages fall into two groups which seem to overlap.

As with the other two words there is often well-defined allusion to acceptable sacrifice: “....that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God...” (Rom 12:1, alluding to Lev 1:4). “God....working in you that which is wellpleasing (euarestos) in his sight” (Heb 13:21) comes immediately after an allusion to “the blood of the covenant”.

There is also another clear-cut meaning which has been largely lost sight of. Euarestos is used in LXX as equivalent to Hebrew hithhalek, walking with God. This word is used with reference to Enoch (Gen 5:22), and in LXX and Heb 11:5 it becomes: “he pleased (euarestos) God”. LXX treats Gen 17:1; 6:9; Psa 56:13; 116:9 in the same way (but, strangely enough, not Isa 38:3). So it may be taken as fairly certain that the idea of “walking with God” was in Paul’s mind when he wrote Rom 14:18; 2Co 5:9; Eph 5:10; and Tit 2:9. And this may well be true of Rom 12:2; Col 3:20; and Heb 12:28; but it is in these three places where the two ideas of acceptable sacrifice and walking with God seem to overlap.

“This is good and acceptable before God” comes twice in 1Ti (1Ti 2:3; 5:4). This word means “welcome”. The verb (apodechomai — 6 times) and the noun (apodoche — twice) always carry this meaning. But the adjective, apodektos, is marvellously like the word for paying tithes. Then was Paul deliberately making a play on words here? — suggesting that prayers for those in authority (1Ti 2:3) and care for aged parents (1Ti 5:4) are a fine form of tithe-paying for those not under the Law of Moses.


The word dike means a decision in a court case, but only one of its four NT occurrences carries precisely that meaning — the chief priest pressing Festus for a decision against Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 25:15). In the other instances the reference is to God’s judgment against wickedness — Sodom and Gomorrha suffering the “vengeance” of eternal fire (Jude 1:7), the enemies of the faithful being “punished” (suffering judgment) with everlasting destruction from the Lord’s presence (2Th 1:9), and the pagan assessment of Paul with a viper fastening on his wrist: “vengeance (of the gods) suffers him not to live” (Acts 28:4).

Antidikos means the other fellow in the court case. Hence, in the parable, “agree with thine adversary quickly, lest the judge....” (Mat 5:25; Luk 12:58). And, in another parable, the widow appeals persistently to the unprincipled judge: “Avenge me of mine adversary” (Luk 18:3).

But now what about 1Pe 5:8?: “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” JWs and such are put in rather a fix to explain what court-case the devil they believe in might want to prosecute. The word suggests very pointedly the activities of malicious accusers (Jews?) laying information against Christians, hoping to get them thrown to the lions in Nero’s persecution. Read in this way, the word antidikos makes sense; otherwise, not.

Affliction, Suffering

Pathema means so obviously this, that there is only one verse where it is differently translated; and that one place does present a problem: “the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members” (Rom 7:5). Here, NIV, as much baffled as King James’ men, attempts a paraphrase: “the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies”. Perhaps Paul was using a genitive of origin or cause here, meaning: ‘the mental afflictions and struggles provoked by our sins’. This is a fairly likely meaning; but how to translate it adequately by one word is no easy matter.

A closely related Greek word occurs in Acts 26:23: “that Christ should suffer (pathetos) is intended to stress that the Christ foretold by the prophets was to be one capable of, or subject to, suffering.

One would expect that pathos would also have a close association with suffering, yet in fact it has a distinctly different idea behind it, as the three examples clearly show:

Again, From Above

When Jesus told Nicodemus he must be “born again”, did he really mean that, or did he mean “born from above”? The word anothen is ambiguous, and can be read either way. From the Pharisee’s reply it is evident that he chose to understand “born again”. There can be little doubt, however, that the Lord was emphasizing a new birth “from above”. His words about being “born of the Spirit” surely settle that. Indeed, it is not a little doubtful whether anothen means “again” in any NT passage. There is no missing the meaning in some places. The seamless robe of Jesus was “woven from the top throughout” (Joh 19:23). The veil of the temple was rent “from the top to the bottom” (Mat 27:51). “Every good and every perfect gift is from above” (Jam 1:17; and so also in Jam 3:15,17).

In other places the meaning is not quite so clear. The leaders of the Jews knew Paul “from the beginning (anothen)” (Acts 26:5). Is this a correct translation? Or did Paul mean that Jews from the highest rank (from above) knew him as full of promise?

Gal 4:9 is inadequately translated: “How turn ye to the weak and beggarly elements whereunto ye again desire to be in bondage from above (palin anothen)?” — that is, under religion imposed from above by external authority, the Judaists.

In the introduction to his gospel, Luk asserts that he had “perfect understanding of all things from the very first” (Luk 1:3). Did he mean that he had been in contact with Jesus from the earliest days? Or did he mean that his information came from the highest authorities (eg Luk 1,2 from Mary herself)? Or was he claiming direct guidance and inspiration from heaven, ie from above?


The preposition anti can be easily misunderstood — for the simple reason that it has come over into modern English with a somewhat altered meaning. “Antipathy” and “Anti-Evolution Society” suggest opposition, but this is not implicit in the word. We in the United Kingdom are not against those kindly New Zealanders (God forbid!) just because they live in the Antipodes. And there is no quarrel at all between logs and anti-logs. They help each other.

The correct notion is rather that of one thing in the presence of and yet over against another. The people across the road are anti-you, but not against you (so one hopes). Anti-Christ is not necessarily hostile to Christ, but is there set over against Christ, the false in the presence of the true.

It is easy, then, to see how anti has as its commonest meaning the idea of “instead of”. “Archelaus reigned in the room of his father Herod” (Mat 2:22). “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” — in retribution.

“Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for (anti) grace” (Joh 1:16). There can now be an end of vagueness here. The word “fulness” steers the mind to the Glory of God in the Tabernacle (v 14). One of the dominant uses of “grace” in the NT is for “forgiveness of sins”. Thus “grace anti grace” means: the true and full forgiveness in Christ, as against the typical forgiveness which the Mosaic system foreshadowed so fully. Hence v 17: “The law was given through Moses, but true grace came by Jesus Christ.”

Misunderstanding is also to be avoided in such passages as Mar 10:45: “The Son of man give his life a ransom for (anti) many.” The mistaken notion usually read into these words is: “a ransom on behalf of many” — this in an attempt to avoid the idea of substitution: “one dying instead of many”. Instead of this, try: “one sacrifice instead of many (sacrifices — as under the Law)”. There is now no difficulty.


Pantokrator means literally: the One who rules or governs all. This is the LXX equivalent for Shaddai and for Sabaoth. The first of these throughout Genesis means the God of fruitfulness and blessing (from shad, breast). Hence it is there associated with the Promises. There are many impressive examples. In the NT, “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev 19:6) celebrates Promises fulfilled. Hence this title in 2Co 6:18, referring back to the Promise to David (2Sa 7:11).

But through most of the rest of the OT, Shaddai (Pantokrator) is clearly used in the sense of God the Destroyer, the Judge (from shadad, destroy). This in Job and Psalms especially. But see also Joel 1:15. Hence also in the NT: “The wrath of Almighty God” (Rev 19:15) and “Armageddon....the great day of God Almighty” (Rev 16:14).

Also the frequent divine title Lord of hosts is turned into Greek as Ho Kurios pantokrator — the hosts of angels, the hosts of Israel, the hosts of the redeemed, all of these.

Out of this summary, which suggested meaning is to be seen in Rev 21:22?


Thusiasterion is that on which one offers a thusia, a sacrifice or offering. Accordingly, it may describe either the altar of burnt offering or the altar of incense.

But in the only place where the NT refers to a pagan altar — “I found an altar with this inscription: To the Unknown God”(Acts 17:23) — a different word, bomos (that to which one ascends), is employed. The LXX is not consistent in this distinction.

Amazed, Astonished

There are three very expressive Greek words which are very difficult to differentiate.

Ekplesso seems to carry the idea of bewilderment (“foolish”: Ecc 7:17).

Existemi suggests wits paralysed. It is the word used by the family of Jesus to describe his eccentric behaviour: “he is beside himself” (Mar 3:21).

Ekstasis (related to the preceding) is a trance (Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17). Thus it pictures those who are “pop-eyed” with astonishment.

All of these are used with reference to the amazement provoked by Jesus. It is, of course, to be expected that people’s surprise at witnessing his miracles should call for vigorous dramatic description. But it is itself sur-prising that the teaching of Jesus should have created as big a sensation as his wonderful works.

His parents were amazed to find their twelve-year-old boy talking without embarrassment with learned doctors of the law (Luk 2:48). The multitude who heard the Sermon on the Mount, the crowd in the synagogue at Capernaum, and his townsfolk in the synagogue at Nazareth (Mar 1:22; 6:2), the Passover pilgrims hearing his disputation with scribes and Pharisees (Mat 22:33) — all of these listened and stared with astonishment. There is one special example of shock to the Twelve by what the Lord taught — “how hardly shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of heaven.... easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle” (Luk 18:24,25).

When it is considered how sensational so many of the Lord’s miracles were, one is left wondering why the astonishment of the beholders is mentioned in certain particular instances: the healing of the demoniac in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mar 1:27: these people at Capernaum were always being surprised, but not converted); the palsied man let down through the roof (Luk 5:26: the same synagogue); the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mar 5:42: Capernaum again); the blind and dumb man (Mat 12:22: Capernaum!). The fisher apostles were just as flabbergasted by the miraculous draught of fishes (Luk 5:9: at Bethsaida-Capernaum), as they were later at their Lord’s walking on the water and stilling the storm (Mar 6:51). Two other miracles creating outstanding bewilderment were the healing of the epileptic boy (Luk 9:43) and that of the deaf and dumb man (Mar 7:37). Last of all there was the final cleansing of the temple — or was it the Lord’s stout proclamation of a temple thrown open to all nations (Mar 11:18)?

The resurrection of Jesus was the supreme occasion for astonishment, yet this is mentioned only twice. The women encountering the angels “trembled and were amazed” (Mar 16:8). And the two on the way to Emmaus told how infectious this amazement was: “Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre....” (Luk 24:22).

Another group of correlated words still has to be considered: thambos, thambeomai, ekthambeomai. The last of these, more emphatic than the others, very often implies fear — the women at sight of angels at the tomb (Mar 16:5,6), and, probably, the people beholding the glory in the face of Jesus (Mar 9:15); cp. also Dan 7:7, LXX. Then what of Mar 14:33: Jesus “sore amazed” in Gethsemane? This cannot be fear. The use of ekthambos to describe the amazement of the crowd seeing the lame man leaping and cavorting in the temple court (Acts 3:11) shows that fright is not a necessary ingredient of this word. But what was it which made Jesus “sore amazed”? This is one of the lesser unexplained mysteries of the gospels.

Thambos and its verb are always associated with fear in LXX, and also, certainly, in the account of Saul’s conversion: “he trembling and astonished” (Acts 9:6), but there is nothing of this in any of the other examples. Indeed in several instances the synoptists take their choice between these and the words considered earlier.

Anoint, Blot out

There are two main words, with their compounds, for “anoint”.

Classically, chrio has the idea of “smear” or “daub”. This comes out in the use of epichrio for the Lord’s smearing of mud on the eyes of the blind man (Joh 9:6,11). The same idea is there in the exhortation to Laodicea to “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see” (Rev 3:18), an allusion back to the blind man just mentioned? — only here the word is enchrio, suggesting that the ointment be rubbed well in.

However, in the Bible, chrio and its highly important derivative christos lose the idea of smearing, and take on the notion of anointing for some holy office. In the OT (LXX) it is used often for the anointing of priests especially and the dedication of the equipment of the sanctuary, less often of the anointing of kings (eg Saul, David, Solomon) and on at least one occasion regarding the office of prophet: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek....” (Isa 61:1). Cp. also Elisha: 1Ki 19:16.

In all these OT examples the Hebrew original is mashiach, whence Messiah.

Out of five passages, chrio is four times used of the anointing of Jesus. In each of these the emphasis is on declaring him to be Christ (Luk 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; Heb 1:9).

How daring, then, for Paul to use this word with reference to himself and his fellow-preachers! But he does so only because he recognizes Christ at work and themselves as humble instruments in that work: “He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God” (2Co 1:21: a link with Luk 4:18 — “anointed to preach” — is not difficult). In the next verse Paul alludes to the gift of the Spirit as the anointing oil (only he changes the figure): “Who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”

Similarly the apostle John twice refers to the gift of the Spirit as an “anointing” (chrisma: 1Jo 2:20,27). Here the allusion (see context in both places) may be to Spirit gifts of interpretation and “discerning of spirits”, or it may be to the Spirit’s guidance given them through the apostles; it is difficult to be sure.

Aleipho is used where the anointing does not signify an appointing to office as prophet, priest or king. Hence it is used of the anointing of Jesus (Luk 7:38,46; Joh 12:3), and of the anointing of the sick by the apostles (Mar 6:13; Jam 5:14).

The more emphatic exaleipho is the equivalent of OT machah, used of wiping a dish (2Ki 21:13), euphemistically of the appetite of a whore (Prov 30:20) and of the blotting out of a man’s name from remembrance (Exo 17:14; 32:32; cp. Rev 3:5). But in the NT there is significant use of this word not with respect to a man’s sins but to the “handwriting of ordinances” (Col 2:14) which makes his sin evident!

Specially important is the use of exaleipho with reference to the “anointing out” of the sins of Israel on the Day of Atonement through the splashing of sin-offering blood on the mercy seat: “I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions” (Isa 43:25; 44:22; and cp Jer 18:23; Psa 69:28). This, for certain, is the allusion in Acts 3:19: “Repent ye therefore....that your sins may be blotted out, and that there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (reference to the high priest returning from the Holy of Holies to bless the people).” There is a long list of reasons why it should be concluded that the healing of the lame man and this ensuing discourse should be regarded as taking place on the Day of Atonement.

That sordid imprecation uttered against David: “Let not the sin of his mother be blotted out” (Psa 109:14), was probably spoken with reference to the trial of jealousy detailed in Num 5: “The priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water” (v 23). The suggestion that has been made, that there was some truth in this beastly insinuation regarding the mother of David (and Jesus), does not deserve a moment’s consideration, any more than the other imprecations spoken in that psalm against the Lord’s anointed.

Not only the anointing out of sins is signified, but also of the misery which is the outcome of those sins: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” The Lord found this worth repeating twice from Isa 25:8 (Rev 7:17; 21:4).

There is just one occurrence of the word murizo (from muron, myrrh). Whereas John’s records uses aleipho (Joh 12:3) for the anointing of Jesus, the Lord himself preferred murizo because of its associations with the embalming of a corpse: “She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying” (Mar 14:8).


The NT’s standard word for “answer” is apokrinomai. Occasionally this is intensified with another prefix, giving it a somewhat hostile flavour: “answer back”. Appropriately four out of five of its OT occurrences come in the book of Job!

In the NT Rom 9:20 is interesting. In the middle of the exposition of Paul’s doctrine of election comes the objection “Why then doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?” To this Paul’s main reply is: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that art answering God back?” Who are you, to argue against God? He is the potter, you and Pharaoh are only clay.


In the three NT occurrences it is always the arm of the Lord, meaning, of course, His open dramatic effective action in bringing help to those in need. And in each place there is allusion back to some OT passage:

Acts 13:17
= Exo 6:6.
Joh 12:38
= Isa 53:1.
Luk 1:51
= Psa 118:15 (Heb chayil = strength).

In many places in psalms and prophets the same idea, of divine intervention on behalf of His people, is very evident.


The NT has four words to signify “ask” or one of the synonyms of that verb. All of them are used frequently. It is no easy matter to sort out the different inflexions of meaning which these carry, but the effort is worthwhile because of the finer nuances of meaning which can then be traced in not a few places.

Aiteo expresses the idea of petition, asked by an inferior of a superior. This very clear implication of the word puts Trench (“New Testament Synonyms”) in rather a flap because of Martha’s appeal to Jesus: “I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (Joh 11:22). Trinitarian Trench does not like the implied notion that Jesus was not of equal status with his Father, and therefore he expresses himself somewhat scornfully about Martha’s lack of spiritual insight. But, indeed, if the apostle John felt equally disapproving, would he have included this in his record uncorrected?

1Jo 5:16 is a very problematical passage using this word aiteo. One problem arises from lack of nouns to the verbs. “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask (Jesus), and he (the Father) shall give him (Jesus) life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he (Jesus) should beseech (God) for it.”

Erotao seems to have two distinct flavours:

  1. It is used as equivalent of the English “enquire”. Thus, “Jesus asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Mat 16:13). And in reply to the Pharisees’ interrogation about his own authority, Jesus replied: “I also will ask you one thing...” (Mat 21:24). Similarly, concerning the disciples’ mystification: “Jesus knew the disciples were desirous to ask him. Do ye enquire (seek) among yourselves of that I said, A little while and ye shall not see me....?” (Joh 16:19), to be followed by the assurance: “In that day ye shall ask me nothing (erotao, question, enquire)....Whatsoever (understanding) ye shall ask (aiteo, petition) the Father in my name, he will give it you” (16:23).
  2. But this word is also used often as equivalent to “beseech”. It describes importunity: The Syrophoenician woman pleading on behalf of her daughter (Mar 7:26); the rich man begging that his five brothers be warned (Luk 16:27). In this sense, often enough. It is rather surprising, then, to find it used of Jesus “praying Simon” to let him use the fishing boat as a pulpit — a measure perhaps of how hard-pressed Jesus was by the crowd (Luk 5:3,1). And it is equally surprising to find Pharisees more than once beseeching Jesus to accept their hospitality (Luk 7:36; 11:37). Mere Pharisee hypocrisy? And in Joh 14:16 this supposedly Trinitarian gospel throws a spanner in the Trinitarian works with this word of Jesus: “I will pray (beseech, beg) the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter...”, with reference to what could be expected at his ascension to glory!
Eperotao is the same as erotao with the intensive prefix epi added to it. Accordingly, it means either (a) specially earnest enquiry, (b) an insistent pressing interrogation, or (c) enquiry with a certain legal formality about it — in this respect not Maredly different from punthanomai below.

Lastly, punthanomai very clearly describes (a) the question put by a superior to his inferior, and (b) akin to this, the formal legal enquiry.

Avenge, Vengeance

The only problem that arises regarding this verb and noun (ekdikeo, ekdikesis) is whether they always mean just that, or whether there is a milder, more impersonal meaning: “do justice”. Rom 13:4 might seem to fall into this category: “he (the ruler) is....a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Yet what might be impersonal administration of justice in a human ruler is a very personal anger — “wrath” — in an Almighty God who sees His laws being flouted. And the context also suggests vengeance: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto the wrath (of God): for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom 12:19).

There can be no doubt about the meaning of the Lord’s prophecy of the horrors of A.D. 70: “these be the days of vengeance” (Luk 21:22). Israel had violently rejected the Son of God, and continued to do so; and the Father was angry.

The parable of the importunate widow, a problem to our translators, ceases to be a problem when the context is allowed to do its work. The second half of Luke 17 is all about the Second Coming; and Luk 18:8 rounds off with: “when the Son of man cometh...” Then is there not here a plain directive to apply the intervening parable to the Second Coming? In that case, who is the widow? — Israel or the new Israel? The former, doubtless: Isa 54:5-8; Lam 1:1 (ct Mat 28:20; Heb 13:5).

For centuries Israel has seen herself undeservedly (sic) bereft of help and at the mercy of her enemies. To the Jews their God has seemed like an unjust judge, callously heedless of their needs and their rights. Only when Israel turns to God in a persistent importunity not to be gainsaid will there be response to their plight. “And shall not God (then) avenge his own elect, they crying day and night unto him, he being (hitherto) long-suffering (with their persecutors) regarding them? Then (when they are importunate) he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man (the Messiah: Dan 7:13) cometh, shall he find faith (in God’s power to save) in the Land?” — implying: Only in a small remnant.

In the parable, the widow cries: “Avenge me of mine adversary” (Luk 18:3), and this is right. But the Revisers, missing the point of the parable and uneasy about a widow crying for vengeance, have turned it into: “Do me justice” (RV mg.). The RSV has “Vindicate”. NEB: “Demanding justice”. But the AV is right.

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