Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb ερμηνευω (hermeneuo) means to interpret, explain or translate (John 1:38, Hebrews 7:2), but, as usual, there is much more to it. Our verb is evidently related to the word hermeneutics, or the branch of knowledge that deals with theories of interpretation. It's also related to the name Ερμαν (Herman), which is a variant of the name Hermes. It's not clear whether the verb or the names came first, but they obviously have to do with each other. The key issue is that Hermes was the Olympian god of boundaries and particularly the crossing of those. As such he functioned as the intercessory between the worlds of man and the divine, and that function is in the New Testament clearly ascribed to Jesus (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25).
Hermes/Jesus builds bridges between realms and connect worlds by criss-crossing all of them (see our article on the name Arabia for more on the fundamental importance of this criss-crossing). That means that the act described by the verb ερμηνευω (hermeneuo) is not simply the adoption of one text or idea and adapting it to fit a wholly separate audience, but rather the building of a bridge across the vast chasm between the wisdoms of otherwise separated peoples. Our verb describes the kind of peace-making that Jesus would famously deem the defining quality of the sons of God (Matthew 5:9).
It occurs 4 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and its derivatives are:
- Together with the prefix δια (dia), meaning through or throughout: the verb διερμηνευω (diermeneuo), meaning to explain clearly and wholly (Luke 24:27), or carefully translate (Acts 9:36) or interpret (1 Corinthians 12:30). This verb occurs 6 times; see full concordance.
- The noun ερμηνεια (hermeneia), meaning interpretation or explanation (1 Corinthians 12:10 and 14:26 only).
- Together with the preposition μετα (meta), meaning with or among: the verb μεθερμηνευω (methermeneuo), meaning to be with translation or interpretation. This verb is used 7 times; see full concordance.