Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb αιρεω (haireo) means to take, grasp, seize, whether with one's hand (i.e. to take something away) or one's mind (i.e. to understand something). It appears to be unrelated to the verb αιρω (airo), to lift up and carry along or away, but the similarities may have arisen from a linguistic case of convergent evolution.
In the New Testament, this verb appears independently only in the middle form, αιρεομαι (haireomai), which emphasizes a mild reflexive clause: to take [for/onto] oneself, to pick and grab, to choose and take. The aorist (a kind of tense, but neither past nor present nor future) of this curious verb looks like inflections of a verb ειλον (eilon). Independently, this verb occurs in Philippians 1:22, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and Hebrews 11:25 only, but from it derive:
- The noun αιρεσις (hairesis), which literally means a taking (again, either with one's hand or one's mind). The meaning of "a taking with one's mind" or "understanding" allowed this word to become used in the sense of "taking something a certain way", "one's leaning", "one's school of thought" or even "sect". Sometime in the 12th century AD, this noun became our English word "heresy", but this particular slant presents a distinct dismissive tone that the original does not possess. The objections of Paul to αιρεσεις (haireseis), or "schools of thought" does not stem from his condemning "sects" (in favor of his own implied orthodoxy), but rather from the confusing fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with religions, denominations, leanings, labels, parties, tribes, sides, factions, nationalities, slave or free, male or female, and certainly not any of the frictions between them (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11, Romans 3:22-30, 1 Corinthians 7:19, Galatians 5:6), but rather with a unity of mind (1 Corinthians 1:10-13, Ephesians 4:3, Philippians 2:2) and the investigation of all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
The Bible is mostly concerned with information technology: speech is what gives us humans our celebrated conscious mind, and script allowed us to create complex law-based societies. Jesus embodies the Logos — in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), and whose deeds are so abundant that the world could not contain the books needed to write them all down (John 21:25) — whose Father is YHWH. This divine Name YHWH is really the Hebrew way of saying ABC (or Alphabet), except that these three Hebrew symbols Y, H and W may either be a vowel or a consonant, and that in turn means that this majestic Name of God has 8 perfectly proper pronunciations (from EEAAOO to YEE-HAA-WOO-HAA), and never just a single preferred one. As soon as we choose one, we reject God's seven spirits (Revelation 1:4, 3:1, 4:5, 5:6) and we reject God Himself. God is One, the original quantum particle, and His Name is a superposition of Eight. Someone who favors one over the seven takes the name of the YHWH in vain (Exodus 20:7) and does himself a huge disfavor (see for more on this our article on the name Hellas).
Despite the assertions of folks who confuse the Gospel with a religion (or who confuse Zeus with YHWH, which is like confusing GTA with C++), the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a doctrine but a skill, a governed kind of freedom (see ελευθερια, eleutheria, freedom: Galatians 5:1), an operating platform that works because of its rules and thus provides freedom to do whatever one wants; a well-trained maturity that allows the handling of all sorts of dangerous substances and proposals without risk (Mark 16:18). Just like the same genetic code gives rise to a broad array of cell types — all perfectly legitimate interpretations of the same code — so Christ is not about agreeing on every fine point of doctrine, but rather about how various legitimate interpretations may co-exist, and disagree in perfect harmony.
Belief in Christ does not hold Christ as the subject of this belief — as if Christ was a "god" of some sort in a faraway heaven somewhere, and not wholly with us always: Matthew 18:20, 28:20, Luke 17:20, Deuteronomy 30:14 — but rather as the environment in which this believing (in whatever) is done. Believing in Christ is like shopping in a mall: you're within the mall, shopping for whatever, whilst eating ice-cream and checking out other shoppers. This noun is used 9 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
- The verb αιρετιζω (hairetizo), which also means to choose or select, but slightly more elaborate: to make someone one's chosen one, to declare someone to be one's selected choice (Matthew 12:18 only).
- The noun αιρετικος (airetikos), which describes someone who is defined by his αιρεσις (hairesis), or school of thought (see above): a religious fanatic or tribalist, a violator of the Name YHWH; not merely an enthusiast but someone who holds his belief dearer than his belief's subject (Titus 3:10 only).
- Together with the preposition ανα (ana), meaning on or upon: the verb αναιρεω (anaireo), meaning to take on, emphasizing a grasping or seizing and subsequent removal up-and-out: to take and carry off (a victim, a prize, some argument, an oracle's response, a contract to perform work).
In the classics, this verb was also used to describe a broader removal or even destruction of some unwanted element (Acts 7:21), and so came to describe the grim procedure of "taking out" someone: abducting someone from their busy social context to deal with him in private. Intuition might suggest that in the classical world, such a procedure would not rarely result in the abductee being bumped off, but that's misleading. Back then, societies were much denser than our modern ones (much less privacy) and abducting someone without being seen was virtually impossible. In addition to this, the Greco-Roman world was legislated to the similar absurd degree as ours (the Romans in particular had discovered that the natural movements of entire populations could be subdued if they could be made to believe in the validity of taxing every move, every transaction, every river crossing, every town entry and exit, and so on — this kind of pernicious tyranny still stifles much social energy in our world today; it's why it's so difficult to change things). Killing someone in secret was extremely difficult, and murderers would be killed themselves in the most horrific ways (so horrific that most tried to commit suicide). Add to this that people of the Jewish persuasion would rather die themselves than violate the Sixth Commandment ("thou shalt not murder"), and would commonly ask any Roman governor to do their killing for them (Luke 22:2, Acts 13:28), or resort to stoning, since it's never clear who threw the stone that finally killed the victim (Acts 22:20).
This verb is used 23 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives:
- Together with the pronoun αυτος (autos), meaning self: the adjective αυθαιρετος (authairetos), meaning self-picked, or independently-choosing (2 Corinthians 8:3 and 8:17 only).
- Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from or out of: the verb αφαιρεω (aphaireo), meaning to take from. This verb is used 10 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition δια (dia) meaning through or throughout: the verb διαιρεω (diaireo), meaning to take apart or to divide (Luke 15:12 and 1 Corinthians 12:11 only).
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out or from: the verb εξαιρεω (exaireo), meaning to take out, to extract. This verb is used 8 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb καθαιρεω (kathaireo), meaning to take down. This verb is used 9 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition περι (peri), meaning around or about: the verb περιαιρεω (periaireo), meaning to take away some surrounding thing, to remove all around. In Acts 27:40 this verb describes the removal of all anchors — bow and stern, port and starboard — in order to make the ship lighter. This verb is used 4 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the preposition προ (pro), meaning before: the verb προαιρεω (proaireo), meaning to bring forth (from some storage), to elect previously, to prefer over something else, or to propose to select before the actual selection occurs (2 Corinthians 9:7 only).