Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb ελκυω (helkuo) or ελκω (helko) means to drag or draw: to force to follow by some leading power, mostly against the natural resistance of whatever is drawn. This verb stems from the Proto-Indo-European root "selk-", to pull or drag, mostly of a plough through a field: making furrows. This PIE root comes with a leading 's', which is missing in our Greek word. This is not an uncommon phenomenon in Greek, although it mostly happens in reverse: see our article on the noun σειρα (seira), cord, for a brief look at some examples.
In the Greek classics, our verb was used to describe the dragging along of some heavy object (of a warrior a dead victim, a prisoner his chain, of mules a chariot, of a plough through a field). But it could also describe a drawing out of ships from port, a sword from its sheath, or a bow ready to shoot an arrow. Our verb could tell of sails hoisted, oars pulled or nets drawn.
Most notably, our verb could describe the dragging of someone to court, which immediately implies that the dragger, somehow, has availed the strength to do so. Only a stronger person can overwhelm the resistance of any suspect, which in turn implies that justice can only begin to be administered when first the righteous have become stronger than the unrighteous.
Our verb occurs 8 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it comes:
- Together with the preposition εκ (ek), meaning out, from or of: the verb εξελκω (exelko), meaning to draw out or away from some intended course (James 1:14 only).
The noun ελκος (elkos) describes an abrasion, a minor wound, a scrape, sore or ulcer (Luke 16:21, Revelation 16:2 and 16:11 only). Though initially superficial, this word could nevertheless describe a deadly injury: a festering snakebite or an ulcer brough on by plague.
Experts have declared our noun ελκος (elkos), sore, unrelated to the verb ελκω (helko), to drag along (see above), but a willing audience might expect the poets to ignore formalities and embrace the obvious similarities in their wordplay. Note that when someone is dragged along the floor (for whatever reason and toward whatever destination), they will certainly develop scrapes and cuts and all sorts of superficial wounds.
Formally, our noun is thought to derive from a PIE root "helk-", conveniently meaning minor wound (hence too the familiar Latin noun ulcus, ulcer). From our noun derives:
- The verb ελκοω (helkoo), meaning to be covered in scrapes and abrasions. This verb occurs in Luke 16:20 only, where its usage implies that Lazarus wasn't gently "laid" at the rich man's gate but moved there against both his will and the natural friction that his body experienced from the ground he was dragged along.