Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb ερωταω (erotao) means to ask — hence the second part of our English verb to interrogate. It may describe a request for information, to inquire, or for an act of some sort, to request or implore. Unlike this verb's near-synonym αιτεω (aiteo), which mostly describes a request up the social ladder or up the chain of command, our verb ερωταω (erotao) mostly refers to a question among equals, or a request down the social ladder. It's used 58 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- Together with the preposition δια (dia), meaning through or through-and-through: the verb διερωταω (dierotao), meaning to inquire diligently, peruse or pick someone's brain (Acts 10:17 only).
- Together with the preposition επι (epi), meaning on or upon: the verb επερωταω (eperotao), which means the same as the parent verb but with emphasized urgency or approach: to inquire or demand (in German: befragen).
The Jewish culture had an ingrained wisdom tradition and a common way to carry a conversation was by means of asking questions (see our article on the noun חידה (hidda), meaning riddle, or the name Chuza, meaning seer). Our verb is mostly used to describe a quiz-like or challenging inquiry made by someone of higher (perceived) authority or social rank from someone of a lower. It's not the verb that says: "Excuse me, but could you please explain something to me?" But rather the verb that says: "Well, if that were to be so, how do you explain the other thing?" Our verb is not the verb that says: "What are you guys saying (could you please repeat)?" But rather "Have you guys carefully considered what it actually is that you are trying to discuss?" (Mark 9:33). It's not a verb that merely inquires but rather a verb that invites or provokes the addressed to contemplate (comparable to the famous questions posed in Genesis 3:9 and Acts 9:4).
This verb is used an additional 59 times; see full concordance. From it in turn comes:
- The noun επερωτημα (eperotema), which may refer to a question or inquiry or even a whole matter of inquiry, but it may also denote the response to a request or the answer to an inquiry given back to whatever authority posed the question or made the request in the first place. In the New Testament this word is used in 1 Peter 3:21 only, where it describes man's mind after baptism, in response to God's original request.