Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The verb ημαι (hemai) means to sit, although in antiquity there wasn't a sitting tradition the way we moderns have it. Our modern houses are filled with sofas and chairs, and we insist on benches in parks and waiting areas, but in antiquity people were either busy working, or they weren't, in which case they stood around or reclined on the ground.
Our verb describes being somewhere whilst not working in the labor sense of the word. Our word for school comes from σχολη (schole), which means leisure or not having to work, and in antiquity, scholars were those people fortunate enough to not have to labor for a living, on a par with magistrates and other such elite. That means that scholars, like rulers, were sitters. And particularly in the New Testament, sitters were (implied) scholars. Something of this imagery is retained in our modern word "chair" in the sense of an academic office or post.
Our verb ημαι (hemai) stems from an obscure Proto-Indo-European root, and in the classics it only covers the perfect of pluperfect tenses. The other tenses are covered by καθιζω (kathizo), εζομαι (hezomai) and καθημαι (kathemai; see below). Our verb ημαι (hemai) is not used independently in the New Testament, but from it derives:
- Together with the preposition κατα (kata), meaning down from, down upon: the verb καθημαι (kathemai), meaning to be seated as opposed to plowing a field or such. Sometimes this verb is used simply literally, but most often it implies not merely a sitting still but rather performing a magisterial, governmental, scholarly or academic pursuit at some institute or within some region. The Jewish world has always revolved around learning, and in Jesus' time, every town had a synagogue and every city sported a huge industry of intellectualism (Matthew 13:1). This verb is used 89 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it in turn derives: