Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun εδρα (hedra) means seat (any sitting-place, chair, stool, bench), from the noun εδος (hedos), of similar meaning, from the verb εζομαι (hezomai), to sit, or rather to be seated. As we point out in our article on the verb ημαι (hemai), to sit, ubiquitous chairs as we know them today didn't exist in the old world. Ordinary houses didn't have chairs, and chairs were mostly things in which power and authority was seated (rather than the man in which this power was vested).
Hence in the classics, our word was mostly used to describe concepts like the "seat" of honor or the seat of the gods (their temple), or it was used as synonym for θρονος (thronos), throne, again not merely a fancy chair but rather the "seat" of the ruling authority. Our word described a thing's proper place: the lodging where it properly and actively functioned, rather than the place where it passively rested. Still, as in English, our word could describe something that's "sitting" somewhere while it's expected to be moving, or the "sitting" session of a council.
Our noun εδρα (hedra) is not used independently in the New Testament, but is a central element of the following compounds:
- Together with the preposition απο (apo), meaning from or out of: the noun αφεδρων (aphedron), commonly translated with privy or toilet (Matthew 15:17 and Mark 7:19 only). Comfortable toilets were invented many millennia ago; the Romans had their famous lavatrina, but our noun αφεδρων (aphedron) is pretty much non-existent in the classics, which demonstrates that latrines and toilets were not know by this word. Our word literally means out-seat (which brings to mind our English term out-house) but latrines in the Roman world were markedly social affairs, also because there was no shame or modesty attached to one's daily ablutions. That means that our word probably does not refer to the Greco-Roman latrine but rather to the Hebrew one, which indeed emphasized the wisdom of separating oneself from one's excrement. This was understood to be so important to the health of society, that the instructions on how to build a latrine (outside the camp, and bring a shovel) were offered as part of the Laws of Acceptance into the Assembly of God (Deuteronomy 23:10-13). The theme of proper removal of wastes (i.e. sins) runs like a scarlet thread through the Bible and of course culminates in the crucifixion of Christ at the "place of waste" (Hebrews 13:12-13).
- The adjective εδραιος (hedraios), meaning seated or settled: fixed in its proper place ready for action (1 Corinthians 7:37, 15:58 and Colossians 1:23 only).
- Together with the common preposition εν (en), meaning in: the noun ενεδρα (enedra), literally meaning in-seat but used to describe a lying in wait or ambush, either literally, in a bush, or figuratively in trickery statements (Acts 25:3 only). From this noun comes:
- Together with the preposition συν (sun), meaning together or with: the adjective συνεδρος (sunedros), literally meaning jointly-seated. This adjective could describe birds huddled together, but more commonly described men seated in a council or assembly. This adjective used substantially described a member of a council. This adjective isn't used in the New Testament, but from it derives:
- The familiar noun συνεδριον (sunedrion), literally meaning a joint-sitting: a council or assembly (comparable with the noun συναγωγη, sunagoge, place of joint-leading, and εκκλεσια, ekklesia, assembly or the called-out). From this noun comes the familiar name Sanhedrin, which was both the formal term for the central council of the Jewish state, and that of smaller, local councils. It's used 22 times; see full concordance.