Ask - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


aiteo (G154) Ask
erotao (G2065) Request
Aiteo and erotao are frequently translated as though they were synonymous. In numerous instances it is correct to translate either word by "to ask," though sometimes the translators of the Authorized Version marred the perspicuity of their work by not varying their words where the original indicates a difference. For example, obliterating the distinction between aitein and erotan in John 16:23 might easily suggest a wrong interpretation of the verseas though its two clauses were closely related and directly antithetical, which is not the case. Our English version reads: "In that day you will ask Me nothing [eme ouk erotesete ouden]. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask [hora an aitesete] the Father in my name He will give you." All competent scholars agree that the "you will ask" in the first half of the verse has nothing to do with the "you ask" in the second. In the first half Christ is referring back to the ethelon auton erotan of verse 19to the questions the disciples wanted to ask him, the perplexities they wanted him to resolve if only they dared to ask. "In that day," he would say, "in the day of my seeing you again I will by the Spirit so teach you all things that you will be no longer perplexed, no longer wishing to ask me questions [cf. John 21:12], if only you might venture to do so." Thus Lampe well stated:
It is a new promise for the fullest light of understanding, by which the situation in the New Testament must be properly illuminated. For as an inquiry presupposes ignorance, so the person who no more asks questions believes that he has been fully taught, and he agrees to a teaching as completely explained and understood.
This verse does not draw a contrast between asking the Son, which will cease, and asking the Father, which will begin. The first half of the verse closes the declaration of one blessing: from now on the Spirit will teach them so that they will have nothing further to inquire; the second half of the verse begins the declaration of a new blessing: whatever they seek from the Father in the Son's name, he will give to them. No one would say that this is the impression conveyed by the English text.
The distinction between aiteo and erotao is as follows. Aiteo is the more submissive and suppliant term. It is consistently used to refer to an inferior's seeking something from a superior (Acts 12:20), of a beggar's seeking alms from a potential donor (Acts 3:2), of a child's seeking something from a parent (Lam. 4:4; Matt. 7:9; Luke 6:11), of a subject's seeking something from a ruler (Ezra 8:22), and of a man's seeking something from God. In classical Greek, erotao never means "to ask" but only "to interrogate," or "to inquire." Like rogare (inquire), erotao implies an equality between the one who asks and the one who is askedas a king with another king (Luke 14:32)or if not equality, then a familiarity that lends authority to the request.
It is noteworthy that Jesus never used aitein or aiteisthai to refer to himself when speaking to God on behalf of his disciples, for his is not the petition of the creature to the Creator but the request of the Son to the Father. Jesus' consciousness of his equal dignity and prevailing intercession appears whenever he asks (or declares that he will ask) anything of the Father, because he always uses eroto or eroteso, an asking on equal terms (John 14:16; 16:26; 17:9, 15, 20), and never aiteo or aiteso. Martha, on the contrary, by ascribing aiteisthai to Jesus, recognized him as no more than a prophet and thus revealed her poor conception of him.

Erotan, the term of authority, is proper for Christ but not for his creatures to use. In fact, in the New Testament erotan is never used to refer to a man's prayer to God. The only passage that seems to contradict this assertion is 1 John 5:16, a difficult verse. Whatever solution is accepted will not be a true exception to the rule, and perhaps, in the substitution of erotese for the aitesei of the earlier clause of the verse, will rather confirm it.

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