ζητησις / ερωτησις - enquiry / question

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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David Lim
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ζητησις / ερωτησις - enquiry / question

Post by David Lim » February 25th, 2012, 11:45 am

I found that "ζητησις" is used in the new testament apparently with the meaning of "enquiry" / "question", but the word I expected for "question", "ερωτησις", does not appear even once in both the new testament and the LXX. LSJ gives the primary meaning of "ζητησις" as "searching", and does not seem to indicate that it is used for "that which is asked". Is there some reason for this?
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cwconrad
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Re: ζητησις / ερωτησις - enquiry / question

Post by cwconrad » February 25th, 2012, 4:25 pm

David Lim wrote:I found that "ζητησις" is used in the new testament apparently with the meaning of "enquiry" / "question", but the word I expected for "question", "ερωτησις", does not appear even once in both the new testament and the LXX. LSJ gives the primary meaning of "ζητησις" as "searching", and does not seem to indicate that it is used for "that which is asked". Is there some reason for this?
See Smyth §§838-843 on formation of substasntives from verbal roots. In general -σις nouns indicate the process (πρᾶξις, ἐρώτησις, ζήτησις κτλ.) while -μα nouns indicate the result of action (πρᾶγμα, ἐρώτημα, ζήτημα κτλ.). I think also that ἐρωτῶ ordinarily is used of questioning a person, while ζητῶ is used of endeavor to find things; ἐρώτησις is interrogation, while ἐρώτημα is a question put to someone; ζήτησις is investigation or research, while ζήτημα is the thing queried or being investigated.

What Smyth has to say about word-formation is really very useful.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

David Lim
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Joined: June 6th, 2011, 6:55 am

Re: ζητησις / ερωτησις - enquiry / question

Post by David Lim » February 25th, 2012, 10:52 pm

cwconrad wrote:
David Lim wrote:I found that "ζητησις" is used in the new testament apparently with the meaning of "enquiry" / "question", but the word I expected for "question", "ερωτησις", does not appear even once in both the new testament and the LXX. LSJ gives the primary meaning of "ζητησις" as "searching", and does not seem to indicate that it is used for "that which is asked". Is there some reason for this?
See Smyth §§838-843 on formation of substasntives from verbal roots. In general -σις nouns indicate the process (πρᾶξις, ἐρώτησις, ζήτησις κτλ.) while -μα nouns indicate the result of action (πρᾶγμα, ἐρώτημα, ζήτημα κτλ.). I think also that ἐρωτῶ ordinarily is used of questioning a person, while ζητῶ is used of endeavor to find things; ἐρώτησις is interrogation, while ἐρώτημα is a question put to someone; ζήτησις is investigation or research, while ζήτημα is the thing queried or being investigated.

What Smyth has to say about word-formation is really very useful.
Yes, I previously surmised that "-σις" indicates the action itself while "-μα" indicates the intrinsic object, but that did not explain why both "ερωτησις" and "ερωτημα" not used in the new testament and LXX, and why "ζητησις" and "ζητημα" are used not quite like the examples in LSJ, but rather as if they were the ordinary words for "questioning" and "question" such as in John 3:25, 1 Tim 6:4 and Acts 15:2, 26:3. Or is it because they are really intended to denote "investigation"? It seems a little odd especially for 1 Tim 6:4 and Acts 26:3.
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