Kittel says, “to be able,” with specific reference to the subjective spiritual or moral attitude which either makes able or not.
The word appears over 200 times in the NT and is well attested. Moreover, it appears over 300 times in the LXX (Greek translation of the OT). In 175 of those occurrences, it is used to translate the Hebrew word, יכל, transliterated, lk’.
The meaning is really the same: to be able, to do a thing, whether ability be physical, moral, constitutional, or dependent on external authority.
It really quite simple, the Jews who refused to hear Christ, who rejected Christ, did so because they were not able to hear him and to accept Him. This immediately offends the senses of most people, and it especially offends the senses of unregenerate Americans. It even offends most people who claim to know Christ and who see themselves as being firmly within the Christian group. That’s quite alright. It offended the people when Jesus first taught it as well. That response is not at all surprising. In fact, it is reassuring because it is an indication that the teaching is accurate.
“A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”
Lydia was listening to the things Paul was preaching. Now, as this was taking place, the Lord opened her heart to respond to the gospel. Unless the Lord opens the heart, people will not respond to the preaching of Christ because they think it is absurd. It is foolishness to the Greek and a stumbling block to the Jew. The American is no better off. What does America think about the true gospel? What do most American “Christians” think about the gospel? They think it is like joining a club or signing up for volunteer work of some kind. This is not biblical Christianity and it is time for the Christian group to do the very hard work of repenting for not doing more to address this confusion and be willing to practice excommunication and shunning.
When we see the word draw in modern English, we think about being attracted or allured to something. Hence, when we read this text, the modern American mind thinks Jesus meant what we mean when we use the word draw. However, Jesus’ meaning was far more intense than most modern readers realize. This is a powerful word that means to actually move an object, not try to move an object. We read the text like this: I will draw men and they will cooperate and move toward me. Many even believe that Jesus will draw people and ultimately they will not come. They see this as some kind of wooing as it is termed by some evangelical preachers today. According to them, God woos people into coming to Christ. That meaning is foreign to the concept of this word, not to mention the teaching of Scripture. The word appears six times in the NT. One other time it is translated draw, in John 12:32 where Jesus said He would draw all to Him if He is lifted up on the cross. The other four times it is used, the object that is being drawn always moves. It is not the attempt to move an object to something. It is not the act of trying to persuade someone or manipulate an object. It is the efficacious moving of something from one place to another every single time. I will move them to me. The verse actually says the Father will move men to me. In other words, No man can come to me, unless my Father who sent me, moves him to me.
Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 261-62.
vol. 2, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-), 284.