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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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EPHPHATHA. An Aramaic word, found in the Greek text of Mark 7:34. We there read that Jesus said to a man who was ‘deaf and had an impediment in his speech, Ephphatha’ (ἐφφαθά). The Evangelist appends a Greek translation of the word: ὅ ἐστιν διανοίχθητι, ‘that is, Be opened.’

There are two Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] words of which ἘΦΦΑΘά may be a transliteration: (1) אָפַתַּח; (2) אָפִחַח. The former is a contraction of אִחְפַחַּח Imperative Ithpaal; and the latter is a contraction of אִחְפְחַח Imperative Ithpeal of the verb פּהַח ‘to open.’ In Greek MSS [Note: SS Manuscripts.] , א3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] D [Note: Deuteronomist.] present ἑφφαθά, which is certainly Ithpeal, whereas ἑφφαθά may be Ithpaal. Jerome gives Ephphetha, and some Latin MSS [Note: SS Manuscripts.] give effetha, ephetha, and even effeta. Wellhausen in his Com. on Mark 7:34 prints ἑφφατα, but apparently without MS authority.

The form ἑφφαθά, when compared with its Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] equivalent אחפתח, presents several interesting peculiarities bearing on the dialect spoken by our Lord. (1) We note the disappearance of the guttural ח. We know that in Galilee and Samaria the gutturals were much neglected, or even interchanged; and they are often ignored in transliterating Semitic words into Greek. Thus we find Μεσσίας from משִׁיחָא; Βηθεσδά from בֵּיח חֶסִרָּא; γἑεννα from נֵּי חִנֹּם; Σίμων from שִׁמְעוֹן (side by side with Συμεὡν, where the ε does duty for ע. (2) We note the assimilation of ח to פ, giving ἑφφαθά for ἑθφαθά; or in Aram. אָפחַח for אִחְפחַח. This is quite in accordance with a rule in Palestinian Aramaic, that frequently, and especially with the labials כּ, מ and פ, the ח in the passive prefix חא is assimilated to the first radical (Dalman’s Aramaische Grammatik, p. 201). (3) It is noteworthy that we have the repetition of the aspirate letter φ. According to Hebrew analogy, אָפּחַח ought to give ἑτπαθά, inasmuch as the daghesh always indicates the harder and not the aspirated form of the letter פ. We infer, therefore, that in the Semitic language, which lies behind our Greek Test., there was a deviation from Hebrew rule as to the daghesh. If Heb. had been the basal language of the Gospels, we could not have had such forms as Βαρθολομαῖος from בַר תּוֹלמַי and Βηθφαγή from בִּיח פָאני. The aspirated forms ח and ם after a closed syllable would be intolerable. The daghesh forte is also singularly treated in Ματθαῖος from מַחִּי,א and Ζακχαῖος from וַכָי (4) The appearance of ε in ἐφφαθα may possibly indicate that the dialect spoken by our Lord used the Syriac prefix אָח eth with passive forms, and not אח ith, as is found in Palestinian Aramaic; in other words, used Ethpaal for Ithpaal.

As to what is the subject of the verb διανοίχθητι, ‘Be thou opened,’ there is room for difference of opinion. It may be the mouth, as in Luke 1:64 (so Weiss, Morison), or the ear, as in Targ. [Note: Targum.] on Isaiah 50:5 (so Bruce, Swete); or it may be the deaf man himself who is addressed. One door of knowledge being shut, the man is conceived of as a bolted chamber: ‘Jesus said to him, Be thou opened.’

Literature.—Zahn, Einleitung in das NT i. 1–24; Kautzsch, Gramm. des Biblisch-Aramaisch, § 5; Dalman, Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] Gramm. 201 f., 222; A. Meyer, Jesu Muttersprache, 52; Meyer, Bruce, Swete, etc., on Mark 7:34.

J. T. Marshall.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ephphatha'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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