[B-Greek] Meaning of THERAPEUO

ann nyland nyland at tsn.cc
Sat Jan 8 23:22:27 EST 2005

Hi Robert,
The papyri and inscriptions have added to our udnerstanding of this word, as 
has Louise Wells of Australia's recent definitive work "The Greek language 
of Healing from Homer to New Testament Times", (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 
1998), see especially pp. 35, 39, 83, 510.
QERAPEUW describes the result of treatment which embraces physical and 
psychological therapies, and usually involves a permanent change of 
lifestyle - see, for example, IG IV2 1, no. 126. Continuity of action is 
always stressed with this verb. In Thucydides' account of the plague, either 
the present participle is used (2.47.4; 2.51.2; 2.51.3), or the cognate form 
(2.51.4) or the future participle (2.51.5). Xenophon's use of the word 
(Cyropaedia 3.2.12; Memorabilia 4.3.9) echoes that of Thucydides. From 
Isocrates' writing, it is evident that the concept of emotional support is 
implicit. Isocrates, Aegineticus 11, 20-33 describes treatment, and the 
resultant healing demands a response in the person who needs the healing - 
this person takes an active part in the healing process. Note that the 
opposite Greek word means "neglect". QERAPEUW  is associated with hearing 
the Word (both in pagan and NT contexts) and is often associated with a 
preaching context (again, bhoth in pagan and NT contexts). It is ongoing: 
recovery may be rapid or slow. Diogenes Laertes says the terms that Epicurus 
used for things were "ordinary" terms. DL 10.13. Where Epicurus uses 
QERAPEUW to mean heal, the healing agent is the LOGOS of the philosopher. 
Galen uses QERAPEUW to refer to the result of extended treatment, which 
reflects its use by Hippokratic authors. E.& L. Edelstein, Asclepius: A 
Collection and interpretation of the testimonies, 1945, Vol. 1., Baltimore, 
T 436, Subfiguratio Empirica Cp. X, p. 78; IG IV2 1, no. 126. L. Wells p. 88 
states, "Thus Galen is consistent in his use of therapeuo to describe 
medical treatment, usually of an extended nature, that should be successful 
(but may not be successful in some circumstances)." Galen sees the need for 
QERAPEUW to treat "failures of function". Galen: On the natural faculties, 
(trans. A.J. Brock) (London: The Loeb Classical Library of Galen, 1979), De 
naturalibus facultatibus, 2.9 [2.126K.] pp. 194-196. The use of QERAPEUW by 
the Hippokratic medical school indicates that recovery may be slow or rapid. 
Regimen III.75.

Aristides (Publius Aelius) was famous for his precision of style, and for 
this reason his use of Greek healing language is instructive. He uses the 
term QERAPEUW as "medical treatment". Significantly, he uses the opposite 
term for "neglect". Aristides, vol. 1, trans. C.A. Behr, (London: Loeb 
Classical Library Edition of Aristides, 1973), 1, 472, Or. 2.326, phrase 
repeated in 327. Philo uses the term QERAPEUW  to include ridding oneself of 
griefs, fears, acts of greed, folly and injustice "and the countless host of 
other passions and vices". Philo, The Contemplative Life, (trans. F.H. 
Colson), (London: The Loeb Classical Library Edition of Philo, 1941), 2 Loeb 
9, pp. 112-114. Philo makes it clear that QERAPEUW should be understood in a 
spiritual sense, and places QERAPEUW  ideally in a teaching context. In 
Josephus, QERAPEUW refers to ongoing treatment which may or may not be 
successful. Jewish Antiquities, (trans. R. Marcus), (London: The Loeb 
Classical Library of Josephus, 1978), Vol. 6., 9-11, Ant., 9.121, p. 64. 
QERAPEUW is linked with teaching and preaching. It is a continuous process, 
and is linked with changing one's way of life. L. Wells states, "When 
passive it (therapeuo) describes the result of God's healing logos, but this 
result demands an active and ongoing response in the life of the hearer of 
the word. Thus humans can be both healed and themselves take an active part 
in the healing process." (op.cit., p. 119); "Therapeuo is the visible effect 
of teaching and preaching, the 'action' product of the message." (ibid., p. 

In Greek literature from Homer to NT times, QERAPEUW usually occurs in the 
imperfect, suggesting ongoing action. It is rarely used in the aorist. 
QERAPEUW is the most popular word in the New Testament language of healing. 
In fact, it appears almost twice as often as the other N.T. popular word for 
healing, IAOMAI. This is totally contrary to the incidence of the verb in 
all Greek literature, as well as the Septuagint. In both the LXX and the 
N.T. it is the human word, whereas IAOMAI is the God word.

The use of QERAPEUW in the NT is most consistent with its uses from earleir 
centuries, and the person who was "healed" remained healed if they 
contributed to their own "healing" (i.e. lifestyle). For ezxample, a person 
who had a health problem from being very overweight and was "healed' was 
likely not remain so if they continued to overeat and not exercise - whereas 
a person with other types of healing, such as IAOMAI, was healed by a burst 
of divine power (for want of a better description) and remained healed no 
matter what.

Ann Nyland

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Robert A Bayer" <robertbayer at juno.com>
To: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Sunday, January 09, 2005 2:39 PM
Subject: [B-Greek] Meaning of THERAPEUO

>I have been studying the meaning of yerapeuo in the New Testament and
> would appreciate any thoughts you might have regarding this.
> One specific aspect of meaning I am concerned about is whether all those
> who were "healed" in the NT were always cured, rehabilitated, and
> restored?
> I have searched through several months of archives and this subject does
> not seem to have been discussed recently.  If  it has been discussed
> previously, I would appreciate being directed to that discussion.
> Thank you,
> Bob Bayer

More information about the B-Greek mailing list