By John David Pitcher Jr.
Have you ever wondered why a New Testament writer would use one word rather than another in a particular verse?
The reason is that each word has a subtle difference in meaning of course.
But the way to see the difference is to discover its first use from the 70 Rabbis’ translation of the Hebrew into Greek (known as the Septuagint).
Let me give you an example with two words that can be translated “I clean.” (catharizw and louw) (the w in the Greek is pronounced “oh”)
The word “catharizw” (from which we get the word catharsis) is first used in Genesis 35:2 where Jacob at Bethel (house of God) tells his family to put away idols, “clean” themselves and change their clothes. As we know, Rachel his chosen bride, could not do that and as a consequence was not to see again her son, Joseph, who was a foreshadow of the Messiah. Rachel died in childbirth of Benjamin (“son of the right hand”) whom she had named “Son of my Trouble.”
The word “catharizw” holds in its meaning something that man cannot do, and when he tries to do it himself, encounters trouble over the Messiah and will not see him when he returns.
On the other hand, the word “louw” has its first use in Exodus 2:5 when Pharaoh’s daughter goes down to “clean” and spots Moses in a basket covered with pitch. She takes him into her own family, and of course he brings God’s elect out of captivity.
The word “louw” holds in its meaning the acceptance of the deliverer of God’s elect and bringing him into your own family as the one who bring a person out of slavery.
When the leper asks Jesus to make him “clean” (catharizw), it is something that only Jesus can do. (Mark 1:40-45)
This idea of “louw” is present in John 13:10 when Jesus describes the one “having bathed” with the meaning of the one accepting Messiah because in the very same sentence is mention of “not all, meaning Judas.”
A good example in the Old Testament where both verbs are used together is the narrative of Naaman the leper, who is instructed by the prophet Elisha to go to the Jordan to “louw” to “catharizw.” The phrase is repeated three times. The idea is emphatic that it is the acceptance of the Messiah that brings “clean” to a person’s life and not his/her own cleaning that does it!!
This reminds me of a recent baptism in the Atlantic, with one of my favorite people in the world, Pastor Jp Funk in the photo, officiating!