Question: One Biblegems reader would like to know, what is the difference in Scripture between being healed and being cured?
The two words can certainly be used synonymously, but there is a difference between them, especially where the words in the original language are concerned.
The primary words used in the Greek New Testament for “healed” or “cured” are: kathairo, sodzo, apallasso, iaomai and therapeuo.1 All these terms can be used more or less interchangeably, with some minor differences in emphasis. Unfortunately, these four Greek terms are usually translated into only two English terms: “healed” and “cured,” and sometimes “made clean.”
For example, in Matthew 8, when Jesus heals a man of leprosy, he says to the man, “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy (8:3). The word translated “clean” and the word translated “cured” both come from the same Greek word, kathairo, which mans “to cleanse.” So this man’s “cure” was to be cleansed of an ailment that made him unclean.
In Acts 4, when Peter and John were questioned by the Jewish leaders about the miraculous healing of the crippled man at the temple gate (chpt. 3), Peter used the word sodzo (save; deliver; make whole) to describe the healing (Acts 4:9). Then, in verse 10 he says, by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, … this man stands before you healed. The term used is hoogiace, meaning “healthy” or “well.” The crippling condition this man had known since birth was not considered “unclean,” as was the case with the infectious leprosy.
Luke 8 records how some women… had been cured of evil spirits and diseases (2). The word used here, apallasso, means to “change away.” The idea is that Jesus “removed” the evil spirits and diseases from these ladies.
The Gospel of Matthew relates how Jesus healed a Roman centurion’s servant from a distance: And his servant was healed at that very hour (8:13). “Healed” translates the word iaomai, which is closest to our English terms “heal” or “cure.”
A little later in Matthew, following the death of John the Baptist, Jesus sought to be alone for a while and left with His disciples by boat to a solitary place. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matt. 14:14). Here, the word therapeuo is used, literally meaning to serve someone. In this instance, like a bus boy clearing tables in a busy restaurant, Jesus went throughout the crowd relieving people of their illnesses. The emphasis is more on how Jesus performed the healing ministry than on those who were being healed.
To sum up, then, the English words “healed” and “cured” are used pretty much interchangeably for a variety of Greek terms. The Greek, however, is used with somewhat more care, especially when drawing a distinction between a condition that makes a person clean or unclean, or when emphasizing the person who is doing the healing in contrast to those who are receiving the healing. In the long run, the loss in translation is minimal. God still gets the glory for providing healing for the mortal body through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ!
1 Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, Public Domain. Electronic text downloaded from the Bible Foundation e-Text Library:
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