Harry Whittaker
Word Studies



Kaleo is the ancestor of our English verb “call”, and carries almost exactly the same set of meanings: “to give a name to”, “to invite”, “to summon”, and especially in the epistles “to bring the gospel to someone”. Three easy examples are all that is necessary here.

This kaleo also takes on prefixes galore.

Antikaleo (Luk 14:12 only) is, quite simply, an invitation in return for one received.

Epikaleo, “call upon”, has as its simplest and most obvious meaning the addition of an extra name, as “Judas surnamed Iscariot”.

An important extension of this idea is “having the name of Christ called upon oneself” — as in Jam 2:7: “that worthy name which was called upon you” (RV mg.). This is straight from the OT; eg Jacob’s blessing on the sons of Joseph: “Let my name be named on them” (Gen 48:16). Thus they were reckoned as his sons, and were given inheritance in the Land along with his sons.

This idiom crops up in several places. There is the ringing exhortation of Ananias to Saul of Tarsus: “And now, why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, calling the name of the Lord upon thyself” (Acts 22:16; and so also in 2:21).

On a more mundane level, epikaleo makes appeal to Caesar (6 times in Acts). But a much more important usage is to make appeal to God. In Rom 10:13,14 Paul moves from one idea to the other: “For whosoever shall call the name of the Lord upon himself shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” Here now is the lovely OT theme of the divine rescue: “I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me” (Psa 118:5).

Metakaleomai means “summon”.

Parakaleo, “call to one’s side”, is a word the NT could not do without. All its occurrences are covered by “beseech, exhort, comfort”. Sometimes when taking on a somewhat stronger intent, it means “exhort”, but more usually the other gentler meanings dominate.

Thus the noun paraklesis is nearly always “comfort, consolation”, with only one or two instances of the slightly more austere meaning, as in “Suffer the word of exhortation” (Heb 13:22).

There has been a lot of discussion about how the Holy Spirit passages in John should translate parakletos. It is true that ordinary Greek used this word of a legal aid or representative, but none of the four passages in John’s gospel take kindly to this meaning. “Helper” seems to be the best reading here (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7).

Then what of 1Jo 2:1? “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The legal idea goes well enough here, and is encouraged by the translations. Yet such a reading seems out of character with the apostle John. Also, since the four passages just mentioned have no legal flavour at all, is it likely that John would introduce it here? Isn’t the idea rather this?: ‘If we sin, we have Jesus as our helper in heaven, just as we have the Holy Spirit as our helper here’ (2:20).

Prokaleo, “call forth”, expresses a challenge. Hence Gal 5:26: “provoking one another” describes a spirit of rivalry which Paul so strongly deprecates in that place.

Proskaleomai is “to call others to oneself”. Always this is the idea. There are no complications. Thus: “as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39) means “call to Himself”.

Sunkaleo is, just as simply, “call together”.


Ballo is, quite simply, “to throw, cast”. There are a few places out of more than 130 occurrences where it comes away somewhat from precisely this meaning, but always it preserves something of the vigour associated with the basic idea.

“Put up (ballo) thy sword into the sheath” (John 18:11) suggests a decisive end to violence. “Except I put (ballo) my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust (ballo) my hand into his side, I will in no wise believe,” declared Thomas, showing his emphatic resolution by the strength of his language (John 20:25). Sick people are spoken of as lying (ballo) on a bed” (Mat 8:6,14; 9:2). “Laid low” would probably be a good modern equivalent.

The real interest in this word is in the astonishing tribe of compound words which it has spawned, all of them showing something of the vigour and energy of their forebear. There seems to be hardly a preposition in the language that ballo has no affinity for.

Anaballomai (Acts 24:22 only) describes how Felix “deferred” the Jews after the first hearing of the case against Paul. There is an evident sug-gestion of impatience about this word (“cast them back”), which crystallizes out further when reference is made to Psa 78:21; 89:38, LXX, where this is used.

Antiballo (Luk 24:17) is specially interesting: “What communications are these which ye have (weak translation!) one to another?” Ideas and arguments, hopes and guesses, speculations and objections were being thrown backwards and forwards by these two on the way to Emmaus. This is what antiballo says to the reader of the Greek NT (“Gospels”, HAW, ch. 247; “He is risen indeed”, HAW, ch. 11).

Epiballo has for its commonest rendering: “laid hands on” (eg Luk 20:19; 21:12). But occasionally it goes off in a different direction.

“This I speak for your own profit,” writes Paul, “not that I may cast a snare (noose) upon you.” Paul was no bronco buster seeking to lasso his converts. By all means see Prov 6:5, where the same word is used.

Mar 14:72, concerning Peter’s repentance, is decidedly difficult. AV: “when he thought thereon, he wept” really imports nothing of the idea of epiballo. Godet translates: “hurrying forth”. There is support in the papyri for reading it: “he burst into tears”. Souter: “he set to and wept” (and kept on weeping).

Ekballo is used a lot for the casting out of demons. It is also appropriate to energetic action wherever persons are concerned; eg excommunication — “Diotrephes casteth them out of the church” (3Jo 1: 10). “Dost thou teach us?” said the rulers to the (blind) man in his staunch loyalty to Jesus, “and they cast him out.” Rev 11:2 must be read the same way (“Revelation”, HAW, p. 146).

This vigorous word is used also of sending labourers into the vineyard (Luk 10:2), of removing both beam and mote from the eye (Mat 7:4,5), of the Spirit driving Jesus into the wilderness (Mar 1:12), and even of the well-instructed enthusiastic scribe casting forth things new and old out of his treasury (Mat 13:52) — a marvellous picture of the eagerness of a good Bible student to share his findings.

Diaballomai describes the unjust steward “accused” of wasting his master’s goods (Luk 16:1). The link with the more familiar diabolos is obvious, and may give rise to the suggestion that but for someone informing on him, the steward might have got away with it.

Kataballo is straightforward. Paul’s phrase, “cast down, but not destroyed”, suggests that his enemies within the church were achieving a successful campaign against him (2Co 4:9). The word is also used of laying a foundation (katabole).

Metaballomai (cp. metabolism) indicates a sudden or dramatic change — as when the ignorant people of Malta decided that Paul was not a criminal but a god (Acts. 28:6). It describes how Israel turned their backs on their enemies (Jos 7:8), and how later, when Ai was ablaze, they turned against their pursuers (8:21). Isa 60:5 is interesting: “the wealth of the sea shall turn, or turn back, unto thee (Israel restored).”

Paraballo suggests putting one thing beside (para) another. Hence the word “parable”, in which a detailed similitude is put alongside a real-life situation. In most parables (all of them?) the correspondence can be worked out in detail.

But when the same word is used of interpretation in detail of Abraham’s offering of Isaac, the RV of Heb 11:19 reads “parable”. So Gen 22 anticipates the parables of Jesus by many centuries and should be treated similarly.

The offering of sacrifice in the Tabernacle is also described as a parable (Heb 9:9). So here again exact correspondences are to be sought. In many details the redeeming work of Christ is foreshadowed. The difficulty is that only a few of these details are interpreted by the NT. So in this field exercises in interpretation should be expressed, and received, with due diffidence.

There is an interesting example in the LXX of a very literal use of kataballo. Boaz bade his harvesters: “Be sure to cast beside her (Rth) some of that which has (already) been heaped up” (Rth 2:16). Was Rth too ingenuous to realize what was happening?

Periballo (cast around) makes a highly appropriate word for putting on eastern garments, though inappropriate for clothes of western design. Thus, with only one exception, this word describes the putting on of robes or garments. That exception is the Lord’s prophecy (Luk 19:43) of Jerusalem’s fate, when “thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee.” The holy city’s winding sheet, or shroud!

Proballo is, very simply, “put forth” — the fig tree in the parable putting forth leaves; the Jews of Ephesus, scared by the riot, put forth Alexander as their representative.

Sumballo. The prefix means “together with”. The reference is usually to throwing words or ideas together, hence: “converse, discuss”.

The chief priests in Jerusalem “conferred among themselves” (Acts 4:15). The philosophers of Athens “encountered” Paul — they had discussion with him (17:18). Apollos, when he was come to Corinth, had a lot of talk with the brethren there (18:27) — AV: “helped them much” is rather vague. Mary “pondered” in her heart all the wonderful things associated with the birth of her baby — she was bringing together the significance of all that had transpired. Luk 14:31, AV, misses the point. It would read better: “What king going to another king to discuss concerning war...”

Acts 20:14 is rather problematical. AV: “when he met with us at Assos” seems to be the only possible reading, yet it is not without difficulty, for the verb is in the imperfect tense. “Met and conferred”?

Cleanse, Purify

One expects, naturally enough, that in the OT these words will be specially associated with ritual cleanness and freedom from defilement, as defined in the Law of Moses. But it turns out that this is true in the NT also, with very few exceptions.

There is the use of katharos with reference to leprosy: “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Mat 8:2); and to “the days of the purification” of Mary (Luk 2:22); and to food: “Lord, I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean (akathartos)(Acts 10:14); and to “waterpots...after the manner of the purifying (katharismos) of the Jews” (John 2:6), and so on.

But, declared Jesus, “all things (meaning: all foods) are clean unto you” (Luk 11:41; note v 39). Paul magnificently shook off his Pharisee prejudices about forbidden foods: “There is nothing unclean (koinos, common) of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean... All things indeed are pure (katharos)(Rom 14:14,20).

This is also the true meaning of Tit 1:15: “To the pure (katharos) all things are pure” — contrast “Jewish fables” (v 14). This passage, which has so often been cited to prove that the pure-minded can read bad books and see bad TV programmes and stare at pornography without harm, is actually about the kind of food you may eat. If you are truly cleansed in Christ, so also is all the food you eat.

Much more fundamentally, the NT has some wonderfully fine assurances that those truly in Christ are truly clean: “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (ie sins of commission).” But also: “He is faithful and just to...cleanse us from all unrighteousness (sins of omission)” (1Jo 1:7,9).

Again, “he that is bathed (in baptism) needeth not save to wash his feet (the forgiveness of day-to-day lapses), but is clean (katharos) every whit: and ye are clean, but not all” (John 13:10).

There is also the cleansing discipline in Christian experience: “Every branch in me (the True Vine) that beareth fruit he cleanseth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2). This refers, not to pruning, but to literally scrubbing the vine stem with soap and water to rid it of a fungus (see Jer 2:22).

The disciple’s self-discipline is also called for. “As ye yielded your members servants to uncleanness (akatharsia)...even so now...” (Rom 6:19). “Let us cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of flesh and spirit” (2Co 7:1). “Fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness (coveting a woman you have no right to), let it not be once named among you” (Eph 5:3).

Jam has a fine allusion to the service of the priests in the sanctuary. The laver was appointed specially that “Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat” (Exo 30:19). But Jam, having established his allusion, switches quite dramatically from “feet” to “hearts”: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse (katharizo) your hands, ye sinners, and purify (hagnizo) your hearts, ye double-minded” (4:8).

This cleansing of heart and conscience is powerfully insisted on by Paul [1Ti 1:5; 3:9; 2Ti 1:3; 2:21 (ekkathairo), 22 (pure, katharos)]. But on this the most familiar passage of all is the beatitude: “Blessed are the pure (katharos) in heart, for they shall see God” (Mat 5:8). Isaiah, in consternation at his own uncleanness, had the reverse experience: the sight of the glory of God cleansed (perikathairo) him (Isa 6:5,7).

Many other passages call for special attention. Examples:

Tit 2:14: “...that he might purify (katharizo) unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Here Paul is writing with his mind on the Old Covenant made with Israel at Sinai: “Moses sanctified the people, they washed their shall be a peculiar treasure unto me...All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exo 19:14,5,8).

“We (the apostles) are made as the filth (perikatharmia) of the world, the offscouring (peripsema) of all things” (1Co 4:13). At Athens in time of plague a worthless person was thrown into the sea with the words: “Be thou our peripsema.” Such a person was called katharma (that which is thrown away in cleansing).

In Rev 21:21; 22:1 the new Jerusalem is described as “pure (clean) gold” because sanctified to God and by His Presence. Does this phrase contrast with the uncleanness of gold in this present age?

Unclean spirits? No, that is a separate subject.


Out of 25 occurrences of nephele, all but three plainly mean the Cloud of the Shekinah Glory. The student should work his way through the entire list. Acts 1:9 and 1Th 4:17 are specially instructive.

But there are three of the twenty-five which do not so readily conform to this general usage: In 2Pe 2:17, false teachers are referred to as “clouds carried with a tempest”. Jud 1:12 (ref to the above) calls them “clouds without water”. In each of these instances the Shekinah Glory idea is not out of sight. Here were men claiming divine authority for their message (as Ezekiel with his Eze 1), but in fact they were not borne along by the Holy Spirit (2Pe 1:19) but by a tempest, sweeping them away to their own destruction. Differently, Jude’s “clouds without water” implies that these men brought no true Holy Spirit blessing.

But what is to be said about the words of Jesus?: “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.” Besides the simple literal meaning, a commonplace experience in the Holy Land, Jesus may have meant allusion to the Holy of Holies at the western end of the sanctuary enclosure (cp Psa 103:12) — the Shekinah Glory of God appearing there would be the certain herald of heavenly blessing: “a shower”.

It is important to observe that the “so great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1), referring to the multitude of the faithful in Heb 11, uses a different word: nephos. Thus, it is not permissible to use this passage to interpret 1Th 4:17.

Come Close

Acts 27:8,13 provides two interesting examples of an unexpected idiom. Paralegomai means literally “to speak with”. Yet is used in these two places of a ship’s close approach: “And hardly passing it (Salmone), we came unto... the Fair Havens” (27:8). Then, by and by, they “sailed close by Crete” (27:13). How has the word come to take on this kind of meaning?

To this day it is normal nautical parlance for one ship to “speak with” another; ie make a close approach. Communication between the two is not necessarily implied. So also, nearly two thousand years ago a similar idiom was in use. King Jam’ men recognized that they must translate so as to be intelligible to a land-lubber. Hence the AV readings here.

Come Near

Paraginomai is one of the commonest words for “come” or “come near”. But in two places only it occurs with an additional very expressive prefix sun — thus implying a close association. Thus, Paul writing about his trial, and perfectly certain of an adverse verdict, wrote: “At my first answer (appearing in court), no man stood with me” (2Ti 4:16). No fellow-believer, certainly no one of consequence, appeared at that hearing to publicly associate with him and to testify on his behalf.

The same word is used very eloquently in Luke’s account of the crucifixion: “And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things that were done, smote their breasts...” (23:48). The verb implies a close sympathetic association; and the phrase that follows confirms this. These people were, doubtless, some of those who had acclaimed the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem a few days earlier.

Craftiness, Guile

Panourgia has its roots in Eden: “as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety” (2Co 11:3). And it is appropriate to men who are the seed of the serpent. These came at Jesus seeking to entrap him, but “he perceived their craftiness” (Luk 20:23); for the Lord God “taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (1Co 3:19), and Jesus inherited his Father’s characteristics in this ability also.

The warnings to the early brethren to beware of the deceit of false teachers, a deliberate campaign by evil men, were common enough because necessary (2Co 11:13; 4:2; Rom 3:13 — dolos, guile, in these places; and Eph 4:14). Those crafty men even went so far as to use — how very hypocritically! — the same language against Paul: “being crafty (panourgos) I caught you with guile (dolos), did I?” (2Co 12:16). One is reminded of how Luther and the Pope called each other Antichrist.

Peter was fond, in an inverted sort of way, of this word dolos. No guile in the mouth of the Lord Jesus (alluding to Isa 53:9); therefore no guile in the mouths of those who are his (1Pe 2:1,22; 3:10; and see Rev 14:5).

It is no easy matter to make a distinction between the two words. Panourgia (derived from Greek for “all-work”) appears to describe the set pattern of a man’s character (it is even used in the LXX of Prov 1:4; 8:5, etc. for the dedicated character of a good man); whereas dolos, guile, is appropriate to the verbal expression of cunning and badness.

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