An Aramaic word spoken by Jesus in the cure of the deaf-mute of Decapolis (Mk 7.31–37). The Greek Gospel text gives ἐφφαθά (7.34), a transliteration of the Aramaic 'etp etah or 'etpattah or of the Hebrew hippātaḥ (from the Semitic root ptḥ, to open), which Mark translates as διανοίχθητι, "be thou opened." The word is accompanied by sacramental gestures: Jesus touches the man's tongue with spittle and puts His fingers into his ears. The actions of Jesus and His word of command are as a Sacrament, symbolizing the effects to be produced by the divine power using the sacred humanity as an instrument. Hence, it is not surprising to find the Ephpheta ceremony (as it was called from early times) among the rites prescribed by the church in the administration of baptism of infants: with some variations, the ministering priest repeats the actions of Christ and pronounces the solemn Ephpheta.
Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 674. i. rabinowitz, "'Be opened' = 'Eφφαθά (Mark 7.34): Did Jesus speak Hebrew?" Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der äteren Kirche 53 (1962) 229–238. f. prat, Jesus Christ: His Life, His Teaching, and His Work, tr. j. j. heenan, 2 v. (Milwaukee 1950) 1:399–400. v. taylor, ed., The Gospel according to St. Mark (London 1952) 355.
[a. le houllier]