Re: Matthew 24:5

From: Carlton L. Winbery (
Date: Wed Sep 18 1996 - 11:50:59 EDT

Jochen Katz wrote;
>In the web page
>I found a most interesting way of reading Matthew 24:5 which
>differs from all translations and commentaries I have seen.
>Mat. 24:5
> For many will come in my name,
> saying I am the Christ, and will mislead many.
>Most every translation I have seen inserts quotation marks in
>the following way:
> For many will come in my name,
> saying, "I am the Christ", and will mislead many.
>and this means that these false prophets are claiming to
>be "the Christ", i.e. being Jesus Christ who came back
>whom the Christians are waiting for. And sure enough, there
>have been several people claiming things like that and the
>NIV even translates "saying" [as in most translations] with
>"claiming". One example would be the heretical Islamic sect
>of the Ahmadiyya whose leader Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has claimed
>to be Jesus, the son of Mary.
>But the above mentioned web page reads this verse differently.
>Since there are no quotation marks in the original Greek, he
>interprets this as INDIRECT instead of direct speech, i.e.
>Jesus says:
> For many will come in my name,
> saying (that) I am the Christ, and will mislead many.
> For many will come in my name,
> (even) saying (that) I (Jesus) am the Christ,
> and (going on from there) will mislead many.
>So, the reasoning goes, these false teachers/prophets seem to
>be "orthodox" because they admit openly that Jesus is the Christ,
>but then go on to deceive many with their teachings. One example
>in this category would be Muhammad, who in the Qur'an does indeed
>call Jesus the Messiah, but then he goes on to deny each and any
>of the essential features of Jesus, like his crucifixion and any
>form of atonement, his resurrection, his deity, etc etc.
>And which Christian would not admit that Muhammad by doing so
>has misled many?
>Now my question to the Greek experts on this group.
>Is this second interpretation valid from the syntax of the
>Greek alone? If that *is* a valid interpretion on the syntactical
>level, would you feel this is a justified interpretation from
>the exegesis in its context?
>Why? Why not?
>I am torn since on the one hand this is Jesus' response to the
>disciples' question about Jesus' return and it would be sort of
>strange if he would talk about something else ... BUT it wouldn't
>be the first time.
>On the other hand, this unusual interpretation would make more sense
>of the "many will come IN MY NAME" since if some people claim to
>be Jesus himself coming back [or even only claiming to be "the Christ"
>in denial of Jesus' Messiahship] then what would the 'in my name'
>mean? Wouldn't that mean that these people then come "in their own
>name" [when claiming to be Christ] and this would sound strange?
In passages like this in Matthew, I like to see what the parallel in Mark
is first (I still think Matt. used Mark). In Mark the claim is much more
KAI POLLOUS PLANHSOUSIN. The sentence hOTI EGW EIMI seems more likely a
direct claim to be Messiah as the much debated "I am" statements of John.
I think clearly that this is what Josephus talked of when he said that many
young men were enticed to stay in the city of Jerusalem and defend it from
the Romans by the promises of the presence of messiahs.

Did Matthew reinterpret this to apply to later Christian deceivers. Still
the direct claim in EGW EIMI hO CRISTOS would seem to me better interpreted
as a direct claim to be the Messiah rather than an indirect statement about
who Christ is. Such direct claims are usually made in the first person.
That would mean that the statement by Jesus EPI TWi ONAMATI MOU is meant to
mean "in the name of Messiah" (which is who I am).

Carlton L. Winbery
Prof. NT & Greek La College

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