Re: If you wish, you can (comments)

From: Andre Desnitsky (
Date: Sat Sep 20 1997 - 03:21:46 EDT

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for the replies I've got so far from IOUDAIOS and B-GREEK
lists (it seems that the idea to send my request to two separate lists
was a good one). I prepared a kind of a "catena", or a "talmud" with the
statements that provide (in my opinion) the best solution:

Jonathan Robie:
> I think it is helpful to separate what is SAID from what is IMPLIED here.
> If I knock on your door
> and say "I ran out of gas", I have actually made a statement, not a request,
> but given the fact that I'm standing there at your front door, waiting for
> you to respond, you quickly come to the conclusion that I'm really asking
> you to suggest some way of helping.

Richard Jordan:
> Lepers have no social standing, and no claim on society in general, they
> are outside society...
> therefore it is appropriate that as they have no claim, they need to be
> polite, and beg for mercy.
> ...
> That being said, it works on another level as well, it is a statement of
> faith, you have the ability to heal,.... if you choose to.
> It conveys an understanding of who Jesus is and belief that such mercy is
> possible.
> But as for me it is both a sign of respect, and a confession of faith....

Jed Wyrick:
> Stated positively, this means "you are able to
> do that which you set your mind to" or, "you have the potential to do
> anything, provided you have the will."

So, the conclusion emerges that this expression has different meanings
on different levels. Any other ideas?

Andre S. Desnitsky, PhD
(Bible Society in Russia;
Oriental Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences)
Let me repeat the question (just for a case):

> I would like to ask you a question about a well known NT passage that
> usually is neglected by the commentators though it often remains
> unclear. I mean the leper's words to Jesus: "If you wish, you can make
> me clean" (Mt 8:2, Mk 1:40, Lk 5:12). What does this expression - if you
> wish, you can - E)A\N QE/LH|S DU/NASAI - actually mean? Several answers
> come upon one's mind (perhaps none of them is correct):
> 1) it's a statement (= there is nothing impossible for you);
> 2) it's a request (= you certainly can do it for me. Will you?)
> 3) it's a politeness formula (= French "s'il vous plait"), marking high
> respect for the addressee or a very humble position of the speaker.
> The only other occurence of the expression E)A\N QE/LH|S in the NT is Mk
> 6:22 - O(/ E)A\N QE/LH|S - whatever you wish. Similar expressions can be
> found in the LXX (e.g. Sirach 15:15-16) or in the Hellenistic literature
> of the same period (e.g. Josephus, de bel. jud, 1.621 or Philo, de fuga,
> 28.1). The meaning seems to be "if you wish; as you wish, whatever you
> wish" etc. But that does not seem appropriate for the NT passage (the
> leper is asking to save his life!).
> Any ideas?

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