From: Ward Powers (
Date: Thu Oct 16 1997 - 08:50:05 EDT

At 20:41 97/10/12 EDT, Paul Dixon wrote:
>When Jesus was asked:
> 1) SU OUN EI hO hIOS TOU QEOU (Lk 22:70),
>He responded respectively,
>(Compare Mt 26:64, SU EIPAS and Mt 27:11, SU LEGEIS, respectively).
>Is this a standard Greek way of saying "yes"? The NASV has "Yes, I am"
>(Lk 22:70), "It is as you say" (Lk 23:3), "you have said it yourself" (Mt
>26:64), and "It is as you say" (Mt 27:11).
>Am wondering if there is possibly more to it than the English
>translations seem to indicate. Is this a way Christ has of intentionally
>veiling some of His glory to His nonbelieving accusers? If He intended
>to simply answer "yes," then why didn't He say something like, EGW EIMI,
>or EIMI? Is there not a simpler way of saying "yes" in Greek?

Jonathan and Carl responded.

Jonathan said,

>Of course there is - NAI, EGW EIMI would have been very clear. I've always
>assumed that he was avoiding saying this clearly because he was on trial for
>blasphemy, and once he said this clearly, he would be killed.

Well, it didn't work, Jonathan. The people at the trial acted exactly as if
he HAD said "yes". In Matthew's account (26:65), "Then the high priest tore
his robes and said, 'He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need
witnesses? You have now heard this blasphemy.'" Similarly Mark 14:63 and
Luke 22:71. They condemned him to death and manipulated Pilate to get the
sentence carried out. So it would seem that they took Jesus's reply as
clearly meaning "yes".

And Carl said (with a few snips):

>No, I think it's fair to say that it is NOT the standard Greek way of
>saying "yes."

>>Is there not a simpler way of saying "yes" in Greek?

>NAI. Yes, that's the word, the normal word, and it even appears in the NT
>in the passage cited by Jonathan and glossed by myself in the chicken-liver
>exchange of last night. There's also the old standard Platonic
>conversational response to a question demanding a "yes" answer: PWS GAR OU?
>or "What else?"

Fair enough. We have to agree with Carl and Jonathan on this: what Matthew
and Luke record from the Sanhedrin trial is not the standard Greek way of
saying "yes". But three things cry aloud for further comment.

First, from the reaction of the high priest and Sanhedrin members (noted
above), it would seem pretty clear that they took Jesus's reply as
definitely meaning "yes". So even if there were other ways in which Jesus
COULD have said "yes" or its equivalent, what he did say was taken to have
that meaning too.

Second, one cannot but help wondering why Jesus did reply in this way,
rather than just by saying "yes" or equivalent. This is really not a
question to pursue at length on b-greek, and the thing to do at this point
is to turn to the commentaries. For myself, I venture one tentative
comment: what Jesus said was effectively equivalent to "yes", and could
actually be translated something like, "It is as you say" (as Paul cites
from the NASV); but it threw the question of deciding his meaning back on
the high priest and Sanhedrin. THEY had to decide his meaning. Which they
did. They decided he meant "yes". Which he did.

Third: so far the question of what Mark contains in this pericope has not
been raised by anyone. Now, to me Mark's wording is VERY interesting.
Because Mark records Jesus's answer to the high priest (14:62) as being,
EGW EIMI, "I am". Wow! No ambiguity there. Apart from this, Mark is pretty
close to Matthew in content.

Now here is a thought, on the different Greek wording in the three
Synoptics: if the source for authors Matthew and Luke was the Gospel of
Mark (i.e., as per the Markan Priority hypothesis), and they found EGW EIMI
in the text of Mark in front of them, why did they each decide to alter it
to the somewhat less direct SU EIPAS and hUMEIS LEGETE hOTI EGW EIMI
respectively? I find that one hard to figure out.

But suppose that Mark is the last of the three to write and he has Matthew
and Luke in front of him (the Markan Dependence hypothesis), and he finds
these differing expressions in Mt and Lk at this point, what does he do? He
is writing for down-to-earth Romans who may not immediately follow the
subtleties of Matthew's and Luke's wording. The meaning of what Jesus is
saying is clear for Mark and he wants it to be clear for his readers too.
So he leaves out the SU EIPAS of Matthew and the hUMEIS LEGETE hOTI in
Luke, and just runs with the balance of Luke's wording, EGW EIMI.

No problem. Crystal clear for his readers.

I like that explanation.


Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:

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