Re: Mt 27:11//Mk 15:2//Lk 23:3 (Was Mark 15:2)

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Mon Jun 01 1998 - 03:44:44 EDT

Re: Jesus's reply to Pilate, SU LEGEIS.

This question was first raised by It was addressed
off-list to me and numerous others on the list.

First, I want to endorse the comments of others: it is a good question to
raise on-list, and HoLogos is invited to join the list; and also, in any
case, HoLogos needs to identify himself - on this list, we are all out in
the open as to our names and who we are.

Next, I draw attention to the fact that it is a tich misleading just to use
the subject heading which identifies this as in Mark 15:2. This is true
enough - but the same words in the same context also occur in the parallels
in Matthew 27:11 and Luke 23:3. I consider this significant, for it means
that each of the Synoptic authors considered that the expression would be
understood by their respective audiences. So I reckon we should modify the
subject header to mention all three parallel passages.

Furthermore, we should note the reply of Jesus as given to a somewhat
similar question shortly beforehand which he was asked by the High Priest,
"Are you the Christ, the Son of God?" (The form of the question is given is
slightly different words in the three Synoptics.) Jesus's reply is (Mt
26:64) SU EIPAS; (Mk 14:62) EGW EIMI; (Lk 22:70) hUMEIS LEGETE hOTI EGW
EIMI. Now, although the wording of Jesus's replies differs in the three
Synoptics, the response of the High Priest (Matthew//Mark) and the rest of
the Sanhedrin (Luke) is prettywell identical: "Why do we still have need of
witnesses/testimony?" (Matthew/Mark: MARTURWN; Lk: MARTURIAS; otherwise
identical in wording.) They all then condemned him to death on the basis of
blasphemy. That is, there was no doubt in their minds that his answer meant
"yes" and thus (on their reasoning, for they rejected his claim to be the
Messiah, the Son of God) he was guilty of blasphemy.

On the Markan Priority theory of Synoptic relationships, it is a bit
difficult (it seems to me) to explain why Matthew, with Mark's clear "I am"
(EGW EIMI) in front of him, should feel obliged to alter it to
"You have said [it]" (SU EIPAS), and Luke to add additional words to end up
with "You are saying that I am" (hUMEIS LEGETE hOTI EGW EIMI).
On the other hand, viewed from the perspective of the Markan Dependence
hypothesis, Matthew and Luke are independent accounts, giving separate
renderings into Greek of what Jesus said before the Sanhedrin in Aramaic
(or, some would aver, Hebrew). Mark, with both Mt's and Lk's accounts in
front of him, selected his wording from Luke, EGW EIMI, thus making Jesus's
answer very clear indeed and removing any possibility of ambiguity. (I
personally see the differing wording of the three Synoptic versions here as
strongly supporting the superiority of the Markan Dependence over the
Markan Priority explanation of Synoptic relationships.)

In any case, as we see, the Sanhedrin recognized Jesus's words as a clear
claim to Messiahship and to be the Son of God. Jesus was saying "Yes".

Thus when we come to Mt 27:11//Mk 15:2//Lk 23:3, SU LEGEIS in all three
Synoptics, we are able to see that again the reply means "Yes".

Do we then simply translate his reply as "Yes"? Or something else? I have
found it interesting (I am not sure that "interesting" is the best word
here) to look at something more than a dozen modern versions to see how
they render it. They basically break up into three groups, those that take
it as being "Yes", those that take it as meaning "That is your opinion",
and thus almost implying "No", and those that seek to leave it open.

Thus the NASB (1960) has, "It is as you say." (Similarly, Living Bible,

Virtually implying "No": the TEV, "so you say"; Jerusalem and Lattimore,
"It is you who say it"; NEB, REB, and Jewish NT, "The words are yours";
CEV, "Those are your words".

Not strongly implying "yes" or "no", the AV (KJV), "Thou sayest it";
Phillips, "You say that I am"; RSV and Throckmorton, "You have said so";
Fenton and NRSV, "You say so".

What do I think? Do I have an opinion?

Yup. Sure do. Two things need (it seems to me) to be borne in mind.
Firstly, for the reasons given above, the meaning of Jesus's reply is
"Yes", and this must therefore be the meaning which comes clearly through.
Otherwise we are not conveying the thrust of what Jesus said. Secondly, it
was easily possible for Jesus to answer Pilate with EGW EIMI, "I am", or
simply NAI, "Yes". The three Synoptists concur that he did not, but used
the second person sg present tense of the verb "to say". I aver therefore
that this should figure in how we translate it. So for these reasons I
align myself with the NASB and the others who render it "It is as you say."



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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