Monday, January 18, 2016

Aorist Passive Participle in the Great Commission

In Matthew 28:19, the original Greek reads

πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη

βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς 
καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος,...

Now that first word, πορευθέντες, is an aorist passive participle. I have not seen a single translation that gets this correct. They all translate this word as "Go" - an imperative. But the aorist passive participle does not have "mood". A better translation would be, "Having been sent".

The theological implications of this translation are important, I think. The passage most emphatically does NOT mean that you must leave your current location, go somewhere else, and make disciples. The passage says that you are already where God has called you to be. Now make disciples where you are.

Now you should not interpret my comments here as saying that nobody is ever called to move anywhere. Nor should you think that I am saying we do not need missionaries: we do. I am saying that the missionary calling to go elsewhere should not be foisted on people from this passage. This passage will not bear that weight.

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At 1/28/2017 03:59:00 PM , Anonymous James Kim said...

In the Greek, “go”—like “baptizing” and “teaching”—is a participle. Only the verb “make disciples” is imperative. When a participle functions as a circumstantial participle dependent on an imperative, it normally gains some imperatival force. While it remains true to say that the main imperatival force rests with “make disciples,” not with “go,” in a context that demands that this ministry extend to “all nations,” it is difficult to believe that “go” has lost all imperatival force. (Expository Bible commentary).

At 1/31/2017 08:51:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...


Yes, I've seen that comment, or the same effect somewhere or others. It's convinced me that "Go" is an acceptable translation. I am still firmly unconvinced by some missionaries who seem to tell everyone they have to leave and go elsewhere, or they think you're not as mature a Christian. That's what I still don't buy. Thanks for posting!

At 4/12/2018 08:20:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Another comment: the participle from the verb "go" is in the passive voice. While there are passive imperatives (Romans 12:2 comes to mind), wouldn't that mitigate against the participle picking up imperatival force from the neighboring imperative?

Another comment: the word "disciple" is the verb, not the noun. So, my favorite translation is "Having been sent, disciple the nations."


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