Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Is “He is Risen” Passive?

The other day in class we translated what Herod said about John. “This is John the Baptist; he has risen (ἠγέρθη) from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him” (Matt 14:2; NASB). ἠγέρθη is an aorist passive and a student asked why the NASB didn’t translate it as a passive.

This becomes a more important question when we realize that passives are used of Jesus being raised from the dead.  “He is not here, for He has risen (ἠγέρθη), just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying” (Matt 28:6). The NIV also uses “he has risen,” which is transitive but I am not sure it is passive. The NLT uses an almost stative, “He is risen.” CSB (formerly the HCSB) has an explicit passive: “For He has been resurrected” (“has been raised,” NET).

And why was the NASB not consistent? In Matt 26:32 they translate the passive as a passive, “But after I have been raised (μετὰ … τὸ ἐγερθῆναί με), I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

It is of the utmost theological importance to see that God the Father raised Jesus as a vindication of his perfect sacrifice and a validation that in fact Jesus had done everything he came to do. τετέλεσθαι.

So how do you hear “he is risen”? Do you hear it as an active or a divine passive?


I am hearing "he is risen" as a stative. I don't have a Greek grammar nearby: how would Greek normally express a stative? I like your emphasis of the work of the Father in the resurrection; however, this reminded me of John 10:17-18 in which Christ asserts that he lays down his life and he takes it up again. That passage places the work of the resurrection on Christ himself. So that would imply that both an active or divine passive would be theologically accurate. (although the NT definitely emphasizes the work of the Father in the Resurrection).

Does Jesus take up his life or does he receive it back? If one was to seek a Divine element in Jesus here, the Greek text must first be consulted. The same Greek word is used 3 times in the immediate context of verses 17 & 18. The translation problem here is that this same word is usually translated "take up" "take up" and then "receive" at the end of verse 18, when it should be consistently translated "receive" each time. There is a different word "take" at the start of verse 18 which is usually translated correctly as "take". Jesus received his life back from God the Father. The New Testament consistently states that he was raised from the dead by God. This is part of the fire of the Gospel which we are to believe to be saved. All too often translators change this truth to have Jesus appear to rise from the dead by his own power or to raise himself from the dead.

I am not sure any of the translations have Jesus raising himself by his own power.