Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Jesus’ possible play on Judas’ words

When Jesus says that one of the disciples will betray him, Judas responds, μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι (Matt 26:25). μήτι shows that he expected to answer “no,” and since μήτι is more emphatic than μή (see BDAG), I would argue that translations must include the expected response.

Most do, usually with “surely.” “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” (NIV, also CSB, NET).

Unfortunately, the ESV and surprisingly the NLT undertranslate at this point. “Is it I, Rabbi?” (ESV). ““Rabbi, am I the one?” (NLT). Judas was not only a traitor; he was also a liar. The translation should bring that out.

Jesus responds, σὺ εἶπας. I find myself wondering about his answer. Translations do something like, “You have said so” (NIV, ESV). I find myself wondering if Jesus isn’t saying something a little more specific, even if the other disciples would not have caught it. When Jesus says, ‘You said it,” I wonder if Jesus is repeating Judas’ words but omitting the μήτι.

But this would require the translations to be very much word for word for the reader to understand Jesus’ answer. Judas says μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι; Jesus says that Judas really meant ἐγώ εἰμι, “I am he.”