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Was Jesus’ Body “For” You or “Broken” for You? (1 Cor 11:24)
My brother-in-law asked me a question that came up in his Bible study the other day, and it illustrates several interesting points of Greek grammar. Thanks Terry.
1 Cor 11:24 in the ESV reads, “and when he had given thanks, he broke (εκλασεν) it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you (το υπερ υμων). Do this in remembrance of me.’” The interesting phrase is, “which is for you.”
The article το is telling you that the following prepositional phrase is functioning in some substantive manner that is qualifying the previous noun. Jesus says that the bread of communion is “my body,” and in some way his body is “on behalf of you.”
This is typical Greek in that you have to supply a verb; you can’t translate word for word: “This is my body the on behalf of you.”
When you have to supply the verb, the most likely candidate is some form of the verb “to be,” which is what the ESV is doing. The second most likely candidate is some verb previously and recently used in the context. This is what the KJV appears to do with “broken” when it translates, “this is my body, which is broken for you.” It appears to be supplying “broken” from the previous “he broke it.”
But wait; there’s more! It actually is a textual issue. The Majority Text used by the KJV has an additional verb. το υπερ υμων κλωμενον. In this case, the το goes with the participle κλωμενον “broken” with the modifier υπερ υμων in between.
Now, even if κλωμενον were not present, the KJV translation could have been acceptable. It would be making the connection between the “body” and “for you” more restricted to the idea of being broken.
So, who is right? There are two issues here.
1. Do you prefer the MT used by the KJV and NKJV, or the eclectic text used by almost all scholarship and modern translations?
2. Even if you prefer the eclectic text, you still have to decide whether “is” or “broken” best fits the context. Most translations prefer “is” since, I would guess, it is less interpretive and less redundant.
Either way, the verse illustrates two important points. (1) Greek often can’t come directly into English and it takes trained and seasoned exegetical sense to get the meaning across. (2) Be aware of differences between the Majority and eclectic text, especially if your church uses a mixture of translations including the KJV.