Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

A recent question about the securing of a tomb on the Sabbath made me wonder whether the guards posted at Jesus' tomb in Matthew 27:62-66 are Roman guards (which I guess I'd always assumed) or Jewish guards (which the grammar in the quote "You have a guard" seems to imply).

Are the Pharisees merely asking permission to guard the tomb? Or are they requesting that Pilate post a Roman guard as well?

share|improve this question
    
Answers may also want to consider the exchange between the guards and the priests when the tomb is found empty. Matt 28:14 The priests pay off the guards to lie and promise they will smooth things over with the governor and keep them out of trouble. Why would temple guards be in trouble with the governor? –  Joshua Bigbee Mar 9 at 1:53

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The translators of the KJV seemed to translate the Greek verb ἔχετε (echete) in the indicative mood. The indicative mood is used to "make factual statements or pose questions."1

However, there's a peculiarity one must understand, and this is not something you would know unless you're familiar with Koine Greek.

While ἔχετε is a verb conjugated in the

  • 2nd person
  • plural number
  • present tense
  • active voice
  • indicative mood

it is also a verb conjugated in the

  • 2nd person
  • plural number
  • present tense
  • active voice
  • imperative mood

(Note: the difference occurs in the mood: indicative v. imperative.)

I don't have a Greek parsing sheet available to scan, but a simple plug of the verb into Perseus' Greek Word Study Tool will also demonstrate this fact:

ἔχετε verb 2nd pl pres ind act

ἔχετε verb 2nd pl pres imperat act

Yes, it is spelled exactly the same way, but the meaning changes depending on whether the original author intended to use it in the indicative mood or the imperative mood.

This doesn't occur in other persons (e.g., 1st person, 3rd person), or other moods (e.g., subjunctive). It's a peculiarity between these two conjugations.

Another example exists in Matt. 23:3 with the verbs τηρεῖτε and ποιεῖτε. Did Matthew mean, "Observe!" and "Do!" (imperative mood), respectively, or "You observe..." and "You do..." (indicative mood), respectively? You be the judge.

But, in Matt. 27:65, when Pilate says, «ἔχετε κουστωδίαν», I don't think he meant, "You have a watch..." (indicative mood), because if they already had a watch, they wouldn't have asked him for one! Rather, it should be translated in the imperative mood, viz. "Have a watch!" That is, "You want a watch? Have one!" So, the Roman guards, at Pilate's command, went and secured the sepulcher.

John Gill astutely notes, "...the words may be read imperatively..." He's right; they can, since that particular conjugation can be translated into English in either the indicative mood or imperative mood.

share|improve this answer
    
Indicative is also the unmarked, default mood. It's difficult to find much value in building a case for an answer based primarily on this mood so I appreciate you drawing out the morphological overlap of this form. However, I'd also like to see you draw out more of the Greek grammar in the immediate context of this passage and expand the study beyond a local word study that focuses on the mood. You clearly have a bit more knowledge in the realm of linguistics-please share it a bit more expansively. –  swasheck Mar 23 '13 at 4:44

But, in Matt. 27:65, when Pilate says, «ἔχετε κουστωδίαν», I don't think he meant, "You have a watch..." (indicative mood), because if they already had a watch, they wouldn't have asked him for one! Rather, it should be translated in the imperative mood, viz. "Have a watch!" That is, "You want a watch? Have one!" So, the Roman guards, at Pilate's command, went and secured the sepulcher.

I do not agree with this version: First, the Jewish Temple Guard was under Roman control. They could not do anything but what the Roman Procurator would allow. The temple guard was supposed to stay around the temple not doing anything else especially outside of Jerusalem. So they would have to ask for a special permission for this.

Second, you can easily understand that it was even NOT the first intent of the Jews to provide their own temple guard to watch the tomb of whom they considered so lowly. Hence, they certainly made their request for a Roman guard. But why would Pilate accept such a request? Did they not have their own guard? "You have a watch!" he said. Then the Jews were fairly much COMPELLED to set their own watch, the temple guard which did watch around the body of Christ, against their very first intent.

Third, for the record, would really God allow an unclean Gentile guard to be around the Lord's body awaiting the resurrection occuring 3 days and 3 nights later? Or would He rather have the guard of the Temple of the Lord doing this service? They were a military order already set centuries ago for that very purpose. Think a minute about it...

share|improve this answer
    
Welcome to BHSE! We're a little different here, please read our Site Directives as you ask and answer questions. Thank you! –  Tau Mar 9 at 4:37

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.