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I was just noticing this timely question on the English Language and Usage site concerning the Paschal Greeting from Matthew 28:6 (KJV): he is risen.

This prompted me to wonder about the Greek. We often get these present perfects in English from Greek perfects, especially passive perfects (e.g. it is written). This isn’t, though. It’s an aorist passive (NA28 | KJV | ESV):

οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε, ἠγέρθη γὰρ | He is not here: for he is risen | He is not here, for he has risen

The ESV and many modern translations lose the present perfect that concerned the ELU questioner. My question is not about tense/aspect, but voice. The ESV is representative of many English translations in shifting the Greek passive to an English active. My basic question is: why?

I’m wondering how we decide that it’s not instead: He is not here, for he was raised. A few English translations do something like this (among them: NRSV (but not RSV), NET, NABRE).

The passive from ἐγείρω seems to go either way. Using the ESV, here are a few translated as English passives, all from Matthew:

14:2: ἠγέρθη ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν | He has been raised from the dead

16:21: δεῖ αὐτὸν...ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθῆναι | he must...be killed, and on the third day be raised.

17:9: ...ἕως οὗ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγερθῇ | ...until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.

26:32: μετὰ δὲ τὸ ἐγερθῆναί με... | But after I am raised up...

27:52: καὶ πολλὰ σώματα...ἠγέρθησαν | And many bodies...were raised

The passive, to my ear, alludes to the (in this case obviously divine) agent, whereas the active refers only to the man who rose.

Is this more accurately translated he has risen or he was raised?

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From the point of view of morphology, ἠγέρθη is indubitably the aorist passive of ἐγείρω “to awaken, rouse”. However, already in the oldest Greek authors the passive of this verb is used also to mean “to wake up”, in effect intransitively. For example in Iliad 2.41 ἔγρετο δ' ἐξ ὕπνου “and he woke up from sleep”, without any suggestion that he was roused by another person. You can find some more examples in Liddell/Scott: http://perseus.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.20:1:29.LSJ. I think therefore that you need to keep both possibilities in mind in the Μatthew pasage as well.

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    Thanks. I honestly don’t recognize that form ἔγρετο, but it looks like an aorist middle rather than passive, no? Your point is taken, though - the passive (esp the participle ἐγερθεὶς) is used repeatedly in Matthew without any indication of anyone else involved. I’m just trying to figure out how to tell whether it’s being used like that or in a standard passive sense. Maybe there’s no way to know.
    – Susan
    Apr 4, 2015 at 16:59
  • I agree: the aor. pass. participle ἐγερθεὶς is a better example. Homeric ἔγρετο is 3rd sing. unaugmented imperfect middle or passive.
    – fdb
    Apr 4, 2015 at 17:25

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