Hebrews 11:28 reads:

πίστει πεποίηκεν τὸ πάσχα καὶ τὴν πρόσχυσιν τοῦ αἵματος, ἵνα μὴ ὁ ὀλοθρεύων τὰ πρωτότοκα θίγῃ αὐτῶν. (SBL)

The majority of translations render the second clause of this verse something like this:

...so that the destroyer of firstborns might not touch them.

Yet some translations (i.e., NLT) render it:

...so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.

According to BDAG, the verb θίγῃ (θιγγάνω, touch) takes a genitive object (touch τινός), and thus τὰ πρωτότοκα (the firstborns) cannot be the object of θιγγάνω, but is the object of the participle ὁ ὀλοθρεύων (the destroyer). Thus αὐτῶν would be the object of θίγῃ. This is how most translations render the Greek.

The rendering of the NLT is attractive because rendering αὐτῶν as an object seems to leave it without a clear referent in the context. However, the NLT's translation would only be possible if θιγγάνω can also take an accusative object.

Is there evidence for θιγγάνω taking an accusative object? Is there anything that might support such a translation, or should we conclude that the NLT and similar translations are mistaken?

1 Answer 1


In Classical Greek θιγγάνω normally governs the genitive, very rarely the accusative or dative. See:


Thus, purely from the point of view of the grammar, τὰ πρωτότοκα could be the accusative object of ὁ ὀλοθρεύων and αὐτῶν the genitive object of μὴ θίγῃ, or τὰ πρωτότοκα could be the accusative object of μὴ θίγῃ and αὐτῶν a possessive genitive (“their firstborn”). The fact that θιγγάνω does not (apparently) take the accusative elsewhere in the NT is not in my opinion a valid argument, as the NT is a small corpus. So I think both translations are possible. The semantic difference is slight.

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