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While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.
-- Matthew 9:18 (KJV)

Matthew's account appears to telescope this event. Mark and Luke have him initially saying his daughter is very near to death. And then while bringing Jesus to her, news arrives that she had died.

More than a few apologists say the Greek here could mean "my daughter is now dying" or "my daughter is now as good as dead".

How valid is this claim, strictly from a language perspective? I'm not asking whether it is possible as much as I'm asking how probable it seems to people who know the Greek. For instance, are there any examples of the words translated as "even now dead", meaning "almost dead"?

  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. I have fixed the reference and included the text of the particular verse. Your question is a bit fuzzy. It appears you are asking people to find verses to support the possibility that your proposition is valid, which is counter to the purpose of this site. You first need to do some homework and perhaps research the Greek word that is causing you concern. – enegue Oct 9 '17 at 5:59
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ετελευτησεν, or, is by this time dead: i.e. as Mr. Wakefield properly observes, She was so ill when I left home that she must be dead by this time.

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Byzantine Greek commentators understood the Greek to mean that the girl was, in fact, dead.

John Chrysostom (Constantinople, 4th c.) writes1:

And if Luke say that men came, saying, Trouble not the Master, for she is dead [8:49] we will say this, that the expression, “she is even now dead,” was that of one conjecturing from the time of his journeying, or exaggerating his affliction. For it is an usual thing with persons in need to heighten their own evils by their report, and to say something more than is really true, the more to attract those whom they are beseeching.

A later Byzantine Greek commentator, Theophylact of Ohrid (11th c.), explains2:

Although Luke says that she had not yet died, the ruler says here that his daughter had already died.

Perhaps the claims that Matthew's phrase means something like "She is dying" are motivated by a desire for strict inerrancy in the Gospel accounts. But in fact the two passages are inconsistent: Luke wrote that the girl was dying but not yet dead, Matthew wrote that the girl was already dead.


1. Homily XXXI on Matthew (translated from the Greek)
2. The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew (translated from the Greek)

  • ‘‘But in fact the two passages are inconsistent: Luke wrote that the girl was dying but not yet dead, Matthew wrote that the girl was already dead‘‘ Yet it is entirely likely that in the original languages, these two Greek phrases both accurately describe the sense—"my daugther is as good as dead". – Sola Gratia Nov 8 '17 at 15:44
  • I'm not sure I understand what you are getting at. Are you saying that what was spoken in Aramaic would have been consistent even if the Greek texts are not? – user33515 Nov 8 '17 at 18:30
  • I'm saying that an Aramaic (or other language) phrase can be faithfully captured in more than one Greek phrase, so that to call a few varying and (necessarily therefore) inconsistent (in some sense) renderings 'inconsistent' (as if to imply they are contradictory) is to presuppose that either is 'more correct,' whereas they might both convey the meaning of the original, with focus on different aspects; or more or less focus on the temporal aspect, urgency etc. Examples are numerous in the Gospel accounts, for example. – Sola Gratia Nov 8 '17 at 21:23
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The word used ετελευτησεν. This is the aorist active indicative - third person singular of "to expire". In other words she "died".

ετελευτησεν verb - aorist active indicative - third person singular teleutao tel-yoo-tah'-o: to finish life, i.e. expire (demise) -- be dead, decease, die. http://biblehub.com/lexicon/matthew/9-18.htm

What I hope the apologists are saying is that even though he said that she died it is conceivable that he was exaggerating her situation. An example of this kind of hyperbole is when someone says "we're toast" which is a figure of speech that means "we're going to die".

Still, the two accounts say that what he said and/or how he said it are different even if they can be construed as meaning to express similar things.

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