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When the women leave the empty tomb and encounter Jesus, He says to them "χαίρετε" which the majority of translations render as "Greetings."

And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. (Matthew 28:9 ESV)

A much smaller number treat the word differently:

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. (NKJV)

The word χαίρετε is most commonly translated as "rejoice" [G5463-chairō] and in the context of the first words spoken after being raised from the dead, saying "Rejoice!" seems much more likely than a generic "Greetings!" or "Hail!" Bible Gateway lists 59 translations for Matthew 28:9 Nearly 80% (47) treat the word as a common greeting and only 12 see something different:

Greetings    28
Hail         13
Good morning  4
Hello         2
Rejoice       6
Peace         5
God save you  1

Why do so many translators understand χαίρετε as a common greeting rather than "Rejoice" which would be more in keeping with both the meaning of the word and the context of the Resurrection?

  • When somebody you know walks up behind you on the street and says Hey!, would you mistake this for reference to Hay, food for horses and cattle? The term for this in linguistics is scenario analysis. To find out more about this read: Scenarios, Discourse, and Translation The scenario theory of Cognitive Linguistics, ... and its implications for translation theory Richard A. Hoyle SIL International . sil.org/silepubs/Pubs/50670/50670_Hoyle_Scenarios... sil.org/resources/publications/entry/9248 – C. Stirling Bartholomew Jan 20 '18 at 22:28
  • @C.StirlingBartholomew When the Son of God walks up to you having been raised from the dead, is "Good morning!" do you really think "Good morning" is what He is saying? – Revelation Lad Jan 21 '18 at 0:46
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In the imperative, the verb χαίρω can often, but not always, simply mean "Greeting!" or "Greetings!". In some contexts χαίρω can also mean to greet (e.g. 1 Maccabees 10:18).

You are right that the majority of translators seem to favor this translation. One notable exception is The Orthodox New Testament (undertaken by Greek Orthodox, albeit schismatic), which translates Matthew 28:9:

But as they were going to bring tidings to His disciples, then behold, Jesus met them saying, "Rejoice ye."

Another is the New King James Bible. Although the original King James Bible translates χαίρετε as a greeting, the New King James Bible translates the word as "rejoice".

There may be some lingering influence of the Vulgate here, which translates χαίρετε as avete, meaning "be well" - an idiomatic greeting often translated as "hail" (cf. Luke 1:28: Ave gratia plena; Douay-Rheims: Hail, full of grace). The earliest English-language Bibles were translations from the Latin, not the Greek. Wycliffe's Vulgate translation (14th century) faithfully translated avete as a greeting:

And lo! Jhesus ʽran aȝens hem, seyinge, Heil ȝe

The Douay-Rheims (1586) followed suit. The earliest English Bibles translating from the Greek followed the convention set in the Vulgate translations:

Tyndale (1536)

Behold/Jesus met them sayinge: All hayle.

King James (1611)

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Iesus met them, saying, All haile.

Curiously, the Geneva Bible renders χαίρετε here as God save you.

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