And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

KJV - Mark 4:10

καταμόνας contains the feminine plural of μόνος (meaning 'alone') together with the prefix κατα. But the KJV translation merely says 'alone' for the compound word and thus conveys nothing for the prefix.

I am wondering what emphasis the prefix lends to the meaning.

κατα, as a preposition, is sometimes given meanings other than 'downward' - such as 'according to' (a translation occurring several times in the KJV).

But my own edition of Liddell & Scott (the thousand-page American edition of 1856, which is not duplicated online so I cannot link) has two pages on κατα but makes it clear that in antiquity only two meanings are relevant, namely

  • downward
  • an influence from above

which meanings are not identical but subtly different.

Similar questions arise from other places such as 'Jesus was left alone and the woman in the midst,' John 8:9, and 'Jesus was alone praying and his disciples were with him, Luke 9:18.

Thus also, here, 'he was alone' yet 'they that were about him ...'.

What is the emphasis of the compound word καταμόνας ?

How does this meaning explain the (translated) anomaly of 'alone/with' ?

  • When the multitudes of people dispersed, leaving Him alone with His followers.
    – Lucian
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 22:20

2 Answers 2


Mark 4:10
Here is how I see the Greek (TR)

And afterwards when he was available, those who were around him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

Details: enter image description here

καταμόνας (Strong's G2651 - katamonas), when used adverbially is about separation. It is a compound word consisting of:

  • κατα (Strong's G2596 - kata): in this context, "down from" in regard to time, i.e. "after"; and

  • μόνος (Strong's G3441 - monos): in this context, "separate" from the multitude.

And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.
-- Mark 4:1 (KJV)

καταμόνας is Mark's way of recording what happened "after" Jesus was finished with the multitudes, i.e. when he was separated from them and "available" to answer the questions of the people who were with the twelve disciples.

  • I have up-voted to remove the unwarranted down-vote. I am not certain whether or not you are correct about the meaning of kata (after) but I certainly think it is plausible and a logical possibility. Thank you.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 14:05

In English we sometimes see the term "for ever" written as a compound word "forever". These are different in form but synonymous in meaning.

BDAG merely identifies καταμόνας as a synonym of κατὰ μόνος:

καταμόνας t.r.; s. μόνος 3.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 522). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

As does LSJ:

καταμόνᾱς, Adv. alone, apart, better divisim κατὰ μόνας, v. μόνος B.III.


This is the 3rd usage of μόνος where the word is paired with κατὰ:

③ κατὰ μόνας (Thu. 1, 32, 5; X., Mem. 3, 7, 4; Menand., Epitr. 988 S. [658 Kö.], Fgm. 146 Kö.; Polyb. 4, 15, 11; Diod S 4, 51, 16; Gen 32:16; Ps 4:9; Jer 15:17; 1 Macc 12:36; TestJos 4:1; Jos., Vi. 326, Ant. 17, 336 al.—Also written καταμόνας; cp. BGU 813, 15 in APF 2, 1903, 97) alone γίνεσθαι κ. μ. be alone (Syntipas p. 9, 16) Mk 4:10.—Lk 9:18; Hm 11:8.—B-D-F §241, 6.—B. 937. DELG. Schmidt, Syn. IV 535–39. M-M. EDNT. Sv.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 659). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

In this usage it is differentiated from the first two uses and refers to being alone (rather than one of a kind, for example).

  • There is still no explanation why katamonas is used in this text (rather than monos) and I am seeking an explanation of the apparent contradiction of 'alone' and yet 'with'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 2:44
  • 'Apparently works the same way' needs some citation, I would say.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 14:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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