Both Ephesians 5:31 and Matthew 19:5 quote Genesis 2:24:

'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'

However in Matthew Jesus uses the Greek word heneka, whereas in Ephesians the word anti is used instead.

There appears to be no difference in the English translations, and the change seems inconsequential to an understanding of the English text. Considering it is a direct quote, there doesn't appear to be a reason to change the word at all, and yet it was changed.

Is there a reason, possibly related to grammar, syntax or dialect, governing the use of a different Greek word (anti) for this phrase in Paul's direct quotation of scripture that was not present either in the original text or in Matthew (or vice versa)?


Gen 2:24  ἕνεκεν τούτου καταλείψει ἄνθρωπος τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ προσκολληθήσεται πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν. The Septuagint (LXX), edited by Alfred Rahlfs. Published in 1935; public domain.

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] Matthew 19:5 καὶ εἶπεν Ἕνεκα τούτου καταλείψει ἄνθρωπος τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὴν μητέρα καὶ κολληθήσεται τῇ γυναικὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν;

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] Ephesian 5:31 ἀντὶ τούτου καταλείψει ἄνθρωπος τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὴν μητέρα καὶ προσκολληθήσεται πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν.

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    Thanks @Ruminator for correctly referencing the original text as Genesis. – Possibility Jun 5 '18 at 13:53

The purpose of the quotation is different in Paul's case to the original words of Adam (recorded by Moses in Genesis) and the quotation by Jesus (recorded by Matthew).

In both Adam's original saying and Jesus' quotation of Adam, one thing is seen and then a consequence of that thing is noted. Because male and female were created thus, as a consequence a man shall do this. Marriage is seen as a consequence of the way in which male and female were made.

So Adam's setting forth of the ordinance of marriage and Jesus' correction of the improper cessation of marriage both relate to marriage itself, which is a consequence of the creation of male and female.

But Paul is expressing the figure of marriage. He is making a comparison of marriage with that which marriage sets forth in figure. The reason male and female were created in the first place, was a created demonstration of God's ultimate purpose in creation - the bringing in of a further New Creation in Christ.

Both my one-thousand page 1854 American Edition of Liddell & Scott (not available online so I cannot link) and Thayer give 'over against' as their primary translations of αντι anti (Strong 473).

Liddell & Scott (1854) give 'on account of' for ενεκα eneka, and Thayer gives 'for this cause' (Strong 1752).

The biblehub link I usually use for Thayer does not, in this case, give a Thayer quote, only quoting Strong whom although I respect is not accurate enough a lexicographer for this purpose so I am quoting my own 1896 American edition (Hendrickson) in this case.

'On account of/for this cause' are both a matter of consequence.

'Over against' is a matter of comparing one thing against another.

I believe this is the reason for the subtle difference in Paul's choice of conjunction.

  • The definitions I found described 'over against' to be not just comparing, but distinctly preferring one over the other. I think this detail is important, but I don't think you've covered it here. – Possibility Jun 7 '18 at 1:12

Since the scriptures do not say "The reason Paul uses anti..." one can only infer, and "infer" is one of my least favorite words. However, possible reasons might be:

  • he had a different version of the LXX
  • he was translating ad hoc from memory from the Hebrew and this was simply a stylistic preference
  • he was highlighting a nuance available in the Hebrew by selecting a different Greek word

I suspect the latter but I'm not versed in Greek literature to appreciate what that might be. If I were pressed to ignorantly guess I would wildly speculate that the anti reading would have a slight sense of a choice being made. That is, some sense of "preferring this, a man will leave...". If this completely indefensible intuition turns out to be on point then it can be linked to the idea that a man does so because it is a good choice (presumably because of the "no one ever hates his own flesh" idea).

For an introduction to the issues around the word "anti" please see this related question:

Hebrews 12:2 "for the joy" or "instead of the joy"?

  • Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] Ephesians 5:31 ἀντὶ τούτου καταλείψει ἄνθρωπος τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὴν μητέρα καὶ προσκολληθήσεται πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν. – Possibility Jun 5 '18 at 13:32
  • Thanks @Ruminator. I am hoping someone more familiar with the Greek language, particularly outside of bible study, could help shed some light on this. – Possibility Jun 7 '18 at 1:17
  • @Possibility There are things you can't learn about a language just from learning the rules; you have to be immersed in the literature. The way people really speak is very different from the text books. I know some greek rules but for the nuance here one would need to see actual contexts. I think you can sense that, hence the question. – Ruminator Jun 7 '18 at 1:23
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    I agree. There is more to this occurrence of 'anti' than the translation 'for this reason' implies. All translations of 'anti' I can find outside of biblical text imply replacement, instead of, against, etc. It's hard to just accept 'for this reason' in light of all other interpretations, despite the translation of this original quote. It wouldn't matter except that it allows for conflicting interpretations of Hebrews 12:2 - hence the question. FWIW I don't think a sense of choice can be 'slight' with the word 'anti', as much as we would like to play it down. – Possibility Jun 7 '18 at 2:52

Translation can be tricky.

First of all, Jesus quoted Genesis from Hebrew (עַל־כֵּן֙, upon thus) or Aramaic rather than in Greek. However, Matthew in writing or translating into Greek likely used the popular LXX to translate the quote from Genesis (ἕνεκεν, because of, on account of) just as Luke did. We know that Luke also used the LXX because he uses the Greek word Rhomphaia for sword in Luke 2:35, a weapon which is distinguished from other types of swords only in the LXX, but not in the Hebrew, which uses only a generic word for sword (חָ֫רֶב).

On the other hand, we know that Paul was schooled using the Hebrew scriptures and he used his own translation of the Hebrew into Greek as ἀντὶ, against or instead of or opposite, or in return based on context rather than the word used in the LXX.

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