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New International Version Luke 18:11

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.

King James Bible

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

In https://biblehub.com/luke/18-11.htm, 10 versions use "by himself" and 8 use "with himself". The meanings are quite different. Berean Literal Bible even says "toward himself".

The Pharisee having stood, was praying toward himself thus: 'God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of the men--swindlers, unrighteous, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.

Which is the most appropriate translation?

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  • The contrast (in respect of 'stood' and 'himself') is seen with the publican who 'stood afar off' and 'was striking the breast of himself'.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 2, 2020 at 15:16
  • The πρὸς ἑαυτὸν of verse 11 is most likely linked to the ἐφ᾿ ἑαυτοῖς of verse 9.
    – Lucian
    Sep 2, 2020 at 16:06

1 Answer 1

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Check out Kenneth Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes page 347.

Bailey writes,

"Does he stand by himself or pray to himself? The flow of the Greek sentence means that the NRSV is correct - he is standing by himself, praying. This more accurate translation indicates that he stands apart from other people while he attends the temple service.

It is key that he is "by himself" because it shows that he is separating himself from the community - particularly, the community that he is supposed to be reaching out to. He is supposed to be a shepherd of Israel - instead, he is comparing himself to those in his flock.

We must remember that this is a parable so Jesus is choosing his details to convey a particular message.

In this parable, he has the Pharisee say, "I thank you that I am not like other people."

Of course, this causes us to say to ourselves, "I'm glad I'm not like him!"

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