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I have a question regarding the translation of ἔλεγεν, in Mark 6:14:

Καὶ ἤκουσεν ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης, φανερὸν γὰρ ἐγένετο τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ , καὶ ἔλεγεν ὅτι Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιζων ἐκ νεκρῶν ἠγέρθη

Translated roughly as:

Now [the] king Herod heard, for, his name became [revealed/become famous], and [they/Herod] were saying that John the Baptist has been raised from the dead.

Bible translations usually translate the subject of ἔλεγεν as "they" rather than "Herod". ἔλεγεν is third person singular. I know we can have a 'single' crowd, a "corporate" singular group, so to speak, but is that what is going on here?.

So in short, why do bible translations take the subject as "They" instead of "Herod".

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Ahh! This is easy. The Greek verb in Mark 6:14 is ἔλεγον which is Imperfect Indicative Active - 3rd Person Plural, ie, "they were saying".

Thus, because the verb is plural, it cannot refer to Herod, else the verb would be singular. [Note that "they" is not in the text but supplied by all translators, correctly, to make sense in English.]

If the subject of a verb is a "crowd" singular, then the verb would be singular. However, a singular crowd (collective singular noun) is not in view here. we have a plural number of persons implied.

Thus, a literal version (eg, BLT) would give would translate this text as:

And King Herod heard; for His name became well known. And [people] were saying, "John, the [one] baptizing, is risen out from [the] dead, and because of this the miraculous powers operate in him."

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  • This gave me the clue I needed! There is a textual variant. It turns out not all editions of the Greek text are the same. For example, Sinaiticus has ἔλεγεν, and Vaticanus ἔλεγον. – Jay Mar 31 at 3:00

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