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".


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."

  • 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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