In Matthew 27:17 & 22, Pilate makes the statement "Jesus called the Christ". The Greek word for "called" used here is legomenon, which according to Strong's #3004 means "I call, I mean, mention, tell" rather than the Greek word onoma (Strong's #3686) or kaleo (Strong's #2564) which mean to name.

From this basic reading of it, could it be read "I call Jesus the Christ"?

  • Naming someone (i.e., giving someone a name), and calling someone by a name, are two different things.
    – Lucian
    May 27 at 4:44
  • A participle, probably here translated as a relative clause.
    – user21676
    May 27 at 4:52
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    I think the problem you're running into is that Strong's #3004 is for the λεγω, the singular first person present tense of λεγόμενον, the latter being a present tense passive participle. So while you might translate λεγω as "I say", you'd translate λεγόμενον in this context as "[who is] called". When you encounter Greek words in reference works (e.g. lexicons), they don't list every single form of the word--they list a single normal form, a "root"; in Strong's case for verbs it appears to be singular first person present tense. But that doesn't imply the actual word has that form.
    – bob
    May 27 at 12:24
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    @SolaGratia I'm not sure the two questions are the same. Your linked answer is to the question "why did Pilot refer to Jesus Christ/Messiah [as some called him]", but this question is effectively asking whether "I call Jesus the Christ" is a suitable translation of the Greek. Your linked answer might cause more confusion here than help, as people make take it to imply that "I call Jesus the Christ" is a correct translation.
    – bob
    May 27 at 15:50
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    Is the question whether Pilate said in the first person, 'I think/call/say Jesus is the Christ?' because that's certainly not what it means. May 27 at 16:02

The phrase in question is «Ἰησοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον Χριστόν». It does not mean that Pilate himself was confessing Jesus to be “the Christ.” Rather, the expression is commonly used in the NT to describe what people are generally called or named by others.1 For example,

Matt. 1:16

Ἰησοῦς ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός — Jesus who is called Christ

Matt. 4:18

Σίμωνα τὸν λεγόμενον Πέτρον — Simon who is called Peter

Matt. 10:2

Σίμων ὁ λεγόμενος Πέτρος — Simon who is called Peter

Matt. 26:3

τοῦ ἀρχιερέως τοῦ λεγομένου Καϊάφα — of the high priest who is called Caipahas

Matt. 26:14

εἷς τῶν δώδεκα ὁ λεγόμενος Ἰούδας — one of the twelve, who is called Judas

Matt. 26:36

εἰς χωρίον λεγόμενον Γεθσημανῆ — unto a place called Gethsemane

Matt. 27:16

δέσμιον ἐπίσημον λεγόμενον Βαραββᾶν — a notable prisoner called Barabbas

Matt. 27:33

εἰς τόπον λεγόμενον Γολγοθᾶ — unto a place called Golgotha

There are countless other examples in the NT. Thayer on λέγω states the following:2

e. to call by a name, to call, name; equivalent to καλῷ τινα with the accusative of predicate: τί με λέγεις ἀγαθόν; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19; add, Mark 12:37; John 5:18; John 15:15; Acts 10:28; (1 Corinthians 12:3 R G); Revelation 2:20; passive with predicate nominative: Matthew 13:55; 1 Corinthians 8:5; Ephesians 2:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Hebrews 11:24; ὁ λεγόμενος, with predicate nominative he that is surnamed, Matthew 1:16 (so Matthew 27:17); Matthew 10:2; John 20:24; Colossians 4:11; he that is named: Matthew 9:9; Matthew 26:3, 14; Matthew 27:16; Mark 15:7; Luke 22:47; John 9:11; cf. Fritzsche on Matthew, p. 31f; of things, places, cities, etc.: τό ὄνομα λέγεται, Revelation 8:11; participle called, Matthew 2:23; Matthew 26:36; Matthew 27:33; John 4:5; John 11:54; John 19:13; Acts 3:2; Acts 6:9; Hebrews 9:3; with Ἑβραϊστί added, John 19:13, 17; (cf. John 5:2 Tdf.); applied to foreign words translated into Greek, in the sense that is: Matthew 27:33; John 4:25; John 11:16; John 21:2; also ὁ λέγεται, John 20:16; ὁ λέγεται ἑρμηνευόμενον (L Tr WH μεθερμηνευόμενον), John 1:38(39); διερμηνευομένη λέγεται, Acts 9:36.


1 It does not exclude the speaker from also calling the person by the name, but it certainly does not require it.
2 Thayer, p. 375, λέγω, II., 2., e.


Wilke, Christian Gottlob. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Trans. Thayer, Joseph Henry. Ed. Grimm, Carl Ludwig Wilibald. Rev. ed. New York: American Book, 1889.

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    Agree, Pilate is pointing out what He is called (by some), not declaring his (Pilate's) own belief in the Messiah. Upvoted +1 May 27 at 5:29
  • Good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    May 27 at 11:14
  • Good answer, with supporting quotations, +1. May 27 at 14:14
  • Huh, I always thought this was their version of AKA (also known as). May 27 at 21:07
  • @candied_orange—In the verses cited, it simply means “which/who is called.” Of course, since some people went by two names, then it basically carries the sense of “also known as” (e.g., Simon also known as Peter). If you read the Thayer entry towards the bottom, it includes verses wherein it is used in the sense of “that is” (like Latin id est). For example, Matt. 27:33: And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say (ὅς ἐστιν λεγόμενος), a place of a skull, May 27 at 22:03

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