Psalm 22:1 New International Version

For the director of music. To the tune of "The Doe of the Morning." A psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?

have You forsaken me?
עֲזַבְתָּ֑נִי (‘ă·zaḇ·tā·nî)
Verb - Qal - Perfect - second person masculine singular | first person common singular
Strong's 5800: To loosen, relinquish, permit

The Hebrew word is in Qal perfect.

Matthew 27:46 New International Version

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?").

σαβαχθάνι (sabachthani)
Verb - Aorist Indicative Active - 2nd Person Singular
Strong's 4518: Thou hast forsaken me. Of Chaldee or; thou hast left me; sabachthani, a cry of distress.

have you forsaken
ἐγκατέλιπες (enkatelipes)
Verb - Aorist Indicative Active - 2nd Person Singular
Strong's 1459: From en and kataleipo; to leave behind in some place, i.e. let remain over, or to desert.

Both verbs σαβαχθάνι and ἐγκατέλιπες are in the aorist tense.

Pulpit explains:

The verb "forsaken" is not in the perfect tense, as translated in the Authorized Version, but in the aorist; and it implies that during the three hours of darkness Christ had been in silence enduring this utter desolation, which had now come to its climax. The Man Christ Jesus asked why he was thus deserted; his human heart would fain comprehend this phase of the propitiatory sufferings which he was undergoing. No answer came from the darkened heaven; but the cry was heard; the unspeakable sacrifice, a sacrifice necessary according to the Almighty's purpose, was accepted, and with his own blood he obtained eternal redemption for man.

Young's Literal Translation

and about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a great voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, my God, why didst Thou forsake me?'

Which translation is better?

1 Answer 1


I will not comment on the the "verb" σαβαχθάνι as it is a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic and thus cannot be classified by Greek parts of speech.

The "correct" translation of the verb ἐγκατέλιπες depends on the convention adopted for the aorist tense which does not exist in English. The aorist can be translated a number of ways but the simple indicative aorist (as here) is usually translated by a the past tense.

Now there is a problem with the young's literal translation - Robert Yoong, a brilliant linguist, chose to use Elizabethan (!!?) English in his translation that was, even in his day, already 400 years out of date. Thus, he translates Jesus' exclamation, "why didst Thou forsake me?" This is a past perfect, but most, including the KJV and the (now) more reliable BLB have "why have you forsaken me?" which is a sorta-kinda past imperfect tense.

The the aorist tense, both are arguably correct.

The sense and force of the actual story suggests that the past imperfect is preferable because darkness, the symbol of God's abandonment, still existed; therefore, I prefer the past imperfect to translate the aorist here.

APPENDIX - Aorist tense in other situations

Note that in the Lord's prayer, the verb δὸς is aorist imperative and thus must be translated "give" in the present tense. This example serves to show that translating the aorist can be tricky and should be adjusted depending on whether the aorist form is indicative, imperative, subjunctive, optative, infinitive, etc.

  • +1. The NIV "have ... forsaken" is present perfect.
    – user35953
    Commented Jun 22, 2021 at 13:52

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