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Matthew 22:8-9

8 Then he said to his servants, "The wedding feast [ho gamos] is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast [tous gamous] as many as you find. ESV

  1. Why does the singular, ho gamos, become plural, tous gamous? Is there a progression being alluded to? If so what might that progression be?

  2. How might the ESV justify translating both in the singular?

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  • Both case and number. Nominate singular to accusative plural
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 12 at 15:42
  • 1
    Case change is obvious but not number
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 12 at 15:43
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In those days, a Jewish wedding ceremony could last for days, Young's Literal Translation, Judges 14:

And Samson saith to them, 'Let me, I pray you, put forth to you a riddle; if ye certainly declare it to me in the seven days of the banquet, and have found it out, then I have given to you thirty linen shirts, and thirty changes of garments;

Now fastforward to Matthew 22:

1And Jesus answering, again spake to them in similes, saying, 2‘The reign of the heavens was likened to a man, a king, who made marriage-feasts for his son,

the entire series of feasts, plural

3and he sent forth his servants to call those having been called to the marriage-feasts, and they were not willing to come. 4‘Again he sent forth other servants, saying, Say to those who have been called: Lo, my dinner I prepared, my oxen and the fatlings have been killed, and all things [are] ready, come ye to the marriage-feasts; 5and they, having disregarded [it], went away, the one to his own field, and the other to his merchandise; 6and the rest, having laid hold on his servants, did insult and slay [them]. 7‘And the king having heard, was wroth, and having sent forth his soldiers, he destroyed those murderers, and their city he set on fire; 8then saith he to his servants, The marriage-feast indeed is ready,

i.e., the 1st of the marriage-feasts, singular

and those called were not worthy, 9be going, then, on to the cross-ways, and as many as ye may find, call ye to the marriage-feasts. 10‘And those servants, having gone forth to the ways, did gather all, as many as they found, both bad and good, and the marriage-feast apartment was filled with those reclining.

i.e., singular "marriage-feast" is used as an adjective.

ἐπλήσθη      ὁ γάμος          ἀνακειμένων 
was filled   marriage-feast   with guests

New King James Version translates γάμος as "wedding":

So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The noun "hall" is implied by the Greek article.

11‘And the king having come in to view those reclining, saw there a man not clothed with clothing of the marriage-feast,

Singular, the one that was ongoing now.

12and he saith to him, Comrade, how didst thou come in hither, not having clothing of the marriage-feast? and he was speechless. 13‘Then said the king to the ministrants, Having bound his feet and hands, take him up and cast forth to the outer darkness, there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of the teeth; 14for many are called, and few chosen.’

How might the ESV justify translating both in the singular?

Today, English-speaking countries are not familiar with wedding ceremonies that go on for days. Singular marriage-feast would simplify the translation and understanding.

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The "problem" in Jesus' parable about the wedding banquet of Matt 22:1-14 occurs in several places:

  • V2 - γάμους - plural
  • V3 - τοὺς γάμους - plural
  • V4 - τοὺς γάμους - plural
  • V8 - Ὁ γάμος - singular
  • V9 - τοὺς γάμους - plural
  • V10 - Ὁ γάμος - singular
  • V11 - γάμου - singular
  • V12 - γάμου - singular

Thus, at first sight, it appears that the singular and plural are used almost interchangeably.

However, when examined very closely, it is possible to discern a very slight difference in meaning. The singular appears to refer to wedding, while the plural refers to the banquets that celebrate the wedding. Thus, if being punctilious, I might render the above as follows:

  • V2: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared wedding banquets for his son.
  • V3: He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquets to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
  • V4: “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the banquets.’
  • V8: “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.
  • V9: So go to the street corners and invite to the banquets anyone you find.’
  • 10: So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding was filled with guests.
  • V11: “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.
  • V12: He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

However, I would not be too strict about such a fine distinction. Further, I notice that BDAG says that the singular and plural of gamos are used almost interchangeably, with the distinction I observe above (if that can be pressed.)

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