Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
— John 19:32–34

The first "But" is (g1161, δέ, de). The second "But" is (g235, ἀλλά, alla).
This second form is used for exceptions and transitions to the cardinal matter.

Consider the verb "pierced" (g3572, νύσσω, nyssō):

Attribute Description
Tense: aorist Is characterized by its emphasis on punctiliar action; that is, the concept of the verb is considered without regard for past, present, or future time. There is no direct or clear English equivalent for this tense, though it is generally rendered as a simple past tense in most translations. The events described by the aorist tense are classified into a number of categories by grammarians. The most common of these include a view of the action as having begun from a certain point ("inceptive aorist"), or having ended at a certain point ("cumulative aorist"), or merely existing at a certain point ("punctiliar aorist"). The categorization of other cases can be found in Greek reference grammars. The English reader need not concern himself with most of these finer points concerning the aorist tense, since in most cases they cannot be rendered accurately in English translation, being fine points of Greek exegesis only. The common practice of rendering an aorist by a simple English past tense should suffice in most cases.
Voice: active Represents the subject as the doer or performer of the action. e.g., in the sentence, "Jesus returned to Capernaum" Jesus performs the action.
Mood: indicative Is a simple statement of fact. If an action really occurs or has occurred or will occur, it will be rendered in the indicative mood.

Is it possible that these verses could be translated as:

Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
But when they came to Jesus, they brake not his legs, seeing that he was dead already
because one of the soldiers had pierced his side with a spear, and forthwith came there out blood and water.


Note that I'm asking strictly about Greek grammar and whether that is a legitimate translation.

I am not asking whether it is the correct translation.

And I am not asking for anything about doctrine or any implications of that translation.

  • +1 to undo the downvote. It's a legit question.
    – Robert
    Sep 13, 2021 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


No, I don't think the proposed translation is correct. The second "but" should be taken in the sense of rather and not "because". Yes, it does transition to a different outcome but is not used to explain outcomes.

Here is the word cloud for translation targets of alla in the LEB:

enter image description here

And for the ESV:

enter image description here


No, this is not a possible translation. As Robert points out, alla means "but, rather." It does not mean "because." It is a stronger adversative than the de in v. 33, which could simply be translated "and" and sometimes is best left untranslated. Context must drive what one does with de, but alla is always adversative.

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