Jesus' instructions to the Jews present is -

... λυσατε αυτον και αφετε υπαγειν [TR]

I am enquiring about the Received Text. I notice that other texts add αυτον after αφετε but I am not enquiring about those texts. In fact, that is the whole point of my enquiry as I wonder if copyists have added the αυτον, thinking something was missing - when it was not.

Bagster's Analytical Greek Lexicon tells me that αφετε is 2nd person, plural, aorist 2, imperfect, active (p61) and that υπαγειν is present infinitive (p413).

One possible translation would be :

Loose him and dismiss to go

. . . meaning, Loose Lazarus and (as to yourselves) : dismiss to go.

But translators (of the Received Text) have added, in English, 'him' despite it not being present in the text.

Generally, it is being assumed that the Jews were to 'loose' Lazarus, then (loose him again) 'dismiss' Lazarus to depart.

But Lazarus does not need to depart. He is to stay with Jesus. And he is to stay in Bethany where he lives.

It is the Jews that need to be getting back to Jerusalem which is a couple of miles distant.

Can αφετε υπαγειν be rendered (wholly) as an instruction to the Jews present, as to themselves ?

  • 2
    Or perhaps Jesus just didn't want Lazarus' freedom restricted by the crowd? Sort of like, 'Let him be.' Good question.+1 Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 13:22

1 Answer 1


This "problem" is simpler that it appears.

The final part of John 11:44 contains two commands by Jesus, ie, two imperative verbs:

  • Λύσατε αὐτὸν = unbind/release him
  • ἄφετε [αὐτὸν] ὑπάγειν = let [him] go [TR does not have "him"]

Jesus is speaking to those around him and thus, the imperative verbs here are all in the second person plural because the implied subject is "You" plural. Thus, to make this explicit, we might translate these two commands as:

  • You unbind/release him
  • You let [him] go

The absence or presence of the second αὐτὸν (= "him") makes no difference to the translation because the object of the verbs is clear, Lazarus = "him".

Thus, the imperative verbs take the grammatical number of the subject and not the object and this is why the imperative verbs are plural. The object is singular. Therefore, there is no implied grammatical subtlety here: The story of Lazarus contain three actions:

  • The command to remove the stone sealing the tomb by those around Him
  • the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus
  • the command to unbind/release Lazarus and let him go by those around Him.

Thus, Jesus only did what the others could not, resurrect Lazarus; the other two where things that humans could accomplish.

"Let [him] go"

The final instruction of Jesus to allow Lazarus to go is not imperative but infinitive active which has no grammatical number; it is thus to allow Lazarus the freedom of life, restored health and movement; the removal of the bandages was part of this command as well and thus serves, grammatically, as an amplification/clarification of the imperative to verb, "to let".

The fact that Lazarus was free to go and move about in public was to be a constant reminder of Jesus power over the grave and that Jesus was who He claimed to be - "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). See also John 12:2, 10. The fact that Lazarus was alive and could be contacted and spoken to by anyone who cared to do so was a rebuke to the authorities. Thus, they planned to kill Lazarus as per John 12:10.

  • ὑπάγειν is the present infinitive active - Biblehub. Where are you getting the plural from ? ἄφετε is plural, yes. But (you) dismiss and (you) go - is what I am suggesting.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 19:53
  • @NigelJ - the present infinitive active verb is neither singular nor plural. It applies to Lazuarus, and possibly the crowd?
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 20:57
  • Thus, the verbs take the grammatical number of the subject and not the object and this is why *the verbs are plural.*
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 21:38
  • @NigelJ - this infinitive verb is usually associated with another verb (not always) but here it is. The other two verbs Λύσατε & ἄφετε are both plural and imperative and were the subject of the above. However, to satisfy you comment I will update the answer.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 9:04

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