John 20:4 reads:

ἔτρεχον δὲ οἱ δύο ὁμοῦ· καὶ ὁ ἄλλος μαθητὴς προέδραμεν τάχιον τοῦ Πέτρου...

The subject is singular, John himself. He runs faster than Peter. Why does John use a plural conjugation?

  • One of several indications that John was one of the youngest apostles. Peter's what about question in John 21 is another indication.
    – Perry Webb
    Apr 5 at 9:18

3 Answers 3


This is your word of interest:

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John 20:3-4 NKJV

3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. [My Bold]

This is the general breakdown of the verse: enter image description here

Let's go over some of the words:

  • "ἔτρεχον" (etrechon) - This is a verb translated as "were running." It's conjugated in the imperfect indicative active, third person plural, which matches the plural subject "οἱ δύο," "the two".
  • "οἱ δύο" (hoi duo) - This phrase means "the two". It refers to John and Peter.
  • "ὁμοῦ" (homou) - This adverb means "together". So, we can take it that John and Peter were running side by side or together.
  • "ὁ ἄλλος μαθητὴς" (ho allos mathētēs) - This phrase means "the other disciple," referring to John, who is often described this way (See verse 3).
  • "προέδραμεν" (proedramen) - This is the verb "outran," It's conjugated in the aorist indicative active, third person singular, which matches the singular subject "ὁ ἄλλος μαθητὴς", "the other disciple".
  • "Πέτρου" (Petrou) - This means "Peter," a Greek name meaning rock.
  • "ἦλθεν" (ēlthen) - This is the verb "reached," indicating another past action. It's conjugated in the aorist indicative active, third person singular, matching the singular subject "ὁ ἄλλος μαθητὴς."
  • "πρῶτος" (prōtos) - This is the adjective "first," indicating that John arrived at the tomb before Peter did.
  • "τὸ μνημεῖον" (to mnēmeion) - This phrase means "the tomb" and is in the accusative case, indicating the direct object of the verb "reached."

First thing to note is that:

  • PLURAL: "ἔτρεχον" (etrechon) - "were running"
  • SINGULAR: "προέδραμεν" (proedramen) - "outran"

As we see, the Greek verb "outran", "προέδραμεν" (proedramen), is in the singular form. A past action. The reason for this is because the subject is understood to only be John. The verb "προέδραμεν" is conjugated in the third person singular, which would make sense with the singular subject, John.

It's likely that the confusion arises from the preceding phrase "οἱ δύο" (hoi duo), which means "the two." This phrase refers to both John and Peter. We can look in the previous verse (John 20:3) to see that two people are referred to as running together to the tomb.

3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb.

Conclusion: "οἱ δύο", "the two", shows that there is more that one individual involved in the action of running. That's why this is plural. However, there is a narrative subject switch. It shifts to describe the specific action of one of them, in this case John, who outran the other, Peter. Therefore, it then makes sense that the verb is in the singular to match the subject.

  • Thank you for the elaborate answer!
    – drrossum
    Apr 5 at 22:22
  • @drrossum I'm glad I could help!
    – Jason_
    Apr 5 at 22:30

John 20:4 contains two sentences linked by "and/καὶ" as follows:

Sentence #1

ἔτρεχον δὲ οἱ δύο ὁμοῦ - but the two were running together

Here, the subjects is "two" and the verb "were running" is correctly plural.

Sentence #2

ὁ ἄλλος μαθητὴς προέδραμεν τάχιον τοῦ Πέτρου καὶ ἦλθεν πρῶτος εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον = the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came first to the tomb

Here, the subject is singular, "the other disciple" and everything is singular, including the verb προέδραμεν = "ran ahead".

No problem here as all is correct grammatically.


προέδραμε(ν) is singular. The plural form is προέδραμον.

  • Implicit in your answer is that the poster was parsing the verb incorrectly (the verb has a strong form with a removable nu) which makes it look like it is perhaps 1st person plural at first glance. I agree with this assessment though the terseness of your answer probably did not correspond with the culture here. Apr 5 at 14:43
  • You are right. I actually misread this as προεδράμομεν, as a 1st person plural form.
    – drrossum
    Apr 5 at 22:25

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