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I have several questions concerning the use or non-use of the conjunction kai at Matthew 8:9.

What is the implication of the Roman Centurian saying that Jesus was ALSO under authority?

Matthew 8:9 New King James Version

9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Most of the Bibles that I have consulted translates the Greek word kai ( a conjunction) as too or also,

Matthew 8:9 American Standard Version

9 For I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

Matthew 8:9 Christian Standard Bible

9 For I too am a man under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Matthew 8:9 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition

9 For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

Matthew 8:9 English Standard Version

9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Matthew 8:9 Expanded Bible

9 [L For] I, too, am a man ·under the authority of others [L under authority], and I have soldiers under my command. I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ and he goes. I tell another soldier, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my ·servant [slave], ‘Do this,’ and my ·servant [slave] does it.”

Matthew 8:9 New King James Version

9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Matthew 8:9 Young's Literal Translation

9 for I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers, and I say to this one, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Be coming, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doth [it].'

Several Translation do not have the conjunction:

Matthew 8:9 New International Version

9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Matthew 8:9 King James Version

9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

I find it interesting that the Catholic Douay has the conjunction.

Matthew 8:9 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition

9 For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

I believe that it’s underlying text was the Textus Receptus, just like the King James.

Here are few selected comments from Study Bibles and Commentaries.

King James Study Bible Notes (Truncated)

The centurion was impressed with Jesus, whom he likened to himself as one under authority. He recognized that in dealing with the realm of sickness and death Jesus had all the power of God behind Him.

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

8:9 a man under authority. The centurion understands how authority works: just as soldiers obey the centurion because he is backed by the authority of the empire, everything will obey Jesus because he is backed by God’s authority (cf. 9:6,8; 28:18).

NKJV Evangelical Study Bible

8:5–9. A centurion was a well-respected officer in command of roughly eighty men. It was a position of great responsibility in the Roman occupation force. (See the more complete account in Luke 7:2–10.) The centurion was impressed with Jesus, whom he likened to himself as one under authority, and recognized that Jesus had the power and authority to heal his servant.

Believer's Bible Commentary

8:7–9 When the Lord Jesus offered to visit the sick servant, the centurion showed the reality and depth of his faith. He said, in effect, “I am not worthy that You should enter my house. Anyway, it isn’t necessary, because You could easily heal him by saying the word. I know about authority. I take orders from my superiors, and give orders to those under me. My commands are obeyed implicitly. How much more would Your words have power over my servant’s illness!”

Expositor's Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition): New Testament

The centurion's words presuppose an understanding of the Roman military system. All "authority" belonged to the emperor and was delegated. Therefore, because he was under the emperor's authority, when the centurion spoke, he spoke with the emperor's authority, and so his command was obeyed. A foot soldier who disobeyed would not be defying a mere centurion but the emperor, Rome itself, with all its imperial majesty and might. This self-understanding the centurion applied to Jesus. Precisely because Jesus was under God's authority, he was vested with God's authority, so that when Jesus spoke, God spoke. To defy Jesus was to defy God; and Jesus' word must therefore be vested with God's authority that is able to heal sickness. This analogy reveals an astonishing faith on the part of the centurion.

Also does anyone know the reason that the KJV and the NIV leave out the conjunction kai?

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  • So I read all that and get to the end and see "the bottom line is, does this verse have an implication concerning the doctrine of the trinity?", which seems to come from nowhere. What, in all that preceded, says anything that would make anyone think of the Trinity Doctrine? How is it related at all to the rest of the question? Commented Apr 10 at 23:37
  • As to his relationship with the Father, the Son says the Father is 'greater'. His filial submission is a matter of relationship and he appears to the Centurion as one 'under authority'. Young's Literal has 'I also'. Perhaps the KJV, as it sometimes does, tries too hard to assert trinitarian doctrine. (When , in fact, there is no need to do so.) Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 11 at 0:00

3 Answers 3

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(Until there is some further explanation, I'll ignore seemingly irrelevant "Trinity Doctrine" part of this question.)

Most of the Bibles that I have consulted translates the Greek word kai ( a conjunction) as too or also,

Though its most common use is as "and".

For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me.

One really has to twist one's mind to make logical sense of that, since "having soldiers under me" is the exact opposite of being "a man under authority".

But consider the NLT translation:

I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers.

That's where it makes most sense; he both is under authority and holds authority over others.

It makes most sense if we see the initial "and" as simply continuing the previous verse:

⁸ …
but:                            ἀλλὰ
only speak the word:             | μόνον εἰπὲ λόγον,
AND shall be healed:             | καὶ ἰαθήσεται
my servant:                      |  | ὁ παῖς μου
⁹ AND for [i.e. because]:       καὶ γὰρ
I a man:                         | ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπός
am under authority:              |  | εἰμι ὑπὸ ἐξουσίαν
having under me soldiers [ALSO]: |  | ἔχων ὑπ᾽ ἐμαυτὸν στρατιώτας καὶ
I say:                           |  |  | λέγω
to this man:                     |  |  |  | τούτῳ,
to this man go:                  |  |  |  |  | Πορεύθητι,
AND he goeth:                    |  |  |  |  | καὶ πορεύεται,
AND:                             |  |  | καὶ
to another come:                 |  |  |  | ἄλλῳ
come:                            |  |  |  |  | Ἔρχου,
and he commeth:                  |  |  |  |  | καὶ ἔρχεται,
AND:                             |  |  | καὶ
to my servant:                   |  |  |  | τῷ δούλῳ μου
do this:                         |  |  |  |  | Ποίησον τοῦτο,
AND he doeth:                    |  |  |  |  | καὶ ποιεῖ

So, it does make sense to translate "καὶ" as "also" where he says "I am under authority and ALSO have soldiers under me".

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I do not believe Matt 8:9 says anything about the trinity and whether Jesus was "under authority" or not. To understand why, we need only examine the previous 2 verses:

Matt 8:7-9 - 7 “I will go and heal him,” Jesus replied.

8 The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell one to go, and he goes; and another to come, and he comes. I tell my servant to do something, and he does it.”

Notice that the centurion is reacting to Jesus' statement that He would go to the man's house and heal the servant. However, the centurion objects, essentially because he recognizes three things:

  • Jesus is too important and holy for the centurion's house
  • Jesus is capable of healing the servant from where Jesus stands without having to physically go into the house
  • Jesus has the authority to do this. The reason the centurion gives is that he understands how authority works because "kai gar = and for" (this is the double conjunction) the centurion is under authority and has authority which he exercises and thus he expects that Jesus can exercise His MUCH greater authority without humiliating Himself (as the centurion sees it) by coming under the centurion's roof.

Note the following verse - Jesus commends him in front of the crowd as having the most faith of anyone in all Israel.

Grammar

Now, Matt 8:9 actually begins with TWO conjunctions, "kai gar" = "also for" the meaning of which is usually to introduce and explanatory phrase of clause. thus, the combination of these two conjunctions is actually to say something like, "because". hence many translations just translate the equivalent and terser, "for".

Other versions spell this out in greater detail when they offer:

  • (TLV) "I know this because"
  • (ISV) "because"
  • NSRV, NET, NHEB, NAB, LSV, YLT, NKJV, etc, "for I also" to provide the double conjunction

Barnes summarizes this well when he says:

I am a man ... - He had full confidence in the ability of Jesus to heal his servant, and requested him simply to give the command. This request he presented in a manner appropriate to a soldier. I am a man, says he, under authority. That is, I am subject to the commands of others, and know how to obey. I have also under me soldiers who are accustomed to obedience. I say to one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes. I am "prepared," therefore, to believe that your commands will be obeyed. As these obey me, so do diseases, storms, and seas obey you. If men obey me, who am an "inferior" officer, subject to another, how much more shall diseases obey you - the original source of power having control over all things! He asked, therefore, simply that Christ would give commandment, and he felt assured he would be obeyed.

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No, Christ is not under authority, but the centurion here implies that he understands what is it to be subjected to somebody, so he says in this sense: "I also, just like my servants, am under authority myself, so I well understand what does it mean, for as I obey orders of those Roman authorities higher than me, so my servants obey me; and since I understand that those powers that inflict illness are under Your authority, so I do not find it reasonable to ask you to come to my house to heal my servant, because I understand that you can order those powers no matter from where." That is the meaning.

Moreover, who has, or better, who can have a sovereign authority over the powers that inflict illness, so as to be able to avert them from anybody at will, without asking anybody or praying to anybody higher to Himself? Only God! Thus, the centurion simply acknowledges divinity of Christ, and God cannot be under authority of anybody else.

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