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  • Mark 15:34, And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
  • Matthew 27:46, And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

What is the difference? Why is there a difference between Eloi and Eli? What was actually said? Which should we say to be accurate?

2 Answers 2

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Mark, whose book focuses on the Messenger of the Covenant (see Mark 1:1,2 and Malachi 3: 1-4) whilst Matthew is writing in regard to the kingdom of the heavens (literal) against the background of the Jewish state and government.

Thus Mark cites the actual dialect that Jesus of Nazareth spoke in his anguish. It is the actual speech of the Messenger of the Covenant.

Whilst Matthew cites the Hebrew text that Jesus was quoting.

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Both of these are usually understood to be Aramaic renditions of Psalm 22:1. But Matthew's version is closer to the Hebrew, changing "my God" from Eloi to Eli. The reason for this change probably has to do with Matthew's context (see footnote here), where Jesus' statement is misunderstood by onlookers to be a reference to Elijah.

47 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. 49 But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”

In the language of the time "el-ee" (my God) and "el-ee-a-hu" (Elijah) would be much easier to confuse than "el-oi" and "el-ee-a-hu". As to which is a more accurate version of what Jesus actually said, this is complicated. For one thing, it depends on whether he actually quoting Ps. 22 or simply saying in Aramaic, "my God, my God why have your forsaken me." It also depends on whether he might have mixed the Hebrew and Aramaic - not at all implausible - if he recited the Psalm. Finally, it may also be the case that Matthew recorded "Eli" because that is what was reported by an eyewitness, even though it was really Eloi.

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