A GREEK EXEGESIS OF THE GREAT COMMISSION OF MATTHEW AND MARK

A GREEK EXEGESIS OF THE GREAT COMMISSION OF MATTHEW AND MARK
Posted by in Facebook's Pentecostal Theology Group View the Original Post

By Tyler Lee Price

Introduction

Since the late 90’s there has been an outflux of people who attend church on a regular basis, especially among the youth in the United States. This has been partially due to how we “do” church and ministry on a weekly basis. A few of the issues are that we have limited church to a building and a service on a Sunday morning, evangelism to inviting someone (namely non-believers) to church on a Sunday morning, and teaching to evangelical sermons preached on Sunday mornings so that if a non-believer did happen to wander into the church, they can get saved.

We go to church on a Sunday morning, listen to a few songs at the beginning of the service, listen to a sermon, then we go home and have Sunday lunch with our families. Some understand that the church isn’t limited to the four walls of the church, but they still rely on the pastor to preach their friends into the kingdom of God due to a misunderstanding of what evangelism is supposed to be. This is caused by not having a clear understanding of the Bible and how it characterizes the concept of evangelism, as well as not getting the spiritual nourishment and discipleship that they need from the person in the pulpit, namely pastors.

The purpose of this paper is to shed some light upon these issues and expound upon them using biblical examples and a proper understanding of hermeneutics. Throughout this paper, I will expound upon the issues in understanding the Matthean and Markan Great Commissions and how instead of focusing our attention mostly toward mostly foreign countries, we should divert some of that attention to the mission field that lies within the areas in which we are local. This can include workplaces, schools, hospitals, jails, restaurants, and coffee shops we attend regularly.

The next section of this paper will be solely on how we currently interpret the Great Commission and will conclude with how we should interpret the Great Commission and expound upon how we can put this new interpretation of the Great Commission into practice.

Matthew’s Great Commission

One of the most commonly quoted and misunderstood passages of scripture is, ironically, the passage of scripture that gives us one of our directives as Christians. The misunderstanding is derived from the way that the scholars, who interpreted and translated the Bible into the multitude of transcriptions we have at our disposal today, miswrote this passage of scripture, which I will explain later on.

The Great Commission is currently written in English as:

 

“19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

 

This transcription of this passage of scripture has led to a misinterpretation of how we are to fulfill this directive. We commonly interpret this passage of scripture as meaning that we are to go to all nations to make disciples, particularly referring to the ministry of global missions.

I’ve heard sermons with two different ways of interpreting this passage, first, with “GO” being the directive, “making disciples” being a participle plus a noun, and “teaching” and “baptizing” being two participles and commands. The second uses “go” as a directive, “make disciples” as a verbal imperative, and “teaching” and “baptizing” being participles being two imperatives.

After doing a Greek word-study, I found that the Greek word “πορευθεντες” (poreuthentes) does not translate to “go therefore” but instead, it translates to the progressive participle “going”. As you examine the words “βαπτιζοντες” (baptizontes) and “διδάσκοντες” (didaskontes), they translate to the participles “baptizing” and “teaching”, therefore it can be deduced that the “όντες/εντες” (ontes/entes) endings translate to the English “-ing” ending, denoting a progressive participle. So, if we go by the literal meaning of the words, then the Great Commission should read:

 

19 Therefore going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

 

This translation of the Great Commission is a more literal, accurate translation and would lead to less of an emphasis on international missions in the church world and lead to a better understanding of the Christian imperative to be more involved in the ministries of evangelism and discipleship.

Once we come to understand the directive of the Great Commission, we can begin to operate both corporately and individually. On a corporate level, we, as a church, are all called to the ministries of evangelism and discipleship and therefore individually, we should all be convicted of our shortcomings in these areas and strive to become better equipped to participate in these forms of ministry that God has called us all to participate in.

The next part involved in this process of understanding the Great Commission is understanding who we are to disciple. The words I’m looking most heavily at when trying to understand who I am to proselytize and make a disciple of is the Greek words used for “all the nations”. The Greek text uses the words “πάντα τα έθνη” (panta ta ethnē). The way I’m going to exposit this part of scripture is going to be a bit unorthodox, but it will make sense in context.

I’m going to begin with the word “πάντα” (panta). “Πάντα” translates in English to the following words: always, all, every, each, whole. The four most logical words to associate with “πάντα” in this context would be all, every, each, and whole. Contextually, we could translate this piece of scripture as “every τα έθνη”, “each τα έθνη”, “all τα έθνη”, and/or “whole τα έθνη” (though this is the most unorthodox way to translate it).

The next words I’m going to zero-in on are “τα έθνη” (ta ethnē). To understand these particular two words, you have to look back to the Hebrew roots from which έθνη was translated. From Hebrew to Greek, it starts with the word הגויים (read right to left), which transliterates to “goyim”. The root word of “goyim” is the Hebrew word which transliterates as “goy” which is the Hebrew word used to refer to a non-Jew (commonly referred to as gentiles). So, it can be deduced that “goyim” is indeed the plural of “goy” referring to a multitude of gentiles. The Greek word έθνη was translated from the aforementioned Hebrew word goyim. So here, we can see that the word έθνη wasn’t speaking about going to “all the nations”, but instead going to the “whole of gentiles”, “every gentile”, “each gentile” or literally “all the gentiles”.

In the realm of Christianity, we are quick to label someone as Christian without hearing a verbal proclamation of faith or seeing the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) evidenced in their life. As a Christian, who is adopted into the family of God through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:6-7), we are considered to be grafted in to the category of “sons of Abraham” since we as Christians are simply a continuation of Judaism that is made righteous through the blood of Christ. With that being understood, it can be deduced that non-Christians can be included in the gentile category.

With all that taken into consideration, it can be deduced that the object of the directive “disciple” is anyone who is apart from the family of God. A simple way of translating Matthew’s Great Commission could indeed be:

 

19 Therefore going, make disciples of every non-Christian, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you, and I will be with you to the end of the age.”

 

The final word in Matthew’s great commission that must be examined to gain a proper Greek hermeneutical understanding of Matthew 28:19-20 is the Greek word μαθητεύσατε (matheteusate). This word, when translated into English from koine Greek, has always been translated as “make disciples”, and upon close investigation of the sentence in the Greek text, the word for “make” is nowhere to be found. The word matheteusate is actually an aorist active imperative. This means that it should be understood as the imperative to disciple in English after translation. This means that we ought not understand “poreuthentes” as the directive in this set of scripture, but we should instead understand “matheteusate” or “disciple” as the prime directive, with “poreuthentes” (going), “baptizontes” (baptizing), and “didaskontes” (teaching) as the ways in which we are to accomplish the directive “disciple”.

This understanding of the Great Commission, if taught, would cause a paradigm shift within the North American church atmosphere. This shift would come in the form of the missions focus being shifted from global (foreign) missions to community-based and relationship-based missions within a local context. I reiterate that this understanding does not discredit the concept and validity of international missions, but we have placed such a heavy focus on what we can do for ourselves and other countries that we have forgotten to steward and to disciple the communities that we claim to serve.

 

Mark’s Great Commission

Interestingly enough, the Great Commission of Mark and Matthew are remarkably similar. The difference between the two is the object of the directive and the detail with which they give said directive. The object of Matthew’s directive is έθνη (ethnē), which, as mentioned before, translates to “Gentiles” due to the word being derived from the Hebrew word “goyim” which refers to the gentiles in plurality. The object of Mark’s Great Commission is κόσμος (kosmos), which can be translated as “the world or universe”, but I want to propose a different understanding of the way we interpret the word κόσμος in this passage of scripture.

According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, there are eight ways that the word κόσμος has been used in the New Testament. The one I want to examine is the seventh way that it has been used. The seventh way it has been used means “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men who have been alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ”. Interestingly, we have once again broadened the scope of what the object of the directive of each Great Commission is. With this interpretation, we have once again broadened the scope of ministry from mostly global missions to global missions with an emphasis on local missions. This interpretation changes the way that we understand Mark’s Commission. It changes it from:

 

15 Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all of the creation.”

 

To:

 

15 Going (poreuthentes) to the ungodly multitude, proclaim the gospel to all of the creation.”

 

Conclusion

 

If we notice the parallels between the Greek versions of Matthew and Mark, we would see that we, as disciples of Christ, are meant to proactively preach the gospel in season and out of season to those that we come across as we are progressively going throughout our lives. Evangelism is more than a concept that we relegate to our pastors on a Sunday morning so that we may avoid complicated situations that may arise from attempting to share the gospel with someone in our work places, schools, and local gathering places. Evangelism is not something that is to be confined to the four walls of the building we call our church, but we must realize that evangelism is the mission of the ἐκκλησίᾳ (ekklesia | “gathering”) and that the body of Christ is the Church, not the building. If we are to win this lost and dying world to the cause of Christ, we are to take up this responsibility and equip ourselves and others with the skills and knowledge necessary for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the kosmos | “ungodly multitude”, and it will only be with the taking up of this responsibility that we will be able to bring our lost friends, family members, and even our enemies to the salvific knowledge of Jesus Christ.

31 Comments

  • Troy Day
    Reply May 15, 2019

    Troy Day

    here is another great approach toward q-sourcism Link Hudson Philip Williams In all fairness when a basic Greek study is done Mt and Mk/Peter just stick together in the Greek linguistics. Luke is completely different in style John is much more beginner’s Greek And Paul / Hebrews is a whole different universe

  • Troy Day
    Reply May 15, 2019

    Troy Day

    Joe Absher I understand the Great comission as preaching

  • Joe Absher
    Reply May 16, 2019

    Joe Absher

    We have a great God and a great commission. A great Salvation and a great assurance. Jesus Christ the Righteous.
    Knives and dope and threats and 20 that want to fight. But 1 responds with rejoiceing and somehow its alright. Getting back after it tonorrow. After all what’s a little conflict between friends 🙂

  • Troy Day
    Reply May 16, 2019

    Troy Day

    maybe we can look into it with Philip Williams

    • Philip Williams
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day Such analysis ought to stay in the classroom. It adds nothing but confusion to what is clear in all the major translations. He especially misses the point you pulling from and ignoring the context.

      “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””
      ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭

      Prior to this Jesus had sent them only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Now, the Father has made him king over all the nations, Gentile as well as Jew. This happens with the New Covenant. Hence, instead of circumcision in the flesh to make them his Covenanted people, disciples will receive the Holy Spirit.

    • Philip Williams
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day more relevant, is to stop confusing discipleship with a one-time confession. Discipleship is devotion to Jesus. Converts ought to be introduced to Jesus through the Scriptures and by example of Christians. I would not advocate evangelism on the part of those who aren’t themselves devoted to Jesus. Usually that comes from an agenda (church growth, ministry statistic, as appears the case here), that isn’t from Jesus.

    • Philip Williams
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day I am however happy to see the author of this piece recognizing the manifest authenticity of Mark 16.

    • Troy Day
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Troy Day

      Philip Williams I dont think Tyler Lee Price has presented a confusion and if you think that we need to see your proof in detail I think it is only natural when reading Mt and Mk in Greek that they bond together as the language used for the most is one and the same – literally. If Mk indeed wrote down the sermons of Peter and traveled with Paul it is quite obvious he did not pick up Paul’s writing style – at least in Greek This strong similarity between Mt and Mk that has been shown cannot be ignored easily

    • Philip Williams
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day I have a rule that no one involved in a theological dispute should offer justification from his own analysis of the original language. How can such avoid the deepest translation bias! Translation bias might still be present in the major translations, but likely not the one being disputed.

      We ought therefore to have a firewall between translation and theology to which all good translations will strive.

    • Philip Williams
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day the synoptic of the synoptic gospels is the view of Jesus from the preaching of Peter. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all heard Peter preach on plentiful occasions, though Mark and Luke were likely familiar with Matthew’s own Aramaic collection of the Lord’s teachings.

    • Troy Day
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Troy Day

      I see what you are saying It makes sense that other scholars are quoted and this perhaps is a standard among linguistic non-specialists or philology start-ups In a simple facebook talk however one can only go as far as presenting own observation Citing other authors does not always serve as proof because they are not always recognized by all in the discussion. My rule is this – present the actual Greek and show me your skill to understand and interpret it Any further scholarly can help but not take the place of the personal exegesis – and this is a basic rule in any exegetical class not just Greek I do see your point and I have often refuted arguments by Link Hudson as his private interpretation but when you get to the actual Greek IMO it is pretty clear – it says what it says The rest is just talk

    • Link Hudson
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Link Hudson

      Often refuted? By posting a link to 50 different opinions without eating which one you hold to?

    • Joe Absher
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Joe Absher

      For those of us out if “the classroom” its alright. But I do like your “therefore” point. Therefore is a big word. I’m gonna have to try it out!

    • Troy Day
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Troy Day

      YES Link Hudson by solid scholarly discussions from leading scholars in the filed just like Philip Williams likes to request When my comment seems not to be enough I back it with other scholars who say the same What else?

    • Philip Williams
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day I don’t ask you to back your arguments with opinions like your own. I am not sure that has any value at all. Rather, I ask you to support your claims with evidence and arguments, the only thing that counts when it comes to the seeking of truth.

    • Troy Day
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Troy Day

      Philip Williams I presented 8 in another topic you failed to recognize. So keep on trying

    • Philip Williams
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day I did address those. But I don’t think you noticed.

    • Troy Day
      Reply May 17, 2019

      Troy Day

      How so – since I took the time to respond to each of your 7 addresses – you missed one, which was the most important one Let’s call it a Freudian slip 🙂 FEEL free to review all my 7 responses to your addresses http://www.pentecostaltheology.com/who-is-the-author-of-hebrews/

  • Troy Day
    Reply May 16, 2019

    Troy Day

    After reading this brief as a professor I would stop right here and ask – did the student did what he/she said the would do – did Tyler Lee Price ?

    Throughout this paper, I will expound upon the issues in understanding the Matthean and Markan Great Commissions and how instead of focusing our attention

    mostly toward mostly foreign countries,

    we should divert some of that attention to the mission field that lies within the areas in which we are local.

    Philip Williams I would start by asking IF the participle “πορευθεντες” is translated as part of the imperative clause. Did ESV and others got it wrong 🙂

    • Philip Williams
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day ‘The attempt to make things overly precise is worse than time wasted. It positively leaves thought unclear.’

      C.S. Peirce

    • Tyler Lee Price
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Tyler Lee Price

      Philip Williams I believe that my job as an academic and theologian (though in my undergrad) is to be as precise as possible when doing language studies and theological exegesis. I think that the translations we have are all good and useful, but I just wanted to be a little bit more precise in the translation of the Great Commissions. I didn’t ignore immediate context, I just don’t see how it connects to basic Greek grammar and vocabulary.

      “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore going, disciple all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you….”

      All translations are good, just some, I think, are mistaken in some places.

    • Philip Williams
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Philip Williams

      Tyler Lee Price thank you for your analysis. But I do think it obscures the major point about the commission resulting from Jesus having just been given authority over all nations. In my view, ‘therefore go’ is more fitting.

    • Tyler Lee Price
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Tyler Lee Price

      IMO, I see the need for seeing “poreuthentes” as progressive instead of imperative. It kinda helps make the idea of evangelism and discipleship go more hand-in-hand in the daily life of the believer and it makes it more of a responsibility of all believers instead of a select few.

    • Troy Day
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Troy Day

      Tyler Lee Price I would have gone deeper on the actual exegesis and and actual literal translation

      Mt 28:19 literally – having gone (the Aorist participle could/should be seen as imperative as per ESV, NIV and even KJV translators) teach

      the clause is juxtaposed in comparison with v18 where Jesus
      having come said to them them saying (repetition of lego/legomen)

      and then the similar but different v 20
      teachimg them – didaskontes is in present cont. participle and differs from the previous 2 verses with aorist (past) participle

    • Tyler Lee Price
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Tyler Lee Price

      How are they aorist past participles when the context calls for a present active? Actually curious because I’m still learning the full mechanics of Greek language.

    • Troy Day
      Reply May 16, 2019

      Troy Day

      Imperative in the greek often derives from aoirst past. I Hope you are looking at some NA text so:

      πορευθέντες – Aorist part. Pass. nominative masc. plural

      μαθητεύσατε – – Aorist part. active 2 pers. plural

  • Troy Day
    Reply May 17, 2019

    Troy Day

    SO Tyler Lee Price whats your bottom line ?

  • Troy Day
    Reply July 9, 2019

    Troy Day

    with important considerations Michael Ellis Carter Jr.

  • Troy Day
    Reply July 23, 2019

    Troy Day

    If we notice the parallels between the Greek versions of Matthew and Mark, we would see that we, as disciples of Christ, are meant to proactively preach the gospel in season and out of season to those that we come across as we are progressively going throughout our lives. Evangelism is more than a concept that we relegate to our pastors on a Sunday morning so that we may avoid complicated situations that may arise from attempting to share the gospel with someone in our work places, schools, and local gathering places. Evangelism is not something that is to be confined to the four walls of the building we call our church, but we must realize that evangelism is the mission of the ἐκκλησίᾳ (ekklesia | “gathering”) and that the body of Christ is the Church, not the building. If we are to win this lost and dying world to the cause of Christ, we are to take up this responsibility and equip ourselves and others with the skills and knowledge necessary for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the kosmos | “ungodly multitude”, and it will only be with the taking up of this responsibility that we will be able to bring our lost friends, family members, and even our enemies to the salvific knowledge of Jesus Christ.

    • Neil Steven Lawrence
      Reply July 23, 2019

      Neil Steven Lawrence

      Troy Day you mean euangelion is not the job of the evangelist only? 🤔 In truth we have a sleeping army!

    • Troy Day
      Reply July 23, 2019

      Troy Day

      Neil Steven Lawrence Article By Tyler Lee Price What do you find interesting in his claim?

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