In Matthew 2:1, should it be translated “when Jesus was born”


In some translations, such as the KJV, we have “when” Jesus was born in Bethlehem. In other versions we have “after” Jesus was born in Bethlehem. When I looked at an interlinear to learn more, I don’t see either word spelled out. Are these words added by the translators to keep the sentence grammatically correct? The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Alfred Marshall is also vague on this. Would this page be a more accurate translation?

Personally, I believe the sentence, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea” belongs at the end of the previous chapter, not in chapter 2 with the wise men, because it misleads the reader into thinking the birth was quickly followed by the wise men. The men visit a “young Child,” not a baby, in a “home,” not a manger.


  • Reply December 20, 2016

    Brian Roden

    γεννηθέντος is an aorist passive participle. I would translate it “having been born,” it signifies a completed action prior to the main verb of the sentence, παρεγένοντο, which is an aorist middle indicative for “to come, to arrive.” So Jesus was born, and after that the magi arrived.

  • Reply December 20, 2016

    Varnel Watson

    Brian Roden What would you say is the significance of the same verb ἐγέννησεν being used 42 times in Mt. 1 for each of the 40 generations listed there. Though passive as well, it is generally translated per Matthew’s usage as So and so bore/gave birth to so and so?

    Though a very classic Machen rendering, “having been born” in English indicates perfect tense which is nowhere found in the aorist passive participle γεννηθέντος. It can sometimes be difficult to decide which term to use (between “gerunds” and “past participles”).

    • Reply December 20, 2016

      Brian Roden

      How did you know my 1st year Greek textbook was Machen?

      You’re right about perfect passive versus aorist passive. I was in a hurry to answer on my way out the door at the office, and got ahead of myself. The key to me is that the aorist participle indiciated “time before” the aorist main verb. The English “when” if OK if understood in the sense of “when this had happened,” but may confuse some into thinking it is contemporaneous/happening at the same moment.

      Chapter 1 is a lot of aorist active indicative (not passive) of γεννάω, “become the parent of” or in good Elizabethan English, “beget.”

  • Reply December 20, 2016

    Varnel Watson

    We have all learned from Machen 🙂 BTW γεννηθέντος is rendered immediately after in Mt. 2:4 as “where the Messiah was to be born.”

    Was to be born obviously does not fit our idea in Mt. 2:1 so I would go with the very simple “was born” – gives both the past finished and the passive. Using the -ing as rendering passive voice is unnecessary since in English (and most languages) born could be only in passive.

    GRK: δὲ Ἰησοῦ γεννηθέντος ἐν Βηθλεὲμ
    NAS: after Jesus was born in Bethlehem
    KJV: Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem
    INT: moreover Jesus having been born in Bethlehem

    As per the conjuction δὲ (meaning “but”) I would go with simply And (the) Jesus was born in Bethlehem… I do see how well it indicates chronology if we go with the perfect continuous “But Jesus having been born in…” but its not in the text. And a birth by default is one time done deal not perfect continuous 🙂

    As BTW is spiritual birth born again, regeneration and sanctification. It’s one time definitive event not progressive continues action. But that’s another bone to pick later

  • Reply December 21, 2016

    James H. Boyd

    I’m reading one of Machen’s books now.

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