Who heard and was troubled?

I again have the privilege of teaching Matthew this quarter in our seminary. As part of my preparation I read four chapters a day, hence the entire book of Matthew every week. Each week I use a different translation. So this week (starting on Friday) I began reading in God’s Word (GW) Matt. 1-4.

Matthew 2:3

Appropriately I read the section that fits with the Epiphany (January 6), namely the visit of the wise men to Jesus in Bethlehem. I noticed something different about this verse:

Matt. 2:3 When King Herod and all Jerusalem heard about this, they became disturbed. (GW)

So, it appears according to this translation that King Herod and all Jerusalem were together in hearing and reacting to what they heard. But is that accurate? Looking at the Greek text,

ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης ἐταράχθη καὶ  °πᾶσα Ἱεροσόλυμα μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ, (NA28)

The first word is an aorist participle, nominative singular (“having heard” implying “he” or a singular noun of the sentence).  After the conjunction, δὲ (“now” “when”) we find the subject of the sentence: “[The] King Herod,” which is followed by the main verb (ἐταράχθη) which is aorist indicative, singular, “he was troubled.” So we could easily translate the first part of the sentence:

“When having heard [about the wise men] King Herod was troubled.”

The second part of the sentence is an additional clause, not a complete sentence, which can be translated:

“and all Jerusalem with him.”

This suggests that “all Jerusalem” did not hear [the report] but was reacting to King Herod who heard and was troubled. When the king is troubled, then all Jerusalem is troubled with him. Thus, the threat of a king-challenger is of immediate concern to Herod. It is a troubled Herod that is of immediate concern for the people.

Other translations:

I could find only one other translation that was even close to GW, namely NLT:

NLT King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.

Unfortunately the way the sentence is awkwardly constructed in NLT, the additional clause at the end is closely connected with “hearing” and not “deeply disturbed.” Yet the helping verb (“was”) suggests a relationship with “deep disturbed.” But who would stop and analyze that structure?

The following translations catch the sense of the Greek sentence, that Herod heard the report, and that was troubling to him, and that then as troubling to all Jerusalem, contrary to GW (and NLT).

NAS When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

NET When King Herod heard this he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him.

NIV When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

HCSB When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

NAB When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

NJB When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem.

REB King Herod was greatly perturbed when he heard this, and so was the whole of Jerusalem.

It seems that GW (and somewhat NLT) confuses the problem by making Herod and the people as the ones equally who heard and are troubled.

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
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2 Responses to Who heard and was troubled?

  1. Interesting post, have to think this one through, though I am not sure how Jerusalem would miss the procession of the Magi into town. This alone would have caused some concern, would it not?

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  2. exegete77 says:

    Not necessarily, depending on the exact time, the size of the group. But travelers through Jerusalem would be common place, a crossroads even in 1st century

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