Matthew 27:46 Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

KJV Verse: 

Mat 27:46 Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

God of mine, God of mine, for what have you left me behind?

Hidden Meaning: 

One of the most interesting quotes in the NT for two reasons: first, because of the use of Aramaic, and second, because of the apparent but misleading sense of Christ feeling "forsaken."

This verse makes it difficult to think that Christ normally taught in Aramaic, despite the claims of "experts." If all of Christ's statements were in Aramaic, why would the Gospel quote this one in Greek, providing a translation into Greek? We see this same problem with Mar 5:41. These quotes only make sense if Christ normally spoke in Greek, except on those few cases when he used the local language. The people standing around did not recognize this statement (Mat 27:47). This indicates that they didn't understand Aramaic as well. For more on the topic of Christ speaking Greek, please refer to this article.

Many people reading this verse today think that means that Christ felt alienated from his Father at the time of his death. The Jews of his era, would have recognized it fro what it really is, the first line of Psalm 22, which makes several specific statements prophetic of Christ's death, including his garments being divided by lots. Because this line is a quote, we have two sources for this verse, the Hebrew Psalm and the Greek NT. If you read the Psalm (an English translation here), you can see why he was quoting it: it was a description of his situation. 

In other words, Jesus is reminding those around in and who would read his words, that the suffering he was going through was foretold and, as he said many times, required to fulfull the prophecies. 

These two observations lead to an important third: the close correspondence between Christ's quotes of scripture and the Greek Septuagint is not an artifact of translators using the Septuagint to guide translation. In this case, the Greek of the Septuagint is very different than the Greek of Matthew, even though there are only a few words involved. This demonstrates how unlikely it is that Christ's other, much longer quotes of the scriptures could be nearly word-for-word identical to the Septuagint if it was not the form that Christ was actually quoting.

The Greek word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is not introduced with an article, which would makes it "the God." Christ usually used it uses this word for God with the article before it, perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods. In this case, the Greek here is more literally "God of mine, God of mine," but the Greek of the Septuagint is different, ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός μου, or "The God, the God of mine." Again, this is the way Christ's statements in the Greek about God normally read, as opposed to this translation by Matthew from the Aramaic. In the original Hebrew of Psalm 22, there is neither "the" nor "my." The text is the simple "El," which means "God" or "Might one."

Christ, however, seems to have blended the Hebrew and Greek versions in his Aramaic. Note the Aramaic in the first part of this verse. Here, the word for God is "Eloi," which is the Aramaic word for God, "El" followed by the suffix "oi" which indicates "my." So, in speaking Aramaic, Christ was closer to the Greek translation, which added poetic niceties to the bare bones Hebrew. However the Septuagint of Psalm22, two Greek words appear before the Greek translated as "why" that are not in Christ's Aramaic. These words (prosxes (2nd sg aor imperat act) moi, a command meaning "hold before me" or "surpass me") are ignored by Christ and do not appear in this place in the Hebrew.

The "why" is from two Greek words meaning "because why." The first word that means "because", "where," and "in order that." The second, it means "anyone", "someone," and "anything", but it plays the roles of the common question words in English: who, what, why, etc.

The Greek word translated as "have you forsaken" means to "leave behind" or "to abandon." The Hebrew word, "azab" or azavthani in Psalm 22, means "to leave", "to depart", "to abandon", "to foresake", "to let go," and "to free." The word "sabachthani" is both Aramaic and Mishnaic Hebrew, which was the spoken language at the time. In Hebrew, it was a synonym of azavthani,

However, though Christ's words end on the word for "leave behind" or "abandoned," the important point was that he was starting to say Psalm 22, which, though it suffering, being mocked, and scorned, ends as a plea for rescue ending in praise. People who do not realize this may think that at this point Christ's faith faltered. Instead, the evidence is that this was a personal prayer about his own situation. Since Greek was Christ public language, this may be a rare look at his family language, the words he first heard the scriptures spoken in before his study of Greek.

The Spoken Version: 

"My God, My God," he said from the cross starting Psalm 22, "For what have you left me behind?"


Θεέ (noun sg masc voc) "God" is from theos, which means "God," the Deity."

μου μου, (noun sg masc gen) "My" is from mou, which means "me", and "mine". -- "Me" is from the regularfirst-person pronoun in Greek.

θεέ (noun sg masc voc) "God" is from theos, which means "God," the Deity." -- The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is introduced with an article, so "the God." Christ often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods.

μου, (noun sg masc gen) "My" is from mou, which means "me", and "mine".

ἵνα (conj) "Why" is from hina, (with tis below) which means "in that place", "there", "where", "when", "that", "in order that", "when," and "because."

τί (pron sg neut acc) "Why" is from tis (with hina below)which can mean "someone", "any one", "everyone", "they [indefinite]", "many a one", "whoever", "anyone", "anything", "some sort", "some sort of", "each", "any", "the individual", "such," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

με (pron 1st sg masc acc) "Me" is from eme, which means "I", "me", and "my".

ἐγκατέλιπες;” (verb 2nd sg aor ind act) "Forsaken" in the Greek is from egkataleipo, which means "to leave behind", "to leave in the lurch," and "to abandon."


Related Verses: 

Mar 5:41 Talitha cumi; Damsel,

ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός μου πρόσχες μοι ἵνα τί ἐγκατέλιπές με (the Greek of Psalm 22 from the Septuagint.

Dec 10 2016