Matthew 3:15 Suffer [it to be so] now...

KJV Verse: 

Mat 3:15 Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Let it go now. Because, in this way, being clearly seen, it exists for us. It fulfills all (sprinkling) the requirements of the law.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This are Christ's first words in the Gospels. It includes a play on words and many

The Greek word translated as "suffer," means to let something go or drop, especially in the sense of not caring about it. There is no "it", but in English when we tell someone to "drop it", we add the "it."

"To be so" is not in the Greek text. It is added to create a more complete written sentence from a spoken statement.

The Greek word translated as "now" means "just" or "exactly and "now" in the sense of "just now" when applied to time. Christ usually seems to use it in the sense of "now".

The word translated as "for" introduces a reason or explanation. In today's English, we would usually say,"because," or write "this is because" to prevent run-on sentences.

The word translated in KJV as "thus" is in its adverbial form, so it means "in this manner" or "in this way."

The "it becomes" is from two different verbs, neither of which is the Greek word for "become."

The first verb of "it becomes" means "to be seen clearly" and, from that, "to be conspicuous" and from that "to be conspicuously fitting." However, many Bibles offer it as "fitting" from the most derived definition. This is a rare word for Christ to use, so he is likely he used it for its specific meaning of being seen in an unmistakable way. The word meaning "to be clearly seen" or made conspicuous in some other way (loud, smelly). This is less about what is "fitting" or "proper," that it is about gaining visibility.

The next verb is the Greek word "to be." Translating it as "becometh" is not anything like how it is used in Greek. In English, there is a clear line between the concept of being and the concept of becoming, but it is even clearer in Greek. "Being" is continuing to exist in a current state. "Becoming" is the transition to a new state. There are in many ways complementary opposites in Greek and used that way, especially by Christ. Here, it clearly means "is".

The "us" here is in the form of an indirect object, which has many uses in Greek. Many of those uses work here. It could mean "it is clearly seen..." "...with us" (the instrumental dative), " us" (location), "...for us" (benefit), or "of us" (possessive).

The word translated as "to fulfill" means to fill up or complete. Christ uses it in many different ways, but he often uses it in a context like this meaning to complete a prophecy or what was written in scriptures. The form of the word could be a command ("Complete!"), or an infinitive ("to complete") or a simple statement ("it completes").

Next, there is some fun wordplay in the word translated as "all." In this form of the word, it has two different meanings. It is either an adjective, meaning "all" as in "all righteousness" in KJV . However, the same word is also a participle form of the Greek verb meaning "to sprinkle," that is, "sprinkling." One special use of this verb is to describe the sprinkling of healing herbs on a wound. The form is either the subject or object of the noun. Again, however, it lacks an article ("the", "a') which would make its use clear. Of course, if this is a play on words, that would be intentional. In the context of a baptism, which was likely a complete dunking in water, is really quite funny. (The Greek translated as "baptism" in the NT means "to dip" or "to dunk").

The word translated as "righteousness" carries the sense of virtue but specifically that of fulfilling legal or social requirements. This ties it to the idea of fulfilling the law. For Christ, the reference to the written law is implicit in that idea.

For most about the meaning of this verse to us today, see the separate article, Christ's First Words.

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἄφες (2nd sg aor imperat act) "Suffer" is from aphiemi, which means "to let fall", "to send away", "to let loose", "to get rid of", "to leave alone", "to pass by", "to permit," and "to send forth from oneself." This is the same word that is usually translated as "leave" and "forgive" in the New Testament.

ἄρτι, (adv) "Now" is from arti which means "just", "exactly", "now," and "presently."

οὕτω (adv) "Thus" is from houtos, which means "this", "that", "the nearer." As an adverb, it means "in this way", "therefore", "so much", "to such an extent," and "that is why."

γὰρ (partic) "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question it means "why" and "what."

πρέπον [uncommon](part sg pres act neut nom) "It becometh" (with eimi below) is from prepo, which means "to be clearly seen", "to be conspicuous", "loud and clear (sounds)", "to be strong or rank (smells)", "to resemble", "to be conspicuously fitting," and "to be seemly."

ἐστὶν (3rd sg pres ind act ) "It becometh" (with prepo above) is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

ἡμῖν (pron 1st pl masc dat) "Us" is from ego, which is the first person singular pronoun meaning "I". It also means "I at least", "for my part", "indeed," and for myself.

πληρῶσαι (2nd sg aor imperat mid or aor inf act or 3rd sg aor opt act) "To fulfill" is from pleroo, which mean "to fill", "to fulfill", "to make complete", "to pay in full", "to make pregnant," and "to fill full."

πᾶσαν (adj sg fem acc) "All" is from pas which means "all", "the whole", "every", "anyone", "all kinds," and "anything." OR
πᾶσαν (part sg aor act neut acc/nom) "All" is from passo, which means "to sprinkle."

δικαιοσύνην (noun sg fem acc) "Righteousness" is from dikaiosyne, which means "righteousness", "justice", "fulfillment of the law," and "the business of a judge."


 A wordplay on the word for "all" also meaning "sprinkling". 

At the beginning of his service, he talk about finishing it. 

The Spoken Version: 

In response to John's concern with propriety, he said, "Just let it go."

Then he gestured to the surrounding crowd.

"Because this is how," he said with a flourish. "Being conspicuous, it is for us."

Then he bent down to the water and lifted a some water in one cupped hand.

"It fulfills," he said, sprinkling it out. "All the requirements of the law."

Related Verses: 

Dec 16 2016