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

Spoken to: 

John the Baptist

Context: 

These are Jesus's first words in the Gospels.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Let it go now because being seen is the way for us to fulfill every virtue.

KJV : 

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

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

It is a series of phrases that make more sense as spoken language than as written sentences (see this article on spoken versus written langauge).

The first word here is a command meaning "let it go" or "let it drop."

This command is followed by an explanatory phrase that combines and adverb meaning "in this way" with a participle that means "being obvious." The sense is "by being obvious." Then, there is an uncommon construction that puts the Greek verb "to be" with a dative. The literal meaning of this phrase is "it is for us," but in modern English we say "we have" in the sense of "we must."  So, Jesus is saying that they must be seen acting in this way.
 

NIV : 

Matthew 3:15 Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.

NLT : 

Matthew 3:15 It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.

Wordplay: 

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

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

Related Verses: 

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 [unique](part sg pres act neut nom) Untranslated is 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."

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 (aor inf 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."

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

KJV Analysis: 

Suffer 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."

it to be so -- (IP) There is nothing that can be translated as "it to be so " in the Greek source. The "it" might be assumed, since the object of an action is often assumed from the context in Greek.

now: 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".

for -- 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

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

it -- This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb.

untranslated "is obvious"-- (MW) The untranslated verb means "to be seen clearly" and, from that, "to be conspicuous" and that "to be conspicuously fitting." However, many Bibles offer it as "fitting" from the most derived definition. This is used only by Jesus here, 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.

becometh -- (WW) -- The verb "becometh" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. When followed by an indirect object (dative), as it is here, the senses is, "we have" to do something. "It is for us to fulfill."   It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. 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 Jesus.

us -- 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), "...in us" (location), "...for us" (benefit), or "of us" (possessive).

to -- This "to" is added because the infinitive form of the verb requires a "to" in English.

fulfil -- 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").

all --   The word translated as "all" is the Greek adjective meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas.

righteousness. -- The word translated as "righteousness" also means "justice" and generally "fulfillment of the law". When applied to God, it works best as "justice," but when applied to people "virtue" works better since we don't use "righteousness" must anymore. 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. We use the term "justice" more commonly today.

KJV Translation Issues: 

2
  • IP - Inserted phrase-- The phrase "it to be so" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "becometh" means "it is" or "we have."

NIV Analysis: 

Let-- The Greek word translated as "let," means to let something go or drop, especially in the sense of not caring about it.

it -- There is no "it", but in English when we tell someone to "drop it", we add the "it." Plus the object is often assumed in ancient Greek.

be -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "it to be so " in the Greek source. The "it" might be assumed, since the object of an action is often assumed from the context in Greek.

untranslated "for"-- (MW) The untranslated word "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

so -- The word "so" is in its adverbial form, so it means "in this manner" or "in this way."

now -- The word "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".

it -- This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb.

is --  The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. When followed by an indirect object (dative), as it is here, the senses is, "we have" to do something. "It is for us to fulfill."   It also equates terms or assigns characteristics.

proper -- (WW, WF) This verb means "to be seen clearly" and, from that, "to be conspicuous" and that "to be conspicuously fitting." However, many Bibles offer it as "fitting" from the most derived definition. This is used only by Jesus here, 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.

for -- This word "for" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English, but the translator must decide which preposition to use: with the verb "to be" the sense is "for."

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

to do this -- (IP) There is nothing that can be translated as "to do this " in the Greek source.

to -- This "to" is added because the infinitive form of the verb requires a "to" in English.

fulfill -- 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").

all --   The word translated as "all" is the Greek adjective meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas.

righteousness. -- The word translated as "righteousness" also means "justice" and generally "fulfillment of the law". When applied to God, it works best as "justice," but when applied to people "virtue" works better since we don't use "righteousness" must anymore. 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. We use the term "justice" more commonly today.

NIV Translation Issues: 

5
  • IW - Inserted word -- The word "is" doesn't exist here in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "for" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "proper" means "being obvious."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "proper" is not  an adjective, but a verb in the form of an adjective, "being obvious" and "being clearly seen."
  • IP - Inserted phrase-- The phrase "to do this" doesn't exist in the source.

NLT Analysis: 

It -- (WW) This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb. It should be "you" and not "it."

should -- (IW) This suggests that the verb is a form that requires a "might" or "should" but the verb is not in that form.

be -- (WF) Thus suggests that the verb is passive. It isn't.

done -- (WW) The Greek word translated as "done," 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."

for --  The word "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

untranslated "in this way"-- (MW) The untranslated word is in its adverbial form, so it means "in this manner" or "in this way."

untranslated "now"-- (MW) The untranslated word "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".

untranslated "being obvious"-- (MW) The untranslated verb here means "to be seen clearly" and, from that, "to be conspicuous" and that "to be conspicuously fitting." However, many Bibles offer it as "fitting" from the most derived definition. This is used only by Jesus here, 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.

for -- This word "for" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English, but the translator must decide which preposition to use: with the verb "to be" the sense is "for."

we -- The "we" here is in the form of an indirect object, which has many uses in Greek. Used with the Greek verb "to be" the sense is "it is for us" to do something. which we would say as "we must." 

must --   The verb "must" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. When followed by an indirect object (dative), as it is here, the senses is, "we have" to do something. "It is for us to fulfill."   It also equates terms or assigns characteristics.

carry out -- (WF) The word translated as "carry out" means to fill up or complete. This is in the form of an infinitive. 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").

all --   The word translated as "all" is the Greek adjective meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas.

that God requires -- (WW) The word translated as "that God requires"  means "justice" and generally "fulfillment of the law". When applied to God, it works best as "justice," but when applied to people "virtue" works better since we don't use "righteousness" must anymore. 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. We use the term "justice" more commonly today.

NLT Translation Issues: 

11
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "it" should be "you."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "should" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "be" should not indicate a passive verb. It is a command.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "it" should be "you."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "done" should be "let go."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "in this way" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "now" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "being obvious" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "carry out" should be "to carry out."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "must" should be "is."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "that God requires" should be "justice."

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."

Front Page Date: 

Apr 4 2020