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Scripture of the Week

Galatians 5:6 (NIV)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.


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Teaching Of The Week
“Thou Sayest” - Jesus Christ’s Faithful Witness

  I Timothy 6:13 tells us of the witness of our Lord Jesus Christ:

  I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;

  By revelation Paul reminds Timothy of the resurrections by commanding him before the God who makes alive all things pertaining to Christ Jesus.  Paul also, by calling to remembrance our Lord’s witness to the truth before Pontius Pilate, reminds Timothy of what it means to stand and speak the truth no matter what.

  Part of our Lord’s testimony to the truth includes using a Greek idiom “You said” in answer to Pilate during two distinct “trails.”  Using this idiom, Christ emphatically professed the truth about himself, the truth of the gospel, as he stood bound before the Roman governor of Judea with brutal scourgings and certain death hanging above his head.

  During the first trial by Pilate, in Luke 23:3, it reads:

  And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.

  The Lord answered Pilate:  “Thou sayest it” in all four gospels.  The two exact same Greek words appear in each recorded response.  This brief expression overflows with at least three figures of speech.

  First, notice that the King James Version places “it” in italicized print.  This is because this word is absent in the Greek texts.  The first figure of speech is an ellipsis.  Something must be left out of this expression.  For instance, in English, if I walked up to you and said, “You say…” and then walked off, I hope you’d get my car keys away from me.  As this makes no sense in English, it also makes no sense in Greek.  However, there is an also idiomatic element.  That’s the second figurative element.

  As in modern language, a unique, idiomatic expression emphasizes by relying on the common understanding between two speakers.  It adds an absolute certainty, like a handshake, to what is spoken.  By way of idiom our Lord gave Pilate his personal guarantee that he was indeed a king.  However, while we have an English idiom “you said it!” we don’t have an English idiom “you say!”  A similar English idiom that omits, illogically, a direct object, might be “You bet!”  This is an idiom because it does not make sense on its face.  What did I bet?  Our challenge, some two thousand years later, is to translate the idiom of an ancient, majestic language into an idiom of similar force in our own.

  The final figurative element is, for want of a better term, an apostrophe.  That is, the Lord ascribes words to Pilate that he did not in fact speak.  Pilate asked, “Art thou the King of the Jews?”  He did not say, “You are the King of the Jews.”  This is very much a part of our English idiom “You said it”; however, it is not so much an element in “You bet.”

  When a word, expression, or figure of speech does not fully explain itself in the verse, God’s Word will explain it in the context or where a word has been used before.  In this instance, God’s Word sets the immediate context by way scripture build up.  By comparing the gospel records we can determine that John 18:36-37 is in the immediate context of Luke 23:3.  Both conversations took place within the praetorium.  They were both part of Pilate’s first trial of Jesus.  The record in John 18:33 begins with Pilate asking the exact same question that is recorded in Luke:

  Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

  However, there is an additional interlude recorded in John in which the Lord points out, that in the first place, Pilate’s evidence is all hearsay, that Pilate has absolutely no direct evidence that Jesus was interested in political power.  Pilate’s response, recorded in 18:33, reflects his animalistic and degraded nature:

  Pilate answered, Am I a Jew?  Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?

  In John 18:36, ignoring Pilate’s failed response, Jesus fully delivers a clear and consistent response to Pilate’s original question, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

  Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

  Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

  John records that Pilate asks additionally: “Are you a king then?”  Here also the Lord’s answer is much more extensive than is recorded elsewhere.  In Jesus’ second trial before Pilate outside the praetorium where the Jews could vehemently accuse him, his responses are much more abbreviated.  However, here he fully explains who he is as he testifies directly to Pilate.

  From the context of this record we can determine with complete certainty that the Lord’s expression “you say” is an absolute affirmative assertion.  He is saying that, yes, he is the king of the Jews.  In John 18:36 Jesus plainly explains what kind of king he really is.  He is a king of a kingdom not of this world.  If he were a king in this world, as he was indeed the king from heaven, his servants, under his authority as their king, would fight for him.  Once he has finished his declaration of his full authority as the king from heaven, he moves the topic forward to his responsibility, as it was, in this world:  “for this I have been born, and for this I have come to the world, that I may testify to the truth; every one who is of the truth, doth hear my voice.”  The repetition of “for this I have” continues to emphasize the passion with which our Lord spoke.  He stood undaunted and unafraid.

  Some of the Greek of John 18:37, then, is poorly translated in the King James Version.  “Jesus answered, ‘Thou sayest that I am a king,’” reads as though Jesus is denying that he is the king of the Jews.  This is contrary to the immediate context of John and to the entire scope of the scripture.  The failure to think through the use of this unique idiom in the four gospels confused even ancient Latin translations.  Here, though, is the Young’s Literal Translation of John 18:37:

  Pilate, therefore, said to him, 'Art thou then a king?' Jesus answered, 'Thou dost say it; because a king I am, I for this have been born, and for this I have come to the world, that I may testify to the truth; every one who is of the truth, doth hear my voice.'

  Isn’t that beautiful?  As it should, the Young’s Literal Translation separates the idiom found in the other gospels “you say” from the apostrophe that ascribes words to Pilate that he never spoke.  Additionally, Young’s is correct.  The English idiom that is closest to the Greek is “You said it!”  Then Young’s translates a Greek connective oti as because.  The most common and least controversial translation is simply “that.”  This is a recitative use of oti.  That is, the Greek word introduces a restatement of what has already been spoken.  Oti, “that,” is introducing indirect or paraphrased discourse.  When the Lord paraphrases Pilate’s words, he does it with spirit, with great authority:  “You said it that a king I am.”  Young’s literal translation really gives the power of the Greek word order in 18:37.  Like the wonderful idiom the Lord used, that inverted order still echoes in English today.  The Greek is: “a king I am.”  It’s proud; it’s bold.  It’s absolutely unrelenting.  “A king I am.”

  Again, notice that Pilate did not literally say: “A king you are!”  Literally, Pilates asked, “Are you a king?”  The Lord is using figures of speech to emphasize, powerfully, the truth of who he was.  The context of John 18: 36-37 gives us the information necessary to understand the idiom “You said [it].”  Now we can understand the record in the other gospels.  The Lord answers Pilate with this idiom once more.  This is recorded both in Matthew 27:11 and in Mark 15:2.

Matthew 27:11:
And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.

Mark 15:2:
And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.

  This final bold declaration of his authority from God takes place outside the praetorium in the presence of the chief priests (Mark 15:3) and elders (Matthew 27:12).  This second trial before Pilate had to occur outside because the Passover was near and the Judeans would not enter the house of a Gentile (John 18:28-29).

  All three times the Lord answered Pilate “You said it!”  He boldly declared the truth concerning himself.  He declared the gospel boldly, intensely, and without apology.  How high a price our savior paid for us!  How great a redemption we have!  How tremendous is the love of the Creator Who dreamt us all from before time began.  How perfect is His word as it communicates to us our perfect savior.

By Ren Manetti

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