Friday, May 26, 2023

Matt. 28:20: "Always" or "All the Days"?

Good morning, folks! I hope you've had a great week. I'm often asked, "So why do you think studying Greek is so important? Can't I just rely on my English translations?" Well, yes and no. The fact is, sometimes what the text is saying in Greek is masked in even our most accurate and reliable English versions. 

This morning, for example, I was in Matthew's Gospel again. I wanted to review how the Hebrew translated the Greek of Matt. 28:20 -- a verse we all know: "Behold, I am with you always, even until the end of the age." 

The Hebrew here is  amazing! 

Here's how it compares with the Greek:

Please look at the middle line above. Did you notice that the Greek has three words: pasas tas hēmeras. The Hebrew has two words: qol hayamim. Both mean exactly the same thing: "all the days." However -- and for the life of me, I don't know why -- English Bible translators have chosen to use only one English word to translate those three Greek words. Can you guess what that word is? ALWAYS. This word is found in all of your standard English versions, including the following:

  • NIV
  • NLT
  • ESV
  • KJV
  • NASB
  • CSB
  • GNT
  • NET
  • NRSV

However, I want you to see something. I want you to see how other languages have rendered the three Greek words we've discussed above. Here are a few examples:

German: alle Tage or jeden Tag

French: tous les jours

Portugues: todos os dias

Spanish: todos los días

Latin: omnibus diebus

Plattdeutsch: aule Doag

Italian: tutti i giorni

I'd be curious to know what the Chinese and Japanese have here but I don't know a word of either language. But the point should be obvious. Apparently Jesus is not simply saying, "I am with you always." He's saying something similar to the way we rendered his words in the ISV:

"I am with you each and every day." 

Other possibilities come to mind:

  • at all times
  • daily
  • day by day by day

Don't miss this! Greek has a perfectly good way of saying "always." Even my beginning Greek students know what it is:


It ain't used here, folks. Jesus uses "all the days" (as the Greek and the Hebrew show us). And why? Here's my guess:

1. The work of making disciples -- converting them, baptizing them, teaching them -- is a daily obligation placed upon us. 

2. Hence we need to rely on the Lord not just "aways" but "each and every day" if we are going to fulfill his Great Commission. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown agree when they say that Jesus is with us "not only to perpetuity, but without one day's interruption." 

Frankly, I don't see this emphasis in those versions that simply say "always." Do you? 

Anyhow, I had such a rich time in God's word this morning, and I think a big part of it was being able to read the text in both the original Greek and then in the Hebrew. What is so jarring about this verse is that it reminds me that I need to be intentional about evangelism and discipleship each and every day of my life. Jesus' words are a gadfly in the ointment of my otherwise self-centered existence. In this sense, Christianity is inescapably missional. I will also say this. Evangelicals are, I think, often prone to anti-intellectualism and slavish adherence to tradition. These unfortunate traits often lead us to a disparagement of logical reasoning and to a failure to give adequate attention to the details of Scripture. Superspiritulaity leads many conservatives to superficiality. 

Finally, as someone who lost my wife and my closest friend 10 years ago, I am so blessed and encouraged to know that my Savior walks with me on a daily basis. I now realize, more than ever, that I must view each and every day as a day of opportunity to love and serve him. Am I "practicing the Presence," as the Keswick disciples used to say? Am I living by true heart love for him or am I just going through the motions? Basking in Christ's presence -- that's where safety lies. 

Christ taught us in Matt. 28:20 that this life is not the end. It is but a short space of time in our endless existence. He says, in essence, Set your goal on heaven. Determine that you will live for eternity and not merely for time. And remember that I am with you day after day after day to help you do just that.