Translation question for Matt. 9:2--the paralyzed man brought to Jesus

My question concerns the NRSV and Matthew 9:2.  In the Greek and in the other English editions that I consulted, the words "to him" are included.  This makes clear that the companions of the paralyzed man are bringing him to Jesus in the hopes of a miracle.  This then makes sense of what follows when Jesus credits their action as based on faith.  However, the NRSV omits the "to him" and seems to go out of its way to make it sound as if the encounter between Jesus and the paralyzed man was mere happenstance.  This makes the claim of faith that follows inappropriate.  I was wondering why the editors of the NRSV have chosen to take their unique path of translation.

Asked By: 
Randy
Possibly redundant

It does seem odd that the editors omitted the “to him” which is clearly in the Greek text. My suspicion is that the “to him” was somehow viewed as redundant, since it is implied in their action (why else bring the paralytic?) and again in Jesus’ response (“when he saw their faith”). Translation is a complicated business and many decisions have to be made when trying to render the Greek into English in a new way that is both faithful to the text and readable. However, this could also be an example of how two little words can make a difference!


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Author:
Another vote for a mistake

This is an excellent question and I must say that I am stumped by the NRSV translation. The word “to him” is present in the Greek and there are no variations on this word in the ancient texts. The Revised Standard Version included “to him” but the NRSV, seemingly alone of all translations, omits it. This is unusual because the NRSV is generally a fairly literal translation, not omitting or adding words except where necessary (and then noted at the bottom).
 
Note, however, that Mark 2:3 has pros auton, the construction one would expect for motion towards, while Mt 9:2 has the dative of autos. Still, I think it must be an oversight of the NRSV committee to omit “to him.”

Author: Lawrence M. Wills
Comparisons to the synoptics

The questioner raises a question about an omission in the NRSV that has seldom been noted and has prepared well for the question.  The omission of  "to him" is so striking that I almost wonder if it was a mistake.  I do not think that it was to make the encounter mere happenstance.  The NRSV translators may have felt that it was so obvious that it was to Jesus that they were bringing the crippled man that "to him" is not needed.  Jesus comes (v.1).  They bring the crippled man (v. 2a).  Jesus extolls their faith (v.2b).

The mention of their faith is due, even more in Matthew than in Mark and Luke, to the fact that the emphasis is on the forgiveness of sins rather than the miracle of healing. Matthew leaves out the bearers of the lame man wanting the healing so badly that they come down through the roof (Mark 2.12).   Perhaps the NRSV translators are so aware of how Matthew has reduced Mark here that they didn't realize that the absence of Mark's "to him" was by them and not by Matthew!  In the Synoptic gospels, faith is seldom a precondition for Jesus' healing. The exceptions in Matthew are this passage, 9.18-26, and 15.21-28.  In the Synoptic gospels the miracles on the whole are not a reward for faith but part of the restoring justice of the in-breaking Reign of God.
 

Author: Stephen Charles Mott
They goofed

Pertaining to the NRSV rendering of Mt 9:2a, there are no manuscript disturbances reported in the original, and therefore a literal translation of the text would be "And behold they were bringing (continuous action in the past) to him a paralytic lying on a bed." The verb means to offer or to bring, not to carry as the NRSV free translation has it, even though the supposition is of course that they were carrying him on a pallet. The inquirer is quite right that the omission of "to him" in the NRSV makes a significant and erroneous difference in translation in as much as the action would then be rendered aimless. The NRSV translation therefore involves either a typo or an outright error perhaps out of concern for a smoother English translation.

Author:
A good question

This is a good question!  It is correct that the opening words of the Greek of Matthew 9:2 say that unnamed people brought "to him" [Jesus] a paralytic man on a bed.  I can see no reason for omitting the "to him", and I agree that one could take the result as allowing the inference that Jesus simply ran across this party of people, whereas the Greek rather clearly says that they brought the paralytic *to Jesus* (hence, his commendation of their faith).

Author: Larry W. Hurtado
A mystery

This is a very puzzling translation.  I checked about 15 other versions and every one of them (including the RSV, the NRSV's predecessor) said that they brought the man "to him."  I also don't see any manuscript evidence for the omission of "to him."  So I am at a loss to know why the NRSV editors did this.
 

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