Matthew 28:19 “TEACH all nations” or “MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations”?
Demmy V. writes: “I have a question. Almost all modern versions of the Bible translated the greek word "matheteuo" as "make disciples" in Matthew 28:19. What is the reason or advantage why KJV translators translated it as "teach"? Thank you and God bless"
Hi Demmy. Thanks for writing. This is a good question and not hard to answer at all.
The Greek word matheteuo is found four times in the New Testament and the King James Bible translates it as ”instructed” in Matthew 13:52 - “Every scribe which is INSTRUCTED unto the kingdom of heaven...”
It is translated as “was... disciple” in Matthew 27:57 “...there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself WAS Jesus’ DISCIPLE.”
Then in the verse you are inquiring about, it is translated as “teach” - “Go ye therefore, and TEACH all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
And finally it is translated as “had taught” in Acts 14:21 - “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and HAD TAUGHT many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch”
So we see that the verb has basically two meanings = to teach and to be a disciple.
The Greek Lexicons tell us the same thing. Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon says the verb matheteuo means: 1. to be a pupil or scholar. 2. to make a disciple of one, to instruct.
The Greek English Lexicon of Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich lists the meanings of this verb as 1. to become a pupil or a disciple. 2. to become a disciple, or be instructed. and 3. to make a disciple of, to teach someone.
And finally Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon tells us that this verb means 1. to be the disciple of one; to follow his precepts and instructions. 2. to make a disciple, to teach, to instruct.
The NIV also translates this same verb as “instructed” in Matthew 13:52 in the NIV editions of 1973, 1977 and 1984 - “Every teacher of the law who HAS BEEN INSTRUCTED about the kingdom of heaven...” However the NIV 2011 edition has now changed this to “teacher of the law who HAS BECOME A DISCIPLE”
The ESV 2001-2011 editions have “Every scribe who HAS BEEN TRAINED for the kingdom of heaven...” in Matthew 13:52.
The NKJV has “make disciples” in Matthew 28:9 but it has “instructed” in Matthew 13:52.
I know that many modern versions, but not all of them, have changed Matthew 28:19 from “TEACH all nations” to “MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations”, but the King James Bible is theologically accurate and the more correct translation for the following simple reason - man can teach and preach the gospel, but only God can actually “make a disciple”.
God alone can produce this change of heart in man and give him both faith and repentance to believe the gospel; man cannot.
The TRUE disciple is a person who BELIEVES what has been taught and desires to follow the teachings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We cannot bring about this change of heart and mind. Only God can do that. That is why the King James Bible is correct.
The Bible does talk about "disciples" who were either false disciples or seriously misinformed. Judas was a "disciple" and so too were those referred to in John 6:66 (interesting number) of whom it is said: "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
And then of course there were those who were John the Baptist's disciples, but had not yet come to faith in the true Messiah.
We CAN teach the truth to all nations and individuals, but only God can make a true disciple.
As the Lord told some Jews “which believed on him” - but who were in fact false professors and children of the devil - in John 8:31-32 - “IF ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
But to these same people, who had a false faith, the Lord tells them: “Ye are of your father the devil…And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.” John 8:44-45.
As the apostle Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 "I have planted, Apollos watered, BUT GOD GAVE THE INCREASE. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; BUT GOD THAT GIVETH THE INCREASE."
All man can do is to teach the things of Christ and His gospel. It is up to God to make BELIEVING disciples. Some are disciples of men, and do not yet know the whole truth about Jesus, and others can be referred to as "disciples" only outwardly and in a superficial manner, but they are NOT TRUE BELIEVERS. Only God can MAKE A TRUE AND A BELIEVING disciple.
Examples - "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John...." John 4:1 Jesus MADE disciples while those of John the Baptist did not yet know the truth about the Lord Jesus.
John the Baptist did make disciples, but they were not yet believers in Jesus Christ as the Messiah who would die for their sins. Even John had his doubts and had to ask Jesus if he was the one. "Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?" Luke 7:20
And in John 6:64 - 66 After Jesus said to some - "But there are SOME OF YOU THAT BELIEVE NOT. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that NO MAN CAN COME UNTO ME, EXCEPT IT WERE GIVEN UNTO HIM OF MY FATHER. From that time MANY OF HIS DISCIPLES WENT BACK, and walked no more with him."
A disciple can be fearful, but he is still a true believer. "And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus" John 19:38
"And the DISCIPLES were called CHRISTIANS first at Antioch." Acts 11:26
"Confirming the souls of the DISCIPLES, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22
Not only does the King James Bible say “TEACH all nations” but so also do the following Bible translations: Wycliffe 1395 - “Therfor go ye, and teche alle folkis”, Tyndale 1534 - “Go therfore and teache all nacions”, Coverdale’s Bible 1535, the Great Bible 1540, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Douay-Rheims 1582, the Geneva Bible 1587 - “Go therefore, & teach all nations”, the Beza New Testament 1599, the Bill Bible 1671, Mace N.T. 1729 "instruct all nations", Worsley Translation 1770, the Clarke N.T. 1795, Webster’s translation 1833, the Morgan N.T. 1848, the Hewett N.T. 1850, The Revised New Testament 1862, the Dillard N.T. 1885, the Clarke N.T. 1913, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, Third Millennium Bible 1998 and the Jubilee Bible 2010 -”TEACH all nations”.
Other English Bibles that correctly have "TEACH all nations" instead of "disciple all nations" are The Word of Yah 1993, God's First Truth 1999, The Last Days Bible 1999, The Tomson New Testament 2002 - TEACH all nations", The Evidence Bible 2003, The Resurrection Life N.T. 2005, Bond Slave Version 2009, Faithful New Testament 2009, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Conservative Bible 2011 - "TEACHING them to keep absolutely everything that I commanded you.", The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011, The Aramaic New Testament 2011 - "Go therefore TEACH all the nations" and The New Matthew Bible 2016.
The Koster Scriptures 1998 has - "Therefore go and make TAUGHT ONES of all the nations"
Among foreign language bible that also say TEACH and not “make disciples of” are the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569 - "id, y enseñad a todas las naciones”, the Reina Valera 1865, 1909 - “id, y doctrinad á todos los Gentiles” and Reina Valera Gómez of 2010 - “id, y enseñad a todas las naciones”, the French Martin 1744 and French Ostervald of 1996 - “et instruisez toutes les nations”, the Portuguese Almeida Corrigida E Fiel - “de, ensinai todas as naes, the Italian Diodati 1649 - “Andate adunque, ed ammaestrate tutti i popoli”, Luther’s German Bible 1545 - “Darum gehet hin und lehret alle Völker”
I hope this little study has been of some help to you. God bless.
Notes from the Internet
I would like to thank Brent Riggs for bringing up some points that have helped to clarify my thinking on this
I decided to go back through the Bible and look at every instance when the word "disciple" is used and it has been a great learning experience.
What we see when we look at how the word "disciple" is used and the different kinds of disciples we see in God's book, what we find is that there are at least 6 different kinds of "disciples" mentioned in the New Testament.
1. We have those who were Moses's disciples. - Those who rebuked the man who had been blind from his birth. "Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses; as for this fellow (Jesus), we know not from whence he is." John 9:28-29.
2. The Pharisees' disciples. "And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?" Mark 2:18 and Luke 5:33.
3. The "half way to the truth" disciples of John the Baptist. "And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?" Mark 2:18. See also Matthew 9:14: Luke 7:18; Luke 11:1; John 1:33; 3:25; 4:1 and Acts 19:1-4.
4. Unbelieving disciples - "But there are SOME OF YOU THAT BELIEVE NOT. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that NO MAN CAN COME UNTO ME, EXCEPT IT WERE GIVEN UNTO HIM OF MY FATHER. From that time MANY OF HIS DISCIPLES WENT BACK, and walked no more with him." John 6:64-66.
5. The Devil - Thief Disciple - Judas. "Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake this of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon; for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve." John 6:70-71. See also Matthew 20:17 and John 12:4 - "one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot...cared not for the poor..because he was a thief"
6. Then we have the true disciples of the Lord who continue in his word and bear fruit. " Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye MY DISCIPLES INDEED; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32
"Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." John 15:8
If the Lord Jesus had told the apostles to "Go therefore and "make disciples" in Matthew 28:19 then there are 6 possible different kinds he might have been recommending to make - those of Moses, the Pharisees, the "half way to the truth" kind, the unbelieving kind, the devil/thief kind and the true kind of disciples.
But since he did not say "Go and make TRUE disciples", which is impossible to do because this is the work of God and not of man, the King James Bible (and many others as well) are more accurate and theologically correct for saying "Go ye therefore, and TEACH all nations"
That is something Christians CAN do, and then leave the results up to God who is the only one who can make dead men alive in Christ and cause them to bear fruit and to continue in his word.
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" Philippians 1:6
ALL of grace, believing the Book = the Authorized King James Holy Bible.
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