dual vs. plural (Matt. 9:32)

Many languages in the world distinguish between plural and dual (and sometimes trial) pronouns (for instance, “you” specifically addressing many, two, or three people).

In Matt. 9:32 (“As they were going out…” in one English translation) it is left open whether “them” refers to the two blind men or Jesus and the two blind men.

Both the Bislama translators (in the Nyutesteman long Bislama of 1980) and the Uripiv use a dual (indicating that this refers to just the two blind men).

One of the translators explains: “(1) Only Jesus is mentioned as going into the house (Matt. 9:28). The disciples no doubt entered with him, but it is a fair enough working assumption that if they were explicitly mentioned in one place (Matt. 9:32) they would have also been in the other. So we conclude that the ‘they’ in 9:32 is probably not referring to Jesus and the disciples. (2) A reasonably close parallel, as far as the Greek text is concerned, supporting this interpretation can be seen in Matt. 2:13. (First verb of new section repeats last verb of previous section, with same subject, in a genitive absolute construction, with de and followed by idou introducing new participants.)”

Source: Ross McKerras in Notes on Translation 2/1 1988, p. 53-56.

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