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Difference between “have” and “have” - Acts 23:19 (Monday with Mounce 126)

Categories Mondays with Mounce

Monday with MounceI thought for sure I had blogged on this; but I can’t find it anywhere, so sorry if I am repeating myself.

There obviously is no difference between “have” and “have,” except when you speak. “I have a book.” “I have purchased a book.” “I have to read a book.”

Unless I am gravely mistaken (and my accident is mid-west), I say the third “have” differently, much closer to “half.” The first “have” denotes possession. The second “have” is a helping verb. The third “have” denotes obligation or necessity.

Now come to Acts 23:19. The NIV reads, “The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, ‘What is it you want (ὃ ἔχεις) to tell me?’” The ESV goes more with the word for word, “What is it that you have to tell me?” So far, no problem. But now read it out loud. Is the commander asking the boy if he merely has some information, or is there something of necessity that he must report. “What is it that you have to say?” vs. “What do you have to tell me?” Interesting difference.

There is no sense of obligation or necessity in the Greek, at least from the commander’s position. Paul told the boy to tell the commander what he had learned, but from the commander’s point of view he just wanted to know what the boy wanted to say.

Of course, if the Bible is merely read, this issue will not arise, but all good translation takes into account that the Bible is read, or at least should be read, out loud. What often works for written communication not always works for oral communication. In this case, the NIV I think is better because it does not potentially introduce a foreign element to our understanding of the spoken word. Trust y’all had a good Christmas. Did you “have” a:

  • Christ-centered Christmas?
  • Family-centered Christmas?
  • Gift-centered Christmas?

Is there a difference between options 2 and 3? Just a thought.

MouncewWilliam D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at  Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and is the general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIVLearn more and visit Bill's other blog on spiritual growth, Life is a Journey, at

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