Why the Great Commission Should Be Translated “Go!” and Not “As You Go”

Benjamin L. Merkle

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


There has long been a debate as to whether the participle πορευθέντες in the Great Commission is best translated as an imperative (“go”) or as a temporal adverbial participle (“as you go”). The goal of this essay is to demonstrate that the participle should be understood with an imperatival force by looking at other uses of the same participle in similar constructions in both the Septuagint and the New Testament, especially the Gospel of Matthew. What we discover is that this term is used con- sistently as an imperative but that stylistically in Greek it was often preferred to use one participle and one imperative instead of two consecutive imperatives. This does not mean, however, that “go” is the main focus of the passage. The main idea of the passage is still “make disciples,” though the imperatival function of πορευθέντες suggests certain implications that will also be explored.