“Touch me not” or “Stop clinging to me” in John 20:17?
The ESV and NASB translate “ἅπτομαι (απτου in John 20:17)” as “touch” in many places such as Matthew 8:3, Mark 7:33, Luke 6:19, and 1 John 5:18. The phrase “μη μου απτου” is a prohibitive present imperative. Critics claim that the command pertains to the termination of a continuing action rather than the initiation of an action. Thus, these critics believe that the phrase means “Do not continue to touch me” and hence render the phrase “Do not hold me.” However, their view that the present imperative indicates continuous action is incorrect. We can cite verses such as John 5:8 to demonstrate the flaw of this view. According to the view, the healed lame man in John 5:8 was commanded to get up and “continue to walk.” How was a seated lame man supposed to “continue” to walk? Even the NASB and ESV do not translate the prohibitive present indicative as the command to terminate a continuing action in Ephesians 4:30, 5:17, 6:4 and Colossians 2:16, 3:9.
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