Luke 2:35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce)


I've read through a couple of previous CAF threads on Luke 2:35 and have found a second interpretation of the text from what has been posted. I was listening to Mitch Pacwa this morning ( see audio link below) and starting at 39:30 through 45:30, he makes the point that in Luke 2:35, there is no punctuation in the Greek in this hyphen, no parenthesis and that the "thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" relate to Mary's suffering.

34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradictedl
35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce)* so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”


  • How and why is the punctuation added in English?
  • What are your thoughts on Ft. Mitch's interpretation of the text?


I’ve always thought the part about “the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” referred to Mary. It just flows better that way than by introducing parentheses. Re: why they were added, they don’t appear in all Catholic translations, just the New American Bible, so it is an oddity that goes mostly unexplained – except by the fact that its translators seem to have wanted to avoid giving reasons for honoring Mary. They didn’t operate with a very Catholic mindset, in my opinion, and that shows up in the footnote on that verse, where it says: “Mary herself will not be untouched by the various reactions to the role of Jesus. Her blessedness as mother of the Lord will be challenged by her son who describes true blessedness as ‘hearing the word of God and observing it’ (Lk 11:27–28 and Lk 8:20–21).”

To me, this is just one more reason to use a different translation. Jesus didn’t challenge Mary’s blessedness. He used it to point out true holiness.


Hi Porknpie,

With or without comma or parentheses, the verse can either apply to the whole passage or to Mary alone. Applying it to Mary alone goes against the whole context. The hero here is Jesus. But mentioning her suffering within the context of Jesus’ mission is highly siginificant. It underlines Mary’s prominent role in the work of our salvation.



Verbum, that’s the understanding that I have too…


Ancient languages did not have punctuation or case. I know Latin did not even have spaces separating words. In some translation when I was translating Cicero we would stop to look at a bunch of letters just to determine where one word stopped and another began. I assume the same in Greek.

So the text could be translated as

andsimeonblessedthemandsaidtomaryhismotherbeholdthischildisdestinedforthefallandrise ofmanyinisraelandtobeasignthatwillbecontradictedandyouyourselfaswordwillpiercesothatthe thoughtsofmanyheartsmayberevealed

See how hard it is to translate and put in spaces and punctuation. Sometimes the meaning can be hard to come by.

For example

I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise
I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise


D-R Bible, Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 34. Is set for the ruin. Christ came for the redemption and salvation of all men: but Simeon prophesies what would happen in consequence of the wilful blindness and obstinacy of many. (Witham) — Not that God sent his Son for the fall of any man; but that many, by their own perverseness, in wilfully refusing to receive and obey him, would take occasion of falling. (Challoner) — And for a sign which shall be contradicted, to signify that Christ, and his doctrine, should be as it were a mark, or butt, against whom the Jews should discharge the arrows and darts of their malice. (Witham) — Hence St. Paul, (2 Corinthians ii. 16.) We are to one the odour of death unto death, but to the other the odour of life unto life.

Ver. 35. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce. These words, which figuratively express the grief of the blessed Virgin mother, when present at the death of her Son, are to be taken by way of a parenthesis. — That out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed, and these are to be joined with what went before; to wit, that child shall be a sign of contradiction, set unto the fall and resurrection of many, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed and disclosed; when some shall believe, and others remain in their obstinacy. (Witham) — Ven. Bede, and many others, understand this of the sharp sorrow, which wounded the soul of the blessed Virgin Mary, at the time of Christ’s passion. (Barradius) — Carthusianus [Denis the Carthusian?] and Jansenius explain this passage as follows: Behold, this child is placed for a sign that shall be contradicted, which as a sword of most poignant grief will pierce thy soul, O Virgin! But Christ shall be contradicted, that the thoughts of the Jews may be revealed from many hearts, and it may appear who among them are good, and who are wicked and hypocrites. (Barradius)

closed #7

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