English versions of John 20:17 show two types of accounts:

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father


Jesus says to her, "Do not touch me, for not yet have I ascended to the Father

Trying to understand the meaning of this verse (see my question here), I decided to search for older translations, ideally from original sources.

Jerome's Vulgate says:

dicit ei Iesus noli me tangere nondum enim ascendi ad Patrem meum

where according to Wiktionary, tangere is the transitive of "to touch".

English translations of the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus also prefer the "touch" option.

Then, I decided to search for the original Greek myself (although I cannot read Greek!). Wikipedia says, in the entry of noli me tangere (which now I realise is a quite famous phrase that even my mom used to say!):

A loose translation [from Latin] into English would be "dont cling to me"[1][2][3] or "don't touch me." The original Koine Greek phrase, Μή μου ἅπτου (mē mou haptou), is better represented in translation as "cease holding on to me" or "stop clinging to me".[4]

The "original" Greek from diverse papyrus can be found here (just select the verse and then choose verse-by-verse). There, there are six sources of this text. In effect, all of them have the form "μη μου απτου" in one way or another.

Digging further, the key verb is then ἅπτω, which according to Wiktionary, includes both "to touch" and "to cling to". So, both seem valid translations. But as it is always the case, the context and other words indicate some meanings are more appropriate. Is it possible to say something else from the other words, or can we simply conclude that both are equally valid and hence, in principle, there is nothing more it can be said from the linguistic point of view?

  • Our current policy (see our tour and topic help page) is that New Testament Greek is off-topic. Whether it should be off-topic is debatable; opinions on the matter can be brought up on the meta site (which has a specific tag greek) or chat. There is also a proposed Greek site. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 30 '17 at 18:26
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    "Touch" as in "to touch upon". Read L&S more carefully at § A.III. It doesn't refer to mere touching, but handling, and at that point it's a metaphorical usage, not one to illustrate touching literally. Same with the "touch" in A.III.8: that's geometrical touching. But it's touching in English, not necessarily in Greek. – C. M. Weimer Oct 30 '17 at 18:26
  • I'm closing this one to enforce the currently agreed policy, not out of personal opinion. The policy can be changed; I invite those interested in expanding our Greek scope to bring it up on meta. It's been a while since we last discussed it, and I would be happy to see it discussed again. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 30 '17 at 18:28
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    @JoonasIlmavirta I think this one might technically not violate it because it bears upon the meaning of the Latin, too. Since the question has a Latin component, it isn't violating the rules. – C. M. Weimer Oct 30 '17 at 18:31
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    @C.M.Weimer Hmm... True, although the Latin component is small. If there are strong opinions or several votes for reopening, I will do it, and in any case I won't reclose it if people choose to reopen. I have the impression that people are growing more sympathetic to NT Greek, and it would probably be worthwhile to see at meta whether the community wants a new policy. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 30 '17 at 18:41

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