The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 70.

We now come to the difficult words— τί ἐμοί καί σοί ; translated, as we have seen, in the  protestant Bible: "What have I to do with thee?"

These words (the equivalent of the Aramaic phrase ma li valak) are translated in the Vulgate literally Quid Mihi et tibi ? and in our Douay version: "What is to Me and to thee?" They are immediately followed by the statement of Christ: " Mine hour is not yet come."

The Douay translation—as always, severely literal, though, admittedly, not idiomatic — escapes the terrible danger of conveying a false impression as to the meaning of these words of our Lord; whilst the concluding observation of the accompanying note: " Words indicating anger in one tone of voice would be understood quite reversely in another," is undeniably true and, as we shall see, very relevant to the matter under consideration.

The Hebrew expression Ma li valak has become in modern Arabic Ma laki wali. 1 Whenever the phrase Ma li valak, or its equivalent, is to be met with in Holy Scripture, its genuine sense, however it may be translated, is not " What have I to do with you ?" but "What have you to do with me ?"—that is " Why do you interfere with me in this matter ?" I will quote the parallel passages where the phrase occurs, giving the Douay translation, and it will be seen that this is the case.

(i) " And he sent messengers to the King of the children of Ammon, to say in his name: 'What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me, to waste my land?'" In other words, "Why do you interfere with me?" not " Why do I interfere with you ?" (Judges xi. 12.)

(2) " And Abisai, the son of Sarvia, said to the King . . . and the King said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Sarvia ?" Here the meaning once again is clearly: " Why do you interfere with my business, ye sons of Sarvia ?"—King David was not interfering with them. (2 Kings (2 Samuel) xvi. 10 (and again xix. 22).)

(3) " And she said to Elias: What have I to do with thee, thou man of God ? Art thou come to me, lest my iniquities should be remembered ?" There can be no hesitation as to the meaning. The Widow asked the Prophet: " Why do you interfere with my affairs ?" He had gone to her house, not she to his. It may be noted that she was full of veneration for the person she thus addressed. (3 Kings (i Kings) xvii. 18.)

(4) " And Eliseus said to the King of Israel: What have I to do with thee ?" The words that immediately follow prove that it should rather have been translated : " What have you to do with me ?" —that is, "Why do you come to me?" "Go," it continues, " go to the prophets of thy father and of thy mother." (4 Kings (3 Kings) iii. 13.)

(5) In the New Testament the devils cried out to our Lord: " What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Son of God ? Art Thou come hither to torment us before our time ?" St. Luke expresses it thus : " I beseech Thee, do not torment me—for He commanded the unclean spirit to go out of the man." (Matt. viii. 29 ; Mark v. 7, 8 ; Luke viii. 28, 29.) The meaning is clear: " Why dost Thou interfere with us?"

There can, then, be no serious doubt as to the meaning of this phrase, Ma li valak. It means generally : " Why do you interfere with me?" Sometimes: "Why do you come to me?" At Cana: " Why do you ask Me?" If translators have too often translated " What have I to do with thee ?" rather than " What hast thou to do with Me?" 2 they have been misled by the construction of the Greek text, which follows the Hebrew idiom with complete servility.

1 Ana ma li-inta ma lak are words with which almost every British soldier who has been in Egypt during the late war has become familiar. They are continually in the mouths of the Arabs, and mean simply : "it is not my business."

Dr. Lingard, in his excellent but too little known translation of the Gospels, translates, in accordance with above : "What hast thou to do with Me" (See A New Version of the
Four Gospels, by a Catholic, 1836, p. 337.)