These passages have caused some controversy.... for one thing they have been used to beat on Christians about the fact that Jesus didn't come back within anyone's lifetime as the enthroned Son of Man coming with His kingdom with power. Now, it's undeniably true that, as read, all three verses in the King James pretty much say the same thing -- that some people standing there listening to Jesus preach this are not going to die until the Kingdom of God comes with power with the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom. That's in the King James as you can see here from http://www.blueletterbible.org/.
And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
Now for the Greek versions -- of which Blueletter Bible presents two apiece for each verse using two authoritative Greek New Testaments, the Textus Receptus from Stephens and the Westcott-Hort text with NA variants. Here they are transliterated roughly into Latin characters for your perusal. I'll get to the translation issues after this.
Stephens' Textus Receptus, and Westcott-Hort
S- lego de umin alethos eisin tines ton ode estekoton oi ou me geusontai thanatou eos an idosin ten basileian tou theou
W- lego de umin alethos eisin tines ton autou estekoton oi ou me geusontai thanatou eos an idosin ten basileian tou theou
S- amen lego umin eisin tines ton ode estekoton oitines ou me geusontai thanatou eos an idosin tou uion tou anthropou erchomenon en te basileia autou
W- amen lego umin hoti eisin tines ton ode estoton oitines ou me geusontai thanatou eos an idosin tou uion tou anthropou erchomenon en te basileia autou
S- kai elegen autois amen lego umin oti eisin tines ton ode estekoton oitines ou me geusontai thanatou eos an idosin ten basileian tou theou eleluthuian en dunamei
W- kai elegen autois amen lego umin oti eisin tines ode ton estekoton oitines ou me geusontai thanatou eos an idosin ten basileian tou theou eleluthuian en dunamei
Of the three texts and two versions of each, Mark seems to have the longest version of this verse, and in keeping with F.F. Bruce's ascribing to Mark the earliest version of the Gospel, I'll analyze Mark 9:1.
On first blush, there seems to be no significant difference between Stephens and Westcott except for the reversal of word order at tines ton ode estekoton which is rendered tines ode ton estekoton in Westcott. Is that important? We'll see. The strangest thing is there's no noun for ton to modify in either version. More on that later. Let's start with kai elegen autois -- pretty straightforward, it says "and he was saying to them." The verb lego, meaning "say, direct, teach, point out, call," etc., is in imperfect active indicative, simple direct past action that is ongoing. The pronoun autois is in dative case, meaning to them, they were indirect objects of the ongoing speech and teaching of Jesus. Not direct objects. That's interesting. Could it mean that what he was saying to them was not about them? We'll see.
The next word is amen. It's that old Hebrew word for faith, embodying the concept that what this sayer is saying, you can trust it, walk on it, live in it. It gets translated "Verily," but no one English word seems to adequately convey the full force of this word, and apparently no Greek word did either, since two of the Gospel writers who covered that part of Jesus's speech saw fit not to translate it, but just kept it as amen. Jesus says "Amen lego," and lego is the simple present active indicative, it means "Amen, I say" -- so what's coming next is very direct. The word umin looks like, not the dative, but the accusative of ou, "you," so when this gets put together it should read "Amen (you can walk on what I'm saying) I tell you." Next word is oti, which corresponds to "that" in English, creating a dependent clause relating what comes before to what comes after. It can also be translated "because" and "since" and would probably be better expressed as "that-because." Next word is estin, from eisi, to be. It's in the present indicative with no voice stated. It's used to simply state that something exists -- the King James uses "there be."
The next word is tines, and here's where things get mighty interesting. It's the genitive plural of the pronoun tis, which can mean a certain one, referring to no specific thing or person, or it can mean a certain time. The use of this word indicates that the speaker is talking about something that he either cannot or will not refer to more specifically, according to Thayer's Lexicon on tis. So, we have "there be" or just "be some(things, persons, times.)" So far the sentence Jesus is uttering does not force an application to any persons present in front of him at that time, or even to any persons or things in particular. Yet. We need context. What's the next word?
We got two -- and they are either ton ode or ode ton. Ton is the definite article, with a long o or omega -- indicating it is genitive plural. What it's referring to, in other words, reads "The blanks'...." Before I put that together we also need the verb in the dependent clause, estekoton. It's the perfect active participle of istemi, usually translated "to stand." Thus, a basic translation of eskoton would be "they have stood." Now, if you have followed Dr. Gene Scott or Melissa Scott on Greek grammar, you know that definite articles and possessives can do some strange things -- such as be applied to verbs and adjectives. estekoton stands at the fulcrum of a dependent clause introduced by what seems to be a possessive noun phrase. It's like saying "This plural verb estekoton is genitive and specific!" Now, why on earth would it be genitive? And why specify it with a noun determiner? That calls special attention to estekoton, doesn't it?
So we have ton ode estekoton.... one of those strange cases of a determiner referring to a verb, ton estekoton.... "of the have stood." And we have found that estekoton, "they have stood," is genitive. But we didn't really cover the full definitions of histemi. And, it's also odd that the verb is in perfect tense, which is the past tense. It doesn't mean "they are standing," but "they have stood," or more fully literal, "of the finished act by them of standing" or "of the (they) have stood." Completed act. Now, those of you who have studied Biblical eschatology (prophecy) know that in Hebrew there is no future tense, the past tense is used to refer to the future. It's long been a reasonable assumption that Jesus spoke Aramaic to his disciples, a close relative of Hebrew, and hence he would not have had to be bound to refer to future events in a future tense, so we can also have "the (they) will stand."
Now, getting back to ton estekoton, one of the uses of the genitive case, according to Corey Keating at http://www.ntgreek.org/learn_nt_greek/classify-syntax-intro.htm is genitive of time. Basically this means that tines can mean "within some time" or "during some time." Rather than using "of" to communicate the genitive case of a verb, it seems to make more sense that when the genitive is referent to a verb, it should refer to time rather than possession or adjectival characteristic. (The use of genitive prepositions for time is not foreign to Indo-European linguistics; a German preposition of time, während, invokes the genitive noun case -- während des Tages, "during the day.")
Compare these examples:
"...Amen, I tell you that there be of some persons, those who have stood here, which shall not taste of death...."
"...Amen, I tell you that there be during some times, those who have stood here, which shall not taste of death...."
Simplified for us English speakers, "...Amen, I tell you that there be some time, those who have stood here, which shall not taste of death...."
Now we can see why the King James translators went for something like the first version of what I just posted. But they translated the verb tense which should be literally "which have stood here" as "which are standing here." "Have stood" is completed past, and the only legitimate alternative Biblical tense is "will stand." Jesus isn't even talking about the people in front of Him. It's completed action, already done, or if translated from Aramaic, it's completed action, possibly YET TO HAPPEN. But either way, He's not talking about the audience then standing in front of Him, because that requires a present participle, not a perfect participle, or it at least requires an imperfect participle. The action is finished in the Greek. The people standing in front of Christ did not finish standing in front of Christ before He uttered his speech. Otherwise, who would have taken it down?
So the grammar begins to force us to consider another way to translate this verse, as the perfect tense of completed action drives in the realization that Jesus was not talking about His audience present before Him, either in the present tense or in a tense indicating continued action (the imperfect.) The second version does leave us with a puzzle, because even though Jesus wasn't talking about His then-present audience, He was definitely talking about somebody... the question we have not yet dealt with is, did those people He talked about ever stand there where He was preaching, or do we need to take another look at the adverb ode and the verb istemi? Is there a reason istemi should actually be in the perfect tense even though referring to a future event, apart from an issue of translation from Aramaic?
Let's take a look at the adverb ode. As I said before, ode's original definition in Homeric Greek is "in this manner. It picked up the definition "in this place" some time later, but also developed more definitions similar to "in this manner" such as "in this state of things" and "under these circumstances," according to Thayer's Lexicon. Let's try an experiment and replace "here" with "in this manner," for the second version of the phrase (my version of it.)
"...Amen, I tell you, there be some time, those who have stood in this manner, which shall not taste of death...."
Or we can try "under these circumstances." "...Amen, I tell you, there be some time, those who have stood under these circumstances, which shall not taste of death...."
Now let's take a look at histemi. These are all the definitions given in Blueletter on this verb.
1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set
a) to bid to stand by, [set up]
1) in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges, before members of the Sanhedrin;
2) to place
b) to make firm, fix establish
1) to cause a person or a thing to keep his or its place
2) to stand, be kept intact (of family, a kingdom), to escape in safety
3) to establish a thing, cause it to stand
a) to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything
c) to set or place in a balance
1) to weigh: money to one (because in very early times before the introduction of coinage, the metals used to be weighed)
2) to stand
a) to stand by or near
1) to stop, stand still, to stand immovable, stand firm
a) of the foundation of a building
b) to stand
1) continue safe and sound, stand unharmed, to stand ready or prepared
2) to be of a steadfast mind
3) of quality, one who does not hesitate, does not waiver
You'll probably notice that the use of the verb as "stand" in English, in which we normally mean, "there's someone who's on his feet, vertical and not laying down," doesn't occur until the second main definition. The first definition has to do with setting something up, causing it to be established, or in the case of setting up a kingdom, to both establish authority and to escape in safety. Those of you who follow medieval and ancient history know that in many cases the child of a king lived in danger every moment until he ascended to the throne... at any moment a jealous uncle or brother might kill him and take his place in the succession to the throne. Eastern monarchial successions were particularly Darwinian, as a monarch might have multiple wives, not necessarily having the status of queens, and many many sons, so sorting out a succession could be a very messy affair, usually fatal to all of the parties that lost out. Why am I pointing this sidebar out, you asked? Well, let's read the rest of the verse in the King James.
"...there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."
The kingdom of God! A monarchial succession is the context, as this verse is at least partly about the crowning of Jesus Christ as king. That would logically dictate, or at least powerfully suggest, the use of histemi in the sense of establishing a kingdom, and escaping in safety to the throne. So let's try it out.
"...Amen, I tell you that there be some time, they who have established/been established/escaped to safety in this manner, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." We could smooth that over for idiomatic reasons.
"...Amen, I tell you that there is a time when those who have established/been established/escaped to safety in this manner, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."
"Which" now seems like a rather poor translation of oitines, probably better rendered "whosoever" or perhaps even "whosoever's" as that pronoun also appears to be genitive. geusontai appears as the aorist middle voice subjunctive tense of geuomai, to taste, to experience. Now what the heck is aorist middle voice subjunctive, you ask? These are several concepts not usually found in your English elementary grammar books, because English does not conjugate verbs without helper verbs and extra pronouns to convey the meaning expressed by this combination. Aorist expresses action without reference to time -- there is no past, present, or future tense here. The middle voice, Gene Scott's students are likely to be familiar with, this expresses action taken for oneself -- selfishly oriented action, and reflexive action. A child is using middle voice when he says "I can do it myself!" Subjunctive means the action may or may not happen, it's conditional on other circumstances. In English, we place the helper verb "may" with a verb in subjunctive case, "I may go there." A conditional clause would begin with "if," and adding it in, "If I have gas money, I may go there."
So, if we put together oitines ou me geusontai, we come up with "whosoever may not taste/experience oneself." More idiomatically we could render that, "Whoever it is may not taste for themselves." Next word, thanatou, means death, and it's in the genitive singular case, oddly enough. Here we go again with this genitive. It's a cue that the modification by tines is continuing through to this part of the sentence as every noun and pronoun from tines to thanatou is in genitive case, thereby forcing the English to render the string of material from tines to thanatou as a prepositional phrase of time. This is still "during some time," in other words. And now we know the action of "may not taste" has to be set in the future, because the subjunctive mode is inherently futuristic, dealing with possibilities, and the aorist tense doesn't tie that down, all while noun cases are remaining genitive through this clause.
So let's see how we're doing on this translation so far:
"...Amen, I tell you that there is a time when those who have established/been established/escaped to safety in this manner, whosoever/whoever it is may not themselves taste/experience death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."
I prefer the future phrasing because of the subjunctive cast on "taste/experience" still within the genitive noun chain from "during some time,"
"...Amen, I tell you that there is a time when those who will establish/be established/escape to safety in this manner, whosoever/whoever it is may not themselves taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."
There's no punctuation in the Greek and it looks to me like the comma between "in this manner, whosoever" needs to be a colon instead. So,
"...Amen, I tell you that there is a time when those who will establish/be established/escape to safety in this manner: Whosoever/whoever it is may not themselves taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."
I can defend this usage because everyone who has been established already as of Jesus's time is dead. They all tasted death, so obviously this verse cannot apply to them or to the past. eos is a conjunction of time or circumstances where things reach a limit, so the limit is defined after it as "they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." So the action of the kingdom of God coming with power puts an end to tasting death, subjunctively, for the one who may or may not taste it. an is a particle reinforcing the subjunctive mood, the action of seeing may occur under certain conditions. The KJV attempts to translate this particle by adding "soever" to "who." And, not surprisingly, the verb idosin is eido in a subjunctive mood, and in aorist again... action not defined by time, so we are still continuing that "some-when" time that is not yet. So, the last part of the verse becomes "they may see the kingdom of God..." ten basileian is feminine accusative, "they may see the kingdom." "Kingdom" is the direct object, so they may look at it directly, in person. tou theou is masculine singular genitive -- now notice with the break to the direct object, that was actually the break from genitive that concludes with thanatou, death. tou theou is a new genitive noun phrase, and does not refer back to the genitive string of clauses that came before it... instead, it's genitive of possession, God's kingdom. Let's have another look at the translation:
"...Amen, I tell you that there is a time when those who will establish/be established/escape to safety in this manner/under these circumstances: Whosoever/whoever it is may not themselves taste of death, till they may see God's kingdom come with power." Idiomatically we could eliminate the second "may" without losing the subjunctive sense. eleluthuian is the second perfect active participle of erchomai, to come. Its definitions include "to appear" and "to be established," which is that denotation that goes along with the idea of a kingdom arriving on the scene. You can legitimately say "God's kingdom has been established with power." "Power," dunamei, is apparently in the dative case, and en, "with," is a dative preposition with about as many varieties of meaning as German "mit." I'll simply say here that the best meaning I seem to be able to get here for "with" would be "by means of" or "through" after examining the alternatives in Thayer's. God doesn't need power, He has it intrinsically, so this is extra power, the concept of khayil as it would be in the Hebrew. Dunamis contains this concept in its definitions -- power for performing miracles, power due to wealth and riches, power arising from numbers, and power of armies and forces. So, "God's kingdom has been established by means of power of hosts" would be best here, in my opinion, or "miraculous power" could also be used.
So, we're finished, and we can render some final versions of what this verse should probably read. Let's look at the entire Greek again and try a few:
kai elegen autois amen lego umin oti eisin tines ton ode estekoton oitines ou me geusontai thanatou eos an idosin ten basileian tou theou eleluthuian en dunamei.
"And he said to them, Amen, I tell you that there be a time when they have been established in this manner: Whoever (it is) may not themselves taste of death, till they see God's kingdom has come through (the) power of hosts."
"And he said to them, Amen, I tell you that there be a time when they will escape to safety under these circumstances: Whosoever may not themselves taste of death, till they see God's kingdom has come through miraculous power."
"And he said to them, Amen, I tell you that there be a time when they will be established under these circumstances: Whosoever may not taste of death for themselves, till they may see God's kingdom has come through (the) power of hosts."
I don't know what that says to most people, but to me it sounds an awful lot like another verse about the saints escaping wrath in times to come, as given in 1 Thessalonians 4:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.