A False TranslationSome Trinity-biased commentaries claim that the best rendering of Mark 10:18 is "Why do you ask me concerning that which is good?" But in verse 17 the young ruler said, "Good teacher!" (Gk, "didaskale agathe", an exclamatory statement), but even if you translate it as "Teacher!, what good! should I do to gain eternal life?" his question would remain to be about a verb "doing good", not a noun "what is good". After all, he can't "do" God, but he can do good works, which is what he was asking about. Also, the grammar in the verse is very clearly Jesus saying, as every translation in the world puts it, "Why do you call me good?" Then, after his response to being called "good", he answers the question of what the young ruler must do to gain eternal life. Every translation, Trinitarian or otherwise, puts it the same way because the translation of the grammar cannot be denied, twisted or obscured at all without a lot of translators calling shenanigans
Parallel readings of 24 popular versions:
Declaring the "Oneness of God"?One commentator tried to claim that Jesus was somehow declaring the oneness of the Trinity, but he offered no alternative rendering that could explain it as such, and the explanation he gave is so convoluted that I cannot even figure out how to reword it here. No wonder that it is the only commentary that makes the claim. However, there is only one translation that speaks of the oneness of God and reads this way, "Why do you call me good? There is no one good but The One God." (Aramaic Bible in Plain English.) Regardless of whether you translate it as "no one is good but one ꟷ God" or "there is no one good but the one God" or "nobody is good except God alone", it still comes off as Jesus denying that he is God.
What is "Good"?Another interpretation claims that the young ruler believed himself to be "good" while explaining that any other interpretation means that Jesus was a sinner as if anyone who is not God is a sinner because they are not "good". Thus, it appears to be a veiled attack on Jesus, whether the author was aware of it or not. There is obviously no scriptural indicator that the young ruler viewed himself as good in the sense that he applied to Jesus. It relies upon an assumption not at all indicated by the text.
This interpretation called upon some translations of John 10:11 as proof that Jesus called himself "the good shepherd". However, the word used there is the Koiné Greek "kalos", meaning "ideal", not "good", thus our rendering of "fine shepherd" instead. Whereas the word at Mark 10:17-18 is "agathe" (modifier), "agathon" (noun) and "agathos" (noun), which quite directly means "good" or "exceptional" in the vocative, accusative and nominative senses respectively.
Neither the English word "good" nor the Greek word "agathos" refers to "God" or "godly", as one commentator erroneously claimed, but the English is related to a Proto-Indo-European word meaning "to be united" or "got", while the origin of the Greek word is unknown, but is related to "agamai", meaning "to wonder at" and "agastos", meaning "admirable". (Cratylus, p. 412, Plato.) A common plague among these commentators is their unwillingness to visit the actual origins of words, whether in English or the original Koiné Greek.
At Mark 10:17, "agathe" is vocative, meaning "you are good" by distinction, and "agathon" in verse 18 is accusative, meaning "what is good" by distinction. So if I say "you are good" in this sense, I mean that you are the superlative example of what is good. And if I say "this is what is good", I mean it is the superlative example of what is good. So the words used at Mark 10:17-18 very specifically refers to "good" in the superlative sense, because the Greek grammar says it is, and not because we declare it to be.
The third word's usage is different than the "good man" spoken of at Matthew 12:35, Luke 6:45, John 7:12, Acts 11:24 and Romans 5:7, all of which use "agathos" in the nominative sense to mean that he is "a good one" from among those called "man", that is, one that is good in comparison to other men, an undistinguished example of what is good from among an undistinguished group. However, the last word used at Mark 10:18 while it too is "agathos" in the nominative sense, the phrase indicates its meaning. The phrase is saying that "nobody is good but one, God." That is, there is no one on par with God that he should be among a crowd. God is in a separate category called "good" and no one shares it with him. He is the pinnacle of good, that which stands out.
As to the accusation that "good" could only indicate sinlessness merely shows the ignorance of the one using the claim as they are trying to force their own definition of "good" upon the word, their definition including that which is not "bad", namely sin, which assumes "good" in the absolute sense and anything not absolutely "good" is sinful, but sin is not actually what is involved here. Here, it is referring, not to a state of sin or sinlessness, but to the pinnacle of what is good or admirable. Jesus is not the pinnacle of good, but Jehovah is. If Jesus were to make a different choice than Jehovah, then Jehovah would be the one in the right, always, but that does not mean Jesus' choice is bad or sinful. In effect, Jehovah is the definition of what is good; Jesus is not, though he is the best human example that we must strive to imitate. If Jesus had been the pinnacle of what is good, he would not have had to 'learn obedience' or be "made perfect". (Hebrews 5:8, 9)
Further, Jesus "became responsible for everlasting salvation" after he was "made perfect" when "he learned obedience from the things he suffered." Jesus is also not the one who designated him to be "high priest in the manner of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 5:7-10) Thus he could not fulfill the pinnacle of what is "good" because God does not have to learn what he already knows and is the author of our salvation, while Jesus is not. Jesus is not the Cultivator, but is the vine. (John 15:1) Also, even after his resurrection, Jesus' knowledge was limited. (Matthew 24:36; John 5:19; Revelation 1:1)
Such ignorance of the Bible and biblical languages is common among atheists, and apparently among some commentators, as the above. This is why we should be familiar with many translations, even if not familiar with translation issues, not simply to save others, but to save ourselves from false reasoning.
Coveting "Good"?A fourth explanation claims that the ruler was coveting what was "good" and Jesus, instead of telling him not to covet, was giving him something more attractive to seek after, that of God instead of money. This seems to be attempting to divert attention away from the fact that the young ruler called him "Good Teacher" and he was rebuking the ruler for it. So even if the man was somehow coveting Jesus' role as "Good Teacher", he is still rebuking him for calling him "Good Teacher". Thus, this explanation fails to do anything for which it aims and, as you might guess, this fails for all the reasons expressed above.
Changing EmphasisOne viewpoint asks us to consider different emphasis within the phrase, "Why do you call me good?"
The first is "WHY do you call me good?" Why? The context would indicate that he wanted to find out how to be good. But a question like that begs for motive. Thus the motive might be found in Jesus response to the young ruler's question, saying, "One thing is missing about you: Go, sell what things you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come be my follower." However, this presents a problem. When Jesus originally answered with what laws to fulfill, the young man responded by saying that he was doing all those things, and here was Jesus' response: he felt love for the young man. If the young man were asking for a bad motive, love would not be what he felt for the young man's clear demonstration of earnestness. The young ruler clearly was not asking for a bad motive.
Another interpretation given of that emphasis is that the kid was looking for an easier way to be "good" than he was already pursuing. This could, perhaps earn Jesus' love, but the problem is that Jesus never implied that giving everything up to follow him was to be done instead, but in addition, and it was in fact a much harder path. Note that Jesus said, "One thing is missing about you." Thus, what Jesus was saying was that it was "missing", something that still has yet to be done, in addition to what he was already doing. Also, this would not at all explain why he said, "Nobody is good except one, God."
However, even if all it focused on was the young ruler's motives, it would not support Jesus telling the young man that he was God as some commentaries forcefully claim without explanation.
The second way of emphasizing the phrase is "Why do YOU call me good?" This would either imply an insult that the young ruler was somehow unworthy of calling him good or in seeking to be called "good", which again is contradicted by Jesus reaction to him in love, or else would be asking the young ruler for his thoughts. But Jesus would not be showing love for a hypocrite and didn't wait for a reply.
The third and fourth are "Why do you call ME good?", which is the natural reading, and "Why do you call me GOOD?" The first pretty much everyone sees and is the one that fits the next line, "Nobody is good except one, God." Both interpretations show denial of being called "Good Teacher" as well as denying being equal to God in line with Philippians 2:5-7.
Easily Resolved But Unresolved By TrinitariansFinally, other commentaries, unable to resolve the conflict with the Trinity/Duality doctrine, ignore this verse altogether, just skipping over it because they obviously do not know how to handle the contradiction with the Trinity/Duality doctrine.
So what does this verse really mean? What was meant here was "good" in the superlative or perfect sense, as the original mold; all else could only be an imitation, which the Bible does refer to Jesus as merely a "reflection" and a "representation". (Hebrews 1:3) He is in no way the same as the one projecting the image. So Jesus here meant, "why do you call me 'Good Teacher'", not simply "good". That is, Jehovah is the source of all truth, the original mold, and therefore is the only "Good Teacher".
This is one of the clearest, undeniable statements in the Bible of Jesus saying that he is not God. No matter which of the many Trinitarian explanations you look at, their reasoning falls apart, whether through analysis of the context or analyzing emphasis. The only reason that stands up is that Jesus is denying a special status belonging only to God, whom he is not.