Note on John 21:5

"Children, have ye any meat?" is the Authorised Version’s way of recording the question addressed by the waiting Lord, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, to the unsuccessful toil‑weary fishermen after their night’s fruitless work. While it is fairly obvious that Jesus was asking if they had caught any fish, He does not use the word usually equivalent to "fish" (Ichthys) but an entirely different and unrelated word (Prosphagion). This word has caused the translators and commentators no end of trouble, as reference to the various translations will show. We append a few of these translations to show the line of thought the various versions give.

"Children, have ye aught to eat." (RV)
"My children, have you anything to eat." (Twentieth Century)
"Children...have you any food there." (Weymouth)
"Children, have you any food." (Diaglott)
"Children! perhaps ye have nothing to eat." (Rotherham)
"Lads, have ye any meat." (YLT)
"Lads, have you got anything," (Moffatt)
"Lads, have you caught anything to eat." (Ferrar Fenton)
"Little children, have ye any viands."

Obviously all the translators are referring to the fish they thought to have been in the net—and while Jesus is also referring to fish, He did not put his question that way. He used a word which does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, which really means "to eat with or alongside."

The force of this word was brought out very vividly to an Englishman, resident in an official capacity in Palestine, during a journey from Tiberias to Jerusalem. He was well acquainted with the Arabic version of the New Testament and knew the Greek "Prosphagion" had been translated by the Arabic "Idiam", which, he had been led to believe, was more a classical word than a word of current usage. He had to stand in a crowded bus for about half the journey, but at Nablus—the nearest to Shechen (Shechem), the Sychar of Jesus’ day (John 4:5)—a seat next to a Palestinian Jew became vacant.

Availing himself of this seat, he heard the Jew ask one of several boys who came round the bus offering food for sale, for two small loaves. On the top of each loaf was a "kufta" (or rissole) evidently intended to be eaten with the loaf. The Jew did not want the "kufta" and demanded the loaves without them. Indignantly the boy refused to accede to his demand, blurting out with considerable vexation, "What, sell my loaves without their "Idiam"?—never!"

The Englishman was greatly interested in the little episode. Here he had the key to the word which Jesus used. "Prosphagion" meant "something to eat with the bread," to make the bread go down—exactly as we today would eat butter, cheese, jam, and even meat and fish to help the bread along its way.