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Matthew 18:6 But whoever shall offend one of these little ones

The Apostles ask who is greatest in the realm of the skies and Jesus points to a little child.

Spoken to:
Greek Verse:

Matthew 18:6  ὃς δ᾽ ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων τῶν πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ, συμφέρει αὐτῷ ἵνα κρεμασθῇ μύλος ὀνικὸς περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ καταποντισθῇ ἐν τῷ πελάγει τῆς θαλάσσης.

KJV Verse:

Matthew 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

NIV Verse:

Matthew 18:6 If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Literal Alternative:

The one that, however, when he trips up one of these little ones, these ones, the ones trusting in me? It is better for him that it should be hung, a millstone of an ass around that throat of his and he should be sunk into open waters of the sea.

Hidden Meaning:

The images here are all comic exaggeration. The millstone is described as "for an ass," which makes it the hge millstones that were dragged by an ass attached to them, going around in a circle. We cannot know if the "for an ass" had the same pejorative sense then as today, but clearly, the image is overkill and lost in translation.

Jesus repeats the beginning of the two previous verses, but he changes the word used for "child" to "little ones" This is a play against the adjective "great" and verb meaning "lower" of the previous verse.

This verse is also interesting because of the differences among this version and Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2.  It holds a lot of clues about the source of Jesus's quotes in the Gospels (See Mark 9:42) and even how Jesus's lines changed over time. as he used them (See Luke 17:2)


The play on words here combines the ideas lifted up with the idea of being sunk into the ocean. The"up" idea  is repeated with both the "it would be better (uplifting)" verb and the "hung up" verb, while the "down" idea is repeated in the "drowned" (thrown down in the sea) and the "depths" words. 

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About this Site

I started this site fifteen years ago.  My original award-winning work as a "techno-linguist" was in ancient Chinese. I wanted to bring the same computer search and analysis techniques to explore something more important: the original Greek of Jesus's words. To understand why this was important to me, you may want to read this article on how Jesus's meaning is lost.

This site does not promote any religious point of view. On the contrary, it seeks to avoid the competing and evolving religious dogmas that have shaped Biblical translation for centuries.  I purposely use "nonreligious" sources for Greek word meaning, rejoining the study of Biblical Greek with the broader study of ancient Greek. My goal is simply to identify how listeners of Jesus's time would have heard him.

Jesus' words are unique for three reasons.

  1. His words were spoken, not written. Spoken language is inherently different than written language.
  2. His words changed the meaning of words, determining even how later NT authors' used the Greek.
  3. His words were the basis of a unique historical revolution in the way people think.

Most of the on-line material on "Biblical Greek" is largely tautological. It explains the Greek only in terms of how it has been translated into English in the Bible. It flows from the ways that the  Gospel was taught from the Latin Vulgate. I respect this work and use it daily. However,  most of my work takes place outside of this tradition, researching the use of the Greek closer to the time of Jesus, especially the Greek OT, the Septuagint.

The Bible has been such a powerful force in history that it has changed the meaning of many words in English, Latin, and Greek. However, the Greek of Jesus's words has been faithfully preserved for centuries despite the changing religious fashions. These fashions, unfortunately, affect each successive English translation of the Bible, moving it further and further from the Greek.  I stopped analyzing the NLT version because so much of it fails to connect to anything in Jesus's Greek. It is not a translation but how a group of people today feel about the ideas in other English translations. The Message Bible version is even worse.

This site is offered for those who care about fidelity to Scripture as passed down for two thousand years.

Most Recent Question

Does John 6:37 mean that once I’m saved, no matter what sin I do, if I come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and repent from that sin, I will not be cast out?

I don't see anything about asking forgiveness and repenting nor anything about "being saved." All of these are Christian concepts invented after Jesus. He doesn't use these ideas at all. What is translated as "forgive" means "let go" as in dropping something. What is translated as "repent" means "change your mind" as in thinking differently. What gets translated as "being saved" is the idea of being "rescued" not from "evil" but from "worthlessness."

None of this is in the verses. Or in its context. His ideas in John 6:37 are simpler.  You are either returning to Jesus or moving away from him. Those who the Father has given him...