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Matthew 11:8 But what did you go out to see?

Lesson about John the Baptist, the attraction.

Spoken to:
Greek Verse:

Matthew 11:8 ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν; ἄνθρωπον ἐν μαλακοῖς ἠμφιεσμένον; ἰδοὺ οἱ τὰ μαλακὰ φοροῦντες ἐν τοῖς οἴκοις τῶν βασιλέων.

KJV Verse:

Matthew 11:8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.

NIV Verse:

Matthew 11:8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.

Literal Alternative:

Still, what did you go out to see? A man in softness having wrapped himself? You have seen for yourself: the ones habitually soft are in the houses of those rulers.

Hidden Meaning:

This verse begins with the conjunction "but" that indicates the Jesus was contradicting something said to him that was not recorded. Despite looking similar, the "see" used here is a different Greek word than the "see" in the previous verse. This verse illustrates how carefully Christ chooses his words. For example, the word he uses that is translated as "soft" here has the sense of "morally debased." This is not the words he used when he describes himself in terms that can mean "soft" and "gentle" in Matthew 11:29. There he uses two other words that are self-deprecating, but not in the moral sense.

The Greek word translated as "clothed" is used only in two verses, this one and its parallel in Luke. the word translated as "wear clothing" is used only here. Neither has any relationship to the words usually translated as clothing. The "wear clothing" means "repeating." 

This may be a bit of gallows humor since John had just been taken to the house of a ruler.


The words translated as "clothed in soft clothing" can mean "wrapped up in moral depravity."

The word translated as translated as "wearing" also means

This may be a bit of gallows humor since John had just been taken to the house of a ruler.

The Spoken Version:

“He was far from a hollow reed. He was a solid rock,” the man responded. “He was shaken by the breath of the Divine, but he was a hard man!”
“Still, what did you go out to see?”responded the Master.  “A man having wrapped himself in softness?”
“Not all all,” responded the man, “his life in Antipas’s guard house is probably softer than his life in the desert!”
“You see for yourself,” laughed the Master. “The ones habitually soft are in the houses of those rulers.?
We laughed at how true the criticism was about our rulers, but a few of his followers wondered if this was enough to get the Master in trouble with the same type of men who had imprisoned John.

My Takeaway:

People who are soft create soft environments.

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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.

This site does not promote any religious point of view. Indeed, 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 listens of his time heard him.

Jesus' words are unique for three reasons.

  1. They were spoken, not written. Spoken language is inherently different than written language.
  2. They changed the meaning of words, determining even how later NT authors' used the Greek.
  3. They were the basis of a unique historical revolution in they 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 historically translated into English. 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 from the changing religious fashions of history. 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 the Greek. The Message version is much worse.

This site is offered for those who care about fidelity to Scripture in any sense of the word.

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