Luke 18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eye

KJV Verse: 

Luke 18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

This, however, tax-collector far off stood, not desiring, not at all, those eyes to raise towards the sky instead to beat that breast of his own, saying, "You the Divine, be gracious to me, this one erring. 

Hidden Meaning: 

Hidden is the big difference between this "standing" and the "stood" in Luke 18:11 but you could never guess it from the translation. There are also a couple of unique words here for Jesus to use, one of which is highly symbolic. It also has a surprise mistranslation at the end that illustrates how Greek articles really work.

The Greek word translated as "and" means "but", "however", and "on the other hand". Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better. 

The Greek term translated as "publican" means "farmer" and "tax collector." By Christ's time, tax collectors were not tax-farmers, that is, private individuals who bought the right to collect taxes. Tax collectors worked directly for Rome, but the term "farmer" stuck from an earlier era when they were tax-farmers. Historically, these tax-collectors or rent collectors were notoriously corrupt, especially as tax farmers. They were made into government employees to reform them.

The verb translated as "standing" means "to make stand", "to set up", "to establish and similar words. The same word was was used in Luke 18:11. but it was passive, giving the double meaning of "upright" and "up close". Here the same word is active, as simple "stood".

"Afar off" is an uncommon adverb for Jesus to use that means "from afar" and "from long since". It may be a contrast to the previous verses sense of "up close".

The Greek word translated as "would" is not the same as the helper verb "will" in English, which primarily expresses the future tense. Its primary purpose is to express consent and even a delight in doing something. It means "to consent" and "to be resolved to a purpose". "Desire" usually works better.

The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. Adding "really" to the sentence to captures the same idea. Notice that, even though it refers to a desire, it is not an opinion because the Greek sense of "will" is stronger than our own.

"Lift up" is  a verb that means "lift up", "set on", and "raise". It also means "urge on," and "persuade", which adds flavor here. The sense his that he could persuade his eyes to look up.

The Greek word for "so much as" is an adverb that means "not at all" or "no even". It follows the "desire", accentuating the complete lack of desire not a lack of lifting. 

There is not "his" in the verse. This is substituted for an article which has the sense of "those". This adds drama to the story.

The Greek word for "eyes" is the more technical terms for "eye" but it also means "sight". It is a metaphor for "cheer." So looking down is the opposite of cheer. It has an article, so "those eyes" works. 

The word translated as "unto" means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, "in regards to" a subject, and "up to" limits in time and measure.  These sense here is clearly "towards".

The word translated as "heaven" means sky, the climate, and the universe. It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods. More about the word in this article. It has an article, so "the sky".

The Greek word translated as "but" denotes an exception or simple opposition. It is used to emphasize the contrast between things like we use "rather". Here, "instead" works better. This is not the Greek word usually translated as "but" which began this sentence.

The verb translated as "smote" is from another uncommon word that means "to beat", "to strike," and "to smite." Christ uses a lot of different words to mean "to beat." This one seem reserved to punishment.

There is no Greek word "upon" here. 

"His" is a special reflexive pronoun that means "himself", "herself," and so on. It is more extreme that the normal word translated as "his" so, "his own".

"Breast" is a word that means "breast" (of both sexcs), but among the Greek, this was consider the seat of feelings and thought, specifically higher, nobler feelings. This is the same as thumos, ("chest") discussing this this article

The word translated as "saying" is the most common word that means "to say," and "to speak," but it also means "to teach,"

The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is introduced with an article, so "the God." Christ often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods.

"Be merciful" is a verb that Jesus only uses here that means "appease", and, in the passive used here, "to be merciful" and "gracious". This is NOT the "merciful" of Matthew 5:7 ("Blessed [are] the merciful")  or Luke 6:36 ("Be ye therefore merciful").

The "to me" is in the indirect object form on the first-person pronoun, so usually "to me", though the form has other uses in Greek. 

"A sinner" is an adjective that means "erroneous" or "erring."  Only in biblical translations is this term given the sense of wickedness. More about the translation issues regarding "sin" here.  However, the big issue is that is as an article so "the sinner" not "a sinner".  However, the Greek article is more like our "this" or "that" so the sense is "this sinner".   See this article for more. 

The Spoken Version: 

The word translated as "lift up" also means "persuade".


( article sg masc nom) "The" is the Greek article, "the," which usually proceeds a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." Here it is separated from its noun by a conjunction. -- The word translated as "goods" is the Greek article, "the," which usually proceeds a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

δὲ (conj/adv) "But" is de which means "but" and "on the other hand." It is the particle that joins sentences in an adversarial way but can also be a weak connective ("and") and explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

τελώνης (noun sg masc nom) "Publicans" is from telones, which means "farmer," and "collector of toll, custom, and taxes."

μακρόθεν[unique](adv) "Afar off" is makrothen, which means "from afar" and "from long since".

ἑστὼς  (part sg perf act masc nom) "Standing" is histemi, which means "to make to stand", "to stand", "to set up", "to bring to a standstill", "to check", "to appoint", "to establish", "to fix by agreement", "to be placed", "to be set", "to stand still", "to stand firm", "to set upright", "to erected", "to arise," and "to place."

οὐκ (partic) "Not" is ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective.

ἤθελεν ( verb 3rd sg imperf ind act) "I will" is thelo, which as a verb means "to be willing (of consent rather than desire)", "to wish", "to ordain", "to decree", "to be resolved to a purpose" "to maintain", "to hold", "to delight in, and "will (too express a future event with inanimate objects)." As a participle, it means "being willing" or, adverbially, "willingly," and "gladly".

οὐδὲ (partic) "So much as" is oude, which, as a conjunction, means "but not", "neither", and "nor." As an adverb, it means "not at all" and "not even."

τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς (noun pl masc acc) "Eyes" is ophthalmos, which means "eye", "sight", "the dearest and best", "light", "cheer", "comfort," and "the bud [of a plant]."

ἐπᾶραι ( verb aor inf act ) "Lift up" is epairo, which means "lift up", "set on", "raise", "stir up", "excite", "urge on," and "persuade."

εἰς (prep) "Unto" is eis, which means "into (of place)," "up to (of time)", "until (of time)", "as much as (of measure or limit)", "as far as (of measure or limit)", "towards (to express relation)", "in regard to (to express relation)", "of an end or limit," and "for (of purpose or object)."

τὸν οὐρανόν, (noun sg masc acc) "Heaven" is the Greek ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate." --

ἀλλ᾽ (adv)  "But" is alla, which means "otherwise", "but", "still", "at least", "except", "yet," nevertheless", "rather", "moreover," and "nay." 

ἔτυπτε [uncommon] (verb pres inf act) "To smite" is from typto, which means to "beat", "strike", "smite", and "strike oneself."

τὸ στῆθος [unique]( noun sg neut acc ) "Breast" is from stethos, which means "breast" (of both sexcs), "the breast as a seat of feelings and thought", "breastbone", "ball of foot", and "crest of a hill".

ἑαυτοῦ (pro sg masc gen) "His" is heautou, is a reflexive pronoun that means "himself", "herself", "itself" "themselves," and "ourselves." It is an alternative to autos.

λέγων ( part sg pres act masc nom ) "Saying" is lego, which means "to recount", "to tell over", "to say", "to speak", "to teach", "to mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," nominate," and "command." It has a secondary meaning "pick out," "choose for oneself", "pick up", "gather", "count," and "recount." A less common word that is spelled the same means "to lay", "to lay asleep" and "to lull asleep."

θεός, (noun sg masc voc) "God" is theos, which means "God," the Deity." --

ἱλάσθητί [unique]( verb 2nd sg aor imperat pass ) "Be merciful" is from hilaskomai, which means to "appease", " conciliate", and "expiate". And, in passive, "to be merciful" and "gracious". 

μοι  (pron 1st sing dat) "Me" is moi, which means "I", "me", and "my". 

τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ. ( adj sg masc dat ) "A sinner" is hamartolos, which means "erroneous" or "erring." It also means "of bad character" but with the sense of being a slave or low-born not evil.

Related Verses: 

Oct 16 2018