Mat 11:21 Woe unto you, Chorazin!

KJV Verse: 

Mat 11:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Too bad for you, Chorazin! Too bad for you, Bethsaida! Because if in Tyre and Sidon, they had come into being, the capabilities, the ones coming into being in you, long ago, possibly in hair cloth and ashes, they would have changed their minds. 

Hidden Meaning: 

There are a number of clues that this was said as a humorous statement (see this article on Christ's humor). The use of the Greek term translated as "woe", which is a lot like the Yiddish "oy-veh!" and probably its source indicates this. This term is used only once by Christ in a serious way and every other time like this, in an exaggerated statement.. 

"Woe" is an exclamation meaning "woe" or "alas."

The "unto thee" is a second person singular pronoun in the form of an indirect object.

In the Greek source, "for" is a word here that means "that" or "because." So what follows is a dependent clause.

"Mighty works" is a word that describes abilities and capacities, what actions a person can do or has done so "power", "might", "influence", "authority," and "force." Both in its verb and noun forms it indicates the "power" or "capabilities" a person has. It follows the verb describing what the "they" is in "they had come into being". 

The word translated as "Which were done" means "to become," that is, to enter into a new state. In Greek, especially as used by Christ, it is the opposite of "being," which is existence in the current state. It is not the Greek verb usually translated as "do" in the NT. Here, it is a participle ("becoming") uses as a plural noun, "the ones coming into being." It actually appears later in the sentence as a repetition of the verb. The effect seems mostly humorous. 

The word translated as "had been done" is the same verb as the verb above but in the form of an adjective, "becoming".  It is not the Greek verb usually translated as "do" in the NT. It is used with an article, which makes it into a noun, "the ones becoming" or "the ones coming into being." This statement describes the "capabilities" or "powers". 

The Greek word that is translated as "repent," primary means to understand something after the fact, with the sense of seeing it is too late. Is specific meaning is to "understand afterward," or "to change your mind", as seeing the truth after a mistake is made. We might say "re-evaluate". 

"Tyre and Sidon" were two ancient Phoenician cities on the coast. According to Mark, Mar 3:8, people came from these cities to hear Christ speak.

"Sackcloth" is "a coarse cloth of hair" used for sacks because it was uncomfortable for clothing. This was worn by people as a signing of mourning or penance. This is not a common term for Christ to use. 

"Ashes" is from a word that means "wood ashes" and, more generally, "dust." It was rubbed on sackcloth as a sign of mourning. This is not a common term for Christ to use. 

Wordplay: 

Christ is exaggerating here and in the following verses, for humorous effect. He may be mimicking the style of John that Baptist, who was the subject of the verses proceeding these. However, he doesn't take is as seriously, as he makes clear at the end, in  Mat 11:25

Vocabulary: 

Οὐαί (exclam) "Woe" is from ouai, which is an exclamation of pain or anger meaning "woe" or "alas."

σοι, (pron sg 2nd dat) "Unto thee" is from soi which is the singular, second person dative pronoun, "you".

Χοραζείν: (noun sg voc) "Chorazin" is from the Greek Chorazin, the name of a village in Galilee.

οὐαί (exclam)"Woe" is from ouai, which is an exclamation of pain or anger meaning "woe" or "alas."

σοι, (pron sg 2nd dat) Unto thee" is from soi which is the singular, second person dative pronoun, "you".

Βηθσαιδάν:(noun sg voc)  Bethsaida is from the Greek word Bethsaida, which is the name of a village in Galilee.

ὅτι (adv/conj) "For" is from hoti, which introduces a statement of fact "with regard to the fact that", "seeing that," and acts as a causal adverb meaning "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore." --

εἰ (conj) "If" is from ei, which is the particle used to express conditions "if" (implying nothing about its fulfillment) or indirect questions, "whether." It also means "if ever", "in case," and "whenever." It is combined with various conjunctions to create derivative conditions.

ἐν (prep) "In" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with".

Τύρῳ (noun) "Tyre" is from Tyros, which is the Greek name of the historical city.

καὶ (conj) "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

Σιδῶνι (noun) Sidon" is from Sidon, which is the Greek name of the historical city.

ἐγένοντο (3rd pl aor ind mid) "Had been done" is from ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", "to be produced," and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being. It is the complementary opposite of the verb "to be" (eimi)which indicates existence in the same state.

αἱ δυνάμεις (noun pl fem nom/acc)   "Mighty works" is from dynamis (dunamis), which means "power", "might", "influence", "authority", "capacity", "elementary force", "force of a word," and "value of money." Elemental forces are forces such as heat and cold.

αἱ γενόμεναι (part sg aor mid -nom or dat) "Which were done" is from ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", "to be produced," and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being. It is the complementary opposite of the verb "to be" (eimi) which indicates existence in the same state. Here, it is in the form of a participle, acting as a noun, "the ones that produced themselves."

ἐν (prep) "In" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with".

ὑμῖν (pron 2nd pl dat)  "You" is from hymin (humin), which is the 2nd person plural dative pronoun. Dative is the case which indicates to whom something is given. --

πάλαι [uncommon](adv) "Long ago" is from palai, which means "long ago", "long ", " of old," "before", "just past," and similar ideas. With present, means something lasting to the present. With past, something lasting to the past.

ἂν (partic) "would" is from an, which is a particle used with verbs to indicate that the action is limited by circumstances or defined by conditions. There is no exact equivalent in English, but it is translated as "would have", "might", "should," and "could."

ἐν (prep) "In" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with".

σάκκῳ [uncommon](noun sg masc dat) "Sackcloth" is sakkos, which is "a coarse cloth of hair" used for sacks because it was uncomfortable for clothing. This was worn by people as a signing of mourning or penance.

καὶ (conj) "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

σποδῷ [uncommon](noun sg fem dat ) "Ashes" is spodos, which means "wood ashes" and, more generally, "dust." It was rubbed on sackcloth as a sign of mourning.

μετενόησαν. (3rd pl aor ind act) "Repent," is from metanoia, which literally means "to perceive afterward", "to perceive too late", "to change one's mind", "to change one's purpose," and "to repent."

Related Verses: 

Jul 5 2017