Matthew 12:7 ...I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,

KJV Verse: 

Matthew 12:7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

If, however, you had learned anything, it is: "Mercy I want and not really a ceremonial victim." You might not have declared guilty those who are not at fault.

Hidden Meaning: 

Many people might consider this verse a key one in Christ's teachings, but the Greek and original Hebrew is different from the English translations.The first part of the verse is from Hsa 6:6 "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." In the vocabulary section, we provide both the Greek and the Hebrew.

"Ye had known" is a verb that means "to learn to know", "to know by reflection or observation," and "to perceive."

The word translated here as "what" means "anything" or "anyone."

There is no Greek word in the source that means "this."

Nor is there a word that means "means" or "meaneth," The Greek word is the verb "to be," which when used without a clear subject means "it is" or "there is."

"Mercy" is a Greek noun that means "pity", "mercy," and "compassion." The Hebrew word is closer to "kindness," which may be closer to Christ's use of the word.

The verb translated as "will have" is not the future tense of the verb "to have." The verb is in the present tense and, in this form, means something closer to "I delight in." this is also the meaning of the original Hebrew.

Interestingly, the Greek terms translated as "sacrifice," does not refer to the act of sacrifice but to "a burnt offering" or "victim." Given the rest of the verse, "victim" is the primary meaning. In Hebrew, it means "the slaughtered ones." However, in Greek, it also means "ceremony," which, given the larger context of religious display in  Matthew 12:4, is part of the double meaning here. That double meaning is not found in Hebrew.

"Ye have...condemned" is a Greek verb that means "to give or get a judgment against," and "to pass a sentence." It refers almost exclusively to a legal decision. It is neither the word Christ commonly uses that gets translated as "condemn" or the one he uses that gets translated as "judgment." Since this refers to legal decisions, "declare guilty" might work best in English. 

"The guiltless" is from an adjective means "not being at fault," "guiltless," and "not being the cause" of something. It means literally "not the cause. Here is it used as a plural noun. We saw this word, a uncommon word for Christ to use, in Matthew 12:5 where it was translated as "blameless."

Here, Christ in this short phrase announces the new era where religion, for the first time in human history will be defined by compassion. While people today in almost every religion accept the basic idea that religion means having compassion for your fellow humans, hardly anyone realizes that this idea was completely novel when Christ introduced it. Until Christ, religions were about getting power from the gods or at least being protected from them.

However, this line is not only historically significant, it is also extremely clever because in this short phrase Christ both announces compassion as the new standard for worship AND condemns those attacking him for their lack of compassion. The ease with which Christ's words work on several different levels is one of the reasons studying his words makes me a stronger believer.

Wordplay: 

The first part of this phrase says "if you had learned anything" but that implies that his challengers have not.

The word translated as "sacrifice" means "victim" and "ceremony." The first meaning addresses his challenges desire to create victims by condemning others of sin. The second addresses the idea of religion "for display" the hidden meaning in class="views-field-title">Matthew 12:4.

Vocabulary: 

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.

δὲ (partic) "But" is from 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").

ἐγνώκειτε (2nd, pluper, act,ind) "You had known," is from ginosko which means "to learn to know", "to know by reflection or observation," and "to perceive."

τί (irreg sg neut nom/acc) "What" is from tis which can mean "someone", "anyone", "everyone", "they [indefinite]", "many a one", "whoever", "anyone", "anything", "some sort", "some sort of," "each", "any", "the individual", "such," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

ἐστιν (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Meaneth" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

Ἔλεος (noun sg neut nom /acc) "Mercy" is from eleos, which means "pity", "mercy," and "compassion." In the original Hebrew, "mercy" is checed, which means "goodness", "kindness," and "faithfulness." It also means "to be ashamed" and "a reproach." Based on the verb checed ("to be kind"), the adjective combines both the idea of being good and feel guilty if you are not good.

θέλω (1st sg pres ind act) "I will have" is from 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 (to express a future event)." In the Hebrew, "desire" is chaphets, which means "to delight in", "to take pleasure in," and "to be pleased with."

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."

οὐ (partic)  "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both singles 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.

θυσίαν,” (noun sg fem acc) "Sacrifice" is thysia, which means "a burnt-offering", "a sacrifice", "a victim of sacrifice," "mode of sacrifice", "festival at which sacrifices are offered," "rite," and "ceremony." In Hebrew, "sacrifice" is zebach, ("a sacrifice") which is the noun form of zabach, which means "to slaughter" either for sacrifice or for eating.

οὐκclass (partic) "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both singles 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.

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."

κατεδικάσατε (2nd pl aor ind act) "Ye would...have condemned" is katadikazô, which means "to give judgment against," "have judgment given in one's favor", "get a person condemned [to a payment] of money", "to pass a sentence," and "to condemn."

τοὺς ἀναιτίους. (adj pl masc acc) "The guiltless" is from anaitios, which means "not being at fault", "guiltless," and "not being the cause" of something. It means literally "not the cause."

Related Verses: 

Jun 18 2017