Matthew 5:15 Neither do men light a candle,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 5:15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Nor they light a lamp and bury it under a measuring jar? Instead, up on a lamp stand and it illuminates all those in the household.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse continues the idea of light being knowledge from the previous verse, Mat 5:14.

The negative here is a negative of opinion rather than fact but in a form that is usually part of a "neither/nor" statement. However, here, it works better here as an adverb, "not at all!"

The Greek term translated as "Do men light" means starting a fire. With Christ's "light" metaphor, we can think of this as displaying knowledge or an idea. This Greek word means "to kindle" or "to set fire to." It is the root word from the Greek word that means "righteousness", "justice", "fulfillment", "being in an ideal state." The "righteousness" form of this word has been seen several times.

The word translated a "candle" primarily means "lamp", specifically, a portable one. The main form of portable lights in this era were oil lamps made from clay.

The Greek word translated as "put" means "to place" but it has two other meanings that are relevant here. It means "to bury," which works for hiding a light under something. Christ uses it to mean "bury" in the sense of hide in several other verses. However, it also is metaphorically used in Greek to mean "to put in one's mind." Again, this is consistent with Christ's metaphor of light as knowledge and starting a light as having an insight.

The word translated as "under" primarily means "by", "under," or "with". Its primary meaning is "under" both in the sense of moving under, being under, and being under different forms of compulsion. 

The Greek dry measure translated as "bushel," 8 dry gallons, was actually less than a 1/4 the size of our bushel at only 7.8 dry quarts. "Basket," as in a "bushel basket," is used in more translations, but it also doesn't work to block the light. The most likely vessel in this era would have been a pottery jar. Only pottery could keep pest out and block the light. The most complete idea is a "measuring jar".  It is a metaphor for a system. In this case, the idea is that putting information under control of a system is not possible. 

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". It is from the Greek word "other" like we use "otherwise".

 The word translated as "on" means "against", "before", "during", "by" or "on."

The word translated as "candlestick" means "lamp stand."

The word translated as "that" is not the simple demonstrative pronoun, but a word that means "there", "where," and "in order that."

The word translated as "it gives light" is better translated as "it shines out," which is consistent with Christ's point that knowledge should not be hidden. The Greek word used here is the root of our word "lamp."

The word for "all" also has the sense of "everyone" or "everything" when used in the plural.

The word translated as "that" is not on of the several Greek words normally translated as "that," but a demonstrative article ("the") used alone, which takes on the sense of "those" in the plural.

The Greek word translated as "house" means both the house itself and the people in it. Then, even more than now, households and families were considered the backbone of civilization.

Again, Christ continues talking about light as knowledge. Here, he makes it clear that knowledge should be shared, especially within a household.

Greek Vocabulary: 

οὐδὲ (adv/conj) "Neither" is from oude , which, as a conjunction, means "but not", "neither", and "nor." As an adverb, it meams "not at all" and "not even."

καίουσιν (3rd pl pres ind act) "Do men light" is from kaio, which means "to kindle", "to set on fire", "to burn," and "to bake pottery."

λύχνον (noun sg neut acc) "A candle" is from lychnos, which means "portable light," or "lamp."

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."

τιθέασιν (3rd pl pres ind act) "Put" is from tithêmi (tithemi) which means "to put", "to place", "to propose", "to suggest", "to deposit", "to set up", "to dedicate", "to assign", "to award", "to agree upon", "to institute", "to establish", "to make", "to work", "to prepare oneself," "to bear arms [military]," "to lay down and surrender [military]," "to lay in the grave", "to bury," and "to put words on paper [writing]," and a metaphor for "to put in one's mind."

αὐτὸν (adj sg masc acc) "It" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

ὑπὸ (prep) "Under" is from hypo (hupo), which means "by", "before,' and "under."

τὸν μόδιον (noun sg masc acc) "A bushel" is from modios, which measures 7.8 dry quarts about 1/4 of a bushel and vessels, jars or baskets, of that volume.

ἀλλ᾽ (adv) "But" is from alla, which means "otherwise", "but", "still", "at least", "except", "yet," nevertheless", "rather", "moreover," and "nay." It denotes an exception or a simple opposition.

ἐπὶ (prep) "On" is from epi which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against."

τὴν λυχνίαν, (noun sg fem acc) "Candlestick" is from lychnia, which means "lamp stand."

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."

λάμπει (3rd sg pres ind act) "It giveth light" is from lampo, which means "to shine forth", "to ring loud and clear," and "to illuminate."

πᾶσιν (adj pl masc dat) "Unto all" is from pas, which means "all", "the whole", "every", "anyone", "all kinds," and "anything."

τοῖς (article pl masc dat) "That" is from the article "the" which, when it appears without a noun means "the one" or, in plural, "the ones."

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".

τῇ οἰκίᾳ. (noun sg fem dat) "The house" is from oikia, which means "house", "building," and "household."


 The main wordplay here centers around the term translated as "put." which means "to bury" is a metaphor for "to put in one's mind." 

The Spoken Version: 

Not at all!”
Many chuckled at the idea of equating this crowd with Jerusalem.
“Do they light up a lamp,” the teacher continued, holding up an imaginary lamp, “and put it—.” He moved the imaginary lamp under his tunic, below his belly.“Beneath a bushel basket?”

Related Verses: 

Jan 4 2017