Matthew 8:11 ...That many shall come from the east

KJV Verse: 

Mat 8:11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

However, I teach you that the great shall arrive [at some time] from the rising and the setting and they will be reclined behind not only Abraham but also Jacob and Isaac within the realm of the skies.

Hidden Meaning: 

, This verse uses a number of very uncommon words (for Christ). As with Mat 5:19, there is a strong sense that Christ is describing a hierarchy within the "realm of the skies". In Luke 13:28, the sense of this verse is combined with the following verse, Mat 8:12, for a different perspective. 

The "and I say to you" phrase that begins this verse is a variation of a common phrase that Christ uses. However, it has some peculiarities.

First, The Greek word translated as "and" is not the common conjunction used many times in this verse, but the word that joins phrases in an adversarial way and is usually translated as "but." Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

The pronoun form of "I" is not used, as it is other places with this common phrase.

The word translated as "I tell" is the most common word that means "to say," and "to speak," but it also means "to teach," which seems to be the way Christ uses it more frequently. It also has many ancillary meanings such as "to count" ("to number" or like we might say, "to recount" a story) or "to choose for yourself." Christ usually uses this word to refer to his own speaking or teaching.

The word translated as "many" means many in number, great in power or worth, and large in size. It is an adjective and does not have an article indicating its use as a noun.

The word translated as "shall come" is again, not the common word usually translated as "come" in the Gospels. This Greek word indicates a "coming" that has been completed, that is, "to arrive", "to be returned", or, even, "to be present." As a metaphor, it means "to be a follower." However, its tense is in the future or something that might happen in the future. So it describes an activity that might be complete in the future.

The word translated as "from" means "from" in both location and when referring to a source.

The word translated as "east" primarily refers to the rising of heavenly bodies above the horizon. It comes to mean "east" because that is the direction in which heavenly bodies arise. The uses of "rising" and "setting" as directions is common in many ancient languages.

The Greek word translated as "and" over and over again in this verse is the common conjunction translated as "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also") and, in a series, is best translated as "not only...but also." It is repeated several times in a series later in this verse.

The word translated as "west" means "setting," as the opposite of "rising."

The word translated as "sit down" means to "lean against" or "to be made to recline" by someone else, but here it is in the passive. In that form, it means "to recline" and "to sink" by oneself. Of course, at the time, people reclined to eat, but the sense of sinking below the patriarchs is part of its meaning.

The word translated as "with" has the primary sense of "among" but it also means "after" and behind, which fits with the "sink" meaning of the previous word.

The Hebrew names of the Jewish patriarchs have no special meaning in Greek. However, while Christ is referring to the historical figures in Jewish history, we can also understand his meaning more metaphorically in terms more relevant to use today as discussed in this article.

The word translated as "in" also means "within" as "within" a group or also "among."

The word translated as "kingdom" can be the region, the reign, the castle or the authority of a ruler. Christ does not seem to use it to mean a physical region, so its translation as "reign" or "realm" seems more appropriate. This is especially true because the "reign" of a king means the execution of his will.

The word translated as "heaven" means sky, the climate, and the universe. It is plural here. Christ often uses it in the plural, though it is never translated that way so "skies". 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.

Wordplay: 

 When applied to the "great" of the world, "rising" and "setting" not only means "east" and "west" but rising and falling in power. 

Vocabulary: 

λέγω (1st sg pres ind act) "Say" is from llego means "pick up", "choose for oneself", "pick out," and "count," "recount", "tell over", "say", "speak", "teach", "mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," "nominate," and "command."

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").

ὑμῖν (pron 2nd pl dat) "You" is from humas and humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

ὅτι (adv/conj) "That" 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."

πολλοὶ (adj pl masc nom) "Many" is from polus, which means "many (in number)", "great (in size or power or worth)," and "large (of space)." As an adverb, it means "far", "very much", "a great way," and "long."

ἀπὸ (prep) "From" is from apo, a preposition of separation which means "from" or "away from" from when referring to place or motion, "from" or "after" when referring to time, "from" as an origin or cause.

ἀνατολῶν (noun pl fem gen) "East" is from anatole, which means "rising above the horizon (of any heavenly body)", "the quarter of sunrise", "east", "the ascendant (i.e. the point where the eastern horizon cuts the zodiac)", "a phase of new moon," "sources of a river (in pl.), and "growing ( of the teeth)."

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."

δυσμῶν” (noun pl fem gen) "West" is from dysme, which means "setting (mostly in pl.)", "the quarter of sunset," and "west."

ἥξουσιν (3rd pl aor subj act or 3rd pl fut ind act ) "Shall come" is from heko, which means "to arrive", "to have come", "to be present", "to have reached a point, "to pass though a point (geometry)", "to have come back", "returned", "to have come to table", "concern", "relate to", "to depend upon," and, as a metaphor, "to be a follower."

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."

ἀνακλιθήσονται (3rd pl fut ind pass) "Shall sit down," is from anaklino, which means "to lean one thing upon another", "to cause to recline at a table", "to push", "to put back", "to open," and, in the passive, "to lie", "to sink", "to lean back", "to recline," and "to slope upwards (of ground)."

μετὰ (prep) "With" is from meta, which means "in the midst of", "among", "between", "in common", "along with", "by the aid of", "in one's dealings with", "into the middle of", "coming into", "in pursuit of", "after", "behind", "according to," and "next afterward"

Ἀβραὰμ (Aaramaic) "Abraham" is from Abraam, which is the Greek form of "Abraham."

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."

Ἰσαὰκ (Aramaic) "Isaac" is from Isaak.

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."

Ἰακὼβ (Aramaic) "Jacob" is from Iakob.

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 βασιλείᾳ (noun sg fem dat) "The kingdom" is from basileia, which means "kingdom", "dominion", "hereditary monarchy", "kingly office," (passive) "being ruled by a king," and "reign."

τῶν οὐρανῶν: (noun pl masc gen) "Heaven" is from 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."

Related Verses: 

Apr 24 2017