Matthew 9:13 But go and learn what this means,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

As the ones being driven, however, you learn by experience? What? Is it: "I desire compassion and not really a victim?" this is why I have not really set out to invite law-abidings but errants.

Hidden Meaning: 

This KJV of this verse requires a lot of untangling. Little is what it appears. The verse starts with words that appear to be common Greek words, ("go" and "learn"), but they are not the common words for these ideas but words with more specific meanings. These verbs also appear to be in the form of commands. They aren't. The reference in this verse is to the OT verse, Hsa 6:6 so some commentary on the Hebrew is offered in this analysis as well. While Christ uses, as he usually does, the Greek vocabulary from the Septuagint to translation the OT quote (link to Greek OT Hsa 6:6 here), he does make a change to it.

The Greek word translated as "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. However, it also can be used to mean "if" and "so." Looking at the previous verse, Mat 9:12, "so" seems more appropriate than "but." Since the word almost always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling.

The Greek verb translated as "go ye" means "to be driven" or "to be carried" in the passive, which is used here. It is not in the form of a command, nor is it in the second person ("ye"). The term also isn't the common verb almost always translated as "go" in the NT. In its active form, this word means "to lead over", "depart," and "to carry over." This word, however, uniquely means both "to pursue a course" and "to depart from life." It is in the form of an adjective, "being driven" begin used as a noun, specifically, "the ones being driven". It is in the form of the subject of a sentence, but since the verb is in the second person ("you"), the sense is to equate this with the subject ("you are the one being driven" or "as the ones being driven"). The tense indicates something happening at some point in time. The sense is that when this happens, the next thing ("learn") will also happen.

There is no Greek word "and" in the source. This was added by the KJV translators who changed the forms of the two verbs beginning this verse.

"Learn" is the active verb here. It means "to learn from study or by practice" or "acquired the habit." It is not from the most common Greek verb that means "to learn". It is not in the form of a command, but an active verb. It is not the past, present, or future, but a tense that indicates something happening at a specific point in time.

There word translated as "what" means "anything" "something", "someone," or "anyone." In questions, it means "what." It is the object of the verb "learn." This use of this word often, but not always, indicates a question. The original Greek does not have any punctuation marks, so words like this are clues to phrasing.

The verb translated as "that meaneth" is the common form of the verb "to be" or, in this form "it is". When the verb "to be" appears early in the sentence before the subject, the sense is more like "it is" or, in the plural, "there are." (Note: punctuation was not part of the original text but added centuries later.)

The Greek word translated as "I will have" expresses consent and even a delight in doing something not the future tense as in English. In the original Hebrew, "will" or "desire" is from chaphets, which means "to delight in", "to take pleasure in," and "to be pleased with."

The Greek term translated as "mercy" means "good will toward the afflicted." It also means "pity" 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. It the Greek Septuagint version, this word is in the dual masculine form (referring to Ephraim and Judah), but Christ changes it, putting it in the simple neutral form.

The Greek word translated as "and" here is used as the conjunction "and".

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" often captures its feeling better than "no" or "not" alone.

Interesting, the Greek terms translated as "sacrifice," does not refer to the act of sacrifice but to "a burnt offering" or "victim." In Hebrew, "sacrifice" is zebach, ("a sacrifice") which is the noun form of zabach, which means "to slaughter" either for sacrifice or for eating.

The word translated as "for" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, in written English, as "this is because..." to start a new sentence.

The word translated as "I am come" primarily means "to start out." It indicates movement, especially its beginning, without indicating a direction toward or away from anything, so it works either as "come" or "go," but it is more like our phrase "being underway."

The term translated as "call" is like our word "call" means both "to summon" and also "to name."

The term translated as "righteous" means "those who observe the laws", "well-balanced," and "meet and fitting." However, when used as a noun referring to a group ("the righteous"), Greek uses the article ("the") just like English does. No article is used here so its form is more like an adjective.

The Greek word translated as "but" denote an exception or simple opposition. "Still" or "however" work well when the word isn't being used as a conjunction, especially when it begins a sentence.

"Sinners" is a Greek word that means "erroneous" or "erring." It also means "of bad character" but with the sense of being a slave or low-born not evil. Only in biblical translations is this term given the sense of wickedness. More about the translation issues regarding "sin" in this article here. Again, when used as a noun ("the sinners"), Greek uses the article ("the") just like English does. No article is used here so its form is more like an adjective.

Vocabulary: 

πορευθέντες (part pl aor pass masc nom) "Go ye" is from poreuo which means "make to go", "carry", "convey", "bring", "go", "march," and "proceed." In passive, "to be driven" or "to be carried".

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").

μάθετε (2nd pl aor ind act) "And learned" is from manthano, which means "to learn" especially by study or practice, "acquire a habit of", "perceive", "understand," and "notice."

τί (irreg sg neut nom/acc) "What" is from tis which can mean "someone", "any one", "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 (3rd sg pres ind/subj act) "That 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."

θέλω (verb 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 (too express a future event)." As an adverb, "willingly," and "gladly." and "to desire." As an adjective, it means "wished for" and "desired."

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 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.

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."

οὐ (partic) "Not" is from 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.

γὰρ (partic) "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question it means "why" and "what."

ἦλθον (1st sg aor ind act) "Come" is from erchomai, which means "to start," "to set out", "to come", "to go," and any kind of motion. It means both "to go" on a journey and "to arrive" at a place.

καλέσαι (aor inf act) "To call" is from kaleo, which means "call", "summon", "invite", "invoke", "call by name," and "demand."

δικαίους (adj pl masc/fem acc) "Righteous" is from dikaios which means "observant of rules", "observant of customs", "well-ordered", "civilized," and "observant of duty." Later it means "well-balanced", "impartial," and "just."

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

ἁμαρτωλούς. (adj pl masc/fem acc ) "Sinners" is from 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: 

May 7 2017