Matthew 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can you,

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Pharisees attack, casting out demons

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

You offspring of serpents, how do you empower yourselves to repeat noble things, being worthless? Because out of the excess of the heart, the mouth repeated. 

My Takeaway: 

Poisonous ideas fill our hearts with rot that spills from our mouths.

KJV : 

Matthew 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

NIV : 

Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse in connected to the previous verse about fruit because the word translated as "generation/brood" also means "fruit" in the sense of offspring.

Jesus is referencing a verse from Ecclesiastes in the Septuagint, the Greek OT of Jesus's time. I discovered this when researching a  rare Greek word that is translated as "abundance/full." This word seems to appear in Greek for the first time in the Greek version of  Ecc 2:15. This Greek version is quite a bit different than the English translations, but it uses the same word for "speak" used here and references "the heart." The relevant section, in the Greek, says,τότε περισσὸν ἐλάλησα ἐν καρδίᾳ μου διότι ἄφρων ἐκ περισσεύματος λαλεῗ, which literally translates as "then more I repeat in a heart of mine because a fool from an excess repeats.

What is hidden also here is that the "good" in this verse is a completely different Greek word than the one translated as  "good" in the previous verse. See this article explaining Christ's use of the different words for good and evil.

This verse also uses an uncommon word that is translated as "say," that has more the sense of repeating something more than simply speaking. It also translates as "prattle," and "gossip," both of which work well here.

Wordplay: 

The juxtaposition of a word meaning "prattle" while describing it as "noble." 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

γεννήματα [5 verses](noun pl neut voc) "O generation" is from gennema, which means "that which born or produced," "offspring," "fruits" (of the earth), generally, any "product" or "work," "breeding," "begetting," and "producing."

ἐχιδνῶν, [2 verses](noun pl fem gen) "Vipers" is echidna, which means "viper," "constrictor snake," and is a metaphor for a treacherous wife or friend.

πῶς (pron indeclform) "How" is from pos, which means "how," "how in the world," "how then," "in any way," "at all," "by any mean," "in a certain way," and "I suppose."

δύνασθε (2nd pl pres ind mp) "Can ye" is the verb, dynamai, which means "to have power by virtue of your own capabilities," "to be able," and "to be strong enough."

ἀγαθὰ (adj pl neut acc) "Good things" is from agathos which means "good" and, when applied to people, "well-born," "gentle," "brave," and "capable." When applied to things, it means "serviceable," "morally good," and "beneficial."

λαλεῖν (verb pres inf) "Speak" is from laleo, which means "to talk," "to speak ," "to prattle," "to chat," and [for oracles] "to proclaim." It also means "chatter" as the opposite of articulate speech.

πονηροὶ (adj pl masc nom) "Evil" is poneros, which we discuss extensively in this page. In a moral sense, it means "worthless," "base," and "cowardly."

ὄντες; (part pl pres act masc nom) "Being" is from eimi, which means "to be," "to exist," "to be the case," and "is possible." 

ἐκ (prep) "Out of" is from ek, which means 1) [of motion] "out of," "from," "by," "away from;" 2) [of place] "beyond," "outside of," "beyond;" 3) [of succession] "after," "from;" 4) [of rest] "on," "in," 5) [of time] "since," "from," "at," "in;" 5) [of materials] "out of," "made from."

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."

τοῦ (article sg neut gen)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

περισσεύματος [2 verses](noun sg neut gen) "The abundance" is from perisseuma, which means "superfluidity," "that which remains over," and "abundance." It is from the root, perissos , which means "exceeding some measure or rank."

τῆς (article s sg fem gen)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

καρδίας (noun sg fem gen) "Of heart" is from kardia, which means "heart (the physical organ)," "the seat of emotions (especially passion, rage, and anger)," "inclination," "desire," "purpose," "mind," "the pith (in wood), and "the deep (of the sea)."

τὸ (article sg neut nom)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

στόμα ” (noun sg neut nom) "The mouth" is stoma, which means "mouth," "the organ of speech," "speech," "utterance," "any outlet or entrance," and "the foremost part" of something. For example, the blade or point of a weapon is a stoma.

λαλεῖ. ( 3rd sg imperf ind act) "Speaketh" is from laleo, which means "to talk," "to speak ," "to prattle," "to chat," and [for oracles] "to proclaim." It also means "chatter" as the opposite of articulate speech.

KJV Analysis: 

O -- This is added to indicate that the following word is in the form of address, using it as a term to identify someone.

generation - "Generation" is from gennema, which means "that which born or produced," "offspring," "fruits" "breeding," "begetting," and "producing."

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession.

vipers, - "Vipers" is from a Greek word that means "viper," "constrictor snake," and is a metaphor for a treacherous wife or friend.

how -- "How" is the adverb that means "how," "by any means," and "I suppose." This is a common interrogatory pronoun used by Jesus.

can  -  In English, "can" is a helper verb, indicating a possibility and an ability. However, in ancient Greek, it indicated having the power or possibly a desire to accomplish something. The form here is one in which the subject acts on him or itself. This is someone empowering themselves. 

missing "by/for yourselves"-- (WV) A phrase is necessary because the form of the previous verb is a middle voice, which means that the subject is to  act on "yourselves," "for yourselves" or "by yourselves."

ye, -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

being -- The verb "being" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. The form is a present particple.

evil,  - The adjective translated as "evil" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This article explores its meaning in more detail.

speak   - (CW) The word translated as "speak" describes either a more casual form of speech ("prattle") and the speech of oracles ("proclaim"). It is speech that repeats something heard elsewhere, which is why Christ uses it to describe him own speech since he is relaying what he heard elsewhere.

good  - The adjective translated as "good" means "useful," "worthwhile," and "of high quality. When it used as a noun, it is usually introduced with an article ("the"), but that doesn't happen here. See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

things? -- This word is from the neuter, plural form of the

for  - 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.

out of -- The Greek preposition translated as "out of" means "out of" or "from." In Greek, they use the genitive case instead of a preposition for the types of phrases with usually use with "of."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

abundance  - "Abundance" is an adjective used as a noun which means "superfluidity," "that which remains over," and "abundant."

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

heart  - "Heart" is the noun that means the physical heart and, in Greek, the seat of feelings, especially feelings that motivate action.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

mouth - "Mouth" is the Greek word that means "mouth" and "the foremost part" of something. For example, the blade of a weapon is the same Greek word.

speaketh. - (CW, WT) The word translated as "speak" describes either a more casual form of speech ("prattle") and the speech of oracles ("proclaim"). It is speech that repeats something heard elsewhere, which is why Jesus uses it to describe him own speech since he is relaying what he heard elsewhere. It is in a tense describing something begun in the past but not yet completed.

KJV Translation Issues: 

4
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "speak" is not the common words usually translated as "speak."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "speak" is not the common words usually translated as "speak."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb  seems to be the present tense, but it is in the simple (imperfect) past.

NIV Analysis: 

You -- This is added to indicate that the following word is in the form of address, using it as a term to identify someone.

brood - "Generation" is from gennema, which means "that which born or produced," "offspring," "fruits" "breeding," "begetting," and "producing."

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession.

vipers, - "Vipers" is from a Greek word that means "viper," "constrictor snake," and is a metaphor for a treacherous wife or friend.

how -- "How" is the adverb that means "how," "by any means," and "I suppose." This is a common interrogatory pronoun used by Jesus.

can  -  In English, "can" is a helper verb, indicating a possibility and an ability. However, in ancient Greek, it indicated having the power or possibly a desire to accomplish something. The form here is one in which the subject acts on him or itself. This is someone empowering themselves. 

missing "by/for yourselves"-- (WV) A phrase is necessary because the form of the previous verb is a middle voice, which means that the subject is to  act on "yourselves," "for yourselves" or "by yourselves."

you -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

who -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "who" in the Greek source.

are -- (WF) The verb "are" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. The form is a present participle.

evil,  - The adjective translated as "evil" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This article explores its meaning in more detail.

say - (CW) The word translated as "say " describes either a more casual form of speech ("prattle") and the speech of oracles ("proclaim"). It is speech that repeats something heard elsewhere, which is why Christ uses it to describe him own speech since he is relaying what he heard elsewhere.

anything -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "anything" in the Greek source.

good  - The adjective translated as "good" means "useful," "worthwhile," and "of high quality. When it used as a noun, it is usually introduced with an article ("the"), but that doesn't happen here. See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

For - 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 -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

mouth - "Mouth" is the Greek word that means "mouth" and "the foremost part" of something. For example, the blade of a weapon is the same Greek word.

speaks  -  (CW, WT) The word translated as "speak" describes either a more casual form of speech ("prattle") and the speech of oracles ("proclaim"). It is speech that repeats something heard elsewhere, which is why Jesus uses it to describe him own speech since he is relaying what he heard elsewhere. It is in a tense describing something begun in the past but not yet completed.

what -- (CW) The word translated as "what" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

heart  - "Heart" is the noun that means the physical heart and, in Greek, the seat of feelings, especially feelings that motivate action.

is -- -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "is" in the Greek source.

full - "Full" is an adjective used as a noun which means "superfluidity," "that which remains over," and "abundant."

of. - The Greek preposition translated as "of" means "out of" or "from." In Greek, they use the genitive case instead of a preposition for the types of phrases with usually use with "of."

NIV Translation Issues: 

9
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "who" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "are" is not an active verb but a participle, "being."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "speak" is not the common words usually translated as "speak."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "anything" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "speak" is not the common words usually translated as "speak."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb  seems to be the present tense, but it is in the simple (imperfect) past.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "what" is closed to "the one" and not the word usually used for "what."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "is" doesn't exist in the source.

Front Page Date: 

Nov 9 2020