Matthew 15:9 But in vain they do worship me,

Spoken to: 

The Pharisees

Context: 

A confrontation with the Pharisees over the violation of tradition.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Falsely, however, they fear me, teaching teachings: commandments of men!

My Takeaway: 

People prefer their own ideas than those that God teaches.

KJV : 

Matthew 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

NIV : 

Matthew 15:9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Lots of interesting stuff here including so evidence that Christ and his followers referred to the old Testament word in the Septuagint, not the Hebrew. This verse with the previous one, quote Isaiah 29:13. The KJV translation of this verse is misleading, with the KJV translation of the old Testament Hebrew coming closer to the meaning of the Greek here. In the original Hebrew, this line is translated in KJV as saying, that "the fear of God comes from the teaching of men, not from God." The Greek could be translated similarly. Christ is actually telling people that they have nothing to fear from God, that the fear of God is taught to enforce the orders of men.

The sense of this verse and the previous one (Matthew 15:8) is to say that people think mentally they love God, but they have no feeling for God or relationship with Him. They falsely feel fear God because they teach the thoughts and preconceptions of men.

Interestingly, there is a real difference between the English translation of the Greek and the original Hebrew that doesn't exist between the Hebrew and the Greek. The English, at least of the King James, clearly did not look at the Hebrew version when creating a translation.

Wordplay: 

Christ switches around the wording of the Septuagint to make an alliteration, something like "teaching the teachings" or "indoctrinating the doctrines." This shows a kind of playfulness with scripture. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

μάτην [2 verses](adv) "In vain" is from the Greek maten which means "in vain," "fruitless," "at random," "idly," and "falsely."

δὲ (conj)  "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").

σέβονταί (verb 3rd pl pres ind mp) "Do they worship" is from sebomai, which means "feel awe," "full of awe," "feel fear" or "feel shame," before God, "fear to do," "revere," "honour," "respect," "approve," and "worship." In Hebrew, the sense of fear is more direct. The single word, yir'ah, which means "fear," "awe," or "fear of God." In the original Hebrew, this line is translated in KJV as saying, that the fear of God comes from the teaching of men, not from God. The Greek could and should be translated this way as well.

με, (pron 1st sg masc acc) "Me" is from eme, which means "I," "me," and "my."

διδάσκοντες (part pl pres act masc nom) "Teach" is from didasko, which means "to teach," "to instruct," "to indicate," "to explain," and "to give sign of."

διδασκαλίας (noun pl fem acc OR noun sg fem gen) "Doctrines" is from disaskalia which means "teachings," "instruction," "elucidation," and "official instruction."

ἐντάλματα [2 verses](noun pl neut acc) "Commandments" is from entalma, which means "to order." The Greek, entalma, only appears here and in the parallel verse, Mar 7:7. It is a form of entolê which means "injunction," "order," and "command."

ἀνθρώπων. (noun pl masc gen) "Of man" is from anthropos, which is "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate. -- The Greek word for "of man" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in plural.

Septuagint Version

μάτην (adv) "In vain" is from the Greek maten which means "in vain," "fruitless," "at random," "idly," and "falsely."

δὲ "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"). --

σέβονταί ( verb 3rd pl pres ind mp) "Do they worship" is from sebomai, which means "feel awe," "full of awe," "feel fear" or "feel shame," before God, "fear to do," "revere," "honour," "respect," "approve," and "worship." In Hebrew, the sense of fear is more direct. The single word, yir'ah, which means "fear," "awe," or "fear of God." In the original Hebrew, this line is translated in KJV as saying, that the fear of God comes from the teaching of men, not from God. The Greek could and should be translated this way as well.

με, (pron 1st sg masc acc) "Me" is from eme, which means "I," "me," and "my."

διδάσκοντες (part pl pres act masc nom) "Teach" is from didasko, which means "to teach," "to instruct," "to indicate," "to explain," and "to give sign of."

ἐντάλματα (noun pl neut acc) "Commandments" is from entalma, which means "to order." The Greek, entalma, only appears here and in the parallel verse, Mar 7:7. It is a form of entolê which means "injunction," "order," and "command."

ἀνθρώπων. (noun pl masc gen) "Of man" is from anthropos, which is "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate. -- The Greek word for "of man" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in plural.

καὶ (conj/adv) "And" is 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."

διδασκαλίας ( noun pl fem acc OR noun sg fem gen) "Teach" is from didasko, which means "to teach," "to instruct," "to indicate," "to explain," and "to give sign of."

KJV Analysis: 

But  - The Greek word translated as "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

in vain  - (CW) The word translated as "in vain," is an adverb that also means "fruitless," "at random," "idly," and "falsely." This word is only used here and in the parallel verse in Mark 7:7.

they  - This is from the plural form of the following verb.

do -- This helping verb is used to create questions, commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

worship  - "Worship" is from a verb that means "feel awe," "full of awe," "feel fear" or "feel shame," before God, "revere," "honor," "respect," and "worship." Notice this word also means "honor" and "revere" echoing the sense of another Greek word used in Matthew 15:6 (And he need not honor his father nor his mother) that started this discussion.. This verb is rarely used by Jesus but is used because it is the Greek word used in the Greek Septuagint. Note that its primary meaning is to "feel awe" or "fear," not worship. In original Hebrew, the sense of fear is more direct. The single word, yir'ah, which means "fear," "awe," and specifically, "fear of God." It is plural no singular.

me, -- "Me" is the regular first-person pronoun in Greek as the object of the verb or preposition.

teaching -- (WN) "Teaching" is a verb that means "to teach," "to instruct," "to explain," and "to give sign of." It is in the form of a participle, that is, an adjective form of the verb, so "teaching" or "explaining." It is plural not singular.

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

doctrines (noun pl neut acc)  "Doctrines" is the noun form of the verb above, so it which means "teachings," "instruction," "explanations," and "official instruction." There is no "for" in the Greek before this word.  This word comes at the end of the verse in the Septuagint version.

the  - (IW) There is no definite Greek article here, but in English we use the definitive article ("the") more commonly from the plural. 

commandments -- The Greek translated as "commandments" means " is a rare form of another Greek noun that means "injunction," "order," and "command." This form is used only here, in the parallel verse, Mar 7:7, and in the Septuagint version. While Jesus often uses unusual word for wordplay, he also uses them to be consistent with the original scripture. Except for here, quoting the Septuagint, Jesus used the common form of this noun.

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.

men. The Greek word for "of men" means "man," "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men," "people," and "peoples." 

KJV Translation Issues: 

4
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "in vain" should be "falsely."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "teaching" is translated as singular but he Greek word is plural, "teachings."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "for" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "the" doesn't exist in the source.

NIV Analysis: 

They - This is from the plural form of the following verb.

worship  - "Worship" is from a verb that means "feel awe," "full of awe," "feel fear" or "feel shame," before God, "revere," "honor," "respect," and "worship." Notice this word also means "honor" and "revere" echoing the sense of another Greek word used in Matthew 15:6 (And he need not honor his father nor his mother) that started this discussion.. This verb is rarely used by Jesus but is used because it is the Greek word used in the Greek Septuagint. Note that its primary meaning is to "feel awe" or "fear," not worship. In original Hebrew, the sense of fear is more direct. The single word, yir'ah, which means "fear," "awe," and specifically, "fear of God."

missing "however"  -- (MW) The untranslated  Greek word translated as "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

me, -- "Me" is the regular first-person pronoun in Greek as the object of the verb or preposition.

in vain  - (CW) The word translated as "in vain," is an adverb that also means "fruitless," "at random," "idly," and "falsely." This word is only used here and in the parallel verse in Mark 7:7.

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

teachings --"Teachings" is a participle that means "to teach," "to instruct," "to explain," and "to give sign of." It is in the form of a participle, that is, an adjective form of the verb, so "teaching" or "explaining."

are merely -- (IP) There is nothing that can be translated as "are meanly" in the Greek source.

human  - The Greek word for "human" means "man," "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men," "people," and "peoples."  The form is "of men."

The Greek word for "of men" means "man," "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men," "people," and "peoples." 

rules. -- The Greek translated as "rules" means " is a rare form of another Greek noun that means "injunction," "order," and "command." This form is used only here, in the parallel verse, Mar 7:7, and in the Septuagint version. While Jesus often uses unusual word for wordplay, he also uses them to be consistent with the original scripture. Except for here, quoting the Septuagint, Jesus used the common form of this noun.

NIV Translation Issues: 

4
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "however" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "in vain" should be "falsely."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "their" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "are merey" doesn't exist in the source.

Front Page Date: 

Jan 20 2021