Matthew 18:6 But whoever shall offend one of these little ones

Spoken to: 

Apostles

Context: 

The Apostles ask who is greatest in the realm of the skies and Jesus points to a little child.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

The one that, however, when he trips up one of these little ones, these ones, the ones trusting in me? It is better for him that it should be hung, a millstone of an ass around that throat of his and he should be sunk into open waters of the sea.

KJV : 

Matthew 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The images here are all comic exaggeration. The millstone is described as "for an ass," which makes it the hge millstones that were dragged by an ass attached to them, going around in a circle. We cannot know if the "for an ass" had the same pejorative sense then as today, but clearly, the image is overkill and lost in translation.

Jesus repeats the beginning of the two previous verses, but he changes the word used for "child" to "little ones" This is a play against the adjective "great" and verb meaning "lower" of the previous verse.

This verse is also interesting because of the differences among this version and Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2.  It holds a lot of clues about the source of Jesus's quotes in the Gospels (See Mark 9:42) and even how Jesus's lines changed over time. as he used them (See Luke 17:2)

NIV : 

Matthew 18:6 If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Wordplay: 

The play on words here combines the ideas lifted up with the idea of being sunk into the ocean. The"up" idea  is repeated with both the "it would be better (uplifting)" verb and the "hung up" verb, while the "down" idea is repeated in the "drowned" (thrown down in the sea) and the "depths" words. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ὃς (pron sg masc nom)"Whoso" is from hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

δ -- The Greek word translated as "but" means "but", "however", and "on the other hand". It joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.  

ἂν (conj) "If" is ean, which is a conditional particle (derived from ei (if) and an (might), which makes reference to a time and experience in the future that introduces but does not determine an event.

σκανδαλίσῃ [20 verses]( verb 3rd sg aor subj act ) "Shall offend" is from skandalizô, which means "to cause someone to stumble" and "to give offense." It is from skandalon, which means a "trap" or "snare" for an enemy. This is one of the words that starts with the Greek version of the Old Testament from the Hebrew word for "noose" or "snare."

ἕνα [94 verses](noun sg masc acc) "One" is from heis, which means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same." As in English, it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person.

τῶν (article pl masc gen)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

μικρῶν [13 verses]( adj pl masc gen) "Little ones" is from mikros, which means "small", "little", "unimportant", "petty", "trivial", "slight," and "young."It is one of several words Christ uses to refer to children. It is a change from the word used in the previous verses to refer to children, paidion, which means "a young child."

τούτων (adj pl masc gen) "These" is from toutou, which is a demonstrative pronoun that means "this", "here", "the nearer," and "the familiar."

τῶν (article pl masc gen)  "Which" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

πιστευόντων  [69 verses](part pl pres act masc gen) "Which believe" is pisteuo, which means "to trust, put faith in, or rely on a person", "to believe in someone's words", "to comply", "to feel confident in a thing," and "to entrust in a thing."

εἰς (prep) "In" is from eis, which means "into (of place)," "up to (of time)", "until (of time)", "as much as (of measure or limit)", "as far as (of measure or limit)", "towards (to express relation)", "in regard to (to express relation)", "of an end or limit," and "for (of purpose or object)." -- The word translated as "unto" means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

ἐμέ, (noun sg masc acc) "Me" is eme, which means "I", "me", and "my".

συμφέρει [5 verses](verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "It were better" is symphero, which means "to bring together", "to gather", "collect", "to confer a benefit", "to be useful", "work with", "be with," and "agree with." In the passive, it means "to come together", "to engage", "to battle," [of events] "to occur", "to happen," and [literally] "to be carried along with."

αὐτῷ (adj sg masc dat) "For him" 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." -

ἵνα  (adv/conj) "That" is hina, which means "in that place", "there", "where", "when",  but when beginning a phrase "that", "in order that", "when," and "because."

κρεμασθῇ [2 verses](verb 3rd sg aor subj pass) "Were hanged" is kremannymi, which means to "hang up", "hang", "crucify", "hang over," and, in the passive, "to be hung up", "to be hanged", "suspended," "to be wholly taken up with," and, metaphorically, "to be in suspense."

μύλος [2 verses](noun sg masc nom) "Millstone" is mylos, which means "mill", "millstone", "grinder", "molar," and, generally, "stone."

ὀνικὸς [2 verses](adj sg masc nom) Untranslated is onikos, which means "of an ass," and "for an ass."

περὶ (prep)"About" is from peri, which means "round about (Place)", "around", "about", "concerning", "on account of", "in regard to", "before", "above", "beyond," and "all around."

τὸν (article sg masc acc)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

τράχηλον [4 verses](noun sg masc acc) "Neck" is trachêlos, which means "neck", "parts resembling a neck," and "throat."

αὐτοῦ (adj sg masc gen) "His" 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." -

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."

καταποντισθῇ [1 verse](verb 3rd sg aor subj pass) "He were drowned" is katapontizo, which means "to be thrown in the sea", "to plunge into the sea", "to sink into the sea," and "to drown." The first word, kata, means "downward."

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"

τῷ (article sg neut dat)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

πελάγει [1 verse](noun sg neut dat) "Depth" is pelagos, which "the high seas," and "to open sea." It is a metaphor for a large amount of anything, as we would use "a sea of troubles."

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

θαλάσσης.[11 verses](noun sg fem gen) "The sea" is thalassa, which means also means "sea" or "sea water."

KJV Analysis: 

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

whoso  - The word translated as "whoso" is a demonstrative pronoun, but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause.

missing "when"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when".

shall -- (CW) This helping verb "shall" does not indicate the future tense, but that the verb describes a possibility, the subjunctive voice. A "might" or "should" in English is more appropriate, but is assumed in an "if" or "when" clause like we have here. Helping verbs are not needed in Greek since the main verb carries this information in its form.

offend -- "Offend" is a verb that means "to cause to stumble" or "to trip up." From there it is assumed by its translators to mean "to give offense" and "to scandalize." Our word "scandalize" comes directly from the Greek. However, this interpretation of the word only comes from the translators of the Gospels. This is a Koine word that is found originally only in the New Testament, but based on a noun found only in the Greek Old Testament meaning "snare," or "stumbling block." The noun is changed to a verb by adding an ending very much like we add "ize" to a noun in order to make it a verb.  So, literally, it would mean to "stumblize." In English, we would simply say, "trips up" capturing the same idea exactly. 

one The Greek word translated as "one" means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same."As in English, it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person.

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.

these -- The word translated as "these" means "from here" or "this/that thing. This word comes after "little ones."

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

little ones  - "Little ones" is from an adjective, used as a noun, which means "small", "little," and "young." So, "the little" or, in the plural as used here, "little ones." It is a change from the noun used in the previous verse that means specifically refer to "little" or "young" children. See this article about the words Jesus uses for children.

which -- (WW) 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. 

believe  - (WF) "Believe" is from a verb in the form of an adjective used as a noun, which means "to trust in", "to rely on," and "to put your faith in" a person. So, it is "the ones trusting in me." This Greek word does not apply to religious belief as much as it does trusting in other people, especially their words.

in -- The word translated as "in" means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, "in regards to" a subject, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

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

it -- This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb.

were -- (WT) This helping verb "were" indicates that the verb is the past tense, but the verb is the present tense.

better  - "Be better" is from a verb that means  means "to bring together," "work with," and "agree with." Jesus only uses it five times always in the sense of "being better."

for -- This word "for" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. The most common is a "to" for the English indirect object. However, the translator can choose other prepositions: "with,"  "in,"   "of,"  "as," "by," "for," "at," or "on" depending on the context. The case can indicate a "with" for instruments, an "in" for locations, an "as" for purposes, an "about" (or "for" or "against") indicating interest, an "of" for possession, a "by" for agents, an "as" for comparisons, "at" or "on" a time, and an "in" for area of affect. -

him - The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

that -- The word translated as "that" is an adverb "in that place", "there", "where", "when", or as a conjunction that starts a subordinate clause  "that," "in order that" or "because."

a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

millstone  - "Millstone" is from two Greek words. The first word is any type of "mill", "millstone", "grinder," and "stone."

missing "for a mule"  -- (MW) Untranslated is an adjective that means "of an ass," and "for an ass."

were  - (WW) The helping verb here should be either "should be" or "might be" because it comes from the subjunctive form of a passive verb. The tense is not the past tense, but one indicating a point in time.

hanged  - "Hanged" is from a verb that means "to hang" and, in the passive, "to be hanged." Interestingly, it also has a little of the sense we used in phrases such as to be "hung up" on something as in to be "wholly taken up with it."

about -- The Greek word translated as "about" means "around" when referring to a place, but in referring to a subject, it means "about", "concerning", "on account of," and "in regard to."

his  - The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.  It appears after "neck". The form is "that neck of his". 

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

neck,  - "Neck" is from the Greek word that means "neck" and "throat."

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

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

he -- This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb.

were - (WW) The helping verb here should be either "should be" or "might be" because it comes from the subjunctive form of a passive verb. The tense is not the past tense, but one indicating a point in time.

drowned  - "Drowned" is from a verb which means "to be thrown in the sea," and "to drown," but the prefix on it means "downward," so the sense is "down in the sea."

in  - The word translated as "in" means "within", "with," or "among."

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. 

depth  - "Depth" is from a noun, which "the high seas," and "to open sea." It distinguishes the deep sea from the shallow shore regions. It is a metaphor for a large amount of anything, as we would use "a sea of troubles."

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. 

sea.  - "The sea" is from a word that means also means "sea" or "sea water."

KJV Translation Issues: 

11
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "when" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "shall" does not mean the future tense.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "little ones" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "which" should be "the one."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "believe" is not an active verb but a participle, "believing."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "were" indicates the past tense, but that is not the tense here. This verb is the present.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "for a mule" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The helping verbtranslated as "were" should be "should be."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "neck" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "that" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The second helping verb translated as "were" should be "should be."

NIV Analysis: 

If -- (CW) The word translated as "if" means  "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when".

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

anyone - (CW) The word translated as "anyone " is a demonstrative pronoun, but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause. This is not the Greek word normally translated as "anyone."

causes -- "Causes" is a verb that means "to cause to stumble" or "to trip up." From there it is assumed by its translators to mean "to give offense" and "to scandalize." Our word "scandalize" comes directly from the Greek. However, this interpretation of the word only comes from the translators of the Gospels. This is a Koine word that is found originally only in the New Testament, but based on a noun found only in the Greek Old Testament meaning "snare," or "stumbling block." The noun is changed to a verb by adding an ending very much like we add "ize" to a noun in order to make it a verb.  So, literally, it would mean to "stumblize." In English, we would simply say, "trips up" capturing the same idea exactly. 

one The Greek word translated as "one" means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same."As in English, it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person.

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.

these -- The word translated as "these" means "from here" or "this/that thing. This word comes after "little ones."

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

little ones  - "Little ones" is from an adjective, used as a noun, which means "small", "little," and "young." So, "the little" or, in the plural as used here, "little ones." It is a change from the noun used in the previous verse that means specifically refer to "little" or "young" children. See this article about the words Jesus uses for children.

—those - The "those" is the Greek definite article, which without a noun has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

who -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "who" in the Greek source. It was added because the previous verb was translated as active rather than a participle.

believe  - (WF) "Believe" is from a verb in the form of an adjective used as a noun, which means "to trust in", "to rely on," and "to put your faith in" a person. So, it is "the ones trusting in me." This Greek word does not apply to religious belief as much as it does trusting in other people, especially their words.

in -- The word translated as "in" means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, "in regards to" a subject, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

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

to stumble -- This finishes the idea of the "causes" Greek verb above.

it -- This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb.

would -- -- (WT) This helping verb "would" indicates that the verb indicates a possibility not the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English. A "should" or "might" is correct.

be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

better  - "Be better" is from a verb that means  means "to bring together," "work with," and "agree with." Jesus only uses it five times always in the sense of "being better."

for -- This word "for" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. The most common is a "to" for the English indirect object. However, the translator can choose other prepositions: "with,"  "in,"   "of,"  "as," "by," "for," "at," or "on" depending on the context. The case can indicate a "with" for instruments, an "in" for locations, an "as" for purposes, an "about" (or "for" or "against") indicating interest, an "of" for possession, a "by" for agents, an "as" for comparisons, "at" or "on" a time, and an "in" for area of affect. -

them - (WN) The word translated as "them " is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

missing "that"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "that" is an adverb "in that place", "there", "where", "when", or as a conjunction that starts a subordinate clause  "that," "in order that" or "because."

to -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "to" in the Greek source. There is no infinitive here.

have -- (WW) This helping verb should be "be" to indicate that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

large   -- (CW) The word translated as "large" is an adjective that means "of an ass," and "for an ass." Since it was moved by an ass, it is a large millstone.

millstone  - "Millstone" is from two Greek words. The first word is any type of "mill", "millstone", "grinder," and "stone."

missing "should"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "should" is needed for the form of the verb of possibiliy is not shown in the English translation.

hung- "Hanged" is from a verb that means "to hang" and, in the passive, "to be hanged." Interestingly, it also has a little of the sense we used in phrases such as to be "hung up" on something as in to be "wholly taken up with it."

around -- The Greek word translated as "around" means "around" when referring to a place, but in referring to a subject, it means "about", "concerning", "on account of," and "in regard to."

their - (WN) The word translated as "their " is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.  It appears after "neck". The form is "that neck of his". 

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

neck,  - "Neck" is from the Greek word that means "neck" and "throat."

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

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

be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

drowned  - "Drowned" is from a verb which means "to be thrown in the sea," and "to drown," but the prefix on it means "downward," so the sense is "down in the sea."

in  - The word translated as "in" means "within", "with," or "among."

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. 

depths  - "Depth" is from a noun, which "the high seas," and "to open sea." It distinguishes the deep sea from the shallow shore regions. It is a metaphor for a large amount of anything, as we would use "a sea of troubles."

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. 

sea.  - "The sea" is from a word that means also means "sea" or "sea water."

NIV Translation Issues: 

17
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "if" is a word better translated as "when."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "however" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "anyone" is not the common word usually translated as "anyone."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "who" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "believe" is not an active verb but a participle, "believing."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "that"  is not shown in the English translation.
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "would" indicates the future tense, but that is not the tense here. This verb is the present.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "them" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "to" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "have" should be "be" for a present passive verb.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "large" is not the common word usually translated as "large" but a special word meaning "of an ass."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "should" is needed to show the form of a verb of possibility.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "their" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "to" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "neck" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "that" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The second helping verb translated as "were" should be "should be."

Front Page Date: 

Mar 8 2021