Matthew 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay

Spoken to: 

an individual

Context: 

Sermon on Mount, law and fulfillment, visible and hidden, vows and debts,

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

It must be, however, this discussion of yours, yes yes, no no. Anything, however, more than these? They are from that worthlessness.

You fix by agreement, however, this discussion of yours: Things, however, more than these? They are from  of the worthless one.

My Takeaway: 

We should trust each other to honor our debts based upon our personal history of standing behind our word.

KJV : 

Matthew 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

NIV : 

Matthew 5:37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

3rd Translation: 

Matthew 5:37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse has two Greek words that I have written extensively about elsewhere. One is the  Greek word translated as "communication/saw," which is usually translated as "word" (article about it here).  This is the second time Jesus uses this word, but you wouldn't know it because it was translated as "for the cause" in the other (Matthew 5:32). The other is the word translated here as "evil/evil one" (article about it here).

"Let... be" that starts this verse from the verb "to be," but it is also a form of another common verb that means "to make to stand", "to establish", and, most importantly, "to fix by agreement." This last meaning is obviously the most relevant. It would be in the second person singular, which matches the previous verse. The following "your"  is plural, but that pronoun modifies the word translated as "communication," in the sense of "discussion," which obviously takes place between two people. This noun is completely ignored in more recent translations.

This section of verses about swearing and vows is also about creating debts, which is important for understanding the final word, the punchline. The word means "worthless" not "evil." The word "worthy" means "counterbalancing." The topic of worthless exchanges continues in the next verse (Matthew 5:38).

Wordplay: 

The duplication of "yes" and "no" to create the sense of "truly yes" and "really no." This is similar to the double "amen" phrase used throughout John. 

The word translated as "let...be" also means "stand up for yourselves". 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ἔστω (3rd sg pres imperat act) "Let... be" could be from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." OR ( verb 2nd sg aor ind mid ) "Let be" could be histemi, which means "to make to stand", "to stand", "to set up", "to bring to a standstill", "to check", "to appoint", "to establish", "to fix by agreement", "to be placed", "to be set", "to stand still", "to stand firm", "to set upright", "to erected", "to arise," and "to place.

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").

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

λόγος (noun sg masc nom) "Communication" is from logos, which means "computation", "relation", "explanation", "law", "rule of conduct", "continuous statement", "tradition", "discussion," "reckoning," "word", and "value."

ὑμῶν (adj pl masc gen) "Your" is from humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

ναὶναὶ [8 verses](adv) "Yes" is from nai, which means "yea,""yes", "truly," and similar ideas.

οὒοὒ (adv) "Nay" 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.

τὸ (article sg neut nom/acc ) "Whatever" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun. Here it is separated from its noun by a particle.

δὲ (partic) "For" 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").

περισσὸν (adj sg neut nom/acc) "More" is from perissos, which means "beyond the regular number of size", "out of the common", "extraordinary" "more than sufficient", "superfluous", "useless", "excessive", "extravagant", "over-wise", "over-curious", "abundantly," and "remarkable."

τούτων (adj pl masc/fem/neut gen) "Than these" is from houtos, which means "this", "that", "the nearer."

ἐκ (prep) "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."

τοῦ (article sg masc gen)  (article)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." --

πονηροῦ (adj sg masc gen) "Evil" is from poneros, which we discuss extensively in this page. In a moral sense, it means "worthless", "base," and "cowardly."

ἐστίν. (verb 3rd sg pres ind) "Is" 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.")

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. When used in writing, it creates complex sentences, but when spoken, it makes a good pausing point so that an important or humorous word can follow.

let -- This "let" is the helping verb used to translate the Greek form of the third-person command. In English all commands are in the second-person. This form is used as something like our word "must."

your -- The word translated as "your" is a plural, second-person pronoun in the genitive case. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

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

communication -- "Communication" is translated from a Greek word that means "calculation," or "reasoning," but it has many, many specific meanings from "deliberation" to "narrative."  It is the source of our word "logic" and is the root word for all the English words that end in "-ology." Most biblical translations translated it as "word" for somewhat poetic reasons. More about this word in this article. In English, we would say "idea" to describe it but it also means communication of various types.  This is the subject of the sentence. 

be -- The verb "be" 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 of a "third-person command." . This form is common in Greek. In English we use the word "must" to capture this idea: "It must be." However, this Greek word could also be a verb that means "to make a stand" or, more relevant here, "to fix by agreement". In this case, the form is a simple statement about what you do.

Yea, yea; -- The word translated as "yea" can be translated as "yes," or "truly". Interestingly, tt is not a common word for Christ to use. IIt is repeated twice, which makes it more extreme, like "yes, absolutely." 

Nay, nay:  -- The word translated as "nay" is the common word translated as "no," which can be translated as "no", "not," or "no truly."It is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. It is repeated twice, which makes it more extreme, like "no, never." 

for -- (WW) The Greek word translated as "for" is the same word translated as "but" at the beginning of this verse. Christ uses another Greek word to mean "for" or "because." However, this word can also be used as an explanation of a cause, "so", which is closer here.

whatsoever -- (CW) -- The word translated as "those" is the Greek definite article, which when not preceding a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

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

more -- The Greek word translated as "more" means "beyond the regular number of size", "out of the common", "extraordinary" "more than sufficient", and "superfluous." Since it is preceded by an article, it acts like a noun, so "the superfluous," "the excess," and "the useless" works in English.

than  -- This word "than"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "than" in comparisons.

these -- The Greek word translated as "these" is the word that means "these" in a form that can be used as a comparative.

cometh -- (WW) The verb "cometh" 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.  This word appears at the end of the verse and "exists" works best in that position.

of -- (CW) The Greek word translated as "of" primarily means "out of" and "from." It indicates moving from a source or location.

untranslated "the one"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the," 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. 

evil.  -- (CW) The Greek word translated as "evil" is closer in meaning to "worthless." This Greek word is discussed extensively on this page. It is introduced with an article so, "the worthless". As in English, this would describe a class of people as well as of actions.

KJV Translation Issues: 

7
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "communication" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "for" should be "but."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "whatsoever" is the Greek article with the sense of "the things."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "is" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "cometh" should be "is" or "exists."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "evil" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "evil" does not mean "evil" as much as "worthless."

NIV Analysis: 

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

untranslated "but"-- (MW) The untranslated word "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better. When used in writing, it creates complex sentences, but when spoken, it makes a good pausing point so that an important or humorous word can follow.

you -- (WF) -- The word translated as "you" is plural addressing a group of Jesus's listeners. It is possessive and follows the noun so "of yours."

need -- This "need " is the helping verb used to translate the Greek form of the third-person command. In English all commands are in the second-person. This form is used as something like our word "must."

untranslated "be"-- (MW) The untranslated word "be" 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 of a "third-person command." . This form is common in Greek. In English we use the word "must" to capture this idea: "It must be." However, this Greek word could also be a verb that means "to make a stand" or, more relevant here, "to fix by agreement". In this case, the form is a simple statement about what you do.

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

say-- (WF) "Say" is translated from a Greek noun that means "calculation," or "reasoning," but it has many, many specific meanings from "deliberation" to "narrative."  It is the source of our word "logic" and is the root word for all the English words that end in "-ology." Most biblical translations translated it as "word" for somewhat poetic reasons. More about this word in this article. In English, we would say "idea" to describe it but it also means communication of various types.  This is the subject of the sentence. 

Yes, -- (CW) The word translated as "yes" can be translated as "yes," or "truly". Interestingly, tt is not a common word for Christ to use. It is repeated twice, which makes it more extreme, like "yes, absolutely." 

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

‘No’:  -- The word translated as "no" is the common word translated as "no," which can be translated as "no", "not," or"no truly." It is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. It is repeated twice, which makes it more extreme, like "no, never." 

untranslated "but"-- (MW) The untranslated word "but" is the same word translated as "but" at the beginning of this verse. Christ uses another Greek word to mean "for" or "because." However, this word can also be used as an explanation of a cause, "so", which is closer here.

anything -- (CW) The word translated as "those" is the Greek definite article, which when not preceding a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

beyond -- The Greek word translated as "more" means "beyond the regular number of size", "out of the common", "extraordinary" "more than sufficient", and "superfluous." Since it is preceded by an article, it acts like a noun, so "the superfluous," "the excess," and "the useless" works in English.

this -- (WN) The Greek word translated as "this" is the word that means "these" in a form that can be used as a comparative. It is plural, not singular.

comes -- (WW) The verb "comes" 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.  This word appears at the end of the verse and "exists" works best in that position.

from -- The Greek word translated as "of" primarily means "out of" and "from." It indicates moving from a source or location.

the    -- The word translated as "the one" is the Greek definite article, which when not preceding a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

evil.  -- (CW) The Greek word translated as "evil" is closer in meaning to "worthless." This Greek word is discussed extensively on this page. It is introduced with an article so, "the worthless". As in English, this would describe a class of people as well as of actions.

one. -- This "one" is from the earlier article.

NIV Translation Issues: 

14
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "all" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "but" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "you" is not the subject but a possessive form, "of you."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "be" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "communication" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The verb "say" is a noun, "discussion."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "yes" should be repeated or made stronger in some way.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "or" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "no" should be repeated or made stronger in some way.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "but" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "anything" is not a pronoun or the word usually translated as "anything" but an article, "the one" or "that."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "this" is translated as singular but it is plural, "these."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "comes" should be "is" or "exists."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "evil" does not mean "evil" as much as "worthless."

3rd Analysis: 

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

untranslated "but"-- (MW) The untranslated word "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better. When used in writing, it creates complex sentences, but when spoken, it makes a good pausing point so that an important or humorous word can follow.

untranslated "be"-- (MW) The untranslated word "be" 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 of a "third-person command." . This form is common in Greek. In English we use the word "must" to capture this idea: "It must be." However, this Greek word could also be a verb that means "to make a stand" or, more relevant here, "to fix by agreement". In this case, the form is a simple statement about what you do.

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

say-- (WF) "Say" is translated from a Greek noun that means "calculation," or "reasoning," but it has many, many specific meanings from "deliberation" to "narrative."  It is the source of our word "logic" and is the root word for all the English words that end in "-ology." Most biblical translations translated it as "word" for somewhat poetic reasons. More about this word in this article. In English, we would say "idea" to describe it but it also means communication of various types.  This is the subject of the sentence. 

untranslated "your"-- (MW) The untranslated word "your" is a plural, second-person pronoun in the genitive case. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

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

‘Yes, I will,’ -- The word translated as "yes" can be translated as "yes," or "truly". Interestingly, tt is not a common word for Christ to use. It is repeated twice, which makes it more extreme, like "yes, absolutely." 

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

‘No, I won’t.’’  -- The word translated as "no" is the common word translated as "no," which can be translated as "no", "not," or"no truly." It is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. It is repeated twice, which makes it more extreme, like "no, never." 

untranslated "but"-- (MW) The untranslated word "but" is the same word translated as "but" at the beginning of this verse. Christ uses another Greek word to mean "for" or "because." However, this word can also be used as an explanation of a cause, "so", which is closer here.

Anything -- (CW) The word translated as "those" is the Greek definite article, which when not preceding a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

beyond -- The Greek word translated as "more" means "beyond the regular number of size", "out of the common", "extraordinary" "more than sufficient", and "superfluous." Since it is preceded by an article, it acts like a noun, so "the superfluous," "the excess," and "the useless" works in English.

this -- (WN) The Greek word translated as "this" is the word that means "these" in a form that can be used as a comparative. It is plural, not singular.

is -- The verb "is" 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.  This word appears at the end of the verse and "exists" works best in that position.

from -- The Greek word translated as "of" primarily means "out of" and "from." It indicates moving from a source or location.

the    -- The word translated as "the one" is the Greek definite article, which when not preceding a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

evil.  -- (CW) The Greek word translated as "evil" is closer in meaning to "worthless." This Greek word is discussed extensively on this page. It is introduced with an article so, "the worthless". As in English, this would describe a class of people as well as of actions.

one. -- This "one" is from the earlier article.

3rd Issue Count: 

11
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "just" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "but" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "be" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "communication" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The verb "say" is a noun, "discussion."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "just" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "or" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "but" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "anything" is not a pronoun or the word usually translated as "anything" but an article, "the one" or "that."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "this" is translated as singular but it is plural, "these."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "evil" does not mean "evil" as much as "worthless."

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

One interpretation of this line is that making excessive statement signals dishonestly. Like a salesperson that uses the word "honestly" most often when he isn't telling the truth, the offering of an oath to support our words is in itself evidence of our own doubts. This line is also a warning to us about our need to suspect deception from others. Words are just words. When people swear, it doesn't prove anything about their honesty. As a matter of fact, it should make us suspect their honesty.

evidence: 

36.00

Front Page Date: 

May 13 2020