Matthew 20:10 But when the first came,

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

A parable comparing the realm of the skies to hiring workers throughout the day.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

And showing up, the initial ones assumed that more they are getting, and they got it from top to bottom: a denarius, and they themselves....

KJV : 

Matthew 20:10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The last two Greek words in this verse, meaning "and they," very likely belong to the beginning of the next verse. They are translated as "likewise" in the KJV, and "of them," which is the wrong form of the pronoun, and "also" in the NIV. All the translators what this "and/also" to be part of the "received" clause, but if it was it would give away the punchline, which the listeners expect to be different than the previous verse, (like theworkers) but isn't. If these words are moved to where they belong, this verse ends on the same punchline as the previous verse, "from top to bottom a denarius."

Again, all biblical translations get the preposition at the end wrong, translating it as "each" and "every." While this conveys some of its meaning, it confusing it with the very common word that Jesus uses for "each" and "every." More importantly, it destroys Jesus's play on words, emphasizing the "top to bottom" sense of the words "first to last" nouns, which can also mean "top to bottom."  This preposition is only used six times by Jesus with the intent purpose of showing the range of something, here, the range of the payment.
 

NIV : 

Matthew 20:10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.

Wordplay: 

The word translated as "the first" also means "the highest" and "the best." 

The word translates as "every man" means "from bottom to top."   However, it also means "without understanding," which describes what is going on here. Finally, it also means "fulfillment," which also describes the payment. 

Both of these words continue the wordplay of Matthew 20:8 and Matthew 20:9 "last to first" wordplay. 

My Takeaway: 

Getting what is given is not getting what we expect.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

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."

ἐλθόντες [198 verses](part pl aor act masc nom) "Came" is 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.

οἱ (article pl masc nom)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

πρῶτοι (adj pl masc nom) "First" is from protos. In place, this means "the foremost." Of time, it means "the initial." In order, it means "the first." In math, it means the prime numbers. Of rank or degree, it means "the highest" or "the best."

ἐνόμισαν [3 verses](verb 3rd pl aor ind act) "They supposed" is nomizô, which primarily means "to use by custom" or "to be accustomed to." Secondarily, it means "to own", "to acknowledge", "to hold in honor," and "to believe." It is usually translated as "think" in the Gospels but in the sense of having specific expectations.

ὅτι (adv/conj)"That" is from hoti, which introduces a statement of fact "with regard to the fact that", "seeing that," and acts as a causal adverb meaning "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore." -- The word translated as "that" introduces a statement of fact or cause.

πλεῖον [15 verses](adj sg neut acc comp) "More" is pleiôn, which means "more [of number, size, extent]", "longer [of time]," "greater than," "further than," (with an article) "the greater number", "the mass or crowd", "the greater part", "the advantage. As an adverb, "more," or "rather."

λήμψονται: [54 verse](verb pl pres mp ind) "They should have received" is lambano means to "take", "take hold of", "grasp", "seize", "catch", "overtake", "find out", "detect", "take as", "take [food or drugs]", "understand", "take in hand", "undertake", "take in", "hold", "get", "receive [things]", "receive hospitably", "receive in marriage", "receive as produce", "profit", "admit", "initiate", "take hold of", "lay hold on", "seize and keep hold of", "obtain possession of", "lay hands upon", "find fault with", "censure," "to apprehend with the senses", "to take hold of," and "to seize." It is also specifically used to mean "seized with emotion."

καὶ  (conj/adv) "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."

ἔλαβον [54 verse](verb 3rd pl aor ind act) "They received" is from lambano means to "take", "take hold of", "grasp", "seize", "catch", "overtake", "find out", "detect", "take as", "take [food or drugs]", "understand", "take in hand", "undertake", "take in", "hold", "get", "receive [things]", "receive hospitably", "receive in marriage", "receive as produce", "profit", "admit", "initiate", "take hold of", "lay hold on", "seize and keep hold of", "obtain possession of", "lay hands upon", "find fault with", "censure," "to apprehend with the senses", "to take hold of," and "to seize." It is also specifically used to mean "seized with emotion."

[τὸ]  (article sg neut dat)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἀνὰ [6 verses] (prep) "Every man" is from ana, which is a preposition that means with the accusative: of Place: "up", "from bottom to top", "up along," of Time, "throughout," and, metaphorically, "continually in", "in," and "among."

δηνάριον [8 verses](noun sg neut acc) "Penny" is from denarion, which was the principle silver coin of the Roman Empire in NT times.

The next two words likely begin the next sentence since they do not fit gramatically here.

καὶ (conj/adv) "Likewise" is from kai, (with autos below) 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."

αὐτοί. (adj pl masc nom) "Likewise" is from autos, (with kai above) 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." -- The word translated as "him" is the Greek word commonly translated as pronouns in English, but it has a few shades of meaning our pronouns do not have. The word technically means "the same," and when used as a pronoun can mean "the true self" as opposed to appearances.

KJV Analysis: 

But  - (WW) The KJV Greek source had a "but" here, but today's sources have the Greek word usually used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also") and, In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also."

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

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. 

first  - The word translated as "the first" takes a lot of different types of "first" meanings from its context. Here it means "the initial" or "the first group" but it could also mean the "highest" or "the best." This is a word that fits into the wordplay of the last two verses. Here, it is technically an adjective but it plays the role of a noun.

came,  - (WF) The word translated as "came" primarily means "to start out" but Christ usually uses it to mean "come" but not always. 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." Our English word "show up" captures both the "start" and "come" ideas. See this article for more. The form is not an active verb, but a verbal adjective modifying "the first.

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

supposed  - The verb translated as "supposed" is a verb form of the Greek word for "the law." For a legislator, it means to enact a law, but that is not its primary meaning, which is "to be used by custom" and "to be accustomed to." It is usually translated as "think" in the Gospels but in the sense of having specific expectations. Secondarily, it means "to own", "to acknowledge", "to hold in honor," and "to believe."

that -- The word translated as "that" introduces a statement of fact or cause, "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore."

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

should -- (IW) This helping verb in English comes from the form of the Greek verb that indicates a possibility. We would usually say "might" or "should" in English, but that was not the form here.

have -- (WT) This helping verb "hath" indicates that the verb is the tense indicating an action competed in the past. This is not the tense of the verb here.

received  - The word translated as "received" primarily means "take," but might be closer to the way we use "get" today. It has many different uses as we use "take" and "get" in English, among these are the ideas of "understanding" ("getting it") and "possessing." It is the future tense. There is no word that can be translated as "should" but it is implied by the context. The tense is the present.. It is a middle form, indicating they got it for themselves, or the passive, "are getting."

more;  - The Greek word translated as "more " is an adjective that means "more" as in "more money."

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

likewise -- (CW) The Greek word translated as "likewise" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

missing "they"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "they" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns, "they" in the form here, in English.  It is in the form of a subject.

received  - The word translated as "they...received" primarily means "take," but might be closer to the way we use "get" today. It has many different uses as we use "take" and "get" in English, among these are the ideas of "understanding" ("getting it") and "possessing." It is not in the past tense but the "at a point in time" form.

every  - (WW) "Every " is from a preposition that means "from bottom to top", "up along," of Time, "throughout," and, metaphorically, "continually in", "in," and "among." However, the word also an adjective that means "without understanding" and a noun that means "fullfilment." It is the same word we say used in Matthew 20:9.

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

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.

penny  - "Penny" is from the Greek word for a denarius, which was a coin of silver, which had the purchasing power of about $70-$80 today (though comparisons are obviously not very meaningful). It was the standard wage for a day's labor by a general laborer, which for most of human history was an agricultural worker. To offer and agree to work for this wage would be considered the expected practice for hundreds of years around the birth of Christ in the Roman Empire.

KJV Translation Issues: 

8
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "but" should be "and."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "when" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "came" is not an active verb but a participle, "coming."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "should" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "have" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is something that happens at a specific point in time (past, present, or future).
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "likewise" is not the common word usually translated as "likewise."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "they" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "every" should be a preposition that means "from top to bottom."

NIV Analysis: 

So - (WW) The KJV Greek source had a "but" here, but today's sources have the Greek word usually used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also") and, In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also."

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

those -- The word translated as "those" 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. 

came,  - (WF) The word translated as "came" primarily means "to start out" but Christ usually uses it to mean "come" but not always. 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." Our English word "show up" captures both the "start" and "come" ideas. See this article for more. The form is not an active verb, but a verbal adjective modifying "the first.

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

first  - The word translated as "the first" takes a lot of different types of "first" meanings from its context. Here it means "the initial" or "the first group" but it could also mean the "highest" or "the best." This is a word that fits into the wordplay of the last two verses. Here, it is technically an adjective but it plays the role of a noun.

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

expected - The verb translated as "expected " is a verb form of the Greek word for "the law." For a legislator, it means to enact a law, but that is not its primary meaning, which is "to be used by custom" and "to be accustomed to." It is usually translated as "think" in the Gospels but in the sense of having specific expectations. Secondarily, it means "to own", "to acknowledge", "to hold in honor," and "to believe."

missing "that"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "that" introduces a statement of fact or cause, "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore."

to -- (WF) This "to" is added because the infinitive form of the verb requires a "to" in English. This word is not an infinitive.

receive  - The word translated as "receive" primarily means "take," but might be closer to the way we use "get" today. It has many different uses as we use "take" and "get" in English, among these are the ideas of "understanding" ("getting it") and "possessing." It is the future tense. There is no word that can be translated as "should" but it is implied by the context. The tense is the present.. It is a middle form, indicating they got it for themselves, or the passive, "are getting."

more;  - The Greek word translated as "more " is an adjective that means "more" as in "more money."

But -- (WW) The Greek word translated as "but" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

each - (WW) "Each" is from a preposition that means "from bottom to top", "up along," of Time, "throughout," and, metaphorically, "continually in", "in," and "among." However, the word also an adjective that means "without understanding" and a noun that means "fullfilment." It is the same word we say used in Matthew 20:9.

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

them -- (WF) "They" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns, "they" in the form here, in English.  It is in the form of a subject.

also  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

received  - The word translated as "they...received" primarily means "take," but might be closer to the way we use "get" today. It has many different uses as we use "take" and "get" in English, among these are the ideas of "understanding" ("getting it") and "possessing." It is not in the past tense but the "at a point in time" form.

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.

denarius - "Denarius" is from the Greek word for a denarius, which was a coin of silver, which had the purchasing power of about $70-$80 today (though comparisons are obviously not very meaningful). It was the standard wage for a day's labor by a general laborer, which for most of human history was an agricultural worker. To offer and agree to work for this wage would be considered the expected practice for hundreds of years around the birth of Christ in the Roman Empire.

NIV Translation Issues: 

10
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "so" should be "and."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "when" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "came" is not an active verb but a participle, "coming."
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "who were hired" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "that" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "to receive" is not an infinitive, but a passive verb "are getting."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "but" should be "and."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "each" should be a preposition that means "from top to bottom."
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "one of" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "them" is not an possessive, but in the form of a subject, "they."

Front Page Date: 

May 14 2021