Matthew 21:29  He answered and said, I will not:

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

In a lesson about authority, after opponents question his authority, Jesus tells a story of a father with two sons to set up a question about authority.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

The one, however, answering said, "I [am], master!" And no, he didn't depart.

My Takeaway: 

For some people saying the right words is more important than doing the right thing.

KJV : 

Matthew 21:29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

NIV : 

Matthew 21:29 ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The "no" of the son's response is not the Greek negative of opinion which usually goes with a verb of thought or feeling translated as "will" but meaning "want" or "desire," but Jesus only uses this negative with this verb so it makes it feel more adamant.

The change in responses between the first son to the second (see note below and Greek translation) goes back to the Latin Vulgate. This is because Jesus's opponents say that the first son is the more virtuous in Matthew 21:31. This seemed like a "mistake" on the part of Gospel writers, but I suggest that Jesus's opponents really did see the son that answered correctly as the one who did his father's will, that is, telling him what he wanted to hear without lying. See the note on the next article to understand my translation.

NOTE: The sources used by Biblical translators differ in this verse from my source. So I in this post I first translated the Greek source I use, then I translate the Greek used by Biblical translators (the son's response in the next verse).  My Greek source shows the first son giving a positive response but negative action and the negative response and positive action in the following verse about the second son. In my analysis of the Biblical translations, I will compare with the Greek in the next verse.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

(article sg masc nom) "He" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun but here is separated from its noun by the following conjunction.

δὲ (conj) "Untranslated" is 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"). --

ἀποκριθεὶς [17 verses](part sg aor pass masc nom) "Answered" is apokrinomai that means to "set apart," "choose," "exclude," "reject on examination," "decide," "answer" the question, "answer charges," and "defend oneself" and, in the passive, "to be parted or separated." In the Gospels, it is always translated as "answered."

εἶπεν [162 verses](verb 3rd sg aor ind) "Said" is from eipon, which means "to speak," "to say," "to recite," "to address," "to mention," "to name," "to proclaim," "to plead," "to promise," and "to offer."

The Biblical Version mGNT:

Οὐ (partic) "No" 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.

θέλω: [64 verses](verb 1st sg pres ind act) "I will" is from thelô (thelo), which as a verb means "to be willing," "to wish," "to ordain," "to decree," "to be resolved to a purpose" and "to desire." As an adjective, it means "wished for" and "desired."

ὕστερον [5 verses](adj sg masc acc) "Afterwards" is hysteros (husteros), which means "latter," "last," "coming after," "after" (in Time), "posterior," "inferior," and "extremely."

μεταμεληθεὶς [1 verse of 2](participle, passive, aor) "Repent" is metamellomai, which means "to feel repentance," "to repent a thing," "to change one's purpose or conduct," and "to feel regret." Since this is a passive participle, "being made to feel regret."

ἀπῆλθεν. [22 verses](verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "He went" is aperchomai, which means "to go away," "to depart from," "to spread abroad," and "to depart from life."

The Perseus Version mGNT:

Ἐγώ,[162 verses] (pron 1st sg masc nom) "I" is from ego, which is the first person singular pronoun meaning "I". It also means "I at least," "for my part," "indeed," and for myself. -- The pronoun "I" is used here. Since, as the subject of the sentence, it is part of the verb, its explicit use accentuates who is speaking "I." Saying "I myself" captures this feeling in English.

κύριε: [92 verses](noun sg masc/fem voc) "Lord" is kyrios (kurios), which means "having power," "being in authority" and "being in possession of." It also means "lord," "master of the house," and "head of the family."

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."

οὐκ (partic) "Not" 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.

ἀπῆλθεν. [22 verses] (verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "Went" is aperchomai, which means "to go away," "to depart from," "to spread abroad," and "to depart from life."

KJV Analysis: 

He -- (WW) The word translated as "he" 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. 

missing "however"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "however" 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.  It also an explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

answered  - (WF)  "Answered" is from a verb that means to "set apart," "choose," "answer" a question, "answer charges," and "defend oneself." In the passive, it means "to be parted or separated." In the Gospels, it is always translated as "answered." However, in the passive but our English word "answer" doesn't quite work that way this word does. It is in the form of an adjective, a particle, "answering."

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

said, "Said" is from a verb that means "to say" and "to speak" also. However, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and proclaiming.

I -- This is from the first-person, singular form of the verb.

will - (CW) "Will" is from a verb that means "to be resolved to a purpose" and "to desire." The "purpose" meaning is important because of the next word. It is not the helping verb "will" that indicates the future tense.

not:  - The "no" is from the "no" of fact, not opinion. Since the speaker is expressing an opinion, it is like someone adding "really" in English. This is the first word of the son's response and it doesn't match the verb so it is extreme.

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

afterward -- The word translated as "afterward," means "latter," "last," "coming after," "after" (in Time), "posterior," "inferior," and "extremely." It is technically an adjective, but it works like an adjective.

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

repented,  - (CW, WF) The word translated as "repent" is not the verb usually translated as "repent" in the NT, but it means "repent" in the sense of feeling regret. It is in the form of a passive adjective, "being made to feel regret."

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

went. -- (CW) "Went" is from a verb that means "to go away," and "to depart from." It is not the past tense of the word "to go."

KJV Translation Issues: 

10
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "he" should be "the one."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "however" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "answered" is not an active verb but a participle, "answering."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "and" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "will" does not mean the future tense.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "but" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "repented" is not the same as the word usually translated as "repent."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "repented" is not an active verb but a participle, "feeling regret."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "and" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "went" is not the same as the word usually translated as "go."

NIV Analysis: 

I -- This is from the first-person, singular form of the verb.

will - (CW) "Will" is from a verb that means "to be resolved to a purpose" and "to desire." The "purpose" meaning is important because of the next word. It is not the helping verb "will" that indicates the future tense.

not:  - The "no" is from the "no" of fact, not opinion. Since the speaker is expressing an opinion, it is like someone adding "really" in English. This is the first word of the son's response and it doesn't match the verb so it is extreme.

He -- (WW) The word translated as "he" 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. 

missing "however"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "however" 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.  It also an explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

answered  - (WF)  "Answered" is from a verb that means to "set apart," "choose," "answer" a question, "answer charges," and "defend oneself." In the passive, it means "to be parted or separated." In the Gospels, it is always translated as "answered." However, in the passive but our English word "answer" doesn't quite work the way this word does. It is in the form of an adjective, a particle, "answering."

missing "said"  -- (MW) The untranslated word"Said" is from a verb that means "to say" and "to speak" also. However, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and proclaiming.

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

later -- The word translated as "later ," means "latter," "last," "coming after," "after" (in Time), "posterior," "inferior," and "extremely." It is technically an adjective, but it works like an adjective.

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

changed his mind ,  - (CW, WF) The word translated as "changed his mind " is not the verb usually translated as "changed his mind" in the NT, but it means "repent" in the sense of feeling regret. It is in the form of a passive adjective, "being made to feel regret."

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

went. -- (CW) "Went" is from a verb that means "to go away," and "to depart from." It is not the past tense of the word "to go."

NIV Translation Issues: 

10
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "will" does not mean the future tense.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "he" should be "the one."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "however" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "answered" is not an active verb but a participle, "answering."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "said" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "but" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "changed his mind" is not the same as the word usually translated as "changed his mind."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "repented" is not an active verb but a participle, "feeling regret."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "and" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "went" is not the same as the word usually translated as "go."

Front Page Date: 

Jun 11 2021