Matthew 23:17 You fools and blind: for which is greater,

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

A long condemnation of the religious leaders of the time, now focusing on swearing oaths.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

You make yourselves foolish and blind! Because how is the gold better than the temple? The one purifying that gold?

My Takeaway: 

We can make ourselves foolish and blind.

KJV : 

Matthew 23:17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

NIV : 

Matthew 23:17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The two adjectives that begin this verse could also be verbs. The form is the second person in the middle voice, having the sense of "you make yourself foolish and blind." This is a little more interesting than the name-calling that the Bible translates this as.

The word translated as "sanctify" and "make holy" has the sense of "purifying" something, setting it apart for the worship of the Divine. Purification rituals always involved some form of cleansing, with water or, on an altar, with fire. There is an amusing dissonance here because gold is considered the only "noble" metal because it doesn't chemically react with other elements, tarnishing like silver or bronze.  However, in a religious sense, it is still "dirty" because it is in common use, not set apart for the Divine.

Greek Vocabulary: 

μωροὶ [6 verses] (adj pl masc/fem nom/voc) "Fool" is from the adjective moros, which means "dull", "stupid", "sluggish," 'insipid", "blind," and "folly." OR (verb 2nd sg pres ind mp) "Fool" is from the verb moroomia, which means to "become dull or sluggish, and "be stupefied."

καὶ [1089 verses](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).

τυφλοί, [15 verses](adj pl masc voc/nom) "Blind" is from typhlos, which means "blind", "lacking vision of the future," [of things]"dim", "obscure", "dark," [of passages] "blind", "enclosed", "with no outlet," and is a metaphor for lacking sense." OR (verb 2nd sg pres ind mp contr) "Blind" is from typhloo, which means "to blind," and "to make blind."

τίς [252 verses](irreg sg masc nom) "Whether" is from tis which can mean "someone", "any one", "everyone", "they [indefinite]", "many a one", "whoever", "anyone", "anything", "some sort", "some sort of", "each", "any", "the individual", "such," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

γὰρ [205 verses](partic) "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question it means "why" and "what."

μείζων [22 verses](adj sg masc nom comp) "Greater" is meizon which means "bigger", "higher", "longer," and "greater" and is the comparative form of megas, which means "big" and "great." The superlative form "greatest" is megistos, μέγιστος.

ἐστίν, [614 verses](verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Is" is 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.")

[692 verses](article sg masc nom)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

χρυσὸς [3 verses](noun sg masc nom) "Gold" is chrysos, which means "gold", "anything made of gold", "anything dear or precious," and "golden words."

(conj/adv)  "Or" is e which is a particle meaning "either", "or," or "than."

[692 verses](article sg masc nom)"The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ναὸς [uncommon] (noun sg masc nom) "Temple" is from naos, which means "temple," "inmost part of a temple", "shrine," and "portable shrine carried in processions."

[692 verses](article sg masc nom) "that" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἁγιάσας [6 verses] (part sg aor act masc nom) "Sanctifieth" is hagiazo, which means "to separate from profane things and dedicate to God", "to dedicate people to God", "to purify," and "to cleanse externally or internally." This could be a special form of the more common Greek word, hagizo, which means "to hallow", "to dedicate," and "to make sacred," commonly by burning a sacrifice. It may also be a verb form of the noun hagos, which means "a thing that creates awe."

τὸν [692 verses](article sg masc acc)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

χρυσόν; [3 verses](noun sg masc ace) "Gold" is chrysos, which means "gold", "anything made of gold", "anything dear or precious," and "golden words."

KJV Analysis: 

Ye - This is from the possible vocative form of the nouns, naming the person being talked to.

fools  - The Greek words translated as "fool" is the source of our word "moron." Here, it is a form that of an adjective meaning "slow" and "stupid." Or a verb that means "you make yourselves blind."

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".

blind:  - "Blind" is from a word that means both physically and mentally blind. Its form could also be an adjective or a verb, meaning "you blind yourselves."

for --The word translated as "for" introduces a reason or explanation so "because" and, in questions, "why." However, since this word always appears in the second position, it is more like an aside remark like, "consequently" or "as a cause". 

whether  - (WW) The Greek word translated as "whether" in the singular means "anyone", "someone," and "anything," but in a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

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. 

greater,  - "Greater" is an adjective which is the comparative form of the word meaning "big" or "great." It means "bigger", "higher", "longer", "greater" and simply, "superior." When it is introduced by an article, it means "the greater."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it 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. 

gold,  - The word translated as "gold" means "gold," anything made of gold, or anything precious for which gold is a metaphor. It also means "golden words," as we use the saying, "comic gold." This is an uncommon word for Christ to use.

or  - (CW) "Or" is translated from a Greek word that means "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison. Here, the use of the comparative, "greater" would cause it to be heard as "than" rather than "or."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it 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. 

temple  - The word translated as "temple" means "temple", "the inner room of the temple," and "shrine." This is an uncommon word for Christ to use.

that -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it 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. 

sanctifieth -- (WF) The Greek verb translated as "sanctifieth" is difficult because it is not the standard Greek verb but one that Jesus uses. It is perhaps, an unusual form of another Greek verb meaning "to dedicate to God" and "to sanctify" usually by burning an offering. It may also be a verb form of a Greek noun, meaning "a thing that creates awe." In a good sense, this can mean holy or sacred, but it also means accursed. Another way to think about this word is that it describes something set apart only for God. Jesus uses this word to describe the name, "our Father in the skies," in the Lord's Prayer. It is in the noun form of a verb, "which sets it apart for God." The form is that of a participle, "sanctifying."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it 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. 

gold,  - The word translated as "gold" means "gold," anything made of gold, or anything precious for which gold is a metaphor. It also means "golden words," as we use the saying, "comic gold." This is an uncommon word for Christ to use.

KJV Translation Issues: 

3
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "whether" should be "what."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "or" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "sanctifieth" is not an active verb but a participle, "purifying."

NIV Analysis: 

You - This is from the possible vocative form of the nouns, naming the person being talked to.

blind:  - "Blind" is from a word that means both physically and mentally blind. Its form could also be an adjective or a verb, meaning "you blind yourselves."

missing "and"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "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".

fools  - The Greek words translated as "fool" is the source of our word "moron." Here, it is a form that of an adjective meaning "slow" and "stupid." Or a verb that means "you make yourselves blind."

missing "because"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "because" introduces a reason or explanation so "because" and, in questions, "why." However, since this word always appears in the second position, it is more like an aside remark like, "consequently" or "as a cause". 

Which - The Greek word translated as "which" in the singular means "anyone", "someone," and "anything," but in a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

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. 

greater,  - "Greater" is an adjective which is the comparative form of the word meaning "big" or "great." It means "bigger", "higher", "longer", "greater" and simply, "superior." When it is introduced by an article, it means "the greater."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it 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. 

gold,  - The word translated as "gold" means "gold," anything made of gold, or anything precious for which gold is a metaphor. It also means "golden words," as we use the saying, "comic gold." This is an uncommon word for Christ to use.

or  - (CW) "Or" is translated from a Greek word that means "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison. Here, the use of the comparative, "greater" would cause it to be heard as "than" rather than "or."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it 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. 

temple  - The word translated as "temple" means "temple", "the inner room of the temple," and "shrine." This is an uncommon word for Christ to use.

that -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it 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. 

makes -- (WF) The Greek verb translated as "makes sacred" is difficult because it is not the standard Greek verb, but one that Jesus uses. It is perhaps, an unusual form of another Greek verb meaning "to dedicate to God" and "to sanctify" usually by burning an offering. It may also be a verb form of a Greek noun, meaning "a thing that creates awe." In a good sense, this can mean holy or sacred, but it also means accursed. Another way to think about this word is that it describes something set apart only for God. Jesus uses this word to describe the name, "our Father in the skies," in the Lord's Prayer. It is in the noun form of a verb, "which sets it apart for God."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it 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. 

gold,  - The word translated as "gold" means "gold," anything made of gold, or anything precious for which gold is a metaphor. It also means "golden words," as we use the saying, "comic gold." This is an uncommon word for Christ to use.

sacred - This word completes the sense of the verb.

NIV Translation Issues: 

4
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "and" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "because" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "or" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "makes...holy" is not an active verb but a participle, "purifying."

Front Page Date: 

Aug 8 2021