Matthew 20:3 And he went out about the third hour...

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

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

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

And, going out around a third hour, he saw others standing in the marketplace unemployed.

My Takeaway: 

Everyone should have work to do, that they should be producing something of value with the time.

KJV : 

Matthew 20:3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

NIV : 

Matthew 20:3 About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse has several uncommon words, including "marketplace" and "idle/doing nothing."  The Greek word for "doing nothing" is the punchline. coming last as a sound-alike anagram of the Greek word for "marketplace," which is the previous word.

The third hour means three "hours" after sunrise in the system of antiquity, but these "hours" were not all of equal length throughout the year. Instead, the hours of daylight were divided into twelve equal parts every day, a longer period in the summer and shorter in winter. The assumption here is that there are three such periods after the first workers went out to work at sunrise.

Note that the verse doesn't mention any need on the part of the owner of the vineyard. The cause mentioned is that the people were standing idle, doing nothing. There is a strong sense here that everyone should have work to do, that they should be producing something of value with the time.

Wordplay: 

Ends in two similar words with almost opposite meanings.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

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."

ἐξελθὼν [54 verses](part sg aor act masc nom)"He went" is from exerchomai, which means "to come or go out of " "to march forth," "go out on," "to stand forth," "to exceed all bounds," "to come to an end," "to go out of office," and [of dreams or prophecies] "to come true."

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."

τρίτην [9 verses](adj sg fem acc) "Third" is tritos. which is the Greek word for "third" meanig both the third in an order and the fraction one third.

ὥραν [37 verses](noun sg fem acc) "Hour" is hora, which means "any period," "season," (especially springtime), "year' (generally), "climate" (as determined by seasons), "duration," "the twelve equal parts into which the period of daylight was divided," "the fitting time" (for a task). -- The word translated as "hour" means a period of time, generally, as we might say "moment."

εἶδεν [166 verses](verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "Saw" is from eido which means "to see," "to examine," "to perceive," "to behold," "to know how to do," "to see with the mind's eye," and "to know."

ἄλλους [166 verses](adj pl masc acc) "The other" is allos, which means "another," "one besides," "of another sort," "different," "other than what is true," "as well," "besides," {with numerals: "yet," "still," "further"), "of other sort," "other than what is," "untrue," "unreal," "other than right," "wrong," "bad," "unworthy," [with an article] "the rest," "all besides," and [in series] "one...another."

ἑστῶτας [28 verses](part pl perf act masc acc) "Standing" is 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." Like the English words "put" and "set," it has a number of specific meanings from "to put down [in writing]," "to bury," "to establish," "to make," "to cause," and "to assign."

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."

τῇ (article sg fem dat )  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

ἀγορᾷ [7 verses](noun sg fem dat) "The marketplace" is from agora, which means "an assembly," "place of assembly," and "marketplace." "Public speaking" meant speaking in the marketplace.

ἀργούς: [3 verses](adj pl masc acc) "Idle" is argos, which means "not working the ground," "lazy," and "idle" when applied to people, but when applied to things (like words) "lying idle," "yielding no return," and "fruitless."

KJV Analysis: 

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

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

went  - (WF) The word translated as "he went" means literally "to go or come out," but it has a secondary meaning of "making something come true." Here, it is in the form of an adjective, "going."

out -- This is from the prefix of the previous verb that means "out of."

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."

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

third -- The "third" means both the third in order and the fraction one third.

hour, -- The word translated as "hour" means a period of time, generally, as we might say "moment."

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

saw  - The word translated as "saw" means primarily "to see" but it is not the simplest word for seeing, but one that is also used to mean "know" as we use the word "see" to mean "know" in English as in "I see." Its use here is more like "discovered," seeing and becoming aware of something.

others - The "others" here is masculine, plural, making it clear that it refers to a group of people.

standing  - (WT) The word translated as "standing" is from a verb that has a lot of different meanings in context, but primarily means "to make to stand," "to stand," and "to set up." However, it also has the sense of "to bring to a standstill," so it can apply idleness, like we say "standing around." The tense is the past perfect, so "having stood around." So they did not come to the market after working somewhere else.

idle - "Idle" is an adjective that means "not working the ground," "lazy," and "idle" when applied to people, but when applied to things (like words) "lying idle," "yielding no return," and "fruitless." This is the last word in the verse.

in   -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," "during" (time),  or "among"  with a dative object as the one here. 

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. 

marketplace,  - "Marketplace" is from a word that means "an assembly," "place of assembly," and "marketplace." "Public speaking" meant speaking in the marketplace. The verb from the same root means "to sell."

KJV Translation Issues: 

4
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "went out" is not an active verb but a participle, "going out."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "the" before "third" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "and" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The English verb "standing" is the present tense, but Greek is in the completed past "having stood."

NIV Analysis: 

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

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."

nine --  (CW) The Greek words "third" means both the third in order and the fraction one third.

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

morning, -- (WW) The word translated as "morning" means a period of time equal to the one-twelfth part of the daylight, like an "hour," meaning the third period of daylight.

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

went  - (WF) The word translated as "he went" means literally "to go or come out," but it has a secondary meaning of "making something come true." Here, it is in the form of an adjective, "going."

out -- This is from the prefix of the previous verb that means "out of."

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

saw  - The word translated as "saw" means primarily "to see" but it is not the simplest word for seeing, but one that is also used to mean "know" as we use the word "see" to mean "know" in English as in "I see." Its use here is more like "discovered," seeing and becoming aware of something.

others - The "others" here is masculine, plural, making it clear that it refers to a group of people.

standing  - (WT) The word translated as "standing" is from a verb that has a lot of different meanings in context, but primarily means "to make to stand," "to stand," and "to set up." However, it also has the sense of "to bring to a standstill," so it can apply idleness, like we say "standing around." The tense is the past perfect, so "having stood around." So they did not come to the market after working somewhere else.

in   -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," "during" (time),  or "among"  with a dative object as the one here. 

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. 

marketplace,  - "Marketplace" is from a word that means "an assembly," "place of assembly," and "marketplace." "Public speaking" meant speaking in the marketplace. The verb from the same root means "to sell."

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

nothing. - (CW) "Nothing" is an adjective that means "not working the ground," "lazy," and "idle" when applied to people, but when applied to things (like words) "lying idle," "yielding no return," and "fruitless." This is the last word in the verse.

NIV Translation Issues: 

8
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "nine" is not the common word usually translated as "nine."
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "in the" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "morning" should be "hour."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "went out" is not an active verb but a participle, "going out."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "and" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The English verb "standing" is the present tense, but Greek is in the completed past "having stood."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "doing" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "nothing" is not the common word usually translated as "nothing."

Front Page Date: 

May 7 2021