Matthew 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend,

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

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

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

The, however, one answering to one of them said, "Friend, I did not harm you, Didn't you assuredly for a silver coin agree with me?

My Takeaway: 

People should be free to agree and disagree.

KJV : 

Matthew 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

NIV : 

Matthew 20:13 But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Jesus echoes the same words used at the beginning of this parable in Matthew 20:2. He uses three uncommon words, for him meaning "friend," "did not harm," and "agee." All are used in only two or three other verses of his.

Jesus sets out the principle that defines a free economy: that the relationships between people should be determined by their agreements. By leaving out the "with me," the NIV obscures this fact.  Those agreements between define right and wrong in our business relationships. The NIV insertion of the idea of "fairness" also obscures this fact.  It is right to honor our agreements. It is wrong to fail to honor our agreements. If you agree to something freely, you cannot afterward claim that getting what you agreed to damages your.

In other words, between people, there is no absolute standard for what is fair other than what people agree to. Note that Jesus does not suggest that the payment is fair because of social standards. "The penny/denarius" is equal to a standard day's wage for a farm laborer, but the standard of that price is not what makes it just. The agreement is what makes it right.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

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

δὲ (conj) "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").

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 answer," "to reply," and "to be parted or separated." In the Gospels, it is always translated as "answered."

ἑνὶ [94 verses](noun sg masc dat) "One" is from heis, which means "one," "single," and "one and the same." This adjective is irregular, having a number of forms depending on sex, number, and case.

αὐτῶν (adj pl masc gen) "Of them" is from autos, 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."

εἶπεν  [162 verses] (verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "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." -- "Speak you" (a different Greek word from "I tell" Christ uses to describe his speaking) is from means "to say" and "to speak" also. However, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and proclaiming.

Ἑταῖρε, [3 verses](noun sg masc voc) "Friend" is hetairos, which means "comrade," "companion," "pupil," "disciple," of political "partisans," "members of a religious guild," and "courtesan."

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.

ἀδικῶ [2 verses](verb 1st sg pres ind act) "I do...wrong" is adikeo, which, as a verb means to "be or do wrong," "injure," "harm," in games or contests, "play foul," "sin," and as a noun, "wrong doing," "a wrong," "harm" and "injury."

σε: (pron 2nd sg acc) "Thee" is from su which means "you" and "your."

οὐχὶ [23 verses](adv) "Not" is from ouchi, an adverb which means "no," "no truly," "assuredly not," "not however," "nevertheless," "notwithstanding," "yet," "still," "never yet," "for not," "indeed," "for surely not," "no,—certainly not," "for I don't suppose," and "for in no manner."

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

συνεφώνησάς [2 verses](verb 2nd sg aor ind act) "Didst thou...agree" is sumphoneo, which means "to sound together." It means "to make an agreement or bargain" and it is a is a metaphor for harmonizing.

μοι; (pron 1st sg masc dat) "Me" is from emoi, which is 1st person,singular dative pronoun meaning "me' as the indirect object of a verb.

KJV Analysis: 

But -- The Greek word translated as "but" 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. 

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

answered  -  (WF) "Answered" is from a verb that means to "set apart," "choose," "answer" a question, "answer charges," and "defend oneself." In the Gospels, it is always translated as "answered." However, it is used as a noun and in the passive but our English word "answer" doesn't quite work that way. Perhaps, "defending himself" comes closest in English.

one  - -- The Greek word translated as "one " means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same."

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession.

them, " -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

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, - The word translated as "said" means "to say" and "to speak." It is one of the two most common words translated "speak," "say" and "tell," but it has more a sense of addressing and proclaiming.

Friend,  - "Friend" is from a noun that means "comrade," "companion," "pupil," "disciple," of political "partisans," "members of a religious guild," and "courtesan." Christ uses it to mean "friend" and usually as an address.

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

do -- This helping verb is used to create questions, commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

thee -- This is from the second-person, singular form of the verb.

no -- The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It means "no," "not," or"no truly." It makes a negative statement of fact. Adding "really" to the sentence captures the same idea. When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause.

wrong:  - "I do...wrong" is from a word that as a verb, as used here, means "to be or do wrong" "to harm," and "to injure," and as a noun means "wrongdoing," and "harm." Jesus only uses this verb twice.

didst -- This helping verb is used to create questions, commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

not -- (CW)  The word translated as "not" is a different form of the usual Greek negative of fact meaning "no truly," "assuredly not," "not however," "nevertheless," and "notwithstanding."

thou -- This is from the second-person, singular form of the verb.

agree - The phrase "Did thou...agree" is from a single word, a verb that "to sound together." It means "to make an agreement or bargain" and it is a metaphor for harmonizing. Jesus only uses this verb twice.

with -- This word "with" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. The most common is a "to" for the English indirect object. However, the translator can choose other prepositions: "with,"  "in,"   "of,"  "as," "by," "for," "at," or "on" depending on the context.

me -- The "me" is in the indirect object form on the first-person pronoun, so usually "to me," though the form has other uses in Greek.

for  - -- This word "for"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession. However, it can also mean "belonging to," "part of," "which is," "than" (in comparisons), or  "for," "concerning" or "about" with transitive verbs.

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: 

4
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "he" should be "the one."
  • 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 "not" is not the common word usually translated as "not."

NIV Analysis: 

But -- The Greek word translated as "but" 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. 

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

answered  -  (WF) "Answered" is from a verb that means to "set apart," "choose," "answer" a question, "answer charges," and "defend oneself." In the Gospels, it is always translated as "answered." However, it is used as a noun and in the passive but our English word "answer" doesn't quite work that way. Perhaps, "defending himself" comes closest in English.

one  - -- The Greek word translated as "one " means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same."

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession.

them, " -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

missing "said"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "said" means "to say" and "to speak." It is one of the two most common words translated "speak," "say" and "tell," but it has more a sense of addressing and proclaiming.

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

am -- This helping verb is used to create questions, commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

not -- The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It means "no," "not," or"no truly." It makes a negative statement of fact. Adding "really" to the sentence captures the same idea. When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause.

being unfair:  - (WW) "Being unfair" is from a word that as a verb, as used here, means "to be or do wrong" "to harm," and "to injure," and as a noun means "wrongdoing," and "harm." Jesus only uses this verb twice. It has no relationship to the concept of "fairness" or the "equal" used in the last verse.

to -- (WF) This word "to" usually comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. However, the following word is not an indirect object but a direct one.

you -- This is from the second-person, singular form of the verb.

friend,  - "Friend" is from a noun that means "comrade," "companion," "pupil," "disciple," of political "partisans," "members of a religious guild," and "courtesan." Christ uses it to mean "friend" and usually as an address.

Did--- This helping verb is used to create questions, commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

n't -- (CW)  The word translated as "not" is a different form of the usual Greek negative of fact meaning "no truly," "assuredly not," "not however," "nevertheless," and "notwithstanding."

you -- This is from the second-person, singular form of the verb.

agree - The phrase "Did thou...agree" is from a single word, a verb that "to sound together." It means "to make an agreement or bargain" and it is a metaphor for harmonizing. Jesus only uses this verb twice.

missing "with me"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "with me" is in the indirect object form on the first-person pronoun, so usually "to me," though the form has other uses in Greek.

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

for a denarius?

for  - -- This word "for"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession. However, it can also mean "belonging to," "part of," "which is," "than" (in comparisons), or  "for," "concerning" or "about" with transitive verbs.

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.

NIV Translation Issues: 

7
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "he" should be "the one."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "answered" is not an active verb but a participle, "answering."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "being unfair" should be "harm."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "to you" is not an indirect object but a direct one, "you."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "not" is not the common word usually translated as "not."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "with me" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "to work" doesn't exist in the source.

Front Page Date: 

May 17 2021