"Offended", "Stumbling Blocks", and "Scandalize"

This page discusses the meaning and use of the Greek word skandalizo, which is most commonly translated in the NT as "offend." It is an interesting word for several reasons. First, it is a word that appears initially only in the NT. Second, its use is primarily humorous, as you would expect from a made-up word, with the sense of "trips you up" or "traps you". Third, its source is the Greek version of the OT, the Septuagint, which was clearly Christ's inspiration for much of Christ's language, rather than the Hebrew bible.

The Source of the Word

The word is a verb based on the Greek noun, "skandalon." Skandalon is a Greek word used 14 times in the Septuagint to translated the Hebrew words, mikshowl and moqesh . Milkshow is translated in the KJV as "stumbling block" or "putting or laying a stumbling block" (8 times) , "offence" or "offend" (3 times), "ruin" (twice), and "fall" (once). However, the Greek word skandalon is only used to translate the Hebrew word the first three times it is used, Lev 19:14 (put a stumbling block), 1Sa 25:31 (offense), and Psa 119:165 (shall offend). Moqesh is translated in the KJV which is used 26 times in the OT, and always translated as "snare". "trap", or "ensnare." However, it is only translated into skandalon three times, Josh. 23:13 ("trap"), Judges 2:3 ("snare"), and Psalm 106:36 ("snare").

Supposedly, skandolon is a Greek Koine word "snare for an enemy; cause of moral stumbling." According to Strong's, it is the stick that is placed to trigger a trap. However, it is not a word I can find any use of in Greek literature generally. Supposedly, a word from the same root, skandelthron does, but I cannot find it or how it is used. The root of both means which means, “jump up, snap shut." We know that this noun existed before Christ because the Septuagint was written about a hundred years before Christ.

The noun skandolon appears appears 15 times in the New Testament in 12 unique verses according to Strong's Concordance. It is used four times by Christ in Mat 13:41, Mat 16:23, Mat 18:7, and Luk 17:1, the parallel of Mat 18:7. All of these verses are in statements appear to be humorous. Three of the four contain the word translated as "woe" in the KJV which is in the spoken version here becomes "boo-hoo." This is very unlikely a coincidence, but it strongly indicates that both words reflected a certain state of mind.

The Memorable Verb

The verb form, skandalizo, appears in the Gospels twenty-five verses, much more often than the noun form. Christ uses it the most often, but his followers speak it a few of times (Mat 15:12, Mat 26:33 and it parallel Mar 14:29). Matthew uses it once in Mat 13:57. Mark uses it to describe what people are saying about Christ Mar 6:3. It is also used three times in the epistles of Paul. Does this mean it was original to Christ? We cannot know. It may have been in common use but, clearly, Christ used it more than others.

People also found its use memorable. All four Gospels have Christ using it. The quotes appearing in Matthew, Mark, and Luke are all parallels of each other. Matthew and Mark duplicate almost all of each other's uses. Again, this hardly seems a coincidence. Most of the verses in which is it used are among Christ's most extreme, which is to say, most humorous or gruesome, depending on how you want to see Christ. This word comes up when Christ is talking about things such lopping off hands and plucking out eyes. This makes it look as if it was a funny word, used in contrast with the form exaggeration that Christ used so commonly to be entertaining.