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Matthew 12:5 Or have you not read in the law,

Pharisees attack, violating the Sabbath

Spoken to:
The Pharisees
Greek Verse:

Matthew 12:5 οὐκ ἀνέγνωτε ἐν τῷ νόμῳ ὅτι τοῖς σάββασιν οἱ ἱερεῖς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τὸ σάββατον βεβηλοῦσιν καὶ ἀναίτιοί εἰσιν;

KJV Verse:

Matthew 12:5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?

NIV Verse:

Matthew 12:5 And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?

Literal Alternative:

Or don't 't you recognized it in the Law? Because on these Sabbaths, the consecrated ones in the consecrated [place], the Sabbath defile and not the cause they are?

Hidden Meaning:

Jesus often reverses this order to put his punch lines at the end of the verse. These words are often uncommon words for him, increasing the surprise. He also uses the word order to build up drama and tension to make his points. The result can usually be translated more or less directly into English. Here, both the "profane" and the "blameless" are unusual words.

There was apparently something the NIV translators didn't like about the Greek here. Their version changes the beginning "or" here to "and". They also eliminate the uncommon words translating in KJV as "profane" and "blameless" without replacing them. They add and subtract more words than they translate.  How are English readers suppose to connect the two versions or know what Jesus said? 


 The repeating of "holy men" and "holy place" to emphasize motivation here. 

The use of a word meaning "not the cause" to mean "blameless" to focus on motivation. 

The Spoken Version:

“David was the anointed king!” responded the Distinguished. “As king, he made his own law, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t defiling in the Law. Or are you claiming to be a king?”
“Or don’t ‘t you recognized it in the Law?” responded the Master, recognizing the trap of claiming to be a king.
“You talk in circles,” responded the Distinguished leader. “Why does the law approve of your students defiling the Sabbath?”
“Because on these Sabbaths, the priests in the temple defile this Sabbath, and they are guiltless.”

"Are you suggesting your students are the same as priests?"

The Master smiled at the question.

My Takeaway:

Deeds that are consecrated to the Divine cannot violate the law.

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About this Site

I started this site fifteen years ago.  My original award-winning work as a "techno-linguist" was in ancient Chinese. I wanted to bring the same computer search and analysis techniques to explore something more important: the original Greek of Jesus's words.

This site does not promote any religious point of view. Indeed, it seeks to avoid the competing and evolving religious dogmas that have shaped Biblical translation for centuries.  I purposely use "nonreligious" sources for Greek word meaning, rejoining the study of Biblical Greek with the broader study of ancient Greek. My goal is simply to identify how listeners of his time heard him.

Jesus' words are unique for three reasons.

  1. They were spoken, not written. Spoken language is inherently different than written language.
  2. They changed the meaning of words, determining even how later NT authors' used the Greek.
  3. They were the basis of a unique historical revolution in they way people think.

Most of the on-line material on "Biblical Greek" is largely tautological. It explains the Greek only in terms of how it has been historically translated into English. It flows from the ways that the  Gospel was taught from the Latin Vulgate. I respect this work and use it daily. However,  most of my work takes place outside of this tradition, researching the use of the Greek closer to the time of Jesus, especially the Greek OT, the Septuagint.

The Bible has been such a powerful force in history that it has changed the meaning of many words in English, Latin, and Greek. However, the Greek of Jesus's words has been faithfully preserved for centuries from the changing religious fashions of history. These fashions, unfortunately, affect each successive English translation of the Bible, moving it further and further from the Greek.  I stopped analyzing the NLT version because so much of it fails to connect to anything in the Greek. The Message version is much worse.

This site is offered for those who care about fidelity to Scripture in any sense of the word.

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