Luke 17:6 If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree,

Spoken to
Apostles

To his students after they ask him to increase their faith. 

KJV

Luke 17:6 If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

NIV

Luke 17:6  If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

LISTENERS HEARD

If you have trust as a seed of mustard, you might say to this mulberry tree here, "Be uprooted and be planted in the sea" and it might answer you.

LOST IN TRANSLATION

The "you" here is plural addressing a group, changing from the previous verse, where Jesus was addressing one person personally.   This verse also has a couple of unique words for Jesus. One is happenstance, a type of tree (sycamore, mulberry) they were standing next to, but the other is intentionally humorous, with a key double meaning lost in translation translated as "obey" but primarily meaning "answer." That can mean "obey" but it can usually means just "listen to" you. 

The English translations work to make this seem much more certain, especially the more recent NIV. Jesus said, "might say" and "might listen."

MY TAKE

We are always heard and sometimes answered. And sometimes the answer is "no."

GREEK ORDER

 

Εἰ ἔχετε       πίστιν ὡς   κόκκον  σινάπεως, ἐλέγετε   ἂν         τῆ       συκαμίνῳ     [ταύτῃ] 
If  you have trust    as a seed     of mustard, you say  might to this   mulberry tree here, 

Ἐκριζώθητι    καὶ   φυτεύθητι ἐν τῇ  θαλάσσῃ: καὶ  ὑπήκουσεν ἂν      ὑμῖν.
"Be uprooted and be planted in  the sea"          and it answer     might  you.

# KJV TRANSLATION ISSUES
3

If ye had(WT) faith(CW) as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this(CW) (MW) sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

  • WT --Wrong Tense - The English verb  "had" is the past tense, but Greek is the present, "have."
  • CW --Confusing Word -- This word doesn't have the religious connotations of "faith." 
  • CW --Confusing Word -- This word doesn't mean "this" in this situation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the/this" before "sycamore" is not shown in the English translation. 

 

# NIV TRANSLATION ISSUES
6

If you have faith(CW)as small(IW) as a mustard seed, you can(WW) say to this(CW) (MW) mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will(WW) obey you.

  • CW --Confusing Word -- This word doesn't have the religious connotations of "faith." 
  •  IW - Inserted Word-- The "small" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW --Wrong Word -- The word translated as "can" should be something more like "might."
  • WT --Wrong Tense - The English verb  "say" is the present tense, but Greek is in the simple (imperfect) past. "said."
  • CW --Confusing Word -- This word doesn't mean "this" in this situation.
  • WW --Wrong Word -- The word translated as "will" should be something more like "might."
EACH WORD of KJV

If -- The "if" here is used to express conditions "if" (implying nothing about its fulfillment) or indirect and direct questions, "whether."It also means "if ever" and "whenever."When citing a fact  the sense is more  "whether," "since" or "as sure as." The verb is not subjunctive, which means it is citing a fact. 

ye -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

had  -- (WT)The word translated as "have" means to "have," "possess," "bear," "to indulge in," "keep close," "hold in," "to have due to one," or "keep" and many specific uses.This is not the past tense.  

 faith-- (CW)  The term translated as "faith" is closer to our idea of having confidence or trust in people, especially their word, rather than having religious belief. See this article for more.  This word doesn't have the religious connotations of "faith." 

 as -- The word translated as "as" has a very broad meaning, translated as "as," "when" "where," "just as," "like," and related words. It means "when," in the sense of "as," during an act, but with past, indicative tenses the temporal "when" at a time. It means "how" only in an exclamation with and adjective or adverb like "how wonderful." It means "how" in questions and in an exclamation with an adjective or adverb like "how wonderful. 

 a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a noun doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

grain-- The word translated as "grain" means "kernel," or "grain." It can also mean "seed." However, it is not the most common word for a "seed" in Greek which is a different word in Greek.

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

mustard seed,  -- The word translated as "mustard seed" means simply "mustard." However, the mustard seed was the Jewish metaphor for the smallness of the knowable world compared to the whole universe.

ye -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

might -- -- "Might" is a particle used with verbs to indicate that the action is limited by circumstances or defined by conditions. There is no exact equivalent in English but "possibly" is close. This word works similarly to the "might" or "should" of a subjunctive verb, but we don't want to confuse it with the subjunctive so using "possibly" provides a consistent translation.  This particle usually suggests the subjunctive form of the verb but can be used without it.   Its meaning is largely determined by the verb form but "would have" is the most common, even when not with a subjunctive verb. The same Greek letters can always be the more common conjunction meaning "when," so this meaning comes from context.

say  -- The word translated as "say" is the most common word that means "to say," "to tell," and "to speak,"  but when used with an objective noun or pronoun, the sense is "say of" or "speak of."    It also has many ancillary meanings such as "to count" ("to number" or like we might say, "to recount" a story) or "to choose for yourself." It is the past tense, but that doesn't work with the "might" in English. 

unto -- This word "to" comes from the indirect object form of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. The most common is a "to" for the English indirect object.

 this .-  (CW)The "this" is a pronoun that can mean "this" or "that," "here," or "there" the nearer or the further depending on usage. When the modified noun already has an article, it meaning is "here."  This word doesn't mean "this" in this situation. 

missing "the/this"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article," the," which usually precedes a noun or changes the word it precedes (adjective, infinitive, participle, etc.) to act like a noun. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," and "those"). See this article for more. 

sycamine tree, -- "Sycamore tree" is the noun that means "mulberry tree". It is a difference genus, but the same family as the sycamore. This tree bears fruit. The American sycamore does not.

Be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

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

 plucked up by the root,  -- The word translated as " plucked up by the root" is a word only found initially in the Septuagint. It is the compound of the verb meaning to "root" (from the noun meaning "root") and a prefix meaning "from" or "away from."

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

be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

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

planted  - "Planted" is from a verb which means "beget," "engender," generally, "produce," "bring about," "cause (mostly of evils), "implant in, "to plant" (especially trees), "to set-up," and specifically, "to plant with trees." When used as a noun, means "father" or, in plural, "parents."

 in  -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "on," "within," "among" "by" (near), "by" (as an instrument), "during" (time),  or "among"  with an indirect-object form object.  About time, it means "during the time," "in the time," "within," and "in." With the direct object form, it means "into," "on," and "for." 

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, "the," which usually precedes a noun or changes the word it precedes (adjective, infinitive, participle, etc.) to act like a noun. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

sea;  -- The "sea" is from the Greek word for "sea" and "sea water." Water is Christs symbol for the temporary, physical reality.

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

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

should -- "should" is a particle used with verbs to indicate that the action is limited by circumstances or defined by conditions. There is no exact equivalent in English but "possibly" is close. This word works similarly to the "might" or "should" of a subjunctive verb, but we don't want to confuse it with the subjunctive so using "possibly" provides a consistent translation.  This particle usually suggests the subjunctive form of the verb but can be used without it.   Its meaning is largely determined by the verb form but "would have" is the most common, even when not with a subjunctive verb. The same Greek letters can always be the more common conjunction meaning "when," so this meaning comes from context.

obey  -- "It...obey" is  is a Greek verb that Jesus only uses here that means to "hearken", "give ear", "answer",   "listen to", "heed", "regard", " give way", "submit", and "comply". The primary meaning is listen.

you.-- The Greek pronoun "you" here is plural and in the form of an indirect object, "to you," "for you," etc.

EACH WORD of NIV

If -- The "if" here is used to express conditions "if" (implying nothing about its fulfillment) or indirect and direct questions, "whether."It also means "if ever" and "whenever."When citing a fact  the sense is more  "whether," "since" or "as sure as." The verb is not subjunctive, which means it is citing a fact. 

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

have -- The word translated as "have" means to "have," "possess," "bear," "to indulge in," "keep close," "hold in," "to have due to one," or "keep" and many specific uses.This is not the past tense.  

 faith-- (CW)  The term translated as "faith" is closer to our idea of having confidence or trust in people, especially their word, rather than having religious belief. See this article for more.  This word doesn't have the religious connotations of "faith." 

 as -- The word translated as "as" has a very broad meaning, translated as "as," "when" "where," "just as," "like," and related words. It means "when," in the sense of "as," during an act, but with past, indicative tenses the temporal "when" at a time. It means "how" only in an exclamation with and adjective or adverb like "how wonderful." It means "how" in questions and in an exclamation with an adjective or adverb like "how wonderful. 

small -- (IW) This word is not in the Greek source.

 a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a noun doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

grain-- The word translated as "grain" means "kernel," or "grain." It can also mean "seed." However, it is not the most common word for a "seed" in Greek which is a different word in Greek.

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

mustard seed,  -- The word translated as "mustard seed" means simply "mustard." However, the mustard seed was the Jewish metaphor for the smallness of the knowable world compared to the whole universe.

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

can -- -- (WW) "Can" is a particle used with verbs to indicate that the action is limited by circumstances or defined by conditions. There is no exact equivalent in English but "possibly" is close. This word works similarly to the "might" or "should" of a subjunctive verb, but we don't want to confuse it with the subjunctive so using "possibly" provides a consistent translation.  This particle usually suggests the subjunctive form of the verb but can be used without it.   Its meaning is largely determined by the verb form but "would have" is the most common, even when not with a subjunctive verb. The same Greek letters can always be the more common conjunction meaning "when," so this meaning comes from context. This word doesn't mean "can."  

say  -- The word translated as "say" is the most common word that means "to say," "to tell," and "to speak,"  but when used with an objective noun or pronoun, the sense is "say of" or "speak of."    It also has many ancillary meanings such as "to count" ("to number" or like we might say, "to recount" a story) or "to choose for yourself." It is the past tense, but that doesn't work with the "might" in English. 

to -- This word "to" comes from the indirect object form of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. The most common is a "to" for the English indirect object.

 this .-  (CW)The "this" is a pronoun that can mean "this" or "that," "here," or "there" the nearer or the further depending on usage. When the modified noun already has an article, it meaning is "here."  This word doesn't mean "this" in this situation. 

missing "the/this"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article," the," which usually precedes a noun or changes the word it precedes (adjective, infinitive, participle, etc.) to act like a noun. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," and "those"). See this article for more. MW - Missing Word -- The word "the/this" before "sycomore" is not shown in the English translation. 

mulberry tree, -- "Sycamore tree" is the noun that means "mulberry tree". It is a difference genus, but the same family as the sycamore. This tree bears fruit. The American sycamore does not.

Be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

uprooted  -- The word translated as "uprooted " is a word only found initially in the Septuagint. It is the compound of the verb meaning to "root" (from the noun meaning "root") and a prefix meaning "from" or "away from."

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

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

planted  - "Planted" is from a verb which means "beget," "engender," generally, "produce," "bring about," "cause (mostly of evils), "implant in, "to plant" (especially trees), "to set-up," and specifically, "to plant with trees." When used as a noun, means "father" or, in plural, "parents."

 in  -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "on," "within," "among" "by" (near), "by" (as an instrument), "during" (time),  or "among"  with an indirect-object form object.  About time, it means "during the time," "in the time," "within," and "in." With the direct object form, it means "into," "on," and "for." 

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, "the," which usually precedes a noun or changes the word it precedes (adjective, infinitive, participle, etc.) to act like a noun. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

sea;  -- The "sea" is from the Greek word for "sea" and "sea water." Water is Christs symbol for the temporary, physical reality.

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

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

and it will obey you.

will -- (WW) "Will " is a particle used with verbs to indicate that the action is limited by circumstances or defined by conditions. There is no exact equivalent in English but "possibly" is close. This word works similarly to the "might" or "should" of a subjunctive verb, but we don't want to confuse it with the subjunctive so using "possibly" provides a consistent translation.  This particle usually suggests the subjunctive form of the verb but can be used without it.   Its meaning is largely determined by the verb form but "would have" is the most common, even when not with a subjunctive verb. The same Greek letters can always be the more common conjunction meaning "when," so this meaning comes from context. This word doesn't mean "will."  

obey  -- "It...obey" is  is a Greek verb that Jesus only uses here that means to "hearken", "give ear", "answer",   "listen to", "heed", "regard", " give way", "submit", and "comply". The primary meaning is listen.

you.-- The Greek pronoun "you" here is plural and in the form of an indirect object, "to you," "for you," etc.

COMPARISON: GREEK to KJV

Εἰ  [90 verses](conj) "If" is ei, which is the particle used to express conditions "if" (with the indicative, implying nothing about its fulfillment) or indirect and direct questions, "whether." With the subjunctive and a result (apodosis) indicates a repeated action or a vivid future action.   It also means "if ever," "in case," and "whenever."  In citing a fact, it can mean "as sure as" or "since."  It is combined with various conjunctions to create derivative conditions. When appearing as εἰ δὲ (literally, "if however") the sense is "if this...then that." The construction εἰ δὲ μή . . means "otherwise." The construction  εἰ οὖν has the sense of "if so." However, it is also used to express a wish. After verbs of wonder, delight, indignation, disappointment, contentment, and similar emotions, it is use instead of ὅτι, to express the object of the feeling in a hypothetical form, "that" with the indicative (not subjunctive). After ὅτι, it introduces a quotation where we use quotation marks. With the future tense, it is used for emphasis, a warning, or an intention.  When this word is paired with the conjunction translated as "but" or "however," the structure works like an "if then" statement in English.  With verbs of desire and emotion and the indicative in the second clause, the sense is "that." With an imperative, it is used to express a wish. The sense is "I wish that." With the future tense indicative, it is used for emphasis, a warning, or an intention. The emphasis clause is after the main statement. 

ἔχετε [181 verses] ( verb 2nd pl pres ind act ) "Ye had"is echo, which means "to have," "to hold," "to possess," "to keep," "to have charge of," "to have due to one," "to maintain," "to indulge in,"  "to hold fast," "to hold in," "to bear," "to carry," "to keep close," "to keep safe," and "to have means to do." In aorist, it can mean "acquire," or "get." The main sense when it has an object is "to have" or "to hold." In reference to habits or states, it means "indulge in." With a gen. object,  "to keep back" or "withhold" a thing. When its object is an infinitive verb, it means "to have the means or power," or "to be able" not "it must" as in English.  This verb isn't used to form past tenses as the helper verb does in English.Nor does it have the sense of "must" when used with infinitives.

πίστιν [26 verses](noun g fem acc) "Faith" is pistis, which means "confidence," "assurance," "trustworthiness," "credit," "a trust," "that which give confidence," and, as a character trait, "faithfulness.""faith.".

ὡς (167 verses](adv/conj) "How" is hos, an adverb which means to "thus," "as," "how," "when," "where," "like," "just as," "so far as," "as much as can be," "that," "in order that," "nearly (with numbers)," and "know that." It means "how" in questions and in an exclamation with an adjective or adverb like "how wonderful."

κόκκον  [6 verses](noun sg masc daccat) "Grain" is kokkos, which means "a grain" and "a seed," "testicles," and it is a metaphor for a "grain of sense." 

σινάπεως, [4 verses](noun sg neut gen) "Mustard," is sinapi which means simply "mustard." "Mustard seed" is sinapi which means simply "mustard."

ἐλέγετε  [264 verses] (verb 2nd pl imperf ind act ) "You...say" is lego, which means "to recount," "to tell over," "to say," "to speak," "to teach," "to mean," "boast of," "tell of," "recite," nominate," and "command." When used with an object is has the sense of "call by name."  It has a secondary meaning "pick out," "choose for oneself," "pick up," "gather," "count," and "recount." A less common word that is spelled the same means "to lay," "to lay asleep" and "to lull asleep." This word is more about making a statement than participating in a discussion. Translating is as "stated" might distinguish it better. When two accusative objects are used, the sense is  "say of him this," or "call him this." The form Jesus uses to describe his own speaking can be either indicative, "I say/tell" or subjunctive, "I should/could say/tell."

ἂν [60 verses](particle) "Might" is an , which is a particle used with verbs to indicate that the action is limited by circumstances or defined by conditions. There is no exact equivalent in English, but it is translated as "possibly," "would have," "might," "should," and "could."  Its meaning is largely determined by the verb form but "would have" is the most common, even when not with a subjunctive verb. 

τῆ [821 verses](noun sg masc dat)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). It usually precedes a noun or changes the word it precedes (adjective, infinitive, participle, etc.) to act like a noun. When not preceding a a word that can become a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."  

συκαμίνῳ [1 verse](noun sg masc dat) "Sycamore tree" is sykaminos , which means "mulberry tree". 

[ταύτῃ] [96 verses] (adj sg masc dat) "Unto this" is tauta, which is a referring pronoun meaning "these," "this," "that," and "here." It can mean the nearer or the further depending on usage. When ταῦτα and ἐκεῖνος refer to two things ἐκεῖνος, which normally means "the nearer" as well belongs to the more remote, "the latter" in time, place, or thought, οὗτος to "the nearer"

Ἐκριζώθητι [3 verses]( verb 2nd sg aor imperat pass ) "Be thou plucked up by the root"  is ekrizoo, which means "root out."

καὶ [1089 verses](conj/adv) "And" is kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "also." 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." In a series, it can be translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as." 

φυτεύθητι [7 verses]( verb 2nd sg aor imperat pass ) "Be thou planted" is from phyteuo, which means "beget," "engender," generally, "produce," "bring about," "cause (mostly of evils), "implant in," "to plant {especially trees," "to set-up," and specifically, "to plant with trees." When used as a noun, means "father" or, in plural, "parents." 

ἐν [413 verses](prep) "In" is en, which means, with its usual indirect (dative) object, "in," "on," "at," "by," "among," "within," "surrounded by," "in one's hands," "in one's power," "during,"  and "with" (in the sense of nearness). With a direct (accusative) object, it means "into," "on," and "for." Referring to time, it means. "in the course of" or "during." 

τῇ [821 verses](article sg fem dat)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").   It usually precedes a noun or changes the word it precedes (adjective, infinitive, participle, etc.) to act like a noun. When not preceding a a word that can become a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."  

θαλάσσῃ:[11 verses] (noun sg fem dat) "Sea"  is from thalassa, which means also means "sea," "channel," "well of saltwater," or "sea water."

καὶ [1089 verses](conj/adv) "And" is kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "also." 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." In a series, it can be translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as."

ὑπήκουσεν [1 verse]( verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "It...obey" is  hypakouō, which means to "hearken", "give ear", "answer",   "listen to", "heed", "regard", " give way", "submit", and "comply".

ἂν [60 verses](particle) "Should be" is an , which is a particle used with verbs to indicate that the action is limited by circumstances or defined by conditions. There is no exact equivalent in English, but it is translated as "possibly," "would have," "might," "should," and "could."  Its meaning is largely determined by the verb form but "would have" is the most common, even when not with a subjunctive verb. 

ὑμῖν [289 verses](pron 2nd pl dat) "To you" is humin the plural form of the pronoun of the second person in the indirect object form, "to you." As the object of a preposition, this form implies no movement, but in a fixed position or events occur at a specified time or while the action was being performed. With the "to be," it acts as a possessive, "yours." 

parallel comparison

This is the opposite of the similar verse in Matthew 17:20 where the form is something that is likely to happening in the future.

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