Mark 13:17 But woe to them that are with child

Greek Verse: 

Literal Translation: 

So sad, however, the ones having in the belly, also, the ones nursing in those days.

KJV Verse: 

Mark 13:17 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

There are several signs that this verse was said in a much lighter tone that the translation. There are no verbs used as verbs in this verse. It is a great example of a verse that is spoken, not written. The effect is that every key word rhymes because it is in the form of a female indirect object, all plural except for one. So when spoken, it would be heard as the repetition of a rhyming words, list all ending the same sound. There is a classic play on words.

Even the "woe" that starts this verse is potentially light hearted. The word is very like the Jewish, "oy veh" which can be used to express sorrow but with is more commonly used somewhat lightly. In English, we might say "so sad" or "boo-hoo" depending on how we wanted to express the idea.

The phrase translated as "with child" doesn't contain any of those words in Greek, but it does have that sense, but only after the final word of the phrase, the verb "have," which is translated as "are." If the verb was actually "to be" the phrase would refer to being fat. The word translated as "child" actually means "belly." It is hard to know if this phrasing was humorous or merely polite.

Greek Vocabulary: 

οὐαὶ (exclam) "Woe" is from ouai, which is an exclamation of pain or anger meaning "woe" or "alas" but it can be used sarcastically.

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").

ταῖς (article pl fem dat) "Unto them that" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

ἐν (prep) "With" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with". -

γαστρὶ (noun sg fem dat) "Child" is from gaster, which means "paunch", "belly", "gluttony" with en, or "womb." With the verb "to have" and the preposition en, it usually means "big with child."

ἐχούσαις (part pl pres act fem dat) "Have" is from echo, which means "to have", "to hold", "to possess", "to keep", "to have charge of", "to maintain", "to hold fast", "to bear", "to carry", "to keep close", "to keep safe," and "to have means to do." -- The word translated as "have" means "to possess" or "to keep" but it isn't used in the same way as a "helper" verb that the English "have" is.

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."

ταῖς (article pl fem dat) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

θηλαζούσαις (part pl pres act fem dat) "To them that give suck" is from thelazo, which means "to suckle", "to nurse," and "to suck (for animals)." This is the present participle form used as a female dative noun.

ἐν (prep) "With" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with". -

ἐκείναις (adj pl fem dat) "Those" is from ekeinos, which means "the person there", "that person", "that thing", "in that case", "in that way", "at that place," and "in that manner."

ταῖς (article pl fem dat) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

ἡμέραις. (noun pl fem dat) "Day" is from hemera, which, as a noun, means "day" "a state or time of life", "a time (poetic)", "day break" and "day time." It is also and also has a second meaning, of "quiet", "tame (animals)", "cultivated (crops)," and "civilized (people)." --

 

KJV Analysis: 

But The Greek word translated as "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way and it is usually translated as "but." Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better. When used in writing, it creates complex sentences, but when spoken, it makes a good pausing point so that an important or humorous word can follow. Its use seems to indicates this verse expresses a different feeling than the one before.

woe "Woe" is from an exclamation of grief, meaning "woe" or "alas." However, Jesus seems to use it humorously. Most verses in which it appears have the hallmarks of Christ's humor. However, this one may be an exception. More about this phrase in this article on Christ's humor, under the subtitle, "exaggeration."

to  -- This word "to"  comes from the dative case of the following word(s) that requires the addition of a preposition in English: a "to" as an indirect object, a "with" for instruments, an "in" for locations, an "as" for purposes, an "of" for possession, a "by" for agents, an "as" for comparisons, "at" or "on" a time, and an "in" for area of affect.  This is not an active verb, but a verbal adjective, "having." This word follows the phrase "in/with belly,"

them that -- The word translated as "unto them that" is from the Greek article, "the," which usually precedes a noun and, without 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.  Since the article is feminine, the sense is "those women.

are -- The word translated as "are" means to "have", "possess", "bear", "keep close", "have means to do",  "to have due to one", or "keep" and many specific uses. This verb isn't used to form past tenses as it is in English. 

with -- The word translated as "with" is from a word that means "in" but also means "within", "with," or "among." The sense may well be "in" belly because of the "having" verb.

child, -- The word translated as "child" actually means "paunch", "belly", "gluttony" with en, or "womb." With the verb "to have" and the preposition en, it means "have in the belly" in the sense of "big with child." Until the verb "to have," which follows in the Greek, these phrase "in/with belly" mean "gluttony."

and -- The "and" here is the normal conjunction "and" which can also be used as "also."

to -- This word "to"  comes from the dative case of the following word(s) that requires the addition of a preposition in English: a "to" as an indirect object, a "with" for instruments, an "in" for locations, an "as" for purposes, an "of" for possession, a "by" for agents, an "as" for comparisons, "at" or "on" a time, and an "in" for area of affect.

them that -- The word translated as "unto them that" is again the Greek article, "the," which usually precedes a noun and, without 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.  Since the article is feminine, the sense is "those women.

give suck -- "Give suck" is the adjective form of the verb that means "to nurse" or "to suckle." The sense is "nursing." We would say, "the ones  nursing." Again, the form is obviously female.

in -- The word translated as "in" is the same preposition transalted as "with" earlier, emphasizing the repetition of the verse.

those -- The word translated as "those" is an adjective that highlights its noun as in a specific place from a word that means "there." It seems to indicate that the "days" are about a certain place as well as time.

days! -- The Greek word translated as "days" also means "time," in general, and refers specifically to the "daytime."

Wordplay: 

Christ is contrasting two meanings of the word, ἡμέραις, which means both a period of time and being civilized or taming an animal. There is actually a little joke here contrasting the chaotic end times of to civilized quiet times. Of course, since Christ is talking here primarily about the destruction of the Jewish state by the Romans, which the Roman's saw as taming animals.

Related Verses: 

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

The symbolic keys connect the physical body with our emotional relationships. The physical key is the belly, used throughout Christ's words to portray the physical aspect of life. That physical relationship is connected to the emotional relationship through the act of a mother nursing children. While eating always symbolizes the physical, nursing a child is the most basic form of emotional relationship. This is one of the many verses where Christ illustrate how one temporary state, in this case physical, is naturally transformed into another temporary state, in this case the emotional.

The emotional note here is the sadness and woe because this personal relationship arises in a time of social disorder. All the ideas in this verse are feminine. Not on those who are pregnant and nursing, but the day was feminine (the word for day comes from the name of the goddess of the day, Hemera) and, most significantly, the second meaning of "hemera" as "tame" is also feminine. Civilization was, in a sense, the feminine form of society as opposed to war, for example, which was the masculine.

 

Front Page Date: 

Dec 22 2019