Mark 3:4 Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days,

KJV Verse: 

Mark 3:4 Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Is it allowed on the Sabbath days to do good or to injure? to rescue a life or to slay?

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Whenever we see a verse where Jesus uses a lot of unusual words, as he does here, one explanation is that he is repeated something those he is talking with have said. In this verse, we have some evidence of this. In Matthew 12:10, this question was asked by his opponents of Jesus and is not part of Christ's words.

Another interesting aspect of this verse is that Christ uses the verb forms of the Greek words that mean "good" and "evil". This is unusual. The terms normally translated as "good" and "evil" in his words are more accurately translated as "valuable" and "worthless."

 

KJV Analysis: 

Is it lawful: "It is lawful" is a verb, which means "it is possible" and "it is allowed." It generally refers to something within someone's power, or, in this case with the negative, something outside of someone's power. This word does not, as it might seem, refer directly to Biblical law.  This is the active verb in the sentence, all the other verbs are infinitives that describe the action.

to do good: The verb translated as "to do good" means "to do good", "to do well", "to act rightly," and "to exert a beneficial influence." It combines the verb meaning "to make" or "to perform" with the common Greek adjective meaning "useful", "worthwhile," and "of high quality." See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil." In the Greek, this verb follows the "on the sabbath phrase."

on: This word comes from the dative case of the following word.  The sense is more specifically "during" when the dative is used with a time word. 

the sabbath days: The word translated as the "on the Sabbath days" is the Greek version of the Hebrew word "shabbat" meaning "rest" or "day of rest".  

or: "Or" is translated from a Greek word that means primary "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison.

to do evil: The verb translated as "to do evil" means "to do ill", "to play the knave," and "to do mischief," and "to injure." It combines the verb meaning "to make" or "to perform" with the common Greek adjective meaning many different forms of "bad," including "ugly", "low born", "craven," and "ill." In the NT, it is often translated as "evil." More about it in this article.

to save:  "To save" is the Greek word that means "to keep alive" when applied to people or "to keep safe" when applied to things. Christ uses it to mean "rescue" in most cases.

life: The word translated here as "life" is psyche, a common word in Greek meaning "life", "soul", "consciousness," and "a sense of self." Christ uses it to mean primary "spirit" or "mind." This is especially clear here where "mind" is contrasted with "body". This Greek word is our source of the English word "psyche." 

or: "Or" is translated from a Greek word that means primary "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison.

to kill?  "To kill" is translated from a Greek word that means "destroy" more than just "kill" because the base word means "slay." The Greek source has the sense of "kill off," that is, destroy in a more thorough way. When we talk about "destroying" someone, we use it to mean destroying their reputation, the strength of their spirit and ideas as well as physically killing them. 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἔξεστιν [uncommo](verb 3rd sg pres ind act )  "Is it lawful" is exesti, which means "to be allowed", "is possible," and "to be in one's power." 

τοῖς σάββασιν (noun pl masc dat)  "On the sabbath days" is from sabbaton, which means "Sabbath", "seven days of week," and "first day of week."

ἀγαθοποιῆσαι   [uncommon](verb aor inf act ) "Do good" is from agathopoieo, which means "to do good", "to do well", "to act rightly," and "to exert a beneficial influence."

  (conj) "Or" is which is a particle meaning "either", "or," or "than." --

κακοποιῆσαι,  [uncommon] (verb aor inf act) "Do evil" is from kakopoieo, which means "to do ill", "to play the knave," and "to do mischief," and "to injure."

ψυχὴν (noun sg fem acc ) "Life" is psyche, which means "breath", "life", "self", "spirit," and "soul." It has the clear sense of the conscious self and is often translated as "life" in the Gospels. It is also used to describe "the spirit" of things. It is often translated as "soul." 

σῶσαι  (verb aor inf act) "Save" is from sozo, which means "save from death", "keep alive", "keep safe", "preserve", "maintain", "keep in mind", "carry off safely," and "rescue."

  (conj) "Or" is which is a particle meaning "either", "or," or "than." -- "Than" is translated from a Greek word that means primary "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison.

ἀποκτεῖναι; (verb aor inf act) "To kill" is apokteino, which means "to kill," and "to slay" but it is a stronger form than the normal verb kteino. It is more like our "destroy."

Wordplay: 

The "kill" also means "to destroy a reputation" and Christ often  uses it when his position is challenges. 

Related Verses: 

May 30 2019