Matthew 11:16 To what shall I compare this generation?

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

To what, however, am I going to compare this generation? It is like little ones having been seated in the assembly (sniff!)  issuing orders to the others.

KJV : 

Matthew 11:16 But whereunto shall I liken the type, this one? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

There are several plays on words indicating that the "children" think of themselves as being in positions of authority. There are also two very uncommon words appearing in the Gospels only once. One is not translated.  This verse uses neither a word that means "children" nor a word that means "fellows".

The Greek word translated as"but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

 The Greek word translated as "whereunto" in the singular means "anyone", "someone," and "anything." In the plural, it means "some", "they," and "those." Its use often indicates a question. It is in the form of an indirect object "to what". 

The verb translated as "shall I liken" is a verb that means "to make like", "compare", or "to liken". It is in the future tense. 

The word translated as "this" means "this", "here", or "that". 

 The word translated as "generation" means "race", "type", "family", and "generation". Christ uses this term frequently in criticism, but that criticism seems more aims at the human race, or, more narrowly, his own people, that it is his generation. It is the word from which we get the scientific "genus". However, more narrowly, he could also mean "this type of people". 

"It is" is the common verb to be in the present tense. 

"Like" is a Greek adjective meaning "like". This is the adjective form of the verb used above. 

"Children" is a word that means "little one" so "little boy" and "little girl" but it is not associated with either sex. It is not the word usually translated as "children" in the New Testament. Read this article about words translated as "child" or "children" in the Gospels. 

"Sitting" is a Greek verb that means to "be seated", "sit," especially of courts, councils, assemblies, etc. The form is an adjective, "sitting", but as an action completed in the past, "having been seated ." The sense if being put in a position of authority. 

"Market" is a word that means is any assemblage of people, a place where people gather, a market or a street. The idea of "sitting in an assembly" is specifically the idea of being in a position of authority. 

There is an untranslated word here that is an exclamation of the sound of someone sniffing.  This word is uncommon for Christ. It gives the sense of the children the children sniffing at those they consider inferior. 

The Greek word translated as "calling"  means to "call or speak to", call by name", or "issue directions or orders". This word is also uncommon for Christ. Christ uses other terms to mean "call by name" and "speak to" so the sense of "issuing orders" is most likely and consistent with what follows. 

The word translated as "their fellows" means "one of two", "other," or "different." It is an adjective used as a noun. The sense is "the others". 


The word used for "sitting" indicates being seated in a place of authority. This sense is strengthened by the phrase "in the marketplace" because the word for "marketplace" means "assembly". Being seated in an assembly is the definition of being in authority. 

The word translated as "calling" also means "issuing orders", which is again consistent with the idea of authority here. As is the "sniff" exclamation that precedes it. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Τίνι (irreg sg dat)  "Whereunto" is from tis which can mean "someone", "any one", "everyone", "they [indefinite]", "many a one", "whoever", "anyone", "anything", "some sort", "some sort of", "each", "any", "the individual", "such," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

δὲ (partic) "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").

ὁμοιώσω (1st sg fut ind act) "Shall I liken" is from homoioo, which means "to make like", "to become like", "to liken," and "to compare.

τὴν γενεὰν (noun sg fem acc) "Generation" is from genea, which means "race", "family", "generation", "class," and "kind." It is the word that we get the scientific "genus" from.

ταύτην; (adj sg fem acc) "This" is from tauta, which is a referring pronoun meaning "these", "this", "that," and "here." It can mean the nearer or the further depending on usage. As an adverb it can mean "therefore" and "that is why."

ὁμοία (adj sg fem nom) "Like is from homoios, which means "like", "resembling", "the same", "equal in force, "a match for one", "suiting", "of the same rank", "alike", "in like manner," and "equally."

ἐστὶν (3rd sg pres ind act) "It is" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." It can also mean "must" with a dative.

παιδίοις (noun pl neut dat) "Children" is paidarion, which means "little one", "little boy", and "little girl." It is not the word usually translated as "children" in the New Testament which is usually the noun meaning "son," for example, "children of God" is usually huios (sons) theos(God).

καθημένοις (part pl perf mid masc dat) "Sitting" is from kathemai, which means "to sit", "to be seated", "to sit still", "to sit quiet", "to reside," and "to be placed."

ἐν (prep) "In" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with". -- The word translated as "in" also means "within", "with," or "among."

ταῖς ἀγοραῖς (noun pl fem dat) "The marketplace" is from agora, which means "an assembly", "place of assembly," and "marketplace." "Public speaking" meant speaking in the marketplace.

 [rare](exclaim) Untranslated is this exclamation described as a sound of someone "sniffing a feast" or "hu!". 

προσφωνοῦντα [uncommon](part pl pres act neut nom) "Calling" is from prosphoneo, which means to "call or speak to", "address", " call by name", "issue directions or orders", "pronounce", "utter" and "make a report."

τοῖς ἑτέροις (adj pl neut dat) "Their fellows" is from heteros, which means "one or the other of two", "the second", "the secondary", "the minor", "other things [of like kind]", "another", "different," "other than", "different from", "other than should be," and "in another or a different way." 

Front Page Date: 

Jul 1 2017