Matthew 11:23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted unto heaven,

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Also you, Capernaum, you aren't going to want to be lifted up to the sky? You are going to bring yourself down to the netherworld. This is because if the powers, the ones bringing themselves into being within you, had come into being in Sodom, it would remain until today.

KJV : 

Mat 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The Greek here makes more sense than the KJV translation which seems to say that the village is already exalted. Most modern biblical translations do this better, making the sentence a question, but the original Greek is clearly a negative statement. They all miss the key point that this is something the town is doing to itself.

There is a negative used here that is untranslated in most Biblical translations. It is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion, commands, and requests. The sense is that "you don't want" to do something, not that it isn't done.

"Exalted" is a word that means "to lift high" and "raise up." It is a metaphor for "elevate" and "exalt." It is in the second person future passive.

The word translated as "to" means "until" but it also means "up to the point that."

The word translated as "heaven" means sky, the climate, and the universe. It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods.

"Brought down" is a word which means "to bring down" and "to bring down from." It also is in the second person future, but in a form that means the subject is acting on itself.

"Hell" is the Greek concept of the land of departed spirits. It is the name of Pluto, the god of the underworld and used for the netherworld. Interesting, this is the first time that this world is used in Matthew. The term often translated as "hell" prior to this in Matthew has been genna (Gehenna), the burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem. See this article on the words for "hell".  

The word translated as "for" introduces a statement of fact or cause.

The word translated as "had been done" means "to become," that is, to enter into a new state. In Greek, especially as used by Jesus, it is the opposite of "being," which is existence in the current state. It is in the passive form: had been brought into being.

"Mighty works" is from a word that describes abilities and capacities, what actions a person can do or has done so "power", "might", "influence", "authority," and "force." It does not carry the sense of authority over others, either people or laws. The verb form of this word is translated as "can" in the NT.

The verb translated as "its would have remain" means to "stay" or "remain." However, it is not in the passive form, but the active, "It would remain." This words is often mistranslated in the Bible at "to abide" or "to dwell."

The Greek word translated as "until" means "up to," and "until."

The word translated as "this day" was used like our word "today."


In the Greek, the words translated as "exalted" and "down to" are clearly antonyms, "lifted up" and "brought down." However, the "lifting up" is down by someone else, a passive form, while the "bringing down" is something that they town is going to do to itself, a "middle passive" in Greek. 

Christ is exaggerating here and in the previous verses, for humorous effect. He may be mimicking the style of John that Baptist, who was the subject of the verses proceeding these. However, he doesn't take is as seriously, as he makes clear at the end, in  Mat 11:25

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Καὶ (conj) "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." -

σύ, (pron 2nd sg nom ) "You" is from su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

Καφαρναούμ, (noun) "Capernaum" is from Kapharnaoum, which is the Greek spelling of the fishing village in Galilee where Christ taught in the synagogue.

μὴ (parftic) Untranslated is me , which is the negative used in prohibitions and expressions of doubt meaning "not" and "no." As οὐ (ou) negates fact and statement; μή rejects, οὐ denies; μή is relative, οὐ absolute; μή subjective, οὐ objective.

ἕως (conj) "To" is from heos which means "until", "till," and "in order that" and "up to the point that."

οὐρανοῦ (noun sg masc gen) "Heaven" is from the Greek ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate."

ὑψωθήσῃ; (2nd sg fut ind pass) "Art exhalted" is from hypsoo (hupsoo), which means "to lift high", "to raise up." It is a metaphor for "to elevate" and "to exalt."

ἕως (conj) "To" is from heos which means "until", "till," and "in order that" and "up to the point that."

ᾄδου (noun sg masc gen ) "Hell" is from hades, the Greek term for the netherworld. It is a place of departed spirits. It is also a synonym for "death."

καταβήσῃ.” (2nd sg fut ind mid) "Brought down" is katabibazô, which means to "cause to bring down" "come down from", "dismount from", "go down from", "attain (metaphor)", "come to", "arrive at", "conform to", "condescend", "fall in value," and "to bring down."

ὅτι (adv/conj)"For" is from hoti, which introduces a statement of fact "with regard to the fact that", "seeing that," and acts as a causal adverb meaning "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore."

εἰ (conj) "If" is from ei, which is the particle used to express conditions "if" (implying nothing about its fulfillment) or indirect questions, "whether." It also means "if ever", "in case," and "whenever." It is combined with various conjunctions to create derivative conditions.

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".

Σοδόμοις (noun) "Sodom" is from Sodoma, which means the biblical town of Sodom, destroy in the OT alone by a hail of fire.

ἐγενήθησαν (3rd pl aor ind pass)"Had been done" is from ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", "to happen", "to be produced," and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being. It is the complementary opposite of the verb "to be" (eimi)which indicates existence in the same state.

αἱ δυνάμεις noun pl fem nom /acc) "Mighty works" is from dynamis (dunamis), which means "power", "might", "influence", "authority", "capacity", "elementary force", "force of a word," and "value of money." Elemental forces are forces such as heat and cold.

αἱ γενόμεναι (part pl aor mid fem nom /dat) "had been done" is from ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", "to happen", "to be produced," and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being. Here, it is in the form of a passive participle, acting as a noun, "the ones that produced themselves."

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".

σοί, (pron 2nd pl dat) "You" is from soi which is the singular, second person pronoun, "you".

ἔμεινεν (3rd sg aor ind act) "It would have remained" is from meno, which, as a verb, it means "stand fast" (in battle), "stay at home", "stay", "tarry", "remain as one was", "abide", and (transitive) "await."

ἂν (partic) "Would" is from 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."

μέχρι (prep/conj/adv) "Until" is from mechri, which means "as far as", "even to", "so far as", "up to", "until", "about," and "nearly."

τῆς σήμερον. (adv) "This day" is from semeron, which is an adverb that means "for today" and "on this day."

Front Page Date: 

Jul 7 2017