Matthew 12:36 That every idle word

KJV Verse: 

Matthew 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

I'm saying, however, to you: Every fruitless remark that they might repeat, these men, they are going to give back its value during the time of decision.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Another good play on words in the Greek is lost in English translation. The word translated as "word' is not the common Greek noun translated as "word'. However, the Greek word normally translated as "word" does appear here: but it is translated as "account" is that  It is very consistent with Christ's message about "good" meaning "useful" and 'bad" meaning "useless" in the previous verse, Matthew 12:35.

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 word translated as "I say" is the most common word that means "to say," and "to speak," but it also means "to teach," which seems to be the way Christ uses it more frequently. Christ usually uses this word to refer to his own speaking or teaching.

"Idle" is an adjective that means "not working the ground", "lazy," and "idle" when applied to people, but when applied to things (like words) "lying idle", "yielding no return," and "fruitless."

The Greek word translated as "word" is not the Greek word that is almost always translated as "word(s)" in the Gospels, but another word that specifically means spoken words, that is, a "saying". The English word "remarks" is from this Greek root word  and captures its meaning well.

The Greek word translated as "shall speak" is not the ordinary "to say" or "to speak" in Greek. This word means both "idle chatter", "gossip," and "the proclamations of an oracle." Christ uses it to capture the idea of "pass on," because that refers to both someone gossiping and an oracle proclaiming. Christ sometimes refers to his own speaking with this word in a self-effacing way. 

The word translated as "they shall give" doesn't mean simply "give." It means "to give back." In a financial sense, to "pay back."

Untranslated is the word usually translated as "his", "hers," and "its." It is singular so it does not refer to "men" but to the "remark."

"Account" is actually the Greek term usually translated as "word,". It means "a computation", "a reckoning," and "value." It is also "an explanation", "an argument," or "a rule or principle of law." When used with a verb with a financial sense, it means "value" or "cost." While the earlier terms translated as "word" can be thought of as just words and nothing more, this Greek word means reasoning and calculation as much as speaking.

The word translated as "in" also means "within", "with," or "among." Or in the case of referring to a time, "during."

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

The Greek word translated as "of judgment" means distinguishing among choices and "separating" things. Christ uses it in a variety of ways, though the KJV usually translates it as "judgment." It also means a "turning point," since it is the source of the meaning of "crisis" has in English. Only secondarily does it means "judgment" as in a court judgment.

Greek Vocabulary: 

Λέγω (1st sg pres ind act) "I say" is from lego, which means "to recount", "to tell over", "to say", "to speak", "to teach", "to mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," nominate," and "command." 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."

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").

ὑμῖν (pron 2nd pl dat) "You" is from humas the plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."
ὅτι "That" 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."

πᾶν (adj sg neut acc) "Every" is from pas, which means "all", "the whole", "every", "anyone", "all kinds," and "anything." In the adverbial form, it means "every way", "on every side", "in every way," and "altogether." -- The word translated as "all things" is one word meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas. As an adverb, it means "in every way", "on every side," and "altogether."

ῥῆμα (noun sg neut acc) "Word" is from rhema, which means "that which is spoken", "word", "saying", "word for word", "subject of speech," and "matter."

ἀργὸν (adj sg neut acc) "Idle" is argos, which means "not working the ground", "lazy," and "idle" when applied to people, but when applied to things (like words) "lying idle", "yielding no return," and "fruitless."

 (pron sg neut acc) "That" is from hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings. -- The word translated as "that" is a demonstrative pronoun, but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause.

λαλήσουσιν (3rd pl aor subj act or 3rd pl fut ind act) "Shall speak" is from laleo, which means "to talk", "to speak ", "to prattle", "to chat," and [for oracles] "to proclaim." It also means "chatter" as the opposite of articulate speech.

οἱ ἄνθρωποι, (noun pl masc nom) "Men" is from anthropos, which is "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate. -- The Greek word for "of man" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in plural.

ἀποδώσουσιν (3rd pl fut ind act) "They shall give" is from apodidomi which means "to give back", "to restore," and "to deliver." It has the economic sense of "to sell" or "to give something for one's own profit." It begins with apo the preposition of separation and origin, the idea of "from" in English, didômi which means "to give", "to grant", "to hand over," and "to describe."

περὶ (prep) "Thereof" is from peri, which means "round about (Place)", "around", "about", "concerning", "on account of", "in regard to", "before", "above", "beyond," and "all around."

αὐτοῦ (adj sg masc gen) Untranslated is autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

λόγον (noun sg masc acc) "Account" is from logos, which is usually translated as "word" in the gospel but actually means "computation", "relation", "explanation", "law", "rule of conduct", "continuous statement", "tradition", "discussion, ""reckoning," and "value."

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".

ἡμέρᾳ (noun sg 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)." --

κρίσεως: (noun sg fem gen) "Judgment" is from krisis, which means "separating", "distinguishing", "judgment", "choice", "election", "trial", "dispute", "event," and "issue."


The term translated as "they shall give" means "to pay back" in a financial sense, while the word translated as "account" means "value" or "cost." 

Related Verses: 

Aug 3 2017