Matthew 12:40 For as Jonas was three days

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Pharisees attack,  casting out demons, demanding a sign

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Because just as he was, Jonah, in the hollow of a sea monster, three days and three nights, in this way,he is going to be, the child of the man, will be in the core of the ground, three days and three nights.

KJV : 

Matthew 12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Jesus's audience almost certainly heard this differently than we hear it today. The "heart of the ground" would be more likely heard as "the heart of the land,"  a reference to Jerusalem as the heart of the Judea. The word translated as "earth" also means "land," and "country." In the Greek OT, it is the word used to refer to a persons people's lands. While, "heart" can be used to describe the "depths" of the sea, it was not used in the same way to refer to the "depth" of earth any more than we would do that today.

Here, Jesus is highlighting his similarity to Jonah's three days and also his differences.  What is  lost in English translation is the contrast between "the belly" and "the heart" that the Greek do. In Greek, both terms are used to indicate feeling, desires, and inclinations but with an important difference. The "belly" as the seat of our more physical goals and desires. The heart is the seat of our higher values. See this article for more about Jesus's use of words to describe human nature.

NIV : 

Matthew 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Wordplay: 

A play on the word for "belly", which actually means "hollow" (koilia)  with the word for "heart," which also means "center" (kardia). 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ὥσπερ (adv) "As" is from hosper, which means "the very man who", "the very thing, which", "the same as", "wherefore," and "although."

γὰρ (partic) "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question it means "why" and "what." --

ἦν (3rd sg imperf ind act) "Was" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

ωνᾶς (proper noun) "Jonas" is from Ionas, the Greek word for the OT prophet Jonah.

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".

τῇ (article sg fem dat)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

κοιλίᾳ [6 verses ](noun sg fem dat) "Belly" is from the Greek, koilia, which means the "cavity within the body" (from the Greek, koilos, for "hollow"), "belly", "abdomen", "intestines,""excrement, ""womb," any hollow in the body, and "a hollow in the earth." From the Greek, koilos, for "hollow".

τοῦ (article sg neut gen))  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

κήτους [1 verse](noun sg neut gen) "Whale's" is from ketos, which means "any sea monster," or "huge fish."

τρεῖς [8 verses](numeral"Three" is from treis, which means the number three.

ἡμέρας (noun pl fem acc) "Days" 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)."

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.

τρεῖς [8 verses](numeral"Three" is from treis, which means the number three.

νύκτας,”  (noun pl fem acc) "Nights" is from nyx, which means "night", "midnight", and is a metaphor for darkness.

οὕτως (adv) "So" is from houtos, which means as an adverb "in this way", "therefore", "so much", "to such an extent," and "that is why."

ἔσται (3rd sg fut ind mid) "Was" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." 

(article sg masc nom)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

υἱὸς (noun sg masc nom) "The Son" is from huios, which means a "son," and more generally, a "child." -- The word translated as "son" more generally means "child."

τοῦ (article sg masc gen))  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

ἀνθρώπου (noun sg masc gen) "Of man" 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.

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".

τῇ (article sg fem dat)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

καρδίᾳ (noun sg fem dat) "Heart" is from kardia, which means "heart (the physical organ)", "the seat of emotions (especially passion, rage, and anger)", "inclination", "desire, ""purpose", "mind", "the pith (in wood), and "the deep (of the sea)."

τῆς (article sg fem gen)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

γῆς (noun sg fem gen) "Earth" is from ge, which means "the element of earth", "land (country)", "arable land", "the ground," and "the ground" as the opposite of the sky. Like our English word "earth," it means both dirt and the planet.

τρεῖς[8 verses](numeral"Three" is from treis, which means the number three.

ἡμέρας (noun fem pl acc) "Days" 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)."

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.

τρεῖς [8 verses](numeral"Three" is from treis, which means the number three.

νύκτας. (noun fem pl acc ) "Nights" is from nyx, which means "night", "midnight", and is a metaphor for darkness.

KJV Analysis: 

For  - The word translated as "for" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, in written English, as "this is because..." to start a new sentence.“

as  - The Greek word translated as "as" indicates a match with a person or thing

Jonas - - "Jonas" is from the Greek spelling of the proper name "Jonah."

was -- The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics

three -- "Three" is from the word from describing the numeral three. 

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

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

three -- "Three" is from the word from describing the numeral three. 

nights -- "Nights"  is the noun that means "night", "midnight", and is a metaphor for darkness.

in  - The word translated as "in" also means "within", "with," or "among."

the  -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

whale's  - "Whale" is a common faulty translation of the Greek word that means "sea monster" or "huge fish." -- This "'s"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  Since this word follows "belly" it is "of the whale."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word 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. 

belly;"Belly" is from the Greek word meaning any abdomen, referring generally to any opening in the body. In Greek, the home of the most basic emotions, food, sex, and other forms of immediate gratification.  The Greeks considered the belly the source of our animal impulses and desires: food, sex, and other forms of immediate gratification.

so -- The word translated in KJV as "so" is in its adverbial form, so it means "in this manner" or "in this way."

shall -- This helping verb "shall" indicates that the verb is the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

Son -- The word translated as "son" more generally means "child" or "descendant". The phrase "the son of man" is the common way Christ refers to himself. It is discussed in detail in this article. Its sense may be "the child of the man."

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of", "which is", "than" (in comparisons), or  "for", "concerning" or "about" with transitive verbs. 

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word 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. 

man - The Greek word for "man" means "man", "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men", "people", and "peoples". 

be  -  -- The verb "be" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics

three -- "Three" is from the word from describing the numeral three. 

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

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

three -- "Three" is from the word from describing the numeral three. 

nights -- "Nights"  is the noun that means "night", "midnight", and is a metaphor for darkness.

in  - The word translated as "in" also means "within", "with," or "among."

the  -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

heart - "Heart" is the Greek word that means the physical heart and that Christ uses to mean the "center" of things. It is a metaphor for "deep" as in "the heart of the ocean," but Christ uses it to signify the center of the higher emotions: courage, righteous anger, patriotism, true affection, and wisdom, which the Greeks usually refer to as "chest" emotions as opposed to lower "belly" emotions.

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession.

the  -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

earth -- The word translated as "earth" means both "dirt", "the ground", and "the physical planet." See this article for more on these words.

KJV Translation Issues: 

2
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "belly" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "man" is not shown in the English translation.

NIV Analysis: 

For  - The word translated as "for" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, in written English, as "this is because..." to start a new sentence.“

as  - The Greek word translated as "as" indicates a match with a person or thing

Jonah - - "Jonas" is from the Greek spelling of the proper name "Jonah."

was -- The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics

three -- "Three" is from the word from describing the numeral three. 

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

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

three -- "Three" is from the word from describing the numeral three. 

nights -- "Nights"  is the noun that means "night", "midnight", and is a metaphor for darkness.

in  - The word translated as "in" also means "within", "with," or "among."

the  -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more.

belly;"Belly" is from the Greek word meaning any abdomen, referring generally to any opening in the body. In Greek, the home of the most basic emotions, food, sex, and other forms of immediate gratification.  The Greeks considered the belly the source of our animal impulses and desires: food, sex, and other forms of immediate gratification.

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession.

a -- (WW) The word translated as "a" is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more.  

huge fish,  - - "Huge fish" is a common faulty translation of the Greek word that means "sea monster" or "huge fish."  -

so -- The word translated in KJV as "so" is in its adverbial form, so it means "in this manner" or "in this way."

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

Son -- The word translated as "son" more generally means "child" or "descendant". The phrase "the son of man" is the common way Christ refers to himself. It is discussed in detail in this article. Its sense may be "the child of the man."

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of", "which is", "than" (in comparisons), or  "for", "concerning" or "about" with transitive verbs. 

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word 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. 

man - The Greek word for "man" means "man", "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men", "people", and "peoples". 

will -- This helping verb "will" indicates that the verb is the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

be  -  -- The verb "be" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics

three -- "Three" is from the word from describing the numeral three. 

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

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

three -- "Three" is from the word from describing the numeral three. 

nights -- "Nights"  is the noun that means "night", "midnight", and is a metaphor for darkness.

in  - The word translated as "in" also means "within", "with," or "among."

the  -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

heart - "Heart" is the Greek word that means the physical heart and that Christ uses to mean the "center" of things. It is a metaphor for "deep" as in "the heart of the ocean," but Christ uses it to signify the center of the higher emotions: courage, righteous anger, patriotism, true affection, and wisdom, which the Greeks usually refer to as "chest" emotions as opposed to lower "belly" emotions.

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession.

the  -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

earth -- The word translated as "earth" means both "dirt", "the ground", and "the physical planet." See this article for more on these words.

NIV Translation Issues: 

2
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "a" should be "the."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "man" is not shown in the English translation.

The Spoken Version: 

“Are you referring to the storm you raised at the Mount of Seven Springs?” someone asked.
The Distinguished objected.
“That storm was natural! He might as well claim he will be swallowed whole!” shouted the Distinguished leader.
“Or get the Distinguished Council in Jerusalem to give up their fancy robes and wear sack cloth,” someone respod
The Master smiled, nodded, and applauded both of these guesses.
“You are going to be swallowed?” the Distinguished leader questioned.
“You are going to get the Distinguished to repent?” asked another. “That seems more unlikely.”
This Master smiled at both questions and nodded confidently again.
“How?” several in the crowd asked at once.
“Because the same as he was, Jonah, in the belly of that sea beast” said the Master. “three days and three nights...”
He paused holding up three fingers on each hand and showing it to the crowd.
“In this way, he will be, the son of the man, will be in the heart of the land, three days and three nights.”
The crowd laughed and cheered.
Going into Jerusalem, the religious and political heart of Judea, was truly going into the belly of the beast. Neither the Romans nor the Distinguished High Council had any tolerance for popular religious figures there.

Front Page Date: 

Nov 14 2020