Matthew 16:11 How is it that you do not understand that I spoke [it] not to you concerning bread,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 16:11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

How in the world don't you in fact get it that I am not really speaking to you about bread? Instead, you should pay attention to [what comes] from the self-propagating ideas of the self-righteous and the aristocrats.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The key word in this verse is mistranslated as "of" when it actually means "from" in a very specific way. The point of this verse is that we cannot see the "leaven" in dough. To see if dough is leavened or not, we must observe how it behaves. The leaven itself is a symbol. This verse is a good place to get into a little more about hidden meaning of Christ's use of words, discussed at the end.

"How" is from a word that which means "how", "how in the world", "how then", "in any way", "at all", "by any mean", "in a certain way,"and "I suppose." Here, it accentuates what Christ saying. In Mat 16:9, Christ used a different word, translated as "not yet" to exaggerate the same idea.

"Do ye...understand" is from a verb that means "to perceive with the eyes", "to perceive with the mind," and "to observe." We use the word "see" to have the same sense of physical seeing and perceiving with the mind.

The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact.

There is not "it is" in the Greek. In the Greek source, the "it is that" comes fro a word that means "that" or "because." So what follows is a dependent clause, indicating either what they were "saying" or why they were saying it.

"I spake" is from means "to say" and "to speak". However, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and proclaiming than the usual verb Christ uses to describe his teaching.

"The word translated as "loaves" means "small loaf or cake of bread". It is more like a slice of bread that a loaf of bread today. This is the same word usually translated as "bread" in the NT. Bread is represents (the main one) for nourishment of the body.

The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact.

There is a conjunction here that is not translated but that joins sentences in an adversarial way. It is usually translated as "but" or "on the other hand." Here, "instead" captures the idea.

"Beware" is from a Greek verb which means "to hold to", "to offer", "to turn toward a thing," and "to pay attention." Only in the NT is it ever translated as "beware." It was the same word used in Mat 16:6 , to describe paying attention.

The word translated as "of" is not the normal "of" that indicates possession. It is a very different word that means "from" in both location and when referring to a source. Here, it is referring to the "leaven" as the source.

"Leaven" means "yeast" the culture that spreads through flour to create the "bubbles" that make bread rise. It is Christ's symbol for ideas that propagate themselves. Christ compares the kingdom of heaven to leaven as well and the ideas of the Pharisees. Leaven is represents the hidden spiritual or philosophical side of the physical world. Christ uses leaven to describe the kingdom of heaven that changes everything by changing the spirit within it. However, the same is true of the spirit of the self-righteous and powerful, the worldly spirit, which also mixes into our ideas.

The Pharisees were the self-righteous of the period, who saw themselves as morally superior to the common people because they were more dedicated to following all the purity rules of tradition.

This might be a good time to discuss the distinction that Christ draws between spiritual ideas and mental thoughts. Spiritual or philosophical ideas or concepts exist independent of any real person or object. The number "two,"for example, exists as an concept independent of any two things. It is perfectly real even without tangible form. Such concepts are real without form even if no one knows them. For example, the number "pi" existed even before people knew about it and used it. Philosophical or "spiritual" ideas inspire and shape thoughts, but they are not the thoughts themselves. Once people know about "pi" the can use the idea and it can shape their actions.this is what Christ means by "spirit," the real concepts underlying reality.

Only God's concepts underlie physical reality. When we get into the realm of relationships, the emotional, God's concepts contend with human concepts. Christ's role is to bring the kingdom of heaven, that is, God's concepts, back to human relationships and human society. This is his "leaven." These concepts must contend against those of organized religion and the state. He is warning the apostles that it is very easy to mix spiritual and worldly ideas.

People mix up Christ's ideas with worldly ideas to all the time. Christ, on the other hand, taught that religion and politics don't mix. Period. Religion is about your personal relationship with God not about reforming society. Christ says this a hundred different ways. If individuals embrace God through Christ's ideas, we will automatically reform society. This can only be done without the coercion of government. However, it this does not mean that people simply ignore what is wrong. It means that they confront it and challenge it on the basis of their faith.

Greek Vocabulary: 

πῶς "How" is from pos, which means "how", "how in the world", "how then", "in any way", "at all", "by any mean", "in a certain way,"and "I suppose."

οὐ "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective.

νοεῖτε (verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Ye do...understand" is from noeo, means specifically "perceive by the eyes", "observe, ""to perceive with the mind", "apprehend", "think out, "devise", "consider," (of words) "bear a certain sense," and "reflect."

ὅτι "It is 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."

οὐ "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective.

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

ἄρτων (noun pl masc gen) "Bread" is from artos, which means specifically a "cake of whole wheat bread," and generally "loaf," and "bread."

εἶπον (verb 1st sg aor ind act) "I spake" is from eipon, which means "to speak", "to say", "to recite", "to address", "to mention", "to name", "to proclaim", "to plead", "to promise," and "to offer."

ὑμῖν; "To you" is from hymin (humin), which is the 2nd person plural dative pronoun. Dative is the case which indicates to whom something is given. -- The "you" here is plural, indicating all Christ's listeners.

προσέχετε "That ye should beware" is the Greek prosecho, which means "hold to", "to offer", "turn to or toward, ""to turn your mind toward, ""to be on one's guard against", "to take heed", "to pay attention", "to devote oneself to", "to attach oneself", "to continue", "to hold fast to [a thing], ""to have in addition," or "pay court to."

δὲ Untranslated here is 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").

ἀπὸ "Of" is from apo, a preposition of separation which means "from" or "away from" from when referring to place or motion, "from" or "after" when referring to time, "from" as an origin or cause. -- The word translated as "from" means "from" in both location and when referring to a source.

τῆς ζύμης (noun sg fem gen ) "The leaven" is sometimes translated as "yeast." It is from the Greek zyme, which means any kind of bread or beer "yeast." It is from a root word meaning "to mix." This was a time when yeast didn't come in little packets but was maintained as a live culture, in this case, in the raw bread dough itself.

τῶν Φαρισαίων (noun pl masc gen) "Pharisees" is from Pharisaios, which means "the separated", "the separate ones", " separatist" and refers to the religious sect. The word comes from the Hebrew, pharash, which means "to distinguish." this is the primary meaning of the Greek word krino, which is usually translated as "judge" in the Gospels. What we describe as "pure" or "sacred" was described in Hebrew as "separate," that is, separate from everyday items.

καὶ "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."

Σαδδουκαίων. (noun pl masc gen) "Sadducees" is from Saddoukaios, which was the name of a Jewish sect that believed that all law came from the Torah, rather than Jewish tradition as the Pharisees beleived. They represented the wealthy aristocracy of Jewish society. Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife or the existence of spirits or angels.

Wordplay: 

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