Matthew 18:16 But if he will not hear [you, then]

KJV Verse: 

Mat 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

When, however, he doesn't [want to] listen, still call in one [person] or two with you in order that all that is said may established by the mouths of two witnesses or three.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The advice here is put in very plain language in the Greek though it seems rather strained when translated by the KJV into English. The sense isn't "if" this happens, but "when" it happens, because it almost certainly will in some disputes. In Jewish law and as a practical matter, you cannot be considered a witness about yourself unless you have someone else supporting your testimony. Jewish courts and judges didn't even here the testimony unless there was more than one person supporting it.

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 meaning "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. It is like we use the word "when."

The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion. The sense is that "you don't want" to do something, not that it isn't done. If it wasn't done, the objective negative of fact would be used. More about the Greek negative in this article.

"Hear" is translated from a Greek word that has the same sense as the English not only of listening but of understanding.

"Take" is a verb that means "to take to oneself", "to associate with", "to call in," and "to invite." With the word for witness, it specifically means "to call in witnesses." It is in the form of a command, but there is a use of the imperative in Greek in a conditional statement (one introduced by an "if" or "when) as it is here), that we do not have in English. 

"More" is from a word that means "yet" and "still" (with the Present), "already" (with the Past), "yet" and "longer" (with the Future), "no longer" (with a negative), and "still" and "besides" (of degree).

The word for "one" is also used, like the English "one" as a pronoun, referring to a person. However, the number "two" doesn't have the same sense so it is used in context.

The word translated as "in" means "against", "before", "by" or "on."

"Mouth" is stoma, which means "mouth" and therefore, "speech" or "utterance." In English, we say someone has a "foul mouth" when we mean they use bad language. The Greek use to mean speech was a little more direct.

"Witnesses" is from the Gerek word that means "witness" or "witnesses" and later came to mean "martyr." It is the noun form of the verb that means "to testify" or "bear witness."

The word translated as "every" is one word meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas.

The Greek word translated as "word" is not logos, the Greek word that is almost always translated as "word(s)" in the Gospels, but rhema, which specifically means spoken words, that is, what is said. The English word "remarks" is from this source and captures this idea well.

"Establish" is from the Greek word for "to set", "to put," and "to place." Like the English words "put" and "set," it has a number of specific meanings from "to put down [in writing]", "to bury", "to establish", "to make", "to cause," and "to assign."

Greek Vocabulary: 

ἐὰν "If" is from ean, which is a conditional particle (derived from ei (if)and an (might)) which makes reference to a time and experience in the future that introduces but does not determine an event.

δὲ "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").

μὴ "Not" is from 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.

ἀκούσῃ, (verb 3rd sg aor subj act) "Ye hear" is from akouo, which means "hear of", "hear tell of", "what one actually hears", "know by hearsay", "listen to", "give ear to", "hear and understand," and "understand."

παράλαβε (verb 2nd sg aor imperat act) "Take" is from paralambanô, which means "to take to oneself", "to associate with", "to call in," and "to invite." With the word for witness, martys, it specifically means "to call in witnesses."

μετὰ "With" is from meta, which means "in the midst of", "among", "between", "in common", "along with", "by the aid of", "in one's dealings with", "into the middle of", "coming into", "in pursuit of", "after", "behind", "according to," and "next afterward"

σοῦ (adj sg neut gen) "Thy" is from sou which means "you" and "your."

ἔτι "More" is from eti, which means "yet" and "still" (with the Present), "already" (with the Past), "yet" and "longer" (with the Future), "no longer" (with a negative), and"still" and "besides" (of degree).

ἕνα (noun sg masc acc) "One" is from heis, which means "one", "single," and "one and the same." This adjective is irregular, having a number of forms depending on sex, number, and case: heis, henos, heni, hen, hena, mia, mias, miai, mian; hen, henos, hen. The form is mia, feminine singular.

"Or" is e which is a particle meaning "either", "or," or "than."

δύο, "Two" is from duo, which means the number "two", "a couple," and "a pair."

ἵνα "That" is from hina, which means "in that place", "there", "where", "when", "that", "in order that", "when," and "because."

ἐπὶ "In" is from epi. which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against." -- The word translated as "unto" means "against", "before", "by" or "on."

στόματος (noun sg neut gen) "The mouth" is stoma, which means "mouth", "the organ of speech", "speech", "utterance," "any outlet or entrance," and "the foremost part" of something. For example, the blade or point of a weapon is a stoma.

δύο "Two" is from duo, which means the number "two", "a couple," and "a pair." -- The Greek word for "two" means "two" or a "couple."

μαρτύρων (noun pl masc gen) "Witnesses" is from martys, which means "witness" or "witnesses" and later came to mean "martyr."

"Or" is e which is a particle meaning "either", "or," or "than."

τριῶν "Three" is from treis, which means the number three.

σταθῇ (verb 3rd sg aor subj pass) "Stand" is from histemi, which means "to make to stand", "to stand", "to set up", "to bring to a standstill", "to check", "to appoint", "to establish", "to fix by agreement", "to be placed", "to be set", "to stand still", "to stand firm", "to set upright", "to erected", "to arise," and "to place." Like the English words "put" and "set," it has a number of specific meanings from "to put down [in writing]", "to bury", "to establish", "to make", "to cause," and "to assign."

πᾶν (adj sg neut nom) "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." -

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

Wordplay: 

The last "two or three" adds the person with the problem to the list of witnesses. One or two observers plus the person bringing them in. it is the number that make them "witnesses" under Jewish law. There cannot be fewer than two. 

Related Verses: