Matthew 18:6 But whoever shall offend one of these little ones

KJV Verse: 

Mat 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

But, when anyone might trip up one of these young of those trusting in me, it would uplifting for him where a grinding stone were hung up around that throat of his and he were thrown down into deep part of the ocean.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse is one of the most interesting in the Gospels because of the differences among this version and Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2.  It hold a lot of clues about the source of Jesus's quotes in the Gospels (See Mark 9:42) and even how Jesus's lines changed over time. (See Luke 17:2)

In this verse, a play on the ideas of "up" and "down" are obscured in translation. The "it would be better" phrase is from a word that has a more interesting meaning that that, especially in this context. This phrase is not a suggestion about how these people should be treated as much as a description of how low they are. Those who trip children up, drawing them away from God are the lowest form of life.

The word translated as "whoso" is a demonstrative pronoun, but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause.

There is an untranslated word here that means "if might." It indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone.

The key word here is translated as "shall offend." It is a "Greek" form from an Aramaic verb that is found only in the Bible. It refers to putting a stumbling block before someone so that they trip and thereby offending them. In English, we would simply say, "trips you up." Though it doesn't sound like it in English translation, Christ uses this word to make light of his affect on the thinking of others.

The Greek word translated as "one" means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same."As in English, it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person.

"Little ones" is from an adjective, used as a noun, which means "small", "little," and "young." So, "the little" or, in the plural as used here, "little ones." It is a change from the noun used in the previous verse that means specifically refer to "little" or "young" children. See this article about the words Jesus uses for children.

"Which believe" is from a verb in the form of an adjective used as a noun, which means "to trust in", "to rely one," and "to put your faith in" a person. So, it is "the ones trusting in me." This Greek word does not apply to religious belief as much as it does trusting in other people, especially their words.

"It would be better" is from a verb that means literally, "to be carried along with." It is used to mean "to bring together", "to collect", "to confer a benefit", "to profit", "to be useful," and a lot of other shades of meaning. It is a combination of how we would use the phrases "to be swept up in" and "be uplifting."

"Millstone" is from two Greek words. The first word is any type of "mill", "millstone", "grinder," and "stone." The second word, however, "for a mule." Together, they specifically mean the large millstone that is turned by an ass.

"Were hung" is from a verb that mean "to hang" and, in the passive, "to be hanged." Interestingly, it also has a little of the sense we used in phrases such as to be "hung up" on something as in to be "wholly taken up with it."

The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as pronouns in English.  It appears after "neck". The form is "that neck of his". 

"Neck" is from the Greek word that means "neck" and "throat."

"He were drowned" is from a verb which means "to be thrown in the sea," and "to drown," but the prefix on it means "downward," so the sense is "down in the sea."

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

"Depth" is from a noun, which "the high seas," and "to open sea." It distinguishes the deep sea from the shallow shore regions. It is a metaphor for a large amount of anything, as we would use "a sea of troubles."

"The sea" is from a word that means also means "sea" or "sea water."

Greek Vocabulary: 

ὃς (pron sg masc nom)"Whoso" is from hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

δ᾽ "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").

ἂν Untranslated is 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." "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.

σκανδαλίσῃ ( verb 3rd sg aor subj act ) "Shall offend" is from skandalizô, which means "to cause someone to stumble" and "to give offense." It is from skandalon, which means a "trap" or "snare" for an enemy. This is one of the words that starts with the Greek version of the Old Testament from the Hebrew word for "noose" or "snare."

ἕνα (noun sg masc acc) "One" is from heis, which means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same." As in English, it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person.

τῶν μικρῶν ( adj pl masc gen) "Little ones" is from mikros, which means "small", "little", "unimportant", "petty", "trivial", "slight," and "young."It is one of several words Christ uses to refer to children. It is a change from the word used in the previous verses to refer to children, paidion, which means "a young child."

τούτων (adj pl masc gen) "These" is from toutou, which is a demonstrative pronoun that means "this", "here", "the nearer," and "the familiar."

τῶν πιστευόντων (part pl pres act masc gen) "Which believe" is from pisteuo, which means "to trust, put faith in, or rely on a person", "to believe in someone's words", "to comply", "to feel confident in a thing," and "to entrust in a thing."

εἰς "In" is from eis, which means "into (of place)," "up to (of time)", "until (of time)", "as much as (of measure or limit)", "as far as (of measure or limit)", "towards (to express relation)", "in regard to (to express relation)", "of an end or limit," and "for (of purpose or object)." -- The word translated as "unto" means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

ἐμέ, "Me" is from eme, which means "I", "me", and "my".

συμφέρει (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "It were better" is from symphero, which means "to bring together", "to gather", "collect", "to confer a benefit", "to be useful", "work with", "be with," and "agree with." In the passive, it means "to come together", "to engage", "to battle," [of events] "to occur", "to happen," and [literally] "to be carried along with."

αὐτῷ (adj sg masc dat) "For him" is from 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." -

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

κρεμασθῇ (verb 3rd sg aor subj pass) "Were hanged" is from kremannymi, which means to "hang up", "hang", "crucify", "hang over," and, in the passive, "to be hung up", "to be hanged", "suspended," "to be wholly taken up with," and, metaphorically, "to be in suspense."

μύλος (noun sg masc nom) "Millstone" is from mylos, which means "mill", "millstone", "grinder", "molar," and, generally, "stone."

ὀνικὸς (adj sg masc nom) Untranslated is onikos, which means "of an ass," and "for an ass."

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

τὸν τράχηλον (noun sg masc acc) "Neck" is from trachêlos, which means "neck", "parts resembling a neck," and "throat."

αὐτοῦ (adj sg masc gen) "His" is from 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." -

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."

καταποντισθῇ (verb 3rd sg aor subj pass) "He were drowned" is from katapontizo, which means "to be thrown in the sea", "to plunge into the sea", "to sink into the sea," and "to drown." The first word, kata, means "downward."

ἐν "In" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with"

τῷ πελάγει (noun sg neut dat) "Depth" is from pelagos, which "the high seas," and "to open sea." It is a metaphor for a large amount of anything, as we would use "a sea of troubles."

τῆς θαλάσσης.(noun sg fem gen) "The sea" is from thalassa, which means also means "sea" or "sea water."

Wordplay: 

The play on words here combines the ideas lifted up with the idea of being sunk into the ocean. The"up" idea  is repeated with both the "it would be better (uplifting)" verb and the "hung up" verb, while the "down" idea is repeated in the "drowned" (thrown down in the sea) and the "depths" words. 

Related Verses: