Matthew 23:2 The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:

KJV Verse: 

Mat 23:2 The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Upon the Moses chair, they have settled [now], the record keepers and separated ones.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The Greek does not give the sense that the position of the scribes and Pharisees as authorities is completely legitimated. but this is disguised in the translation.

We say we sit "in" a chair, but the Greek sat "upon" it.

The word translated as "Moses" is from the Hebrew word, but it has an odd ending that is not a normal Greek word ending. Normally, Christ does not add Greek-like endings to Jewish names at all. This is an example of Christ playing with the with words to make a point. He does not say "Moses's" seat (adding the standard possesive ending) but rather something like "Mosesish" seat. This seems to be ridicule as mach as recognition of the position they assume.

The Greek word for "seat" is from the Greek word that is the source of our word "cathedral" as the "seat" of a bishop. A "chair" was understood to be a position of authority when attributed to a leader, in this case, Moses, therefore, a throne. Like the English word, "chair" it also has the sense of leading a meeting by "chairing." It also was used to indicate the posterior, for which we would use "seat." However, the word also has a negative sense, meaning idleness.

The Greek word translated as "sit" is quite a bit different than the English "sit." It refers to placing something in a position as well as taking a seat. It meaning goes back to its Greek roots, "to settle down." However, the form of the word says they "settled" upon the seat not that they put themselves on it.

The tense is aorist of "sit" indicating something that happens at a particular point in time past, present, or future. When the aorist is used in a word or phrase indicating time, ("when", "now", "hereafter," etc.) it has the same sense as the English, but when no time is indicated, as here, adding the phrase "at this time" captures its feeling.

"Scribes" is from a word that simply describes to people who write or record information. They were not "writers" in the sense of writing their own views, but recorders and registrars, record keepers who wrote official information. In this case, they were probably those who copied Jewish scripture and wisdom. Not all of this was Biblical, much of it was probably what is now part of the Talamud.

The "Pharisees" were a religious sect at the time. However, linguistically the word comes from the Hebrew word parash, meaning "to separate", "to make distinct," and "to scatter." The Jewish concept of being ritually clean or pure was tied to the Hebrew concept of badal, another word that means "to separate" and "to discriminate," very close to the primarily meaning of the Greek word krino, usually translated as "to judge." The idea of purity and holiness specifically meant separating the things dedicated to God from what was "common". Interesting article here on the Pharisees and purity.

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἐπὶ "In" is from epi which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against."

τῆς (article pl fem acc) "The" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." Here it is separated from the noun by a conjunction.

Μωυσέως (not a Greek form or Aramaic one) "Moses" is from Moyses, which means "Moses".

καθέδρας (noun pl fem acc) "Seat" is from kathedra, which means "a chair", "a seat" "a sitting position", "the sitting part", "the posterior,""sitting idle," "inaction", "the chair [of a teacher]", "a session," and "a throne," is used to denote a position of power. From the Greek kata("down") hedraios ("to settle") .

ἐκάθισαν (3rd pl aor ind act) "Sit" is from kathizô, which means "to make sit down", "to seat", "to place", "to sit", "to post", "to take seats", "to convene", "to appoint", "to establish", "to put in a certain condition", "to reside", "to sink down", "to run aground [for ships]," "to recline at meals," and "to settle." FromIt the Greek kata ("down") hedraios ("to settle") .

οἱ γραμματεῖς (noun pl masc nom/acc) "Scribes" is from grammateus (grammateus), which is generally a "secretary", "registrar", "recorder," and "scholar," but specifically means someone who uses gramma which is Greek for "drawings", "a letter," (as in an alphabet)"diagrams," and "letters" (as in correspondence).

"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."

οἱ Φαρισαῖ (noun pl masc nom) "Pharisees" is from Pharisaios, which means in Hebrew "separatist" and refers to the religious sect. The word comes from the Hebrew, parash, which means "to distinguish." This is the primary meaning of the Greek word krino, which is usually translated as "judge" in the Gospels.


 A strange for of the word "Moses" is used to indicate the strange form of authority described. 

A minor alteration, kathedra kathizô, as we might say "seat seating."

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