Matthew 4:17 Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Spoken to: 

unclear

Context: 

Begins Ministry

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Change your minds! Because it has gotten near: the realm of the skies.

KJV : 

Matthew 4:17 Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This short verse has several surprises. The verse only has seven words, but most translations have as many translation issues.

First, the verb "repent" has nothing to do with "sin." It simply means "change your mind." The "your" comes from fact it is a second person command.

The verb translated as "is at hand, "has come near," or "is near" is based on an adjective that means "near" like our word "neared." It is in a form that indicates that the action has been completed in the past. It has nothing to do with the Greek word usually translated as "come." See this article for more/

The subject of the sentence, the Greek word translated as "kingdom"  has a lot of meanings related to royalty. It means the authority to rule or reign of a monarch. It can mean either the place that is ruled, the people who are ruled or a female ruler (since the word's form here is feminine). It can mean the capital city or an empire of the ruler's castle. Our English word "basilica," meaning the seat of power for a bishop, comes from this word. Generally, it refers to the concept of hereditary rule, the passing of authority from one generation to the next. The "realm of the skies" is different than the "kingdoms of the world." This phrase is the punchline of the verse, coming at the end. See this article for more information on this phrase.

NIV : 

Matthew 4:17 Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

NLT : 

Matthew 4:17 Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

Greek Vocabulary: 

Μετανοεῖτε, (2nd pl pres imperat act) "Repent," is from  metanoeo, which literally means "to perceive afterward", "to perceive too late", "to change one's mind", "to change one's purpose," and "to repent."

ἤγγικεν (3rd perf act sg ind) "Is at hand" is from eggizo, which means "to bring near", "to join one things to another," to draw near," and "to approach." This word does not appear in the Perseus dictionary. It comes from a verb from ἐγγύς, eggus, which means 1) (of place) "near", "nigh", "at hand," 2) (of time) "nigh at hand" 3) (of numbers) "nearly", "almost", "coming near," and 4) (of relationship) "akin to."

γὰρ "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."

(article sg fem nom)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

βασιλεία (noun sg fem nom) "The kingdom" is from basileia which means "kingdom", "dominion,""reign", "queen", "princess", "palace", "hereditary rule", "kingly office," (passive) "being ruled by a king," and "reign."

τῶν (article pl masc gen)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." --

οὐρανῶν. (noun pl masc gen) "Of heaven" is from ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate."

KJV Analysis: 

Repent: -- (WW) The word translated as "repent" has nothing to do with sin or, generally, with religion or asking for forgiveness. The Greek word translated as "repent" has a primary meaning of understanding something after the fact, with the sense of seeing it is too late. Is specific meaning is to "understand afterward," as seeing the truth after a mistake is made. From this idea, it comes to mean to change your mind, shifting your perspective. This is in the form of a command.

for --The word translated as "for" introduces a reason or explanation so "because" and, in questions, "why."  To prevent a run-on sentence, it can be translated as "this is why" or "this is because..." to start a new sentence. However, since this word always appears in the second position, it is more like an aside remark like, "consequently" or "as a cause". 

the -- The word translated as "the" 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. 

kingdom -- The word translated as "kingdom" can be the region, the reign, the castle or the authority of a ruler. Jesus does not seem to use it to mean a physical region, so its translation as "reign" or "realm" seems more appropriate. This is especially true because the "reign" of a king means the execution of his will.

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. 

heaven -- (WN) The word translated as "heaven" means literally "the skies." It encompasses everything above the surface of our world, that is, the rest of the universe. It included the sun, moon, planets, and stars, which were ethereal objects, closer to abstract ideas and universal ideas than material objects because they did not fall to earth. This idea of the heavenly or universal extended to the spiritual and the divine realms. If beings lived in the sky, they were spirits, demons, and gods. These beings were "universal" in the sense that they could travel everywhere, from heaven to earth. More to the point, "the heavens" for regular people were the unreachable, mysterious territory that people could see in space and time but never touch, feel, or understand.

is -- (WT) This helping verb indicates the present tense of the verb, but the tense is not the present, but the past perfect, so it should be "has."

at hand. -- (WF) The Greek word translated as "is at hand" is a word that appears first in the Greek OT. It is a verb created from an adverb that means "near" or "at hand". It refers both to physical places and time. This means that the verb means "to bring near", "to approach", "to bring up to," and "to be close." However, it is in a tense that indicates that this action has completed. The KJV translation makes it sound like something is coming in the future but the form of the verb indicates something that has already happened. Jesus (and John the Baptist before him, who used the exact same words) were not warning about a change that was coming. The sense is "has come near." This verb appears before the phrase "kingdom of heaven".

KJV Translation Issues: 

5
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "repent" should be "change your mind."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "heaven" is translated as singular but it is plural, "skies."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "is" indicates the present tense, but the verb is an action completed in the past.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "at hand" is not a phrase but the verb "neared."

NIV Analysis: 

Repent: -- (WW) The word translated as "repent" has nothing to do with sin or, generally, with religion or asking for forgiveness. The Greek word translated as "repent" has a primary meaning of understanding something after the fact, with the sense of seeing it is too late. Is specific meaning is to "understand afterward," as seeing the truth after a mistake is made. From this idea, it comes to mean to change your mind, shifting your perspective. This is in the form of a command.

for --The word translated as "for" introduces a reason or explanation so "because" and, in questions, "why."  To prevent a run-on sentence, it can be translated as "this is why" or "this is because..." to start a new sentence. However, since this word always appears in the second position, it is more like an aside remark like, "consequently" or "as a cause". 

the -- The word translated as "the" 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. 

kingdom -- The word translated as "kingdom" can be the region, the reign, the castle or the authority of a ruler. Jesus does not seem to use it to mean a physical region, so its translation as "reign" or "realm" seems more appropriate. This is especially true because the "reign" of a king means the execution of his will.

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. 

heaven -- (WN) The word translated as "heaven" means literally "the skies." It encompasses everything above the surface of our world, that is, the rest of the universe. It included the sun, moon, planets, and stars, which were ethereal objects, closer to abstract ideas and universal ideas than material objects because they did not fall to earth. This idea of the heavenly or universal extended to the spiritual and the divine realms. If beings lived in the sky, they were spirits, demons, and gods. These beings were "universal" in the sense that they could travel everywhere, from heaven to earth. More to the point, "the heavens" for regular people were the unreachable, mysterious territory that people could see in space and time but never touch, feel, or understand.

has -- This helping verb "has" indicates the verb's tense is the past perfect.

come near --  (CW) The Greek word translated as "come near" is a word that appears first in the Greek OT. It is a verb created from an adverb that means "near" or "at hand". The word, however, it note related to the word used in the Gospels as "come."  It refers both to physical places and time. This means that the verb means "to bring near", "to approach", "to bring up to," and "to be close." However, it is in a tense that indicates that this action has completed. The KJV translation makes it sound like something is coming in the future but the form of the verb indicates something that has already happened. Jesus (and John the Baptist before him, who used the exact same words) were not warning about a change that was coming. The sense is "has come near." This verb appears before the phrase "kingdom of heaven".

  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "repent" should be "change your mind."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "heaven" is translated as singular but it is plural, "skies."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "is" indicates the present tense, but the verb is an action completed in the past.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "come near" does not contain the common word "come."

NLT Analysis: 

Repent: -- (WW) The word translated as "repent" has nothing to do with sin or, generally, with religion or asking for forgiveness. The Greek word translated as "repent" has a primary meaning of understanding something after the fact, with the sense of seeing it is too late. Is specific meaning is to "understand afterward," as seeing the truth after a mistake is made. From this idea, it comes to mean to change your mind, shifting your perspective. This is in the form of a command.

of your sins and turn to God -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "of your sins and turn to God " in the Greek source.

for --The word translated as "for" introduces a reason or explanation so "because" and, in questions, "why."  To prevent a run-on sentence, it can be translated as "this is why" or "this is because..." to start a new sentence. However, since this word always appears in the second position, it is more like an aside remark like, "consequently" or "as a cause". 

the -- The word translated as "the" 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. 

kingdom -- The word translated as "kingdom" can be the region, the reign, the castle or the authority of a ruler. Jesus does not seem to use it to mean a physical region, so its translation as "reign" or "realm" seems more appropriate. This is especially true because the "reign" of a king means the execution of his will.

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. 

heaven -- (WN) The word translated as "heaven" means literally "the skies." It encompasses everything above the surface of our world, that is, the rest of the universe. It included the sun, moon, planets, and stars, which were ethereal objects, closer to abstract ideas and universal ideas than material objects because they did not fall to earth. This idea of the heavenly or universal extended to the spiritual and the divine realms. If beings lived in the sky, they were spirits, demons, and gods. These beings were "universal" in the sense that they could travel everywhere, from heaven to earth. More to the point, "the heavens" for regular people were the unreachable, mysterious territory that people could see in space and time but never touch, feel, or understand.

is -- (WT) This helping verb indicates the present tense of the verb, but the tense is not the present, but the past perfect, so it should be "has."

at hand. -- (WF) The Greek word translated as "is at hand" is a word that appears first in the Greek OT. It is a verb created from an adverb that means "near" or "at hand". It refers both to physical places and time. This means that the verb means "to bring near", "to approach", "to bring up to," and "to be close." However, it is in a tense that indicates that this action has completed. The KJV translation makes it sound like something is coming in the future but the form of the verb indicates something that has already happened. Jesus (and John the Baptist before him, who used the exact same words) were not warning about a change that was coming. The sense is "has come near." This verb appears before the phrase "kingdom of heaven".

NLT Translation Issues: 

6
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "repent" should be "change your mind."
  • IP - Inserted phrase-- The phrase "of your sins and turn to God" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "heaven" is translated as singular but it is plural, "skies."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "is" indicates the present tense, but the verb is an action completed in the past.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "near" is not the adjective but the verb form "neared."

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

As far as this kingdom of understanding drawing near or being joined with the world of men, Jesus always refers to this, not as something that happens at a specific time, but something that is has been culminated before now. This seems to indicate that it is not something that happened with his death and resurrection, but his incarnation.

The Spoken Version: 

He walk down the street announcing. "Turn yourselves around! Turn yourselves around!"

As they turned to see what he was talking about, he gestured to the sky with both hands.

"Because the realm of the stars...." he said, as if answering a question. "Is getting awfully close."

evidence: 

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Front Page Date: 

Apr 8 2020