Matthew 4:4: It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone...

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

It has been recorded by itself, "Not upon a loaf alone is he going to thrive by himself, a person, but though every saying pouring itself out from the mouth of God."

KJV : 

Matthew 4:4 It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This is Christ's response to the first temptation in the desert. The Biblical quote in it is an exact quote from the Septuagint, the Greek old Testament, (Deu 8:3), while the Hebrew is a little different (see below). This is typical of the kind of evidence that we find that Christ taught in Greek. See this article.

Though "it is written," is translated in the present tense in the KJV, the Greek is in a tense that indicates an action completed in the past. It is worth noting that the previous verse, also contains an implicit reference to honoring the Jewish law. Here, the reference is explicit. The voice is a unique Greek for where the subject acts on itself or for itself, “So, it has written itself”. Jesus always refers to the scripture as writing itself.

The word translated as "man" more generally means "humanity" as well as "a man."

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

The term translated as "live" is in the future tense. The Greek term means not only to have  life and breath but to the enjoyment of living as well, specifically, to be "full of life."

It means s "to live", "to be alive,” “to be full of life", "to be strong," and "to be fresh." So it is life in the sense of a vital life, strong and growing. Perhaps in English, “thrive” would be more precise. It is in the future tense, which we cannot tell by the “shall live” because the KJV and other Bibles translated both the future tense and the subjective mood in the same way, so “he going to thrive.” But again, the form is the middle voice, so “by himself.” So this verb, with the negatives means “he is not going to thrive by himself.” This is a pretty interesting statement even without the “bread” part. Christ also uses it in the sense of "making a living." There are several other words in the Gospels translated as "life" discussed in this article. The differences are important.

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

The Greek word for "bread" or more precisely, "loaf," but is was used generically to mean "food." The original Hebrew (Deu 8:3) from which this quote is taken referred to mana in the desert. Moses describes the hunger and suffering of the Jews in the desert and how God sent them mana. The following verse of Deu 8:5 may also be considered a provocative prophecy of Christ's suffering and death.

The Greek term translated as "mouth" also means the foremost part, such as the point of a spear or the blade of a sword. While God doesn't have a mouth or even parts, he does have a foremost in Christ.

Jesus finishes this verse with the most curious part of this quote. "...but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." Though most of this site is dedicated to the Greek, when Christ quotes from the OT, we have the opportunity to look at the NT Greek with the OT Hebrew, in this case, of Deuteronomy, which is what Christ points us to with this quote. The Hebrew is mowtsa peh Yehova that is translated in the KJV as "but from every word that rises from the mouth of God." However, the actual Hebrew is not that detailed. Our English translation comes more from the Greek.

The Greek phrase starts with the conjunction meaning "but" and a preposition that means "by" or, more generally, "through." These do not appear in the Hebrew.

The next word, "every" is the from the Greek word that is usually translated as "all" but here it is used as an adjective modifying the singular noun translated as "word" so "every" works well. Again, no such word appears in the Hebrew.

It is interesting that this is the first use of the English word "word" in the NT. However, it is not the Greek word usually translated as "word" but another word that comes closer to "remark" or "saying" that our idea of a word. See this article for details. In the Hebrew, there is not word for "word" in the quote.

The Greek word translated as "proceedeth" is a very uncommon word for Jesus to use. It literally means "going out" or “departing out” from how Jesus usually uses its root word. In the Hebrew, the word is mowtsa that means simultaneously the source of something going forth, the thing that goes forth, and the way of going forth. In English, we might say “outpouring” to capture it because the form isn’t an active verb, but an adjective. “Outpouring” works because we also use it describing speech, which is what this adjective modifies. Again, the form is something acting on itself, so perhaps “pouring itself out” would be closest in English.

The Greek word translated as "mouth" means "mouth" but it also means "speech", "utterance," "any outlet or entrance," and "the foremost part" of something. For example, the blade or point of a weapon. In Hebew, the word, peh, which most commonly means the organ people and animals use for talking and eating but also means an extremity or end.

Finally, the Greek word for "God" means simple "God" or "the divine." The Hebrew Yehova is the unpronounceable name of God, translated most commonly in the Bible as "Lord" but occasionally as "God." It means literally "the existing one," from the root hayaw, "to be, become, or exist." This is the name that sets God apart from everything else. It originally come from the burning bush as "hayaw hayaw," which we translate as "I am that am," but which also means something like "being to be" expressed originally as a verb. (In his original words about himself, God is a verb, not a noun.) As a noun this phrase might be, "the being (or becoming) of existence" or more simply, Yehova, th existing one.

For most about the meaning of this verse to us today, see the separate article, Christ's First Words.

This story of testing are interesting in that, though not entirely written in Christ's words, they could have only come from Christ telling his disciples about them. There weren't any other witnesses except for Christ and his tester. In Greek, the word we translate as "tempt" (not used here) also means "to try if something can be done" or, more simply, "a trial" or "testing." In this context, Satan can be seen as someone who tests us. Temptation is not evil in itself, but it is designed to test our metal. (This view of Satan as a tester for God rather than as the opponent of God is consistent with the first biblical mention of Satan in the story of Job.)


 A direct Greek quote from the Septuagint, not a paraphrase from Hebrew or Aramaic, which is quite different. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Γέγραπται (3rd sg perf ind mp ) "It is written" is from grapho, which means "to write", "having marked or drawn", "to describe", "to brand", "to express by written characters", "to ordain", "to enroll oneself", "to be indicted," and "to write down."

Οὐκ (partic) "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.

ἐπ᾽ (prep) "By" is from epi, (epi) which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against."

ἄρτῳ (noun sg masc dat) "Bread" is from artos, which means specifically a "cake of whole wheat bread," and generally "loaf," and "bread."

μόνῳ (adj sg neut dat) "Alone" is from monon, which means "alone", "solitary", "only", "one above all others", "made in one piece", "single," and "unique."

ζήσεται (3rd sg fut ind mid) "Shall live" is from zaô (zao), which means "to live", "the living," and "to be alive." It is a metaphor for "to be full of life", "to be strong," and "to be fresh."

 ἄνθρωπος, (noun sg masc nom) "Man" is from anthrôpos (anthropos), which "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate.

ἀλλ᾽ (adv) "But" is from alla, which means "otherwise", "but", "still", "at least", "except", "yet," nevertheless", "rather", "moreover," and "nay." It denotes an exception or a simple opposition.

ἐπὶ (prep) "By" is from epi, (epi) which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against."

παντὶ (adj sg neut dat) "Every" is from pas, which means "all", "the whole", "every", "anyone", "all kinds," and "anything."

ῥήματι (noun sg neut dat) "Word" is from rhema, which means "that which is spoken", "word", "saying", "word for word", "subject of speech," and "matter."

ἐκπορευομένῳ [uncommon] (part sg pres mp masc dat) "Proceedeth" is from ekporeuomai, which means "to make to go out", "to fetch out," and "to march out."

διὰ (prep) "Out of" is from dia which means "through", "in the midst of", "in a line (movement)", "throughout (time)", "by (causal)", "among," and "between."

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.

θεοῦ (noun sg masc gen) "Of God" is from theos (theos), which means "God," the Deity."

The Spoken Version: 

Answering this test, he said with a chuckle, "It has written itself."
Stooping to pick up a rock, he put it to his mouth, as if to take a bite.

"People aren't nourished only by food," he explained, pausing in his motion.

Then looking at the rock as if suddenly seeing what it was, he dropped it suddenly.

"But by every lesson..." he said gesturing to the sky around him and spinning around, "From the opening of the Divine."



Front Page Date: 

Dec 17 2016