Matthew 5:18 ...until heaven and earth pass away,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Since truly I am telling you all until possibly it shall pass away the sky and the earth. An "i", one, or one tittle never shall pass away from the law it might all come into being.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse has a lot of strange things going on with singular verbs and plural subjects. They are covered up completely by KJV translation, but they can be explained by working through the Greek carefully. Also, the word translated as "fulfilled" is not the Greek word usually translated as "fulfilled", the word we saw in the previous verse, Mat 5:17 .

The "verily" phrase that begins this quote is used frequently by Jesus as a personal signature. Its vocabulary and meaning are discussed in detail in this article. Christ makes fun of his frequent use of it.

The Greek word for "for" is used to indicate that the phrase offers and explanation.

The word translated is as "verily" is an exclamation that means "truly" or "of a truth", but it is not an adjective or an adverb but an exclamation. It is an untranslated Aramaic word that is echoed by a similar Greek word, and a good piece of evidence that Christ taught in Greek, not Aramaic.

The word translated as "say" is the word for "speak" or "say that Christ uses to refer to his own teaching and its content. It is one of several words translated as "see", "say", or "tell".

The word translated as "till" means "until" or "while".

Next is a Greek particle that the verb might possibly happen, even that is likely to happen, but that the speaker is not certain that it will happen.

The word translated as "heaven" means sky, the climate, and the universe. It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods. More about the word in this article. It is singular here. The phrase here includes the article "the" which is left out of the KJV, so "the sky". When Christ talks about, for example, "the Father in heaven" it is always plural, literally "the skies". So this is more limited, possibly referring to the planet's sky rather than all of the universe.

The word translated as "earth" means the physical planet, "land" and "dirt". It also uses an article that is left out of the KJV, "the ground." See this article for more on these words.

The "pass away" verb means literally "start beyond" and can mean "go by." "pass by," or "pass over." The sense here could be "pass by", "surpass", but the sense of "pass away" as in "die" is not at all clear. The word means to pass the time and can refer to times past, but it also means to "outwit" and "elude" and "be superior". It also means to "pass by" a place or to "arrive" at a place. In the Latin Vulgate, this verb was translated as "transit" which means "to cross". In Greek, the form is neither active nor passive, but the middle form which means that the subjects are acting on themselves. It is not in the future tense, but a form indicating something that might happen at some point in time. The verb is singular though there are two words following it, both in the form of a subject. One explanation for this is that the two together are considered a single unit. Another possible explanation is that in speaking this, Christ as thinking about "the sky" and added "and the earth". More about Christ's use of the terms "heaven and earth" see this article.

"Jot" is from the Greek word for the letter iota, which is our letter "i". The word for "one" follows this word.

"Tittle" is from the Greek form of the apostrophe. The word "one" precedes this word, but the form doesn't match because the "one" is feminine while this noun is neutral. The form that matches the "one" is shown above. This seems like a local version. 

The phrase "in no wise" comes from the use of the two forms of negative in Greek, ou and me. The first is the objective negative, the negative of fact, while the second is the subjective negative, the negative of opinion. Christ uses them together for a sense of impossibility. "Never" is the simplest form to translated this.

The second "pass away" is also single, again, despite this time being preceded by the multiple subjects. The fact that the subject preceded the verb make it more difficult to argue that this verb form is an afterthought. However, it is also more difficult to think of the "iota, one, and one apostrophe" as a unit, especially since the "one apostrophe" do not agree in form. Perhaps this was spoken as a question with what follows as an answer.

The Greek word translated as "law" describes the social norms, which can be from "tradition", "common practice," or the "laws." Christ also uses it to refer to the first five books of the OT written by Moses. Because the references are to writing, we can assume Christ is referring to the written law.

The "till" is the same word that started this verse.

The word translated as "all" is the Greek adjective meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas. While technically, this is an adjective, it is often used as a pronoun or a noun. Again, we have a problem with the form matches that of "the law" but as an object here, that is, what the law becomes "it become all". However, it could also be the subject of the sentence as the neutral "everything", "everything comes into being".

The Greek verb translated as "is fulfilled" is not the Greek word translated in Mat 5:17 as "fulfill", which is the word that the NT typically uses as "fulfilled". It is a very different and very common Greek word meaning "to become," that is, "to come into being." It is in the subjunctive voice indicating uncertainty. It is also in a form referring to a subject acting on itself. However, this is also in the aorist tense, indicating something that happens at a point in time. It is in the singular. However, if we assume the "all" above is neutral, that is, no referring to "the law", it still works even though "all" is plural because neutral plural verbs are considered collectives and therefore can be used with singular verbs.

Greek Vocabulary: 

ἀμὴν (exclam) "Truly" is from amen, which is from the Hebrew, meaning "truly", "of a truth," and "so be it." It has no history in Greek before the NT

γὰρ (adv) "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."

λέγω (1st sg pres ind act) "I tell" is from lego means "pick up", "choose for oneself", "pick out," and "count," "recount", "tell over", "say", "speak", "teach", "mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," "nominate," and "command."

ὑμῖν, (pron 2nd pl dat) "You" is from humas and humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

ἕως (conj) "Till" is from heos, which means "till", "until", "while," and "so long as."

ἂν (partic) 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."

παρέλθῃ (3rd sg aor subj) "Shall...pass away" is from parerchomai, which means "go by", "pass by", "outstrip" (in speed), "pass (time)", "outwit", "past events" (in time), "disregard", "pass unnoticed," "escape notice", and "pass without heeding."

οὐρανὸς (noun sg masc nom) "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."

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."

γῆ, (noun sg fem nom) "Earth" is from ge, which means "the element of earth", "land (country)", "arable land", "the ground," and "the world" as the opposite of the sky. Like our English word "earth," it means both dirt and the planet.

ἰῶτα (irreg) "Jot" is from iota, which means the Greek letter iota, "line", "stroke," and anything very small.

ἓν (noun sg neut nom) "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.

(conj) "Or" is from e which is a particle meaning "either", "or," or "than."

μία (adj sg fem nom) "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. The feminine singular form is mia.

κερέα (noun pl neut nom/acc) [κεραίᾶ (noun sg fem nom)] "Tittle" is from keraia, which means "the horn of an animal", "the antenna of crustaceans", "a bow", "an instrument for blowing", "a drinking horn", "horn points [for writing instruments]", "objects shaped like horns", "the wing [of an army]", "branch of a river", "corps of men", "sailyard", "mountain peak," and "anything made of horn." The small apostrophe like mark to distinguish numbers from letters in Greek is horn-shaped and therefore called a keraia.

οὐ μὴ (partic) "In no wise" is from ou me, the two forms of Greek negative used together. Ou is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. Mê (me) 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.

παρέλθῃ (3rd sg aor subj act) "Pass" is from parerchomai, which means "go by", "pass by", "outstrip" (in speed), "pass (time)", "outwit", "past events" (in time), "disregard", "pass unnoticed," "escape notice", and "pass without heeding."

ἀπὸ (prep) "From" is from apo, a preposition of separation which means "from" or "away from" from when referring to place or motion, "from" or "after" when referring to time, "from" as an origin or cause.

τοῦ νόμου (noun sg masc gen) "The law" is from nomos, which means "anything assigned", "a usage", "custom", "law", "ordinance," or "that which is a habitual practice." It is the basis of the English words "norm" and "normal."

ἕως (conj) "Till" is from heos, which means "till", "until", "while," and "so long as."

[ἂν] (partic) 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." (This appears only in some sources.)

πάντα (adj sg masc acc or adj pl neut nom/acc) "All" is from pas, which means "all", "the whole", "every", "anyone", "all kinds," and "anything."

γένηται. (3rd sg aor subj mid) "Be fulfilled" is from ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", "to be produced," and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being.

The Spoken Version: 

“this is why I tell you true,” he said, using an expression that would become one of his catchphrases, “while possibly it just might pass away.”
He paused as if thinking and someone called out, “The law?” This echoed what everyone was thinking.
He smiled and shook his head, “no”, and pointed up, and said, “The sky.” Then he pointed down and added, “Also the ground.”
Many laughed, some perhaps at the idea of the whole universe being destroyed.
“An “i”, one, or apostrophe, one?” he asked mysteriously, writing them in the air with his hands, “Never it is going to pass out of the law, while...”
He paused. The crowd waited, not knowing what to expect.
“Until everything might,” he said emphasizing the possibility’, “bring itself into existence.”

Related Verses: 



Front Page Date: 

Jan 13 2017