Matthew 6:23 But if your eye is evil,

Spoken to: 

an individual

Context: 

The Sermon on the Mount, on the hidden but lasting.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

When, however, your eye is worthless, the whole body of yours is going to be blind. If that light, the one in you, is a dark, that darkness is how great?

KJV : 

Matthew 6:23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This first part of this verse is the counterpoint to Matthew 6:22, and completes the previous verse's double meanings and adds a few hidden ideas for good measure.

The word translated as "full of darkness" means "dark", "blind", "dull", and "in privacy". It is the adjective form of the word that Jesus commonly uses to mean "darkness" later in the verse (more about all these words and their use here). It has no sense of "full of", but it has the same ending as the word translated as "full of light" in the previous verse.  Since Jesus uses light as a metaphor for knowing, the translation as "dull" works well because in English it means not bright. However, It is also the opposite of "well-known," since it means "obscure." As the opposite of seeing things clearly and distinctly, it means "blind" but Jesus typically uses another Greek word to mean "blind" but obviously "blind" works best when talking about an eye.

NIV : 

Matthew 6:23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Wordplay: 

There are many plays here on light and darkness, vision and blindness, happiness and sadness. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ἐὰν (conj) "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.

δὲ (partic) "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").

(article sg masc nom)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

ὀφθαλμός (noun sg masc nom) "Eye" is from ophthalmos, which means "eye", "sight", "the dearest and best", "light", "cheer", "comfort," and "the bud [of a plant]."

σου (pron 2nd sg (gen) "Thine" is from sou which means "you" and "your."

πονηρὸς (adj sg masc nom) "Evil" is from poneros, which we discuss extensively in this page. In a moral sense, it means "worthless", "base," and "cowardly."

, (3rd sg pres subj act) "Be" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." It can also mean "must" with a dative.

ὅλον (adj sg neut nom) "Whole" is from holos (holos), which means "the whole", "entire", "complete", "complete in all its parts", "wholly", "altogether", "on the whole", "speaking generally", "utter," "actually", "really, "the universe," and "safe and sound."

τὸ (article sg neut nom)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). -- untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

σῶμά (noun sg neut nom) "Body" is soma, which is the physical substance of things, the body of men and animals or of heavenly bodies or groups of people.

σου (pron 2nd sg gen) "Thy" is from sou which means "you" and "your."

σκοτινὸν [3 verses] (adj sg neut nom) "Full of darkness" is skoteinos (σκοτεινός ), which means "dark", "blind", "in the darkness," and "in privacy." It is a metaphor, for "obscure," and "secret."

ἔσται. (3rd sg fut ind mid) "Shall be" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." It can also mean "must" with a dative.

εἰ (conj) "If" is from ei, which is the particle used to express conditions "if" (implying nothing about its fulfillment) or indirect questions, "whether." It also means "if ever", "in case," and "whenever." It is combined with various conjunctions to create derivative conditions.

οὖν (adv) "Therefore" is from oun, which means "certainly", "in fact", "really", "in fact," "so" and "then" (continuing a narrative), and "then" and "therefore."

τὸ (article sg neut nom) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

φῶς (noun sg neut nom) "The light" is from phos, which means "light", "daylight [primarily], "illumination [of things and of the mind]", "light [of the eyes], "window", "opening", "public visibility," and "publicity." Christ uses it as a metaphor for "knowledge," but in Greek it is also a metaphor for "deliverance", "happiness", "victory," and "glory."

τὸ (article sg neut nom) "That" is from is the accusative, masculine, singular article, "the."

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

σοὶ (pron 2nd sg dat) "Thee" is from soi which is the singular, second person pronoun, "you".

σκότος [7 verses](noun sg neut nom) "Darkness" is from skotos, which means "darkness", "gloom", "blindness," and "dizziness." It also means "obscurity," "deceit," and "hidden."  It is a metaphor in Greek for ignorance.

ἐστίν, (3rd sg pres ind act) "Be" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." It can also mean "must" with a dative.

τὸ (article sg neut nom)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). --

σκότος (noun sg neut nom) "The darkness" is from skotos, which means "darkness", "gloom", "blindness," and "dizziness." It is a metaphor in Greek for ignorance.

πόσον. (adj sg neut nom ) "How great" is posos, which means "of what quantity," [in distance] "how far." [of number] how far," [of time] "how long," [of value] "how much", "how great", "how many," and "how much." It acts as an interrogatory pronoun.

KJV Analysis: 

But -- The Greek word translated as "but" is commonly translated as "but," since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

if -- The Greek word meaning "if " indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. The form of the "if/then" here is something that will probably happen but it not certain to happen. This is often how we use the word "when".

thine -- The word translated as "thy" is the genitive form of the singular, second-person pronoun, which is most commonly the possessive form. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

eye  -- The Greek word for "eye" is the more technical terms for "eye" but it also means "sight". It is a metaphor for "cheer."

be -- The first "be" here is in in a form indicating something that "might be." In English, this form is assumed with the "if" that begins the phrase.

evil, -- (WW) The word translated as "evil" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This makes much more sense in contrast with a "focused" or "single minded" describing the eye in the previous verse. This article explores the meaning of this Greek in more detail, using this verse as an example of why "evil" doesn't work. Interestingly enough, there is another Greek word combining the Greek words used for "evil" and "eye" that has the meaning of "envious" eye. This adds a whole new layer of meaning what Jesus means by "second-rate sight," seeing yourself as second-rate and therefore being jealous of others. This if very different than any concept in Christ's era or ours of the "evil eye".

thy -- The word translated as "thy" is the genitive form of the singular, second-person pronoun, which is most commonly the possessive form. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

whole -- The word translated as "whole" means "complete" and "entire," but it also has a number of other meanings including "the universe" and "speaking generally."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

body -- The first time the Greek word for "body" was used, it was generic. Here, it is specific, "your body" so the sense it gives is of an individual's physical life. It also means "the substance of things" generally, as we use the term "a body of evidence." Generally, it refers to material existence. Jesus uses another Greek word to refer more specifically to his physical body or "flesh". The "your body" gives use the sense of an individual's physical life.

shall -- This helping verb "shall" indicates that the verb is the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

be -- The Greek word translated as "be" is the future tense of the common form of "to be." It appears at the end of the sentence.

full of --  (IP) There are no Greek words here that can be translated as "full of" nor is the concept part of the following word related to "light."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

darkness. -- The word translated as "full of darkness" means "dark", "blind", "dull", and "in privacy". As the opposite of seeing things clearly and distinctly, it means "blind" but Jesus typically uses another Greek word to mean "blind" but this word is a form of the word translated as "darkness" here.

If -- The second "if" here is a little different Greek word than the "if" that starts this verse, indicating more certainty. This is also reflected in the difference in the verb as well.

therefore -- The Greek word translated either as "therefore" either emphasizes the truth of something ("certainly", "really") or it simply continues an existing narrative ("therefore", "then"). Because of the word used above, "certainly" seems more certain.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

light -- The Greek word translated as "light" is a different, more general word that the Greek word translated as "light" in the previous verse. It has a number of meanings (again, refer to this article). It is introduced with the article so "the light."

that -- (WW) The word translated as "that is" is from the Greek article, "the," which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one."

is -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "is" in the Greek source.

in -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within", "with," or "among"  with a dative object as the one here. 

thee -- The word for "you" is the indirect object form of the singular, second-person pronoun. 

be  -- The "be" is the normal Greek verb "to be" usually translated as "is" or "it is" in this form.

darkness, -- The Greek word translated as "darkness" has the general meaning of "darkness", "gloom", "blindness," but it also has the sense of "hidden," "obscure," and "deceit."  Though it has an article making it "the darkness," it doesn't have an article "the" associated with it so "a darkness" is also the sense.

how great -- The Greek word translated as "how great" means "how much" and "how many." It is used to question any type of measure. It is commonly used with questions. This word appears at the end of the sentence so it acts as more as a punch line.

is -- There is no "is" associated with this section of the verse, but it is understood because the noun "darkness" and the adjective, "how great" are both in the form of subjects. This is a common difference between written and spoken language (see this article).

that -- The word translated as "that" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

darkness! -- The Greek word translated as "darkness" is the same as the one above. Though it has an article making it "the darkness," it doesn't have a demonstrative pronoun, "that" associated with it but the Greek article often emphasize more that our "the", acting more like our demonstrative adjectives.

KJV Translation Issues: 

7
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "eye" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "evil" should be "worthless."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "body" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "full of" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "darkness" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "that" should be "the one."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "is" doesn't exist in the source.

NIV Analysis: 

But -- The Greek word translated as "but" is commonly translated as "but," since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

if -- The Greek word meaning "if " indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. The form of the "if/then" here is something that will probably happen but it not certain to happen. This is often how we use the word "when".

your -- The word translated as "your" is the genitive form of the singular, second-person pronoun, which is most commonly the possessive form. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

eyes  -- (WN) The Greek word for "eye" is the more technical terms for "eye" but it also means "sight". It is a metaphor for "cheer."

are -- The first "are " here is in in a form indicating something that "might be." In English, this form is assumed with the "if" that begins the phrase.

unhealthy, -- (WW) The word translated as "unhealthy" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This makes much more sense in contrast with a "focused" or "single minded" describing the eye in the previous verse. This article explores the meaning of this Greek in more detail, using this verse as an example of why "evil" doesn't work. Interestingly enough, there is another Greek word combining the Greek words used for "evil" and "eye" that has the meaning of "envious" eye. This adds a whole new layer of meaning what Jesus means by "second-rate sight," seeing yourself as second-rate and therefore being jealous of others. This if very different than any concept in Christ's era or ours of the "evil eye".

your -- The word translated as "your " is the genitive form of the singular, second-person pronoun, which is most commonly the possessive form. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

whole -- The word translated as "whole" means "complete" and "entire," but it also has a number of other meanings including "the universe" and "speaking generally."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

body -- The first time the Greek word for "body" was used, it was generic. Here, it is specific, "your body" so the sense it gives is of an individual's physical life. It also means "the substance of things" generally, as we use the term "a body of evidence." Generally, it refers to material existence. Jesus uses another Greek word to refer more specifically to his physical body or "flesh". The "your body" gives use the sense of an individual's physical life.

will -- This helping verb "will" indicates that the verb is the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

be -- The Greek word translated as "be" is the future tense of the common form of "to be." It appears at the end of the sentence.

full of --  (IP) There are no Greek words here that can be translated as "full of" nor is the concept part of the following word related to "light."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

darkness. -- The word translated as "full of darkness" means "dark", "blind", "dull", and "in privacy". It is the adjective form of the word that Jesus commonly uses to mean "dark (again, more about all these words and their use here). It has no sense of "full of", but it has the same ending as the word translated as "full of light" in the previous verse.  Since Jesus uses light as a metaphor for knowing, the translation as "dull" works well because in English it means not bright. However, It is also the opposite of "well-known," since it means "obscure." As the opposite of seeing things clearly and distinctly, it means "blind" but Jesus typically uses another Greek word to mean "blind" but this word is a form of the word translated as "darkness" here.

If -- The second "if" here is a little different Greek word than the "if" that starts this verse, indicating more certainty. This is also reflected in the difference in the verb as well.

then -- The Greek word translated either as "then" either emphasizes the truth of something ("certainly", "really") or it simply continues an existing narrative ("therefore", "then"). Because of the word used above, "certainly" seems more certain.

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

light -- The Greek word translated as "light" is a different, more general word that the Greek word translated as "light" in the previous verse. It has a number of meanings (again, refer to this article). It is introduced with the article so "the light."

untranslated "the one"-- (MW) The untranslated word "the one" is from the Greek article, "the," which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one."

within -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within", "with," or "among"  with a dative object as the one here. 

you -- The word for "you" is the indirect object form of the singular, second-person pronoun. 

is -- The "be" is the normal Greek verb "to be" usually translated as "is" or "it is" in this form.

darkness, -- The Greek word translated as "darkness" has the general meaning of "darkness", "gloom", "blindness," but it also has the sense of "hidden," "obscure," and "deceit."  Though it has an article making it "the darkness," it doesn't have an article "the" associated with it so "a darkness" is also the sense.

how great -- The Greek word translated as "how great" means "how much" and "how many." It is used to question any type of measure. It is commonly used with questions. This word appears at the end of the sentence so it acts as more as a punch line.

is -- There is no "is" associated with this section of the verse, but it is understood because the noun "darkness" and the adjective, "how great" are both in the form of subjects. This is a common difference between written and spoken language (see this article).

that -- The word translated as "that" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") that the English "the." See this article for more. 

darkness! -- The Greek word translated as "darkness" is the same as the one above. Though it has an article making it "the darkness," it doesn't have a demonstrative pronoun, "that" associated with it but the Greek article often emphasize more that our "the", acting more like our demonstrative adjectives.

NIV Translation Issues: 

7
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "eye" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "eyes" is translated as plural but it is singular.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "unhealthy" should be "worthless."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "body" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "full of" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "darkness" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the one" before "within" is not shown in the English translation.

The Spoken Version: 

“If, however, your eye is worthless,” the speaker continued. “That whole body of yours, it is going to be—dark!”
As he said “dark” or right before, clouds again passed over the sun.
People chuckled nervously at the coincidence. Murmuring spread.
“If the light—the one in you? ” The speaker continued, his voice growing more ominous. “A darkness? It is the darkness so dark!”

evidence: 

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Front Page Date: 

Jun 15 2020