Matthew 7:17 Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit;

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

The Sermon on the Mount, invisible and visible, worthy and worthless

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

So every valuable tree produces^ fine fruit. However, the diseased tree produces^ worthless fruit.

KJV : 

Matthew 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse is a great example of how two different Greek words are mistranslated as the same English word to confuse what Jesus is saying. This happens twice in this verse in modern Bibles. They use the words "good" and "bad" for both the fruit and the tree when Jesus uses four different words. Interestingly, this particular mistranslation goes back to the Latin Vulgate.

In Jesus's words, there was a difference between the defects of the tree and the defects of the fruit. There is also a clear economic meaning to this verse that is lost in translation. The most common word translated in the Bible as "good" applies to the tree, but it means "beneficial" and "valuable." The most common word translated in the Bible "evil" applies to the "fruit,"  but it means "worthless" and "worth less." The less common word for the "good" applies to the fruit and means "fine" more in the sense of "good." The word translated as "corrupt/bad" that applies to the tree has more of a sense of "diseased" and "worn-out." The Greek word that more clearly means "evil" or "bad" is not used in this verse. See this article of more information on the words for "good" and "evil".

This verse is also a good and useful example of why the Greek verb usually translated as "to do" is often better translated by its primary meaning of "make" and "produce." The sense is often very economic. Of course, you cannot see this because it is translated as "brings forth" and "bears" here.

NIV : 

Matthew 7:17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

3rd Translation: 

Matthew 7:17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.

Wordplay: 

 A play of "fruit" meaning "profit." 

A play on two different types of "good," one type for the tree and another for the ftuit.

My Takeaway: 

Inward value or worthlessness reveals itself over time by what they produce.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

οὕτω (adv) "Even so" is houtos, which as an adverb means "in this way", "therefore", "so much", "to such an extent," and "that is why."

πᾶν (adj sg neut nom) "Every" is from pas, which means "all", "the whole", "every", "anyone", "all kinds," and "anything." In the adverbial form, it means "every way", "on every side", "in every way," and "altogether."

δένδρον [9 verses] (noun sg neut nom) "Tree" is from dendron (more commonly spelled dendreon), which means "tree", "fruit-tree", "tall plants (such as rattan)" "stick," and "timber."

ἀγαθὸν (adj sg neut nom) "Good" is from agathos which means "good" and, when applied to people, "well-born", "gentle", "brave," and "capable." When applied to things, it means "serviceable", "morally good," and "beneficial."

καρποὺς (noun pl masc acc) "Fruit" is from karpos, which means "fruit", "the fruits of the earth", "seed", "offspring", "returns for profit," and "reward."

καλοὺς (adj pl masc acc) "Good" is from kalos, which means "beautiful", "of fine quality", "noble", "honorable", "fair", "shapely", "good [of currency]", "auspicious [of sacrifices]", "excellent", "fine," and "specious [when used ironically]." As an adverb, it means "of good fortune", "well", "happily", "thoroughly", "altogether," and "finely." -

ποιεῖ, (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Bringeth forth" is from poieo, which means "to make", "to produce", "to create", "to bring into existence", "to bring about", "to cause", "to render", "to consider", "to prepare", "to make ready," and "to do."

τὸ (article sg neut nom ) "A" in "a tree" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." Here it is separated from its noun by a particle.

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").

σαπρὸν [5 verses](adj sg neut nom ) "Corrupt" is sapros, which means "rotten", "putrid", "stale", "rancid", "worn-out," and "mellow [of wine]."

δένδρον [9 verses] (noun sg neut nom) "Tree" is from dendron (more commonly spelled dendreon), which means "tree", "fruit-tree", "tall plants (such as rattan)" "stick," and "timber."

καρποὺς (noun pl masc acc ) "Fruit" is from karpos, which means "fruit", "the fruits of the earth", "seed", "offspring", "returns for profit," and "reward."

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

ποιεῖ: (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Bringeth forth" is from poieo, which means "to make", "to produce", "to create", "to bring into existence", "to bring about", "to cause", "to render", "to consider", "to prepare", "to make ready," and "to do."

KJV Analysis: 

Even so  - The adverb translated as "even so" means "therefore," "so much,""in this manner,"  or "this is why." Because this verse follows Matthew 7:16 You shall know them by their fruits, the sense is more "this is because", or most simple, "so".  In Matthew 7:12, this word was used to mean "so much."

every  - The word translated as "every " is one word meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas. As an adverb, as here, it means "in every way", "on every side," and "altogether." See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

good  -- (CW) The adjective translated as "good" means "useful", "worthwhile," and "of high quality. As a noun, the word "valuables" makes the idea clearer than "goods".  See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil." This is the "good" in Matthew 7:11.

tree  - The word for "tree" most commonly means fruit bearing trees.

bringeth forth - (WW) The Greek word translated as "bringeth forth" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service. It is usually translated as "to do" in the Gospels, but this verse is a clear demonstration of how this verb usually works. This word was used in Matthew 7:11 along with these  first words here translated as "good" and "evil."

good  - (CW) The word translated as "good" means "good", "beautiful", "noble," or "of good quality."  This is a different word than the word translated as "good" above.  See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

fruit;  - The word translated as "fruit" primary meaning is "fruit", "seed," or "offspring," but its secondary meaning is "returns," specifically, "profit," as we would say "fruit of our labors."

but  - The Greek word translated as "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

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

corrupt  - The word translated as "corrupt" means "rancid", "rotten," and "worn out." Since it also means "mellow" when applied to wine, it means food that is either old or bad.

tree  - The word for "tree" most commonly means fruit bearing trees. The tree was a symbol for the naturally productive assets of nature as opposed to fields which must be planted each year.

bringeth  forth - (WW) Again, the Greek word translated as "bringeth forth" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service. This is the final word in the verse.

evil  - (WW) The word translated as "evil" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This article explores it meaning in more detail. It is an adjective, but used here as a noun, therefore, "what is worthless." This is the "evil" in Matthew 7:11.

fruit.  - The term translated as "fruit" also means "profit" and generally, that which is produced.

KJV Translation Issues: 

7
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "even so" should be "this is why."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "good" is more like "worthwhile" in this context. 
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "bringeth forth" should be "make."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "good" is more like "beautiful" in this context. It is a different "good" than above.  
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "a" should be "the."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "bringeth forth" should be "make."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "evil" should be "worthless."

NIV Analysis: 

Likewise, - (WW) The adverb translated as "even so" means "therefore," "so much,""in this manner,"  or "this is why." Because this verse follows Matthew 7:16 You shall know them by their fruits, the sense is more "this is because", or most simple, "so".  In Matthew 7:12, this word was used to mean "so much."

every  - The word translated as "every " is one word meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas. As an adverb, as here, it means "in every way", "on every side," and "altogether." See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

good  -- (CW) The adjective translated as "good" means "useful", "worthwhile," and "of high quality. As a noun, the word "valuables" makes the idea clearer than "goods".  See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil." This is the "good" in Matthew 7:11.

tree  - The word for "tree" most commonly means fruit bearing trees.

bears - (WW) The Greek word translated as "bears " has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service. It is usually translated as "to do" in the Gospels, but this verse is a clear demonstration of how this verb usually works. This word was used in Matthew 7:11 along with these  first words here translated as "good" and "evil."

good  - (CW) The word translated as "good" means "good", "beautiful", "noble," or "of good quality."  This is a different word than the word translated as "good" above.  See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

fruit;  - The word translated as "fruit" primary meaning is "fruit", "seed," or "offspring," but its secondary meaning is "returns," specifically, "profit," as we would say "fruit of our labors."

but  - The Greek word translated as "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

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

bad - (WW) The word translated as "bad " means "rancid", "rotten," and "worn out." Since it also means "mellow" when applied to wine, it means food that is either old or bad. See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

tree  - The word for "tree" most commonly means fruit bearing trees. The tree was a symbol for the naturally productive assets of nature as opposed to fields which must be planted each year.

bears - (WW) Again, the Greek word translated as "bears " has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service.

bad - (WW) The word translated as "bad " means "second-rate" or "worthless." This article explores it meaning in more detail. It is an adjective, but used here as a noun, therefore, "what is worthless." This is a different word than the "bad" above. This is the "evil" in Matthew 7:11. See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

fruit.  - The term translated as "fruit" also means "profit" and generally, that which is produced.

NIV Translation Issues: 

8
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "likewise" should be "this is why."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "good" is more like "worthwhile" in this context. 
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "bringeth forth" should be "make."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "good" is more like "beautiful" in this context. It is a different "good" than above.  
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "a" should be "the."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "bad" should be "rotten."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "bringeth forth" should be "make."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "bad" should be "worthless."

The Spoken Version: 

The Master ignored the darkening sky and responded brightly.
“That is why every valuable tree has fine fruit,” the Teacher agreed, again holding up his fig.  “It performs!”
Simeon nodded smugly at what he took as a compliment.
“However, the diseased tree has worthless fruit,” the Teacher continued thoughtfully. Then his voice changed to become more theatrical and announced, “It performs!”

evidence: 

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Front Page Date: 

Jul 12 2020