Matthew 7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

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

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

No, it doesn't have the power: a valuable tree to yield worthless fruit nor a diseased tree to make fine fruit.

KJV : 

Matthew 7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Like the previous verse, 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 these verses 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 "of less worth." 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 7:18  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

NLT : 

Matthew 7:18  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.

Wordplay: 

As in the previous verse, "fruit" can mean profit or produce and a "tree" is a financial asset, but those meanings are supported by a verb here, translated as "bringeth forth" that is used to describe an asset "bringing in" a profit. 

My Takeaway: 

The invisible innate abilities within us only become visible by what our actions produce.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

οὐ (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.

δύναται (verb 3rd sg pres ind mp) "Can" is from the verb, dynamai, which means "to have power by virtue of your own capabilities", "to be able," and "to be strong enough."

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." 

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."

ἐνεγκεῖν, (aor inf act) "Bring forth" is phero, which means to "bear", "tarry", "bring", "produce", "fetch, "endure", "suffer", "bring to bear", "lead", "direct", "bear along [of wind]", "offer", "present","cause", "adduce", "bring forward", "pay something due or owing", "bring in", "yield as rent [of property]", "apply," and "refer.

οὐδὲ (partic) "Neither" is from oude , which means "but not", "neither", "nor," and "not even."

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."

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

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."

ποιεῖν, (pres inf act) "Bring 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: 

A -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

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.. The tree was a symbol for the naturally productive assets of nature as opposed to fields which must be planted each year.

can- The Greek verb translated as "can" indicates having the power or, sometimes, a desire to accomplish something. It it is more complicated than our verb "can" which acts as a helper building.

not  - 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 "no" or "not" captures its feeling better.

bring forth  - (CW, WF) The Greek word translated as "bring forth" means "bear", "bring", "fetch", "yield", and similar ideas. It is different than the verb translated a "bring forth" in the previous verse, Matthew 7:17, and later in this verse, though both words overlap in the sense of "produce" and "cause". This word is more specific, especially in the economic sense of "paying" something due and "yielding" a profit. This word is an infinitive.

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.

neither -- The Greek word for "neither" is an adverb that means "not at all" or "no even". As a conjunction, it works as both parts of the "neither/nor" constructions. 

can  - There is no verb "can" occurring in this second clause, introduced by the Greek word for "neither" and "nor." However, the verb for this clauseis an infinitive, so the earlier "can" is the primary verb here.

a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

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,WF) Again, the Greek word translated as "bringeth forth" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service. This word is an infinitive.

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."

KJV Translation Issues: 

6
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "good" is more like "worthwhile" in this context. 
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "bringeth forth" should be "bear" or "yield," but it is different than the following "bringeth forth" verb.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "bringeth forth" is not an active verb but an infinitive, "to yield."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- -- The word translated as "bringeth forth" means "make" or "produce."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "bringeth forth" is not an active verb but an infinitive, "to make."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "good" is more like "beautiful" in this context. It is a different "good" than above.  

NIV Analysis: 

A -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

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.. The tree was a symbol for the naturally productive assets of nature as opposed to fields which must be planted each year.

can- The Greek verb translated as "can" indicates having the power or, sometimes, a desire to accomplish something. It it is more complicated than our verb "can" which acts as a helper building.

not  - 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 "no" or "not" captures its feeling better.

bear  - (CW, WF) The Greek word translated as "bear  " means "bear", "bring", "fetch", "yield", and similar ideas. It is different than the verb translated a "bring forth" in the previous verse, Matthew 7:17, and later in this verse, though both words overlap in the sense of "produce" and "cause". This word is more specific, especially in the economic sense of "paying" something due and "yielding" a profit. This word is an infinitive.

bad - (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.

and -- (WW) The Greek word for "neither" is an adverb that means "not at all" or "no even". As a conjunction, it works as both parts of the "neither/nor" constructions.

a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

bad  - 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.

cannot -  - There is no verb "can" occurring in this second clause. However, the verb for this clause is an infinitive, so the earlier "can" is the primary verb here. The negative appears above as part of the conjunction.

bear - (WW,WF) Again, the Greek word translated as "bear " has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service. This word is an infinitive.

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."

NIV Translation Issues: 

6
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "good" is more like "worthwhile" in this context. 
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The first "bear" is not an active verb but an infinitive, "to bear."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- -- The word translated as "and" means "nor."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- -- The word translated as "bear" means "make" or "produce."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "bear" is not an active verb but an infinitive, "to bear."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "good" is more like "fine" in this context. It is a different "good" than above.  

The Spoken Version: 

“The ancient tree of Israel is not diseased!” Simeon responded angrily. “You are the actor! Our party doesn’t need to pretend because it has real power!”
Distant lightning flashed as if to emphasize his words. Thunder again sounded.
“No, it doesn’t have the power—” the Teacher began.
Simeon interrupted him. “How can you say we don’t have the power? We have money, influence, even armed guards!”
To demonstrate, Simeon summoned the big guard Boaz to his side.
“What power do we lack?” Simeon sneered at the Master. “What can’t our wealth and position accomplish?”
“To have a valuable tree bear worthless fruit,” the Teacher suggested graciously. Then hold up his fig again, he added, “Or to have a rotten tree produce fine fruit.”
This won another laugh.

evidence: 

100.00

Front Page Date: 

Jul 13 2020