No one, however, throws on a patch of rag, unfinished, onto a cloak, old. For it lifts, the filler of it from the coat and worse a division becomes.
Matthew 9:16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
Interesting and Hidden Aspects:
The meaning of this verse seems obscure in translation, but the symbols and double meanings were much more obvious in the time of Christ. Interestingly, the Greek here works very differently than the Greek in the parallel version in Luke (Luke 5:36), while the version in Mark (Mark 2:21) seems to be a hybrid of the two. Though these verses sound much the same in the KJV, most other modern translations make the differences a little clearer.
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.
The Greek word translated as "no man" also means "no one", "nothing," and other negatives nouns.
The word translated as "putteth" means literally to "throw against, before, by or on," but it has a large variety of specific uses. Its use implies that the patch was tossed on in a quick and careless way. The Mark version uses that actual word that means "sew", which in Greek resembles this word.
The Greek word translated as "piece" means "that which is thrown over". It is from the same root word as the word above and means "something thrown over" or "tossed on." It has a number of meanings including "covering," "tapestry", and " bandage". This is an uncommon word for Christ to use.
The word translated as "new" means "unfinished" or "unprocessed." It is not "new" necessarily in the same sense as we use the word for store purchased goods to means "unused". "Finished" means having the edges sewn up to that the millwork didn't come apart. If the cloth is not finished, it will come apart on its own. This is an uncommon word for Christ to use. A different word is translated as "new" in the Luke version (Luke 5:36) and in the next verse, Matthew 9:17 when applied to wine. This word is related to the word Christ uses to describe himself "filling up" or "fulfilling" the OT.
The word translated as "cloth" really means a "rag" or "tatter." This is a negative description of the patch. This is an uncommon word for Christ to use.
The word translated as "unto" means "against", "before", "by" or "on."
The word translated as "old" means old in years both in a good sense and a bad one. In a good sense, it means "venerable" and in a bad sense, "obsolete." Because the point here is that we want to preserve the coat or cloak, it should be translated in the positive sense. "Old" means respected and prized not worn out. This is an uncommon word for Christ to use.
The word translated as "garment" means an outer garment ("a cloak") like we would use a coat or jacket today. The style and quality of this garment were how people judged social affiliation and status.This specific garment signaled religious affiliation.
The word translated as "for" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, in written English, as "this is because..." to start a new sentence.
The word translated as "it" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. Here it is in the possessive "of it." It is in a form that refers to the "garment". It appears after the word below.
"That which is put in to ...up" is a single Greek word, a noun that captures various ideas of filling and completing, but here, we might simply say "the filler. this is an uncommon word for Christ to use.
The word translated as "taketh" means "lift up" but it also means "to remove" and "to exalt" this is a reference to an unfinished piece of material, one without a hem, coming apart. Interestingly enough, the word translated here as "taketh," referring to the patch being torn away from the cloth, is the same word Christ used describing the bridegroom being taken away in the previous verse. So Christ is saying that he is not a patch on the old garment of traditional Judaism. Because when the patch is taken away, it would rip the cloth. He is saying that he is something new entirely, new ideas and new emotions, which means new relationships. When he is taken away, his followers will mourn, but only for awhile, because his resurrection will complete something entirely new.
The word translated as "from" means "from" in both location and when referring to a source.
The word translated as "the garment" means an outer garment ("a cloak") like we would use a coat or jacket today.
The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also") and, in a series, is best translated as "not only...but also.
The word translated as "rent" means an "opening", "division," or a "tear" but it is also a metaphor about a division of opinion. This word is the source of our word "schism". This is an uncommon word for Christ to use. This noun is important symbolically because it also refers to divided opinions, that is, the split between the "new" and the "old" symbolized by the garments, representing different schools of thought. The verb form of this word is used in Luke 5:36.
The word translated as "is made" means "to become," that is, to enter into a new state. In Greek, especially as used by Jesus, it is the opposite of "being," which is existence in the current state.
The terms translated as "worse" means various forms of inferiority and degradation. This is an uncommon word for Christ to use.
The hole in the cloth is described in words that create a metaphor of a split of opinions within society.
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").
ἐπιβάλλει (3rd sg pres ind act) "Putteth" is from epiballo, which means to "throw or cast upon", "lay on", " affix (a seal, add),"" contribute", "place next in order", "let grow", "let loose", "throw oneself upon", "go straight towards", "follow", "come next", "belong to", "fall to the share of", "shut to", "close", "to overlap (in logic)," and in the passive to "lie upon", "be put upon," and "be set over." --
ἐπίβλημα [uncommon](noun sg neut nom/acc ) "A piece" is from epiblema, which means "that which is thrown over", "covering", "tapestry", "hangings", "that which is put on", "piece of embroidery," and "outer bandage."
ῥάκους [uncommon](noun sg neut gen) "Cloth" is rhakos, which means ragged, tattered garment", "rags", "tatters", "strip of cloth", "strip of flesh", "rents in the face", "wrinkles," and is a metaphor for "rag," and "remnant."
ἀγνάφου [uncommon](adj sg neut gen) "New" is from agnaphos, which means "uncarded", "unmilled", "unfulled", "undressed," and "unprocessed."
παλαιῷ [uncommon](adj sg neut dat) "Old" is from palaios, which means "old in years," "ancient," (in a good sense) "venerable", "held in esteem," (in a bad way) "antiquated", "obsolete," and "in an old way."
τὸ πλήρωμα (noun sg neut nom/acc) "That which is put in to fill up" is from pleroma, which means "that which fills", "fullness", "reserves", "mass", "complex", "filling up", "completing," and "fulfillment."
αὐτοῦ (adj sg neut gen ) "It" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."
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.
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."
χεῖρον (adj sg neut nom/acc comp) "Worse" is from cheiron, which means (of persons) "meaner", "inferior," (in moral sense) "worse than others", "worse (in quality)", "inferior," and, as a noun, "inferiority."
γίνεται. (3rd sg pres ind mp) "Is made" is from ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", "to happen", "to be produced," and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being. It is the complementary opposite of the verb "to be" (eimi)which indicates existence in the same state.