Matthew 23:16 Woe unto you...Whosoever shall swear by the temple,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 23:16 Woe unto you, you blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Sadly for you, blind guides who say, Who might promise on the temple is nothing. Who. however, might promise on the gold of the temple, he might swear in gold of the temple, he owes.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Again, the sense is that these attacks are primarily humorous, getting people to laught at the scribes and Pharisees. So Christ uses uncommon words with double meanings, here the meanings of
blind" and "gold". The humor is in the juxtaposition of ideas. In Mat 5:34, Christ makes his opinion of oath taking clear. He has also used the term "blind guides" before as well in Mat 15:1. However, here the

"Woe" is from an exclamation of grief, meaning "woe" or "alas." Today we would say "sadly [for you]" or "boo-hoo to you." More about this phrase in this article on Christ's humor, under the subtitle, "exaggeration."

"Blind" is from a word that means both physically and mentally blind. It also means all things that are obscure. It is also a metaphor for disabilities of the other senses.

"Guides" is from a noun, which means "guide." It is in the form of a subject of the sentence and immediately follows the verb "to be."

The word translated as "which say" is the most common word that means "to say," and "to speak," but it also means "to teach," which seems to be the way Christ uses it more frequently. It is not an active verb, but a verb in the form of a noun introduced by an article, "the ones saying,"

The word translated as "whosoever" is a demonstrative pronoun, ("this", "that,") but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause.

There is an untranslated word here that conveys the sense of something that might or could happen.

The word translated as "shall swear" means "to swear to a thing", "to promis," and "to take an oath." It is an uncommon word for Christ but doesn't have any double meanings. It is not in the future tense, but a form indicating something that might happen.

The word translated as "by" also means "in," "within", "with," or "among." The sense is not usually like how we use "swearing on" something.

The word translated as "temple" means "temple", "the inner room of the temple," and "shrine."

The Greek word translated as "nothing" also means "no one" and other negatives nouns.

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 words here are identical to the first part of the phrase until we come to the word for "gold."

The word translated as "gold" means "gold," anything made of gold, or anything precious for which gold is a metaphor. It also means "golden words," as we use the saying, "comic gold."

"He is a debtor" is from a verb that means "to owe," and "to have to pay." The form of this verb means "he owes." There is not verb "is" or "debtor" here.

Greek Vocabulary: 

Οὐαὶ "Woe" is from ouai, which is an exclamation of pain or anger meaning "woe" or "alas." --

ὑμῖν, (pron 2nd pl dat) "To you" is from hymin (humin), which is the 2nd person plural dative pronoun. Dative is the case which indicates to whom something is given. --

ὁδηγοὶ (noun pl masc voc/nom) "Guides" is from hodegos, which means "guide" and "pilot."

τυφλοὶ (adj pl masc voc/nom) "Blind" is from typhlos, which means "blind", "lacking vision of the future," [of things]"dim", "obscure", "dark," [of passages] "blind", "enclosed", "with no outlet," and is a metaphor for lacking sense."

οἱ λέγοντες (part pl pres act masc voc/nom) "which say" is from lego, which means "to recount", "to tell over", "to say", "to speak", "to teach", "to mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," nominate," and "command." It has a secondary meaning "pick out," "choose for oneself", "pick up", "gather", "count," and "recount." A less common word that is spelt the same means "to lay", "to lay asleep" and "to lull asleep."

Ὃς (pron sg masc nom) "Whosoever" is from hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

ἂν 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."

ὀμόσῃ [uncommon] (verb 3rd sg aor subj act) "Swear" is from omnyo, 2nd sg aor imperat mid) which means "to swear to a thing", "to take an oath", "to promise one will", "give word of honor", "swear by," and "affirm or confirm by oath."

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

τῷ ναῷ, (uncommon] (noun sg masc dat) "The temple" is from naos, which means "temple," "inmost part of a temple", "shrine," and "portable shrine carried in processions."

οὐδέν (adj sg neut nom) "Nothing" is from oudeis which means "no one", "not one", "nothing", "naught", "good for naught," and "no matter."

ἐστιν, (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Is" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

ὃς (pron sg masc nom) "Whosoever" is from hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

δ᾽ "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").

ἂν 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."

ὀμόσῃ [uncommon] (verb 2nd sg fut/aor ind/subk mid "Swear" is from omnyo, 2nd sg aor imperat mid) which means "to swear to a thing", "to take an oath", "to promise one will", "give word of honor", "swear by," and "affirm or confirm by oath."

ἐν "By" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with". -- The word translated as "in" also means "within", "with," or "among."

τῷ χρυσῷ [uncommon] (noun sg masc dat) "Gold" is from chrysos, which means "gold", "anything made of gold", "anything dear or precious," and "golden words."

τοῦ ναοῦ [uncommon] (noun sg masc gen) "The temple" is from naos, which means "temple," "inmost part of a temple", "shrine," and "portable shrine carried in processions."

ὀφείλει: [uncommon] (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Debtor" is from opheilo, which means "to owe", "to have to pay," "to account for," and, in the passive, "to be due," "to be bound", "to be obliged (to do)"

Wordplay: 

one joke here is that, despite being blind, Christ's opponents care about what appears golden. Another is the idea of swearing on gold to become a debtor. 

The Spoken Version: 

"Boo-hoo to you, guides who can't see anything," he said, closing his eyes and pantomining a blind man walking with his hand outstretched before him.

The crowd laughed.

"The ones saying," he continued, switching to mimicing a high voice, acting the part of a blind Pharisee. "Anyone who might make promises on the temple is a nothing."

At "nothing" he indicated the crowd with a blind swipe of his arms. The crowd laughed again.

"But whoever promises on the gold of the temple," he continued, drawing out the word gold as if he relished it. He pantomined rubbing along a golden candlestick. Then he opened one eye, peeking at the imagined gold, looking so happy at seeing it.

The crowd laughed again.

Then he suddenly pointed at his accusers and said in an accusing tone, "He has to pay!"

The crowd was shocked, but there were a few giggles as well.

Related Verses: