Matthew 23:19 Fools and blind... greater, the gift, or the altar

KJV Verse: 

Mat 23:19 Fools and blind: for whether [is] greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift?

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

You blind yourselves. Because? How? The gift...better than the altar that sets the gold apart for God?

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse is interesting because, though Christ uses the same word, he changes around the word order we saw in both Mat 23:18 and Mat 23:16. Again, given the missing words and the phrasing, this verse works much better spoken that read.

In the Greek source we use today, the first two words, "Fools and" do not appear.

"Blind" is from a word that means both physically and mentally blind. Its form could also be the adjective "blind," or a verb, meaning "you blind yourselves." The latter seems more likely because in the earlier parallel verse, Mat 23:16, the Greek for "fools" could only be a verb.

The word translated as "for" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, to prevent a run-on sentence, translated as a "this is because..." to start a new sentence.

The Greek word translated as "whether" in the singular means "anyone", "someone," and "anything," but in a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

There is no "is" here as there was in the parallel verse of Mat 23:16.

"Greater" is an adjective which is the comparative form of the word meaning "big" or "great." It means "bigger", "higher", "longer", "greater" and simply, "superior." When it is introduced by an article, it means "the greater." It is not the superlative form.

The word translated as "gift" means "gift," or "offering" but it has the special meaning of an offering to the gods. These gifts were "burnt" offerings, offerings that were burnt upon the grill that was the altar.

"Or" is translated from a Greek word that means "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison. Here, the use of the comparative, "greater" would cause it to be heard as "than" rather than "or."

The word for "altar" means "altar" but an altar wasn't a table in front of a church in Christ's time. It was a grill with a fire under it for burning sacrifices.

The Greek verb translated as "which sanctifieth" is difficult because it is not standard Greek verb but one that Christ uses. It is perhaps, an unusual form of another Greek verb meaning "to dedicate to God" and "to sanctify" usually by burning an offering. In may also be a verb form of a Greek noun, meaning "a thing that creates awe." In a good sense, this can mean holy or sacred, but it also means accursed. Another way to think about this word is that it describes something set apart only for God. Christ uses this word to describe the name of God in the Lord's Prayer. It is in the noun form of a verb, "which sets it apart for God."

The word translated as "gift" means "gift," or "offering" but it has the special meaning of an offering to the gods. These gifts were "burnt" offerings, offerings that were burnt upon the grill that was the altar.

Greek Vocabulary: 

τυφλοί, [uncommon](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."
OR (verb 2nd sg pres ind mp) "Blind" is from typhloo, which means to "blind," "make blind", "baffle", "make a passage blind," and "stop up."

τί (pron sg neut acc) "Whether" is from tis which can mean "someone", "any one", "everyone", "they [indefinite]", "many a one", "whoever", "anyone", "anything", "some sort", "some sort of", "each", "any", "the individual", "such," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

γὰρ "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question it means "why" and "what."

μεῖζον (adj sg masc nom comp) "Greater" is from meizon which means "bigger", "higher", "longer," and "greater" and is the comparative form of megas, which means "big" and "great." The superlative form "greatest" is megistos, μέγιστος.

τὸ δῶρον [uncommon](noun sg neut nom) "Gift" is from dôron (doron) which means "gift", "present," and specifically a "votive gift" or "offering" to a god. The simpler term without the sense of a votive offering is "dorea."

"Or" is e which is a particle meaning "either", "or," or "than."

τὸ θυσιαστήριον [uncommon] (noun sg neut nom) "The altar" is from thysiastērion , which means "altar."

τὸ ἁγιάζον (part sg aor act masc nom) "that sanctifieth" is from is hagiazo, which means "to separate from profane things and dedicate to God", "to dedicate people to God", "to purify," and "to cleanse externally or internally." This may be a special form of hagizo which means "to hallow", "to dedicate," and "to make sacred," commonly by burning a sacrifice. It may also be a verb from of the noun hagos, which means "a thing that creates awe."

τὸ δῶρον; [uncommon](noun sg neut acc) "Gift" is from dôron (doron) which means "gift", "present," and specifically a "votive gift" or "offering" to a god. The simpler term without the sense of a votive offering is "dorea."

The Spoken Version: 

"You are all blinding yourself," he continued, convering his eyes again.

"Because?" he asked. "How?"

Then he held out his hand signifying the gift. "The gift..."

"Better than the altar," he said, holding out his other hand representing the temple.

Then he again balanced one hand against the other as he did before.

"When the temple," he said, shaking the hand representing the temple. "Makes the gift holy."

The hand represented that temple fell and the one reprenting the gift rose, showing the final balance of the scale, as he said the word "holy."

The crowd laughed and offered a scattering of applause.

Related Verses: