Luke 4:25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel

KJV : 

Luke 4:25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;

Literal Verse: 

Of a truth, however, I tell you all, many widows were in the days of Elijah in this Israel at the time when it was closed, the sky, three years and six months so it came into being, a famine, a great one, upon all the earth. 

What is Lost in Translation: 

The word translated as "land" here does not refer to the nation of Israel. The verse begins with the phrase "of a truth" so it is very like the common opening phrase Christ uses, "Truly, I tell you" (article about that phrase here). Two different words, probably with different meanings, are translated here as "when".  

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

The word translated as "I tell" 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.

The "you" here is plural, so "you all". 

The word translated as "of" means "on", "upon", "against", "before", "by" or "on." This is the first word in the sentence. In Greek, the most important words come first, unless they are exclamations, like the "truly" that commonly starts Christ's statements. Christ usually uses the preposition "in" when describing someone speaking a truth. 

The word translated "a truth" means literally "the state of not being hidden," so "truth" and "reality" (as opposed to appearances). It has no article, which in English can be translated as "truth" or "a truth", but everywhere other than here and in a similar phrase in Luke is translated as "truth" without the "a" before it.

The word translated as "many" means many in number, great in power or worth, and large in size.

"Widows" is an adjective that means "widowed" or more generally, "bereaved".  Christ uses it as a noun. 

The "were" verb here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition.

The word translated as "in" also means "within", "with," or "among."

The Greek word for "Israel" has an article ("the") in front of it, which is very odd. Proper nouns do not take articles normally. However, the Greek article is very close to "this" so the purpose here may be demonstrative. See this article

The Greek word translated as "days" also means "time," in general, and refers specifically to the "daytime."

The Greek word translated as "when" also means which means "at the time when," and "sometimes."

The word translated as "heaven" means sky, the climate, and the universe. It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods. More about the word in this article.

The verb translated as "was shut up"  means "to close" or "to shut in." 

The word translated as "year" means "year" but this is the first time Christ uses it in the Gospels. It is not the word used in Luke 4:19, which has more the sense of "cycle" or "anniversary". 

The word translated as "month" means "month", "moon" and the shape a crescent moon. 

The word translated as "when" has a very broad meaning, translating as "how", "thus", "so",  "when", "where", "just as", "like," and related words. It is not the "when" used earlier in the verse. The likely meaning here is "thus" or "so".

The word translated as "great" means "big", "high" "great," and "impressive."  

"Famine" is the Greek word for "hunger", and "famine".

The word translated as "was" means "to become," pr "to come into being", 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 word translated as "throughout" means "upon", "against", "before", "by" or "on." It is the same word translate as "of" in the beginning of the verse. It does not mean "throughout" normally. 

The word translated as "all" is the Greek adjective meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas.

The word translated as "land" means "earth", the physical planet, not society, "ground" and  "land" as in arable fields. It does not mean a "country". which Christ describes as the world. See this article for more on related words.

Greek : 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ἐπ᾽ (prep) "Of" is epi. which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against." 

ἀληθείας (noun sg fem gen) "A truth" is aletheia, which means literally "the state of not being hidden," means "truth" and "reality" as opposed to appearances.

δὲ "But" is 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"). 

λέγω (1st sg pres ind act) "Say" is lego means "pick up", "choose for oneself", "pick out," and "count," "recount", "tell over", "say", "speak", "teach", "mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," "nominate," and "command."

ὑμῖν, (pron 2nd pl dat) "To you" is humin the plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

πολλαὶ (adj pl fem nom) "Many" is polus, which means "many (in number)", "great (in size or power or worth)," and "large (of space)."  

χῆραι (adj pl fem nom) "Widows" is from chera, which means "widow" and "bereaved."

ἦσαν (verb 3rd pl imperf ind act) "Were" is eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible."  -

ἐν (prep) "In" is en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with". 

ταῖς ἡμέραις (noun pl fem dat) "The days" is hemera, which, as a noun, means "day" "a state or time of life", "a time (poetic)", "day break" and "day time." It is also and also has a second meaning, of "quiet", "tame (animals)", "cultivated (crops)," and "civilized (people)." 

 Ἠλείου (noun) "Elias" is from Elias, the Greek form of the biblical name for Elijah.

ἐν (prep) "In" is 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 Ἰσραήλ, (noun) "Israel" is from Israel, which means "Israel."

ὅτε "When" is hote, which means "when", "as when", "at the time when," and "sometimes."

ἐκλείσθη (verb 3rd sg aor ind pass) "Was shut up" is kleio, which means "to shut", "to close", "to bar", "to block up", "to shut in", "to confine," and "to shut up." It is a metaphor for causing the heavens to withhold rain. 

  οὐρανὸς (noun sg masc nom) "Heaven" is the Greek ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate." 

ἔτη [uncommon] (noun pl neut acc) "Years" is from etos, which means "year", "yearly", and "annually". 

τρία (noun pl neut acc) "Three" is from treis, which means the number three.

καὶ (conj)  "And" is kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). 

μῆνας [uncommon](noun pl fem acc ) "Moon" is from mene, which means "month," "moon", and "crescent moon".

ἕξ, (numeral) "Six" is from hex, which is the number "six." 

ὡς (adv/conj) "When" is hos, an adverb which means to "thus", "as", "how", "when", "where", "like", "just as", "so far as", "as much as can be", "that", "in order that", "nearly (with numbers)," and "know that."

ἐγένετο (verb 3rd sg aor ind mid) "Was" is 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. 

λιμὸς (noun sg masc nom) "Famine" is from limos, which means "hunger", "famine," and "a hungry wrench." -- "Famine" is the Greek word for "hunger", and "famine".

μέγας (adj sg masc nom indeclform) "Great" is megas, which means "big", "full-grown", "vast", "high", "great", "mighty", "strong (of the elements)","loud" (of sounds), "over-great (with a bad sense), "impressive" (of style), and "long" ( of days). 

ἐπὶ "Throughout" is epi. which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against."

πᾶσαν (adj sg fem acc) "All" is 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." 

τὴν γῆν, (noun sg fem acc) "The land" is ge, which means "the element of earth", "land (country)", "arable land", "the ground," and "the world" as the opposite of the sky. Like our English word "earth," it means both dirt and the planet. 

Related Verses: 

Front Page Date: 

Aug 21 2017