Mark 8:12 Why does this generation seek after a sign?

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Why this type, this one, search for proof?  Homestly I say, when it is going to be given to this generation, a proof? 

KJV : 

Mark 8:12 Why does this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

There is no negative in the second part of this verse. The negative was added to make it seem more like the verses in Matthew and Luke. However, this version is more a wry question than the statement made in the other two.  Notice the contrast of this statement with the previous verse where Christ seems to be offering a sign his multiplication of the bread in feeding the four thousand as a proof of his philosophy.

This verse relates to two similar verses in Matthew, Matthew 16:4 (discussed here) and Matthew 12:39 (discussed here), though all have very different contexts, all these statements are trigger by religious leaders asking for a sign, but they are all addressed to an entire generation or class of people. The contexts of each of these three verses are very different but those echo each other in interesting ways.
What is particularly interesting about this context of this verse is that it comes right after the miracle of the loaves, feeding the four thousand and right before another discussion about bread and leaven.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Τί (irreg sg neut nom) "Why" is 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."

ἡ  (article sg fem nom) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

γενεὰ (noun sg fem nom)"Generation" is from genea, which means "race", "family", "generation", "class," and "kind." It is a form of the word from which we get the scientific word,"genus."

αὕτη (adj sg fem nom) "This" is houtos, which as an adjective means "this", "that", "the nearer." As an adverb, it means "in this way", "therefore", "so much", "to such an extent," and "that is why." --

ζητεῖ (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Seek after" is zeteo, which means "inquire for", "search for", "seek after", "desire", and "feel the want of." 

σημεῖον; (noun sg neut nom) "A sign" is from semeion, which means "mark (by which things are known)," , "a proof" (in reasoning), "sign (of the future)", "sign from the gods", "signal (to do things)," and "standard (flag).

ἀμὴν (adv) "Verily" is amen, which is the Hebrew, meaning "truly", "of a truth," and "so be it." It has no history in Greek of this meaning before the NT. However, this is also the infinitive form of the Greek verb amao, which means "to reap" or "to cut." -- The word translated as "verily" is the Hebrew word that means "truly" or "certainly," but it sounds like the Greek word with the same meaning. In Greek, the word also means "to reap."

λέγω, (1st sg pres ind act) "I tell" 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." -- 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. It also has many ancillary meanings such as "to count" ("to number" or like we might say, "to recount" a story) or "to choose for yourself." Christ usually uses this word to refer to his own speaking or teaching.

εἰ (conj) "There shall be no" is ei, which is the particle used to express conditions "if" (implying nothing about its fulfillment) or indirect questions, "whether." It also means "if ever", "in case," and "whenever." It is combined with various conjunctions to create derivative conditions.

δοθήσεται (verb 3rd sg fut ind pass) "It shall be given" is didomi, which means "to give", "to grant", "to hand over," and "to describe."

τῇ (article sg fem dat) "Unto" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

γενεᾷ (noun sg fem dat) "Generation" is from genea, which means "race", "family", "generation", "class," and "kind." It is a form of the word from which we get the scientific word,"genus."

ταύτῃ (adj sg fem dat) The "this" is a pronoun that can mean "this" or "that," the nearer or the further depending on usage. As an adverb it can mean "therefore" and "that is why." It is not typically used as an adjective.

 σημεῖον(noun sg neut nom/acc) "A sign" is from semeion, which means "mark (by which things are known)," , "a proof" (in reasoning), "sign (of the future)", "sign from the gods", "signal (to do things)," and "standard (flag).

KJV Analysis: 

Why   -- The word translated as "why" means primarily "anything" or "anyone," but Jesus often uses it to start a question so it means "who", "what", or even "why". 

does --  This word is added to make the question flow more smoothly in English.

this -- "This" is translated from a Greek word that means "this", "that", "the nearer."  This adjective follows the noun translated as  "generation."

untranslated -- The untranslated word  is the Greek definite article, The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

generation -- The word translated as "generation" means "race", "family", and "generation". The sense is a "type" or a "specimen" of a particular type.  Jesus uses this term frequently in criticism, but that criticism seems more aimed at a particular type of people than his generation. It is the word from which we get the scientific "genus".

seek after -- The Greek verb translated as "seek after" has a variety of meanings around the idea of "searching" and "desiring". It has a sense of seeking with a specific aim.  '

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.

sign? "Sign" is the noun that means "mark (by which things are known)," , "a proof" (in reasoning), "sign (of the future)", "sign from the gods", "signal (to do things)," and "standard (flag)." Jesus seems to use it more in the sense of "proof."

The "verily" phrase is used frequently by Jesus as a personal signature. Its vocabulary and meaning are discussed in detail in this article. Currently, "tell you true" is the translation I currently use. Christ makes fun of his frequent use of it.

verily -- The word translated is as "verily" is an exclamation that means "truly" or "of a truth." It is an untranslated Aramaic word that is echoed by a similar Greek word, and a good piece of evidence that Christ taught in Greek, not Aramaic.

I -- This comes from the form of the following verb.

say -- The word translated as "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 also has many ancillary meanings such as "to count" ("to number" or like we might say, "to recount" a story) or "to choose for yourself." Jesus  usually uses this word to refer to his own speaking or teaching.

unto -- This comes from the form of the following pronoun.

you,  -- The Greek pronoun "you" here is plural and in the form of an indirect object, "to you", "for you", etc. 

There --  This word does nto come from the Greek.

untranslated -- The "if" here expresses a condition but it means nothing regarding whether that condition is met or not. It also means "if ever" and "whenever."

shall -- This comes from the future tense of the verb "given." 

no -- There is no negative in this verse at all. The Greek says the opposite of the KJV  translation.

sign -- The meaning of the Greek word for "sign" that stands out here is the idea of "proof." Proof is in the eye of the beholder. What may have been a sign to those who were hungry for his teaching, meant nothing to those who see themselves as leaders.

be -- This comes from the passive form of the following verb.

given -- The verb translated as "given" means "to give", "to grant", "to hand over", "appoint", "establish," and "to describe." It is almost always translated as some form of "give." If we look at Jesus's use of the word for "give," he uses it mostly to discuss the giving of food in parables and the giving of understanding.  You cannot give people what they do not want. Jesus  couldn't give people who didn't believe him a sign because they did not want it even though they sought after it.

unto -- The word translated as "unto" is the Greek definite article." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. The form of  this word requires that addition of a preposition in English to capture its meaning, a "to" as an indirect object, a "with" for instruments, an "in" for locations, an "as" for purposes, an "of" for possession, a "by" for agents, an "as" for comparisons, and an "in" for area of affect.

this  -- The "this" is a pronoun that can mean "this" or "that," the nearer or the further depending on usage. As an adverb it can mean "therefore" and "that is why." It is not typically used as an adjective. It follows the word translated as "generation." 

generation. -- The word translated as "generation" means "race", "family", and "generation". The sense is a "type" or a "specimen" of a particular type.  Jesus uses this term frequently in criticism, but that criticism seems more aimed at a particular type of people than his generation. It is the word from which we get the scientific "genus".

Front Page Date: 

Aug 18 2019