Matthew 11:16 To what shall I compare this generation?

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

About John the Baptist, about the authorities

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

To what, however, am I going to compare this type? It is like little ones having seated themselves in those marketplaces, the ones issuing orders to the others.

My Takeaway: 

Jesus sometimes avoided directly to avoid being reported to the authorities.

KJV : 

Matthew 11:16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows

NIV : 

Matthew 11:16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

There are several plays on words indicating that the "children" think of themselves as being in positions of authority. The word translated as "calling" only appears here and in the parallel verse Luke. There does seem to be a mistakes in the Perseus mGNT version. This verse uses neither a word that exactly means "children" nor a word that means "fellows."

Wordplay: 

The word used for "sitting" indicates being seated in a place of authority. This sense is strengthened by the phrase "in the marketplace" because the word for "marketplace" means "assembly." Being seated in an assembly is the definition of being in authority. 

The word translated as "calling" also means "issuing orders," which is again consistent with the idea of authority here. As is the "sniff" exclamation that precedes it. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Τίνι (irreg sg dat)  "Whereunto" 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."

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").

ὁμοιώσω (1st sg fut ind act) "Shall I liken" is from homoioo, which means "to make like," "to become like," "to liken," and "to compare.

τὴν (article sg fem acc)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

γενεὰν (noun sg fem acc) "Generation" is from genea, which means "race," "family," "generation," "class," and "kind." It is the word that we get the scientific "genus" from.

ταύτην; (adj sg fem acc) "This" is from tauta, which is a referring pronoun meaning "these," "this," "that," and "here." It can mean the nearer or the further depending on usage. As an adverb it can mean "therefore" and "that is why."

ὁμοία (adj sg fem nom) "Like is from homoios, which means "like," "resembling," "the same," "equal in force, "a match for one," "suiting," "of the same rank," "alike," "in like manner," and "equally."

ἐστὶν (3rd sg pres ind act) "It is" is from eimi, which means "to be," "to exist," "to be the case," and "is possible." It can also mean "must" with a dative.

παιδίοις (noun pl neut dat) "Children" is paidarion, which means "little one," "little boy," and "little girl." It is not the word usually translated as "children" in the New Testament which is usually the noun meaning "son," for example, "children of God" is usually huios (sons) theos(God).

καθημένοις (part pl perf mid masc dat) "Sitting" is from kathemai, which means "to sit," "to be seated," "to sit still," "to sit quiet," "to reside," and "to be placed."

ἐν (prep) "In" 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."

ταῖς (article sg neut dat)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἀγοραῖς [7 verses](noun pl fem dat) "Markets" is from agora, which means "an assembly," "place of assembly," and "marketplace." "Public speaking" meant speaking in the marketplace.

(pron pl neut nom/acc) This" is hos, which means "this," "that," "he," "she," "which," "what," "who," "whosoever," "where," "for which reason," and many similar meanings. -- The word translated as "who" is a demonstrative pronoun ("this" "that"), but it often acts as a pronoun ("the one that), especially a connective pronoun ("the one that") introducing a dependent clause. OR  [unique](exclaim) Untranslated is this exclamation described as a sound of someone "sniffing a feast" or "hu!." 

προσφωνοῦντα [2 verses](part pl pres act neut nom) "Calling" is from prosphoneo, which means to "call or speak to," "address," " call by name," "issue directions or orders," "pronounce," "utter" and "make a report."

τοῖς (article sg neut dat)  "Their" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἑτέροις (adj pl neut dat) "Their fellows" is from heteros, which means "one or the other of two," "the second," "the secondary," "the minor," "other things [of like kind]," "another," "different," "other than," "different from," "other than should be," and "in another or a different way." 

KJV Analysis: 

But  - 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.

whereunto  -  (CW) The Greek word translated as "whereunto" in the singular means "anyone," "someone," and "anything." In the plural, it means "some," "they," and "those." Its use often indicates a question. It is in the form of an indirect object "to what." 

shall -- This helping verb "shall" indicates that the verb is the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

I -- This is from the first-person, singular form of the verb.

liken  - The verb translated as "shall I liken" is a verb that means "to make like," "compare," or "to liken." It is in the future tense. 

this  - The word translated as "this" means "this," "here," or "that." This word appears after "generation" for more emphasis.

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

generation?  -  (CW) The word translated as "generation" means "race," "type," "family," and "generation." Christ uses this term frequently in criticism, but that criticism seems more aims at the human race, or, more narrowly, his own people, that it is his generation. It is the word from which we get the scientific "genus." However, more narrowly, he could also mean "this type of people." 

It --  This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb.

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

like  - "Like" is a Greek adjective meaning "like." This is the adjective form of the verb used above. 

unto -- This word "unto" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. The most common is a "to" for the English indirect object. However, the translator can choose other prepositions: "with,"  "in,"   "of,"  "as," "by," "for," "at," or "on" depending on the context.

children  - (CW) "Children" is a word that means "little one" so "little boy" and "little girl" but it is not associated with either sex. It is not the word usually translated as "children" in the New Testament. Read this article about words translated as "child" or "children" in the Gospels. 

 sitting - (WT) "Sitting" is a Greek verb that means to "be seated," "sit," especially of courts, councils, assemblies, etc. The form is an adjective, "sitting," but as an action completed in the past, "having been seated ." The sense if being put in a position of authority. The tense is past perfect. It is in the middle voice, "having seated." 

missing "themselves"-- (WV) A phrase is necessary because the form of the previous verb is a middle voice, which means that the subject is to  act  on "themselves."

in   -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," or "among"  with a dative object as the one here.  With the accusative, it means "into," "on," and "for." When referring to time, it means "during." It can mean "on," "at," or "by" in the sense of "near." 

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

markets, -  "Market" is a word that means is any assemblage of people, a place where people gather, a market or a street. The idea of "sitting in an assembly" is specifically the idea of being in a position of authority. 

and -- (IW) There is  nothing in the Greek that can be translated as "it" in the Greek source. This includes the source I use and the source used by the KJV translators.

untranslated "those"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is "those" is a demonstrative pronoun ("this" "that"), but it often acts as a pronoun ("the one that), especially a connective pronoun ("the one that") introducing a dependent clause.

calling  - (CW)  The Greek word translated as "calling"  means to "call or speak to," call by name," or "issue directions or orders." This word is also uncommon for Jesus. He uses other terms to mean "call by name" and "speak to" so the sense of "issuing orders" is most likely and consistent with what follows. 

unto  -- This word "unto" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. The most common is a "to" for the English indirect object. However, the translator can choose other prepositions: "with,"  "in,"   "of,"  "as," "by," "for," "at," or "on" depending on the context.

their-- (WW) The word translated as "their" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more.  This includes the source I use and the source used by the KJV translators.

fellows -- (WW)  The word translated as "fellows" means "one of two," "other," or "different." It is an adjective used as a noun. The sense is "the others." 

KJV Translation Issues: 

10
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "whereunto" is clearer as "to what."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "generation" is more like "type" or "race."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "children" is more like "small ones."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "sitting" is not the present tense, but the past perfect.
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "themselves" as its object.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "and" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "calling" is not the common word usually translated as "calling."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "their" should be "those."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "fellows" should be "others."

NIV Analysis: 

untranslated "but"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

To -- This word "to" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. The most common is a "to" for the English indirect object. However, the translator can choose other prepositions: "with,"  "in,"   "of,"  "as," "by," "for," "at," or "on" depending on the context.

what -- The Greek word translated as "whereunto" in the singular means "anyone," "someone," and "anything." In the plural, it means "some," "they," and "those." Its use often indicates a question. It is in the form of an indirect object "to what."

can -- (WW)  This helping verb "can" indicates that the verb is the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English. This, however, is not the right verb.

I -- This is from the first-person, singular form of the verb.

compare - The verb translated as "compare " is a verb that means "to make like," "compare," or "to liken." It is in the future tense. 

this  - The word translated as "this" means "this," "here," or "that." This word appears after "generation" for more emphasis.

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

generation?  -  (CW) The word translated as "generation" means "race," "type," "family," and "generation." Christ uses this term frequently in criticism, but that criticism seems more aims at the human race, or, more narrowly, his own people, that it is his generation. It is the word from which we get the scientific "genus." However, more narrowly, he could also mean "this type of people." 

They --  (WN) This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb.

are - -- (WN) The verb "are" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition.  However, it is singular.

like  - "Like" is a Greek adjective meaning "like." This is the adjective form of the verb used above. 

children  - (CW) "Children" is a word that means "little one" so "little boy" and "little girl" but it is not associated with either sex. It is not the word usually translated as "children" in the New Testament. Read this article about words translated as "child" or "children" in the Gospels. 

 sitting - (WT) "Sitting" is a Greek verb that means to "be seated," "sit," especially of courts, councils, assemblies, etc. The form is an adjective, "sitting," but as an action completed in the past, "having been seated ." The sense if being put in a position of authority. The tense is past perfect. It is in the middle voice, "having seated." 

missing "themselves"-- (WV) A phrase is necessary because the form of the previous verb is a middle voice, which means that the subject is to  act  on "themselves."

in   -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," or "among"  with a dative object as the one here.  With the accusative, it means "into," "on," and "for." When referring to time, it means "during." It can mean "on," "at," or "by" in the sense of "near." 

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

marketplaces , -  "Marketplaces" is a word that means is any assemblage of people, a place where people gather, a market or a street. The idea of "sitting in an assembly" is specifically the idea of being in a position of authority. 

and --  Some versions of the Greek source used today have the Greek word "and" here in the Greek source.

untranslated "those"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is "those" is a demonstrative pronoun ("this" "that"), but it often acts as a pronoun ("the one that), especially a connective pronoun ("the one that") introducing a dependent clause.

calling  - (CW)  The Greek word translated as "calling"  means to "call or speak to," call by name," or "issue directions or orders." This word is also uncommon for Christ. Christ uses other terms to mean "call by name" and "speak to" so the sense of "issuing orders" is most likely and consistent with what follows. 

out -- -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "out" in the Greek source.

to  -- This word "unto" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. The most common is a "to" for the English indirect object. However, the translator can choose other prepositions: "with,"  "in,"   "of,"  "as," "by," "for," "at," or "on" depending on the context.

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

others --  The word translated as "others" means "one of two," "other," or "different." It is an adjective used as a noun. The sense is "the others." 

NIV Translation Issues: 

12
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "but" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "can" should be "will."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "generation" is more like "type" or "race."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "they" is translated as plural but it is singular, "it."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "are" is translated as plural but it is singular, "is."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "children" is more like "small ones."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "sitting" is not the present tense, but the past perfect.
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "themselves" as its object.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "calling" is not the common word usually translated as "calling."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "out" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "others" is not shown in the English translation.

Front Page Date: 

Oct 8 2020