Matthew 11:21 Woe unto you, Chorazin!

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

About Chorazin and Bethsaida

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Too bad for you, Chorazin! Too bad for you, Bethsaida! Because if in Tyre and Sidon, they happened, those powerful things, the ones happening in you, long ago, all over, in haircloth and ashes, they changed their minds. 

My Takeaway: 

There are always places where the people cannot see what is happening around them.

KJV : 

Matthew 11:21  Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

NIV : 

Matthew 11:21 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

There are a number of clues that this was said as a humorous statement (see this article on Christ's humor). This feeling comes most strongly at the first word which is the Greek source for the Yiddish, "oy-veh!" It is an expression of sorrow, but often with a humorously critical edge.

The verse uses the Greek word that means "becomes" or "happens" twice, but translated it incorrectly as "done."  This is a little confusing because the second occurrence, a participle, is shown first in English translation while the first occurrence, an active verb is shown second.The Greek source indicates that these things happened by themselves. not that they were done by anyone. Strange, but true.

Wordplay: 

Jesus is exaggerating here and in the following verses, for humorous effect. He may be mimicking the style of John that Baptist, who was the subject of the verses proceeding these. It also reflects what Jesus said to the apostles about the towns and houses the wouldn't listen to them. However, Jesus doesn't take is as seriously, as he makes clear at the end, in  Mat 11:25

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Οὐαί (exclam) "Woe" is from ouai, which is an exclamation of pain or anger meaning "woe" or "alas."

σοι, (pron sg 2nd dat) "Unto thee" is from soi which is the singular, second person dative pronoun, "you."

Χοραζείν: (noun sg voc) "Chorazin" is from the Greek Chorazin, the name of a village in Galilee.

οὐαί (exclam)"Woe" is from ouai, which is an exclamation of pain or anger meaning "woe" or "alas."

σοι, (pron sg 2nd dat) Unto thee" is from soi which is the singular, second person dative pronoun, "you."

Βηθσαιδάν:(noun sg voc)  Bethsaida is from the Greek word Bethsaida, which is the name of a village in Galilee.

ὅτι (adv/conj) "For" is from hoti, which introduces a statement of fact "with regard to the fact that," "seeing that," and acts as a causal adverb meaning "for what," "because," "since," and "wherefore." --

εἰ (conj) "If" is from 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.

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."

Τύρῳ (noun) "Tyre" is from Tyros, which is the Greek name of the historical city.

καὶ (conj) "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even," "also," and "just."

Σιδῶνι (noun) Sidon" is from Sidon, which is the Greek name of the historical city.

ἐγένοντο (3rd pl aor ind mid) "Had been done" is from 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.

αἱ (article pl fem nom/acc)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

δυνάμεις (noun pl fem nom/acc)   "Mighty works" is dynamis (dunamis), which means "power," "might," "influence," "authority," "capacity," "elementary force," "force of a word," and "value of money." Elemental forces are forces such as heat and cold.

αἱ (article sg aor mid -nom or dat)  "Which" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

γενόμεναι (part sg aor mid -nom or dat) "Were done" is from 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. Here, it is in the form of a participle, acting as a noun, "the ones that produced themselves."

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."

ὑμῖν (pron 2nd pl dat)  "You" is from hymin, which is the 2nd person plural dative pronoun.  -

πάλαι [2 verses](adv) "Long ago" is from palai, which means "long ago," "long ," " of old," "before," "just past," and similar ideas. With present, means something lasting to the present. With past, something lasting to the past.

ἂν (partic) "Would" is from 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." OR ἂν (conj) "Througout" is from ana, which with the genitive, means "on board" a ship. With the dative, "on" and "upon" without any sense of motion. With accusative, implies upward motion; of place, "from bottom to top" or "up along;" of time, "throughout;" of mind, "to have continually" in mind, " as an adverb, "thereupon," "throughout," "all over," "up," and "arising."

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."

σάκκῳ  [2 verses](noun sg masc dat) "Sackcloth" is sakkos, which is "a coarse cloth of hair" used for sacks because it was uncomfortable for clothing. This was worn by people as a signing of mourning or penance.

καὶ (conj) "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even," "also," and "just."

σποδῷ [2 verses](noun sg fem dat ) "Ashes" is spodos, which means "wood ashes" and, more generally, "dust." It was rubbed on sackcloth as a sign of mourning.

μετενόησαν. (3rd pl aor ind act) "Repent," is from metanoeo, which literally means "to perceive afterward," "to perceive too late," "to change one's mind," "to change one's purpose," and "to repent."

KJV Analysis: 

Woe  - "Woe" is an exclamation meaning "woe" or "alas." It is a lot like the Yiddish "oy-veh!" and possibly a source of the popularity of that exclamation in Jewish humor. This term is used many times by Jesus but only once in a serious way that seems completely serious. In every other case, such as this, it is used in an exaggerated statement.

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.

thee, -- The word for "thee" is the indirect object form of the singular, second-person pronoun. 

Chorazin!  -- This is the name of a village in the north Galilee to the east of Capernaum.

woe -  "Woe" is an exclamation meaning "woe" or "alas." It is a lot like the Yiddish "oy-veh!" and possibly a source of the popularity of that exclamation in Jewish humor. This term is used many times by Jesus but only once in a serious way that seems completely serious. In every other case, such as this, it is used in an exaggerated statement.

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.

thee, -- The word for "thee" is the indirect object form of the singular, second-person pronoun. 

Bethsaida! -- This is the name of a village in the north Galilee to the east of Chorazin.

for -- The Greek source of "for" is a word that means "that" or "because." 

if -- 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."

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. 

mighty works,  - (CW)  "Mighty works" is a word that describes abilities and capacities, what actions a person can do or has done so "power," "might," "influence," "authority," and "force." Both in its verb and noun forms, it indicates the "power" or "capabilities" a person has. It follows the verb describing what the "they" is in "they had come into being."  Here this sense is "powerful things" or, more precisely "powerful happenings" since this noun is bracketed by the verb that means "to become" or "to happen."

which -- The word translated as "which" 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. 

were -- (WT, WV) This indicates a past perfect tense of the verb, but the tense is something that could have taken place at a point in time. It also indicates a passive verb, but the verb is in the middle voice where it acts on itself.

done -- (WW, WF) The word translated as " done" means "to become," 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. It is not the Greek verb usually translated as "do" in the NT.  Here, it is a participle ("becoming") uses as a plural noun, "the ones coming into being." It actually appears later in the sentence as a repetition of the verb. The effect seems mostly humorous.  It is used with an article, which makes it into a noun, "the things happening " or "the ones coming into being."

in -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," or "among"  with a dative object as the one here. 

you, -- The word for "you" is the indirect object form of the plural, second-person pronoun. 

had -- (WT,) This indicates a past perfect tense of the verb, but the tense is something that could have taken place at a point in time.

been -- (WV) This indicates a passive verb, but the verb is in the middle voice where it acts on itself.

done  - (WW) The word translated as "done" is the same verb as the verb above but in the form of an active verb where the thing acts on itself. This is the normal sense of "happens" in English.   It is not the Greek verb usually translated as "do" in the NT.

in -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," or "among"  with a dative object as the one here.

Tyre and Sidon, "Tyre and Sidon" were two ancient Phoenician cities on the coast. According to Mark, Mark 3:8, people came from these cities to hear Christ speak.

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

would -- (WF) The word "would" indicates a subjunctive verb, but the verb is not subjunctive or the future tense

have  -- (WT) This word indicates a past perfect tense, but that is not the tense. The tense indicates something happening at a specific point in time, here the sense is the point of time when these powerful events happened.

repented  - (CW) The Greek word that is translated as "repent," primary means to understand something after the fact, with the sense of seeing it is too late. Is specific meaning is to "understand afterward," or "to change your mind," as seeing the truth after a mistake is made. We might say "re-evaluate." Jesus uses it to mean "change your mind" but this verse gives it the strong sense of our English "repent."

long ago    -  "Long ago" is an adverb means "long ago," "long ," " of old," "before," "just past," and similar ideas.

untranslated "probably" or   "all over" -- (MW) The untranslated word is either the conjunction or adverb meaning "throughout" "thereupon," "throughout," "all over," "up," and "arising." OR it could be  a Greek particle meaning "probably." It is probably the adverb because the particle would require a subjunctive verb form, which we don't have here.

in -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," or "among"  with a dative object as the one here.

sackcloth - "Sackcloth" is "a coarse cloth of hair" used for sacks because it was uncomfortable for clothing. This was worn by people as a signing of mourning or penance. This is not a common term for Christ to use. 

and  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and," but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

ashes  - "Ashes" is a word that means "wood ashes" and, more generally, "dust." It was rubbed on sackcloth as a sign of mourning. this is not a common term for Christ to use. 

KJV Translation Issues: 

12
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "mighty words" is a noun that means "powers" or "abilities."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "were" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is something that happens at a specific point in time (past, present, or future).
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "done" should be "happen."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "done" is not an active verb but a participle, "happening."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "had" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is something that happens at a specific point in time (past, present, or future).
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The "been" indicates a passive verb, but the verb is the middle voice, acting on itself.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "done" should be "happen."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "would" indicates a subjunctive verb, but that is not it form.
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "have" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is something that happens at a specific point in time (past, present, or future).
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "repented" means to change your mind, but the "sackcloth" and "ashes" makes it seem like repentance.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The Greek word meaning "all over" is not translated

NIV Analysis: 

Woe  - "Woe" is an exclamation meaning "woe" or "alas." It is a lot like the Yiddish "oy-veh!" and possibly a source of the popularity of that exclamation in Jewish humor. This term is used many times by Jesus but only once in a serious way that seems completely serious. In every other case, such as this, it is used in an exaggerated statement.

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.

you, -- The word for "you" is the indirect object form of the singular, second-person pronoun. 

Chorazin!  -- This is the name of a village in the north Galilee to the east of Capernaum.

woe -  "Woe" is an exclamation meaning "woe" or "alas." It is a lot like the Yiddish "oy-veh!" and possibly a source of the popularity of that exclamation in Jewish humor. This term is used many times by Jesus but only once in a serious way that seems completely serious. In every other case, such as this, it is used in an exaggerated statement.

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.

you, -- The word for "you" is the indirect object form of the singular, second-person pronoun. 

Bethsaida! -- This is the name of a village in the north Galilee to the east of Chorazin.

For -- The Greek source of "for" is a word that means "that" or "because." 

if -- 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."

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. 

miracles,  - (CW)  "Miracles" is a word that describes abilities and capacities, what actions a person can do or has done so "power," "might," "influence," "authority," and "force." Both in its verb and noun forms, it indicates the "power" or "capabilities" a person has. It follows the verb describing what the "they" is in "they had come into being."  Here this sense is "powerful things" or, more precisely "powerful happenings" since this noun is bracketed by the verb that means "to become" or "to happen."

that -- The word translated as "that " 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. 

were -- (WT, WV) This indicates a past perfect tense of the verb, but the tense is something that could have taken place at a point in time. It also indicates a passive verb, but the verb is in the middle voice where it acts on itself.

performed -- (WW, WF) The word translated as " performed " means "to become," 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. It is not the Greek verb usually translated as "do" in the NT.  Here, it is a participle ("becoming") uses as a plural noun, "the ones coming into being." It actually appears later in the sentence as a repetition of the verb. The effect seems mostly humorous.  It is used with an article, which makes it into a noun, "the things happening " or "the ones coming into being."

in -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," or "among"  with a dative object as the one here. 

you, -- The word for "you" is the indirect object form of the singular, second-person pronoun.

had -- (WT,) This indicates a past perfect tense of the verb, but the tense is something that could have taken place at a point in time.

been -- (WV) This indicates a passive performed , but the verb is in the middle voice where it acts on itself.

performed - (WW) The word translated as "done" is the same verb as the verb above but in the form of an active verb where the thing acts on itself. This is the normal sense of "happens" in English.   It is not the Greek verb usually translated as "do" in the NT.

in -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," or "among"  with a dative object as the one here.

Tyre and Sidon, "Tyre and Sidon" were two ancient Phoenician cities on the coast. According to Mark, Mark 3:8, people came from these cities to hear Christ speak.

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

would -- (WF) The word "would" indicates a subjunctive verb, but the verb is not subjunctive or the future tense

have  -- (WT) This word indicates a past perfect tense, but that is not the tense. The tense indicates something happening at a specific point in time, here the sense is the point of time when these powerful events happened.

repented  - (CW) The Greek word that is translated as "repent," primary means to understand something after the fact, with the sense of seeing it is too late. Is specific meaning is to "understand afterward," or "to change your mind," as seeing the truth after a mistake is made. We might say "re-evaluate." Jesus uses it to mean "change your mind" but this verse gives it the strong sense of our English "repent."

long ago    -  "Long ago" is an adverb means "long ago," "long ," " of old," "before," "just past," and similar ideas.

untranslated "probably" or   "all over" -- (MW) The untranslated word is either the conjunction or adverb meaning "throughout" "thereupon," "throughout," "all over," "up," and "arising." OR it could be  a Greek particle meaning "probably." It is probably the adverb because the particle would require a subjunctive verb form, which we don't have here.

in -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," or "among"  with a dative object as the one here.

sackcloth - "Sackcloth" is "a coarse cloth of hair" used for sacks because it was uncomfortable for clothing. This was worn by people as a signing of mourning or penance. This is not a common term for Christ to use. 

and  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and," but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

ashes  - "Ashes" is a word that means "wood ashes" and, more generally, "dust." It was rubbed on sackcloth as a sign of mourning. this is not a common term for Christ to use. 

NIV Translation Issues: 

12
  1. CW - Confusing Word -- The "miracles" is a noun that means "powers" or "abilities."
  2. WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "were" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is something that happens at a specific point in time (past, present, or future).
  3. WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.
  4. WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "performed " should be "happen."
  5. WF - Wrong Form -  The "performed " is not an active verb but a participle, "happening."
  6. WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "had" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is something that happens at a specific point in time (past, present, or future).
  7. WV  - Wrong Voice - The "been" indicates a passive verb, but the verb is the middle voice, acting on itself.
  8. WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "performed " should be "happen."
  9. WF - Wrong Form -  The "would" indicates a subjunctive verb, but that is not it form.
  10. WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "have" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is something that happens at a specific point in time (past, present, or future).
  11. CW - Confusing Word -- The "repented" means to change your mind, but the "sackcloth" and "ashes" makes it seem like repentance.
  12. MW - Missing Word -- The Greek word meaning "all over" is not translated

Front Page Date: 

Oct 12 2020