Matthew 12:12 How much better then is a man

Spoken to: 

an individual

Context: 

Pharisees attack, violating the Sabbath

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

How much really does a man differ from a sheep? And so, it is allowed on the Sabbaths correctly to perform.

My Takeaway: 

People are more valuable than sheep and often more intelligent.

KJV : 

Matthew 12:12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

NIV : 

Matthew 12:12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

It is easy to miss the inherent humor here. The verse begins with a question, how different is a man from a sheep? The verb "differ" is one that Jesus only uses five time, always to compare  the value of people to some types of animal. There seems to be some inherent humor in this word. The root word means "bring" or "carry."  The answer can be "a lot" or "very little," but both answers make Christ's point, which is funny.

The last part of the answer is also funny.The word translated as "well" or "good" is plural masculine so the sense is "good" or "beautiful" people, especially in the context of a man with a withered hand. The punchline is the last word translated as "to do" but which primarily means "to produce." So the sense is that it is permitted to produce good people on Sundays, which is the basic idea of religion.

Wordplay: 

The phrase "how great is a man [compared with] a sheep?" also means "how different really is a man [from] a sheep?" The "good" in the final phrase as an adverb has the sense of "perform correctly" but because the verb follows it, the immediate sense would be "good people" or "healthy people." 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

πόσῳ (adj sg masc dat) How much" is from posos, which means "of what quantity," [in distance] "how far." [of number] how far," [of time] "how long," [of value] "how much," "how great," "how many," and "how much."

οὖν (adv) "Then" is from oun, which means "certainly," "in fact," "really," "in fact," "so" and "then" (continuing a narrative), and "then" and "therefore."

διαφέρει [5 verses](3rd sg pres ind act or verb 2nd sg pres ind mp) "Is...better than" is from diaphero, which means to "carry over or across," "carry from one to another," "go through life [of Time]," "bear through," "bear to the end," "go through with," "carry different ways," "spread...fame abroad," "tear asunder," "defer or reserve for judgment," "differ," "make the difference," "to be of importance," "have an interest at stake," "prevail," "quarrel," "struggle," "come between," "intervene," and, Pass. "be at variance and maintain on the contrary." quarrel." When uses as a noun, "that which makes a difference," "the difference," and "the odds.

ἄνθρωπος (noun sg masc nom ) "A man" is from anthropos, which is "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate.

προβάτου. (noun sg neut gen) "Sheep" is from probaton, which means any domesticated four-footed animal, "sheep," "cattle," "herds," and "flocks.

ὥστε [9 verses](adv/conj) "Wherefore" is from hoste, which marks the power or virtue by which one does a thing, "as being," "inasmuch as," expresses the actual or intended result of the action in the principal clause: "as," "for," implying "on condition that," at the beginning of a sentence, to mark a strong conclusion, "and so," "therefore," and with subj. "in order that."

ἔξεστιν [7 verses](3rd sg pres ind act) "It is l awful" is from exesti, which means "to be allowed," "is possible," and, in the passive, "to be in one's power."

τοῖς (article sg masc dat)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the")

σάββασιν (noun sg masc dat) "The Sabbath " is from sabbaton, which means "Sabbath," "seven days of week," and "first day of week."

καλῶς (adj pl masc acc or add) "Well" is from kalos, which means "beautiful," "good," "of fine quality," "noble," and "honorable."  Referring to parts of the body, "fair" and "shapely."As an adverb,the word translated as "well" means, "well," "rightly,"  "happily,"  "thoroughly," "altogether," and "deservedly."

ποιεῖν. (verb pres inf act) "Do" is from poieo, which means "to make," "to produce," "to create," "to bring into existence," "to bring about," "to cause," "to render," "to consider," "to prepare," "to make ready," and "to do."

KJV Analysis: 

How much -- The adjective translated as "how much"  means "of what quantity," [in distance] "how far." [of number] how far," [of time] "how long," [of value] "how much," "how great," "how many," and "how much."

then - The Greek word translated as "then" primarily means "certainly" and "really." This word creates the humor, indicating that there isn't that much difference.  It can also means "therefore" and "then."

is -- This helping verb indicates the present tense of the verb..

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.

man  - A" man" is the Greek word for "man" and, in the plural, "people." 

better  - (CW) "Better" is a verb that means "to carry over," "to be different from," and "to quarrel." The meaning "to be different" takes the genitive object hat we see here so the "be different from" meaning is the strongest. Jesus always uses this to compare people to some animal.  It is often translated as "better," and it has the sense of "prevail" and "be important."

than -- This word "than"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession. However, it can also mean "than" in comparisons.

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.

sheep? "A sheep" is Christ's symbol for his followers. The Greek word refers to any domesticated animal.

Wherefore  - Is an uncommon word for Jesus. Its primary meaning is "therefore," expressing the result of a thing, 

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

is -- This helping verb indicates the present tense of the verb..

lawful  - (WW) "Lawful" is a verb, which means "it is possible" and "it is allowed." It generally refers to something within someone's power, or, in this case with the negative, something outside of someone's power. It is a rare word, but we saw it used recently in Matthew 12:4. The word has no relationship with the Greek or Jewish concept of the law.

to -- This "to" is added because the infinitive form of the verb requires a "to" in English.

do - (CW) The Greek word translated as "to do" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service.

well  -  The word translated as "well" means "beautiful," "noble," or "of good quality."  As an adverb, the likely use here, the word translated as "well" means, "well," "rightly,"  "happily,"  "thoroughly," "altogether," and "deservedly."  If it was an adjective, it would be plural, masculine, so "good peopl,e" but their is no obvious noun to attach it to.  In this context, perhaps "healthy people" would be the best sense.  Since the context is a body part, the sense would also be "shapely" and "fair."  It is most often translated as "good" juxtaposed with "evil" in the New Testament, but the two ideas are closer to "wonderful" and "worthless," "noble" and "base."See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

on -- This word "on" 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.

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. 

sabbath days. -- The word translated as "sabbath days" is the Greek version of the Hebrew word "shabbat" meaning "rest" or "day of rest."  

KJV Translation Issues: 

3
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "better" is not the common word usually translated as "better."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "lawful" should be "allowed."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "do" primarily means "produce" or "perform."

NIV Analysis: 

How much -- The adjective translated as "how much"  means "of what quantity," [in distance] "how far." [of number] how far," [of time] "how long," [of value] "how much," "how great," "how many," and "how much."

untranslated "certainly"  -- (MW) The untranslated word means "certainly" and "really." This word creates the humor, indicating that there isn't that much difference.  It can also means "therefore" and "then."

more valuable - (CW) "More valuable" is a verb that means "to carry over," "to be different from," and "to quarrel." The meaning "to be different" takes the genitive object hat we see here so the "be different from" meaning is the strongest. Jesus always uses this to compare people to some animal.  It is often translated as "better," and it has the sense of "prevail" and "be important."

is -- This helping verb indicates the present tense of the verb..

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.

person - A "person" is the Greek word for "man" and, in the plural, "people."

than -- This word "than"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession. However, it can also mean "than" in comparisons.

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.

sheep? "A sheep" is Christ's symbol for his followers. The Greek word refers to any domesticated animal.

Therefore - This is an uncommon word for Jesus. The untranslated word above is the one usually translated as "therefore."  However, this word's primary meaning is "therefore," expressing the result of a thing, whereas the word above is more like "certainly."

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

is -- This helping verb indicates the present tense of the verb..

lawful  - (WW) "Lawful" is a verb, which means "it is possible" and "it is allowed." It generally refers to something within someone's power, or, in this case with the negative, something outside of someone's power. It is a rare word, but we saw it used recently in Matthew 12:4. The word has no relationship with the Greek or Jewish concept of the law.

to -- This "to" is added because the infinitive form of the verb requires a "to" in English.

do - (CW) The Greek word translated as "to do" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service.

good - The word translated as "good" means "beautiful," "noble," or "of good quality."  As an adverb, the likely use here, the word translated as "well" means, "well," "rightly,"  "happily,"  "thoroughly," "altogether," and "deservedly."  If it was an adjective, it would be plural, masculine, so "good peopl,e" but their is no obvious noun to attach it to.  In this context, perhaps "healthy people" would be the best sense.  Since the context is a body part, the sense would also be "shapely" and "fair."  It is most often translated as "good" juxtaposed with "evil" in the New Testament, but the two ideas are closer to "wonderful" and "worthless," "noble" and "base."See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

on -- This word "on" 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.

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. 

Sabbath . -- (WN) The word translated as "Sabbath" is the Greek version of the Hebrew word "shabbat" meaning "rest" or "day of rest."  The word is plural, "Sabbaths."

NIV Translation Issues: 

5
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "certainly" or is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "more valuable" is not the common word usually associated with "worth."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "lawful" should be "allowed."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "do" primarily means "produce" or "perform."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "Sabbath" is translated as singular but it is plural, "Sabbaths."

Front Page Date: 

Oct 29 2020