Matthew 12:39 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign;

Spoken to: 

The Pharisees

Context: 

Pharisees attack, casting out demons, showing a sign

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

A worthless type and an unfaithful woman, demands proof and proof will no be given to it. If not that proof of Jonah, the luminary. 

My Takeaway: 

You have to trust before you can see.

KJV : 

Matthew 12:39 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there no sign shall be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

NIV : 

Matthew 12:39 “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The beginning of this verse is more humorous in Greek than its English translation. Notice that the Pharisees are demanding a sign, but denying the sign of Jesus casting out demons. It compares those that demand proof to a cheater who demand proof of their crime. The word translated as "generation" means "type" of person. The word translated as "adulterous" means a cheating woman.

Wordplay: 

The word translated as "adulterous" means both an unfaithful woman and those unfaithful to God. 

The word translated as "sign" means both "a sign from the gods" and "a proof" in reasoning. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Γενεὰ (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."

πονηρὰ (adj sg fem nom) "An evil" is from poneros, which we discuss extensively in this page. In a moral sense, it means "worthless," "base," and "cowardly."

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."

μοιχαλὶς [3 verses](noun sg fem nom ) "Adulterous" is from moichalis, which is translated from a Greek word for "an adulterous woman." It was also a metaphor for being unfaithful to the gods.

σημεῖον (noun sg neut acc) "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).

ἐπιζητεῖ, [4 verses](3rd sg imperf ind act or 3rd sg pres ind act) "Seek after" is from epizeteo, which means "seek after," "wish for," "miss," "request," desire ""demand" and, in the passive, "is a matter of question."

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."

σημεῖον (noun sg neut nom) "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).

οὐ (partic) "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective.

δοθήσεται (3rd sg fut ind pass) "Shall be given" is from didomi, which means "to give," "to grant," "to hand over," "appoint," "establish," and "to describe."

αὐτῇ (adj sg fem dat) "Them" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself," "yourself," "himself," "herself," "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him," "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

εἰ μὴ (conj/partic)  "But" is from ei me, which is the conjunction that means "if not," "but," and "except." εἰ is the particle use with the imperative usually to express conditions "if" or indirect questions, "whether." (me) is the negative used in prohibitions and expressions of doubt meaning "not" and "no."

τὸ (article neut nom)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

σημεῖον (noun sg neut nom/acc) "The 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).

Ἰωνᾶ -- [7 verses]"Jonas" is from Ionas, the Greek word for the OT prophet Jonah.

τοῦ (article sg masc gen)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

προφήτου. (noun sg masc gen) "The prophets" is from prophetes, which means "one who speaks for a god and interprets his will," "interpreter," "keepers of the oracle," "the highest level of priesthood in Egypt," "interpreter," and "herald."

KJV Analysis: 

An -- 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.

evil  - The word translated as "evil" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This article explores its meaning in more detail. It is an adjective, but when used as a noun, therefore, "what is worthless."

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

adulterous  - (WF) "Adulterous" is a Greek noun meaning "an unfaithful woman." It is in the same form as the noun ("generation") implying that they are equivalent. The word means  It is a metaphor for those unfaithful to God. It is not an adjective.

generation  - "Generation" is a Greek word that means "race," "family," "offspring," and "age." It is the root for our words "generic," "genus," as well as generation. Christ uses it to describe a certain of person as well as a certain type of people.  It always appears in the singular as do all the words referring to it. 

seeks  - "Seeks after" is a verb that means "to seek after," "to wish for," and "to demand."

after -- This is from the prefix of the previous verb that means "upon," "after" and so on.

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 Greek word that means a "mark," "sign," or "proof." The word in Greek is used specifically to means a sign from the gods and it that sense, it means "omen," "portent," and "constellations."

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

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

no - (WP) The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It means "no," "not," or"no truly." This word negates the verb, not the word "sign"

sign - "Sign" is Greek word that means a "mark," "sign," or "proof." The word in Greek is used specifically to means a sign from the gods and it that sense, it means "omen," "portent," and "constellations."

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.

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

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." The word is future passive.

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.

it -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

but - (CW) Two Greek words are translated as "but." Literally, they mean "if not" but this phrase is used to mean "except," "instead," and "but." 

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. 

sign - "Sign" is Greek word that means a "mark," "sign," or "proof." The word in Greek is used specifically to means a sign from the gods and it that sense, it means "omen," "portent," and "constellations."

of -- This word "of"  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.

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. 

prophet -- (UW) The Greek word translated as "prophets" means "one who speaks for God," "interpreter" and was the highest level of priesthood in Egypt,, but its root words mean "shine light before" and so "shining lights" or "enlightened" seems to capture the idea better. Jesus uses it to refer not only to divine spokespeople, but their books in the OT. It is the verb that means "to shine before." Our word "luminaries" captures the idea very well.  It is the untranslated Greek word adopted into English. Read this article for more information.

Jonas: -- "Jonas" is from the Greek spelling of the proper name "Jonah."

KJV Translation Issues: 

4
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "adulterous" is not an adjective but a noun meaning "a cheating woman."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "there" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The word "no" doesn't appear here but before the verb.
  • UW - Untranslated Word -- The word "prophets" means "shining light" or "oracle." It is the untranslated Greek word adopted into English.

NIV Analysis: 

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.

wicked - The word translated as "evil" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This article explores its meaning in more detail. It is an adjective, but when used as a noun, therefore, "what is worthless."

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

adulterous - (WF) "Adulterous" is a Greek noun meaning "an unfaithful woman." It is in the same form as the noun ("generation") implying that they are equivalent. The word means  It is a metaphor for those unfaithful to God. It is not an adjective.

generation  - "Generation" is a Greek word that means "race," "family," "offspring," and "age." It is the root for our words "generic," "genus," as well as generation. Christ uses it to describe a certain of person as well as a certain type of people.  It always appears in the singular as do all the words referring to it. 

asks - (WW)  "Asks" is a verb that means "to seek after," "to wish for," and "to demand."

for -- This is from the prefix of the previous verb that means "upon," "after" and so on.

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 Greek word that means a "mark," "sign," or "proof." The word in Greek is used specifically to means a sign from the gods and it that sense, it means "omen," "portent," and "constellations."

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

none -- (WF) The Greek word translated as "none" is not a negative noun, but the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It means "no," "not," or"no truly." This word negates the verb, not the word "sign"

untranslated "sign"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  is Greek word that means a "mark," "sign," or "proof." The word in Greek is used specifically to means a sign from the gods and it that sense, it means "omen," "portent," and "constellations."

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

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

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." The word is future passive.

it -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

except  -  Two Greek words are translated as "except." Literally, they mean "if not" but this phrase is used to mean "except," "instead," and "but." 

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. 

sign - "Sign" is Greek word that means a "mark," "sign," or "proof." The word in Greek is used specifically to means a sign from the gods and it that sense, it means "omen," "portent," and "constellations."

of -- This word "of"  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.

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. 

prophet -- (UW) The Greek word translated as "prophets" means "one who speaks for God," "interpreter" and was the highest level of priesthood in Egypt,, but its root words mean "shine light before" and so "shining lights" or "enlightened" seems to capture the idea better. Jesus uses it to refer not only to divine spokespeople, but their books in the OT. It is the verb that means "to shine before." Our word "luminaries" captures the idea very well.  It is the untranslated Greek word adopted into English. Read this article for more information.

Jonah: -- "Jonah" is from the Greek spelling of the proper name.

NIV Translation Issues: 

5
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "adulterous" is not an adjective but a noun meaning "a cheating woman."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "asks for" should be "seeks after."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "none" is not a negative noun but a word negating the verb.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "sign" is not shown in the English translation.
  • UW - Untranslated Word -- The word "prophets" means "shining light" or "oracle." It is the untranslated Greek word adopted into English.

Front Page Date: 

Nov 13 2020