Matthew 15:20 These are [the things] which defile a man:

Spoken to: 

Apostles

Context: 

Responding to Peter's request to explain Matthew 15:11 That which goes into the mouth

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

These are those things communicating the person. This eating, however with unwashed hands does not really communicate the person.

My Takeaway: 

The actions that come from worthless thoughts, not necessity demonstrate who we are.

KJV : 

Matthew 15:20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

NIV : 

Matthew 15:20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

As we have seen over and over since Matthew  15:11, the word "defile" is misleading here. The idea really means "to communicate" and "to impart." It means "make common knowledge." What Jesus is saying here is that what comes from our hearts determines who we are to others and to God.

The infinitive here, "to eat" is used as a noun, preceded by an article. In English, we use the gerund, not the infinitive for this, "the eating.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ταῦτά (adj pl neut nom) "These" 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." -

ἐστιν (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Are" is from eimi, which means "to be," "to exist," "to be the case," and "is possible."

τὰ (article pl neut nom)  "What" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

κοινοῦντα (part pl pres act neut nom) The word translated as "defiles" is koinoô, which means to "communicate," impart information," "make common," "share," "undertake together," "make common cause in," "take counsel with," "take counsel with," "consult," "to be partner or partaker," and "have communication with."

τὸν (article sg masc acc)  "A" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἄνθρωπον, (noun sg masc acc) "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.

τὸ (article sg neut nom) "Who" is the Greek definite article, "the," which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one."

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").

ἀνίπτοις [1 verse](adj pl fem dat) "unwashen" is from anipto,"which means "unwashen," "unprepared," and "not washed out."

χερσὶν (noun pl fem dat) "With...Hands" is cheir which means "the hand and arm," and "with the help of agency of another." Like "hand" in English, it has a lot of meanings including "an act or deed," "a body of people," and the measurement "handful."

φαγεῖν (verb aor inf act ) "To eat" is phago, which is a form of the word, phagein, which means to eat," "to eat up," and "to devour."

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. --

κοινοῖ (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) The word translated as "defileth" is koinoo, which means to "communicate," impart information," "make common," "share," "undertake together," "make common cause in," "take counsel with," "take counsel with," "consult," "to be partner or partaker," and "have communication with."

τὸν (article sg masc acc)  "A" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἄνθρωπον. (noun sg masc acc) "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.

KJV Analysis: 

These  - The "these" is from a pronoun that can mean "this" or "that," the nearer or the further depending on usage. The firm is plural neuter.

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

the things --  The word translated as "those things" 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. The plural, neuter form gives it the sense of "things."

which -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "these" in the Greek source. However, the "these" that begins the verse is plural neuter.

defile  - (CW, WF) The word translated as "defile" is a verb in the form of a noun or adjective, ending in "-ing" in English. It means primarily "to communicate," and "to share." Only here in Matthew and in the parallel verses in Mark is it translated as "defile," which has little to do with the original Greek, but it is a play on the Jewish concept of sacred as that which is kept separate from that which is common and everyday. This is not an active verb, but a verb in the form of an adjective used as a noun.

a -- (WW) The word translated as "a" 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.

man: -  The Greek word for "a man" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in plural.

but -- The Greek word translated as "but" means "but," "however," and "on the other hand." It joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.  

missing "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. This article only connects to the "eating" as the subject of the verb.

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

eat  - (WF) The word translated as "to eat" means "eat" or "devour" It is the form of an infinitive "to eat," which in Greek can be used as a noun as the subject of a sentence. We know it is used as a noun because it is preceded by an article, which is ignored in translation.

with -- This word "with" 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 case can indicate a "with" for instruments, an "in" for locations, an "as" for purposes, an "about" (or "for" or "against") indicating interest, an "of" for possession, a "by" for agents, an "as" for comparisons, "at" or "on" a time, and an "in" for area of affect. -

unwashen  - The word "unwashen" is an adjective that means that something is "unwashed" or has never been washed. This wood is only used by Jesus here.

hands  - The Greek word for "hand" means "hand and arm," and like "hand" in English, it has a lot of meanings including "an act or deed," "a body of people," and the measurement "handful."

defileth  - (CW) The word translated as "defileth" means primarily "to communicate," and "to share." "Defile" has little to do with the original Greek, but it is a play on the Jewish concept of sacred as that which is kept separate from that which is common and everyday.

not  - The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. This can be emphasized by adding "in fact" or "really."

a -- (WW) The word translated as "a" 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.

man: -  The Greek word for "a man" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in plural.

KJV Translation Issues: 

8
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "which" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "defile" should be "communicate" or "share commonly."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "defile" is not an active verb but a participle, "communicating."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "a" should be "the."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "to eat" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "eat" is not an active verb but a participle, "eating."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "defile" should be "communicate" or "share commonly."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "a" should be "the."

NIV Analysis: 

These  - The "these" is from a pronoun that can mean "this" or "that," the nearer or the further depending on usage. The firm is plural neuter.

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

what  --  The word translated as "what" 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. The plural, neuter form gives it the sense of "things."

defile  - (CW, WF) The word translated as "defile" is a verb in the form of a noun or adjective, ending in "-ing" in English. It means primarily "to communicate," and "to share." Only here in Matthew and in the parallel verses in Mark is it translated as "defile," which has little to do with the original Greek, but it is a play on the Jewish concept of sacred as that which is kept separate from that which is common and everyday. This is not an active verb, but a verb in the form of an adjective used as a noun.

a -- (WW) The word translated as "a" 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.

person: -  The Greek word for "person" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in plural.

but -- The Greek word translated as "but" means "but," "however," and "on the other hand." It joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.  

missing "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. This article only connects to the "eating" as the subject of the verb.

eating - The word translated as "to eat" means "eat" or "devour" It is the form of an infinitive "to eat," which in Greek can be used as a noun as the subject of a sentence. We know it is used as a noun because it is preceded by an article, which is ignored in translation.

with -- This word "with" 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 case can indicate a "with" for instruments, an "in" for locations, an "as" for purposes, an "about" (or "for" or "against") indicating interest, an "of" for possession, a "by" for agents, an "as" for comparisons, "at" or "on" a time, and an "in" for area of affect. -

unwashen  - The word "unwashen" is an adjective that means that something is "unwashed" or has never been washed. This wood is only used by Jesus here.

hands  - The Greek word for "hand" means "hand and arm," and like "hand" in English, it has a lot of meanings including "an act or deed," "a body of people," and the measurement "handful."

does -- This helping verb is used to create questions, commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

not  - The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. This can be emphasized by adding "in fact" or "really."

defile  - (CW) The word translated as "defile" means primarily "to communicate," and "to share." "Defile" has little to do with the original Greek, but it is a play on the Jewish concept of sacred as that which is kept separate from that which is common and everyday.

missing "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. 

them  -  (WW) The Greek word for "them" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in plural.

NIV Translation Issues: 

7
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "defile" should be "communicate" or "share commonly."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "defile" is not an active verb but a participle, "communicating."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "a" should be "the."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "to eat" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "defile" should be "communicate" or "share commonly."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "man" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "them" should be "man."

Front Page Date: 

Jan 28 2021