Matthew 16:11 How is it that you do not understand that I spoke [it] not to you concerning bread,

Spoken to: 

Apostles

Context: 

In response to the Apostles realizing they forgot to bring bread, a comedic misunderstanding takes place.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

How don't you understand that not about bread I spoke to you? Be on guard, however, from the yeast of the distinguished and righteous.

My Takeaway: 

Talking about spirit (yeast) is not the same as talking about the physical (bread).

KJV : 

Matthew 16:11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?

NIV : 

Matthew 16:11  How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

At this point, Jesus is just rubbing it in, exaggerating their mistake for its comedic value. Jesus is pointing out that leaven is not about the bread, but the emptiness in the bread, the holes cause by gas. The point of this verse is that we cannot see the "leaven" in the dough. To see if the dough is leavened or not, we must observe how it behaves, rising from the gas that the yeast produces. The leaven itself is a symbol, for that which produces spirit, the "breath of life" that is leaven. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

πῶς (pro, adv) "How" is from pos, which means "how," "how in the world," "how then," "in any way," "at all," "by any mean," "in a certain way,"and "I suppose."

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.

νοεῖτε [8 verses](verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Ye do...understand" is from noeo, means specifically "perceive by the eyes," "observe," "to perceive with the mind," "apprehend," "think out, "devise," "consider," (of words) "bear a certain sense," and "reflect."

ὅτι (adv/conj) "It is that" 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."

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.

περὶ (prep) "Concerning" is from peri, which means "round about (Place)," "around," "about," "concerning," "on account of," "in regard to," "before," "above," "beyond," and "all around."

ἄρτων [32 verses](noun pl masc gen) "Bread" is from artos, which means specifically a "cake of whole wheat bread," and generally "loaf," and "bread."

εἶπον (verb 1st sg aor ind act) "I spake" is from eipon, which means "to speak," "to say," "to recite," "to address," "to mention," "to name," "to proclaim," "to plead," "to promise," and "to offer."

ὑμῖν; (pron 2nd pl dat) "To you" is  humin), which is the 2nd person plural dative pronoun. Dative is the case that indicates to whom something is given. -- The "you" here is plural, indicating many of Christ's listeners.

προσέχετε [9 verses](2nd pl pres imperat act)"That ye should beware" is the Greek prosecho, which means "hold to," "to offer," "turn to or toward," "to turn your mind toward," "to be on one's guard against," "to take heed," "to pay attention," "to devote oneself to," "to attach oneself," "to continue," "to hold fast to [a thing]," "to have in addition," or "pay court to."

δὲ (conj) Untranslated here is 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").

ἀπὸ (prep) "Of" is from apo, a preposition of separation which means "from" or "away from" from when referring to place or motion, "from" or "after" when referring to time, "from" as an origin or cause. -- The word translated as "from" means "from" in both location and when referring to a source.

τῆς (article sg fem gen)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

ζύμης (noun sg fem gen ) "The leaven" is sometimes translated as "yeast." It is from the Greek zyme, which means any kind of bread or beer "yeast." It is from a root word meaning "to mix." This was a time when yeast didn't come in little packets but was maintained as a live culture, in this case, in the raw bread dough itself.

τῶν  (article pl masc gen)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

Φαρισαίων (noun pl masc gen) "Pharisees" is from Pharisaios, which means "the separated," "the separate ones," " separatist" and refers to the religious sect. The word comes from the Hebrew, pharash, which means "to distinguish." this is the primary meaning of the Greek word krino, which is usually translated as "judge" in the Gospels. What we describe as "pure" or "sacred" was described in Hebrew as "separate," that is, separate from everyday items.

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."

Σαδδουκαίων. (noun pl masc gen) "Sadducees" is from Saddoukaios, which was the name of a Jewish sect that believed that all law came from the Torah, rather than Jewish tradition as the Pharisees believed. They represented the wealthy aristocracy of Jewish society. Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife or the existence of spirits or angels.

KJV Analysis: 

How  - "How" is from a word that which means "how," "how in the world," "how then," "in any way," "at all," "by any mean," "in a certain way,"and "I suppose." Here, it accentuates what Christ saying. In Matthew 16:9, Christ used a different word, translated as "not yet" to exaggerate the same idea.

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

ye -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

do -- 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.

understand  -"Understand" is from a verb that means "to perceive with the eyes," "to perceive with the mind," and "to observe." We use the word "see" to have the same sense of physical seeing and perceiving with the mind. There are many words in Greek translated as "understand" but this may be the closest.

that -- The word translated as "that" introduces a statement of fact or cause, "for what," "because," "since," and "wherefore."

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

spake  - "Spake" is from means "to say" and "to speak." However, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and proclaiming than the usual verb Christ uses to describe his teaching.

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

not  - (WP) The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. When it precedes words other than the verb, its force is limited to those words. Here, it negates "concerning bread."

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 Greek pronoun "you" here is plural and in the form of an indirect object, "to you," "for you," etc. 

concerning -- The Greek word translated as "concerning" means "around" when referring to a place, but in referring to a subject, it means "about," "concerning," "on account of," and "in regard to." This is the way Jesus usually uses it.

bread,  - "The word translated as "loaves" means "small loaf or cake of bread." It is more like a slice of bread than a loaf of bread today. This is the same word usually translated as "bread" in the NT.

that -- (WW) The Greek word translated as "that" 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.  

ye-- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb. However, the verb in the KJV source was an infinitive that lacks person information.

should -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "should" in the Greek source. This would be a subjunctive verb form but the verb is a command. In the KJV source, it was an infinitive.

beware  - (CW) "Beware" is from a Greek verb which means "to hold to," "to offer," "to turn toward a thing," and "to pay attention." Only in the NT is it ever translated as "beware." It was the same word used in Matthew 16:6 , to describe paying attention

of - (WW) The word translated as "of" means "from" in both locations and when referring to a source or a cause. It also means the instrument "by" which a thing is done and "away from." Here, it is referring to the "leaven" as the source.

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. 

leaven  - "Leaven" means "yeast" the culture that spreads through flour to create the "bubbles" that make bread rise. It is Christ's symbol for ideas that propagate themselves. Christ compares the kingdom of heaven to leaven as well and the ideas of the Pharisees. Leaven represents the hidden spiritual or philosophical side of the physical world. Jesus uses leaven to describe the kingdom of heaven that changes everything by changing the spirit within it. However, the same is true of the spirit of the self-righteous and powerful, the worldly spirit, which also mixes into our ideas.

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. 

Pharisees  - The Pharisees were the self-righteous of the period, who saw themselves as morally superior to the common people because they were more dedicated to following all the purity rules of tradition.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and," but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as."

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

Sadducees. - The Sadducees were the aristocrats of Jewish society, associated with the temple priests, who did not believe in an afterlife, but that purity was rewarded in this life, so their status as aristocrats itself was a sign of God's favor. The word comes from the Hebrew meaning "righteous."

KJV Translation Issues: 

8
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "is it that" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "it" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The word "not" doesn't negate the verb by the "concerning" phrase.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "that" should be "however."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "should" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "beware" is from a word that means "be on guard."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "of" should be "from."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "the" doesn't exist in the source.

NIV Analysis: 

How  - "How" is from a word that which means "how," "how in the world," "how then," "in any way," "at all," "by any mean," "in a certain way,"and "I suppose." Here, it accentuates what Christ saying. In Matthew 16:9, Christ used a different word, translated as "not yet" to exaggerate the same idea.

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

you -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

do- -- 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.

n't  - The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact.

understand  -"Understand" is from a verb that means "to perceive with the eyes," "to perceive with the mind," and "to observe." We use the word "see" to have the same sense of physical seeing and perceiving with the mind. There are many words in Greek translated as "understand" but this may be the closest.

that -- The word translated as "that" introduces a statement of fact or cause, "for what," "because," "since," and "wherefore."

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

was -- The verb tense is not the simple past, but the form is often translated that way in English.

not  - (WP) The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. When it precedes words other than the verb, its force is limited to those words. Here, it negates "concerning bread."

talking - "Talking" is from means "to say" and "to speak." However, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and proclaiming than the usual verb Christ uses to describe his teaching.

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 Greek pronoun "you" here is plural and in the form of an indirect object, "to you," "for you," etc. 

about -- The Greek word translated as "about " means "around" when referring to a place, but in referring to a subject, it means "about," "concerning," "on account of," and "in regard to." This is the way Jesus usually uses it.

bread,  - "The word translated as "loaves" means "small loaf or cake of bread." It is more like a slice of bread than a loaf of bread today. This is the same word usually translated as "bread" in the NT.

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.  

be on your guard -  "Be on your guard" is from a Greek verb which means "to hold to," "to offer," "to turn toward a thing," and "to pay attention." Only in the NT is it ever translated as "beware." It was the same word used in Matthew 16:6 , to describe paying attention. The "your" is from its second person form.

against - (CW) The word translated as "of" means "from" in both locations and when referring to a source or a cause. It also means the instrument "by" which a thing is done and "away from." Here, it is referring to the "leaven" as the source.

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. 

yeast - "Yeast " means "yeast" the culture that spreads through flour to create the "bubbles" that make bread rise. It is Christ's symbol for ideas that propagate themselves. Christ compares the kingdom of heaven to leaven as well and the ideas of the Pharisees. Leaven represents the hidden spiritual or philosophical side of the physical world. Jesus uses leaven to describe the kingdom of heaven that changes everything by changing the spirit within it. However, the same is true of the spirit of the self-righteous and powerful, the worldly spirit, which also mixes into our ideas.

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. 

Pharisees  - The Pharisees were the self-righteous of the period, who saw themselves as morally superior to the common people because they were more dedicated to following all the purity rules of tradition.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and," but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as."

Sadducees. - The Sadducees were the aristocrats of Jewish society, associated with the temple priests, who did not believe in an afterlife, but that purity was rewarded in this life, so their status as aristocrats itself was a sign of God's favor. The word comes from the Hebrew meaning "righteous."

NIV Translation Issues: 

4
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "is it" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The word "not" doesn't negate the verb by the "about" phrase.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "against" is from a word that means "from."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "of" should be "from."

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

This might be a good time to discuss the distinction that Jesus st draws between spiritual ideas and mental thoughts. Spiritual or philosophical ideas or concepts exist independent of any real person or object. The number "two," for example, exists as a concept independent of any two things. It is perfectly real even without tangible form. Such concepts are real without form even if no one knows them. For example, the number "pi" existed even before people knew about it and used it. Philosophical or "spiritual" ideas inspire and shape thoughts, but they are not the thoughts themselves. Once people know about "pi" they can use the idea and it can shape their actions. This is what Christ means by "spirit," the real concepts underlying apparent reality.

Only God's concepts underlie physical reality. When we get into the realm of relationships, the emotional, God's concepts contend with human concepts. Christ's role is to bring the kingdom of heaven, that is, God's concepts, back to human relationships and human society. This is his "leaven." These concepts must contend against those of organized religion and the state. He is warning the apostles that it is very easy to mix spiritual and worldly ideas.

People mix up Christ's ideas with worldly ideas to all the time. Christ, on the other hand, taught that religion and politics don't mix. Period. Religion is about your personal relationship with God not about reforming society. Christ says this a hundred different ways. If individuals embrace God through Christ's ideas, we will automatically reform society. This can only be done without the coercion of government. However, it this does not mean that people simply ignore what is wrong. It means that they confront it and challenge it on the basis of their faith.

Front Page Date: 

Feb 9 2021