Matthew 16:26 For what is a man profited,

Spoken to: 

Apostles

Context: 

Jesus is discussing the nature of "Self" in the larger context of his death.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Because why will he be helped? A person, when the world, all of it, he gains, however, that self of his? He is forfeited of it. Or what will he hand over, a person in a trade for that self of his?

My Takeaway: 

Holding onto a self worth keeping is worth more than holding onto anything else

KJV : 

Matthew 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

NIV : 

Matthew 16:26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The "soul" in this verse was translated as "life" in the previous verse. In doing this, the connection between the two verses is lost. See this article for more. 

This verse consistently uses economic terminology to makes its point but that is lost in translation. However. oddly, the verb translated in the KJV as "profited" is less economic than other terms. The term translated as "gain," however, does refer to a financial profit and is used only in this verse and the similar ones in Mark and Luke. The term translated as "lose/forfeit" refers to a financial loss and is used only in this verse and the similar ones in Mark and Luke. It is not the "lose" in the previous verse. More about the meaning of these words in this article. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

τί ( irreg sg neut nom/acc) "What " is tis which can mean "someone," "any one," "everyone," "many a one," "whoever," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who," "why," or "what."

γὰρ (partic)  "For" comes gar, which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for," "since," and "as." In an abrupt question, it means "why" and "what."

ὠφεληθήσεται [8 verses](3rd sg fut ind pass) "Is profited" is from opheleo, which means "to help," "to aid," "to succor," "to be of use or service," and "to benefit."

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.

ἐὰν (conj) "If" is from ean, which is a conditional particle (derived from ei (if)and an (might)) which makes reference to a time and experience in the future that introduces but does not determine an event.

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

κόσμον (noun sg masc acc) "The world" is from kosmos, which mean "order," "good order," "ruler," "world order," "universe," and "the world of men."

ὅλον [23 verses](adj sg masc acc) "The whole" is holos, which means "the whole," "entire," "the universe," and "safe and sound."

κερδήσῃ [3 verses](3rd sg aor subj act) "Gain" is kerdainô, which means "to gain," "to derive profit," "to spare or save oneself," and to "gain an advantage." In a negative sense, it means "to reap a disadvantage from a thing."

δὲ (partic) "But" is from de (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").

τὴν (article sg fem acc)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). -

ψυχὴν (noun sg fem acc) "Soul" is psyche, which means "breath," "life," "self," "spirit," and "soul." It has a clear sense of the conscious self and is often translated as "life" in the Gospels. It is also used to describe "the spirit" of things. It is often translated as "soul."

αὐτοῦ (adj sg masc gen) "His" 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."

ζημιωθῇ; [3 verses](3rd sg aor subj pass) "Lose" is zêmioô, which means "to damage," "to cause loss," "to fine," and "to penalize." In the passive form it means "to be fined," and "to suffer a financial loss."

 (conj) "Or" is from e which is a particle meaning "either," "or," or "than."

τί ( irreg sg neut nom) "What" is from tis (tis) which can mean "someone," "any one," "everyone," "many a one," "whoever," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who," "why," or "what."

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

ἄνθρωπος (noun sg masc nom) "Is 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.

ἀντάλλαγμα [2 verses](noun sg neut acc) "In exchange" is antallagma, which means "that which is given taken in exchange."

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

ψυχῆς [33 verses](noun sg fem gen) "Soul" is psyche, which means "breath," "life," "self," "spirit," and "soul." It has the clear sense of the conscious self and is often translated as "life" in the Gospels. It is also used to describe "the spirit" of things. It is often translated as "soul."

αὐτοῦ (adj sg masc gen)  "His" 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."

KJV Analysis: 

For --The word translated as "for" introduces a reason or explanation so "because" and, in questions, "why." However, since this word always appears in the second position, it is more like an aside remark like, "consequently" or "as a cause." 

what  - The word translated as "what" can also be translated as "who," or "why." However, it usually acts as a question word in short phrases, not long sentences so we should see this first clause as short.

is -- (WT) This helping verb "is" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English. However, the verb is not the present tense but the future so it should be "will me."

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 -- The Greek word for "man" means "man," "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men," "people," and "peoples." 

profited,  - The word translated as "profited" is in the future tense, not the past as it appears in the KJV. It means "being helped or aided."

if . -- (CW) The Greek word here, meaning "if might," indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is how we use the word "when."

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

shall -- (CW) This helping verb "shall" does not indicate the future tense, but that the verb describes a possibility, the subjunctive voice. A "might" or "should" in English is more appropriate, but is assumed in an "if" or "when" clause. Helping verbs are not needed in Greek since the main verb carries this information in its form.

gain  - The word translated as "gain" means, interestingly enough, to gain in the sense of gain an advantage and, interestingly enough, "to derive a profit." But in a phrase like this, we might normally say "win over."

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. 

whole -- The word translated as "whole" means something that is "complete" or "the whole" of something, and can mean "the whole universe" as well as being "safe and sound" in being kept "whole."

world, - The word translated as "world" doesn't mean the planet, but the idea, especially as Christ uses it, is more like we use the word "society," that is, the world of men, its power structures, and its values. More about this word and related words in this article.

and -- (WW) 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.  

lose  - (CW, WF) The word translated as "lose" doesn't means "lose" except in the sense of a financial loss. Its primary meaning is"to damage." It is passive, describing something that might happen. In English, we don't say "he might suffer a financial loss of a soul," but we would say, "it might cost." This is not the same Greek word as the "lose" in the previous verse. This is a rare word only used here and in its parallels in Mark and Luke.

his -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. This pronoun follows the noun so "of his."

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. 

own -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "own" in the Greek source. To create this sense, a different word for "his" would be used.

soul?  - (CW) --The word translated here as "soul" is psyche, a common word in Greek, familiar in English, meaning "life," "soul," "consciousness," and "a sense of self."  In the previous verse, it was translated as "life." Jesus uses it to specifically mean our identity in our worldly life, the role we play on earth, what we might call the "social self," or what we commonly call our "ego." See this article for detail about this word and related words.

or -- "Or" is translated from a Greek word that means primarily "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison.

what - The word translated as "what" can also be translated as "who," or "why." However, it usually acts as a question word in short phrases, not long sentences so we should see this first clause as short.

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.

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 -- The Greek word for "man" means "man," "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men," "people," and "peoples." 

give -  The word translated as "give" means "to give," "to grant," "to hand over," "appoint," "establish," and "to describe." It is in the future tense.

in exchange  - The word translated as "exchange" is a noun that means that which is traded in an exchange. This word is also rare, appearing only here and in the parallel verse in Mark.

for  - This word "for"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession. However, it can also mean "belonging to," "part of," "which is," "than" (in comparisons), or  "for," "concerning" or "about" with transitive verbs. The verb "give" is transitive.

his -- The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. This pronoun follows the noun so "of his."

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.

soul?  - (CW) --The word translated here as "soul" is psyche, a common word in Greek, familiar in English, meaning "life," "soul," "consciousness," and "a sense of self."  In the previous verse, it was translated as "life." Jesus uses it to specifically mean our identity in our worldly life, the role we play on earth, what we might call the "social self," or what we commonly call our "ego." See this article for detail about this word and related words.

KJV Translation Issues: 

10
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "is" indicates the present tense, but this clause is future.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "if" is better translated as "when."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "shall" does not mean the future tense.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "and" should be "but."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "lose" is not the word translated as "lose" in the last verse.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "lose" is not an active verb a passive one.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "soul" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "own" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "soul" is the word translated as "life" in the last verse.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "soul" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "soul" is the word translated as "life" in the last verse.

NIV Analysis: 

What   - The word translated as "what" can also be translated as "who," or "why." However, it usually acts as a question word in short phrases, not long sentences so we should see this first clause as short.

good  - --- (WW)The word translated as "god" is a verb in the future passive that means "being helped or aided."

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.

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

be -- (WF) This helping verb "is" indicates that the verb above is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English. The actual word "to be" does not appear as an active verb.

for -- (WP) The word translated as "for" introduces a reason or explanation so "because" and, in questions, "why." However, since this word always appears in the second position, it is more like an aside remark like, "consequently" or "as a cause." 

missing "when"  -- (MW) The untranslated word means "if might" and indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is how we use the word "when."

someone -- (CW) The Greek word translated as "someone" means "man," "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men," "people," and "peoples." This is not the Greek word usually translated as "someone."

to -- (WF) This "to" is added because the infinitive form of the verb requires a "to" in English. But the verb is not an infinitive.

gain --  The word translated as "gain" is a verb that means  "being helped or aided."

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. 

whole -- The word translated as "whole" means something that is "complete" or "the whole" of something, and can mean "the whole universe" as well as being "safe and sound" in being kept "whole."

world, - The word translated as "world" doesn't mean the planet, but the idea, especially as Christ uses it, is more like we use the word "society," that is, the world of men, its power structures, and its values. More about this word and related words in this article.

yet -- 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.  

forfeit -  (WF) The word translated as "forfeit " means lose in the sense of a financial loss. Its primary meaning is"to damage." It is passive, describing something that might happen. In English, we don't say "he might suffer a financial loss of a soul," but we would say, "it might cost." This is not the same Greek word as the "lose" in the previous verse. This is a rare word only used here and in its parallels in Mark and Luke. It is passive, not active.

their -- (WN) The word translated as "their " is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. This pronoun follows the noun so "of his."

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. 

soul?  - (CW) --The word translated here as "soul" is psyche, a common word in Greek, familiar in English, meaning "life," "soul," "consciousness," and "a sense of self."  In the previous verse, it was translated as "life." Jesus uses it to specifically mean our identity in our worldly life, the role we play on earth, what we might call the "social self," or what we commonly call our "ego." See this article for detail about this word and related words.

Or -- "Or" is translated from a Greek word that means primarily "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison.

what - The word translated as "what" can also be translated as "who," or "why." However, it usually acts as a question word in short phrases, not long sentences so we should see this first clause as short.

can -- (WW) This verb "can"  does not appear here. There should be a helping verb to indicate the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

anyone --  (CW) The Greek word translated as "anyone" means "man," "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men," "people," and "peoples." This is not the Greek word usually translated as "anyone."

give -  The word translated as "give" means "to give," "to grant," "to hand over," "appoint," "establish," and "to describe." It is in the future tense.

in exchange  - The word translated as "exchange" is a noun that means that which is traded in an exchange. This word is also rare, appearing only here and in the parallel verse in Mark.

for  - This word "for"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession. However, it can also mean "belonging to," "part of," "which is," "than" (in comparisons), or  "for," "concerning" or "about" with transitive verbs. The verb "give" is transitive.

their -- (WN) The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. This pronoun follows the noun so "of his."

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.

soul?  - (CW) --The word translated here as "soul" is psyche, a common word in Greek, familiar in English, meaning "life," "soul," "consciousness," and "a sense of self."  In the previous verse, it was translated as "life." Jesus uses it to specifically mean our identity in our worldly life, the role we play on earth, what we might call the "social self," or what we commonly call our "ego." See this article for detail about this word and related words.

NIV Translation Issues: 

14
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "good" should be "will be helped."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "be" is not an active verb but a helping verb making the verb "gain" passive.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "when" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "somone" is not the common word usually translated as "somone."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "to" indicates an infinitive but the verb is active.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "forfeit" is not an active verb but a passive one.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "their" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "soul" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "soul" is the word translated as "life" in the last verse.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "can" should be "will."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "anyone" is not the common word usually translated as "anyone."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "their" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "soul" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "soul" is the word translated as "life" in the last verse.

Front Page Date: 

Feb 18 2021