Matthew 16:4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign

Spoken to: 

The Pharisees

Context: 

The Pharisees and Sadducees ask for a sign.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

A worthless and unfaithful type focuses on a proof, and a signal will not really be given but only the signal of Jonah.

My Takeaway: 

People always want more proof as opposed to that they are given.

KJV : 

Matthew 16:4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.

NIV : 

Matthew 16:4  A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The beginning of this verse is more humorous in Greek than its English translation. It compares those that desire proof to an unfaithful woman who, who, in reading between the lines, when accused of sin, demands proof. The word for "sign" also means "proof," which is really what is being asked for here. "Adulterous" also means "untrustworthy" and "disbelieving in God.

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 [20 verses](noun sg fem nom) "Generation" is 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 [38 verses](adj sg fem nom) "Wicked" is from poneros, which means "burdened by toil," "useless," and "worthless." In a moral sense, it means "worthless," "base," and "cowardly." -- 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."

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," and primarily means "unfaithful to God."

σημεῖον [15 times](noun sg neut nom/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 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 [15 times](noun sg neut nom/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).

οὐ (partic) "No" 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 [147 verses](3rd sg fut ind pass) "Shall be...given" is didomi, which means "to give," "to grant," "to hand over," "appoint," "establish," and "to describe."

αὐτῇ (adj sg fem dat) "Unto it" 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 particle) "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 sg neut acc  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

σημεῖον [15 times](noun sg neut 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](noun sg masc acc) "Jonas" is from Ionas, the Greek word for the OT prophet Jonah.

KJV 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  - (CW) The word translated as "wicked" 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 word translated as "and" also can mean "as" afters words implying sameness.

adulterous  - "Adulterous" is from a Greek noun meaning "an unfaithful woman." It is in the same form as the noun ("generation") implying that they are equivalent. It is a metaphor for those unfaithful to God. It is a form of the word meaning "adultery." Jesus uses it three times.

generation  - "Generation" is a Greek word that means "race," "family," "offspring," and "age." The sense is a "type" or a "specimen" of a particular type.  Jesus uses this term frequently in criticism, but that criticism seems more aimed at a particular type of people than his generation. It is the word from which we get the scientific "genus."

seeketh  - "Seeks after" is a verb that means "to seek after," "to wish for," and "to demand. The Greek root of this word is translated as "seek" in the KJV but Christ uses it more like we use "aim." This version of that word has the prefix that means "on," "at," or "upon," so "aim at" or "focus on" is the closest in English.

"after -- This is from the prefix of the previous verb that means "upon" or "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 it also means a "proof" in reasoning. The translation of "proof" often seems how Jesus uses it.

and - The word translated as "and" also can mean "as" afters words implying sameness.

there  - -- (IW) There is nothing in the Greek that can be translated as "there" in the Greek source. The subject of the sentence is "sign" and it comes before the verb.

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.

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." It makes a negative statement of fact.  When it precedes other words, its force is limited to those words. Here, it does not precede "sign" but "give."

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 it also means a "proof" in reasoning. The translation of "proof" often seems how Jesus uses it.

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."

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

but - 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," but it also means a "proof" in reasoning. The translation of "proof" often seems how Jesus uses it.

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

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

KJV Translation Issues: 

4
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "wicked" is not the common translation for this word.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "there" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The word "no" negates the clause, not the word "sign."
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "of the prophet" doesn't exist in the source.

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  - (CW) The word translated as "wicked" 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 word translated as "and" also can mean "as" afters words implying sameness.

adulterous  - "Adulterous" is from a Greek noun meaning "an unfaithful woman." It is in the same form as the noun ("generation") implying that they are equivalent. It is a metaphor for those unfaithful to God. It is a form of the word meaning "adultery." Jesus uses it three times.

generation  - "Generation" is a Greek word that means "race," "family," "offspring," and "age." The sense is a "type" or a "specimen" of a particular type.  Jesus uses this term frequently in criticism, but that criticism seems more aimed at a particular type of people than his generation. It is the word from which we get the scientific "genus." 

looks   - (CW) "Look" is a verb that means "to seek after," "to wish for," and "to demand. The Greek root of this word is translated as "seek" in the KJV but Christ uses it more like we use "aim." It is not a common word for "look" or "see." This version of that word has the prefix that means "on," "at," or "upon," so "aim at" or "focus on" is the closest in English.

for -- This is from the prefix of the previous verb that means "upon" or "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 it also means a "proof" in reasoning. The translation of "proof" often seems how Jesus uses it.

but - (WW) The word translated as "but" means "and" and can mean "as" afters words implying sameness.

none -- (WW) The Greek word translated as "none" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It means "no," "not," or"no truly." It makes a negative statement of fact. It is not the word meaning "none."

missing "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," but it also means a "proof" in reasoning. The translation of "proof" often seems how Jesus uses it.

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."

missing "to it"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. It is in the form of an indirect object.

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," but it also means a "proof" in reasoning. The translation of "proof" often seems how Jesus uses it.

of   - -- Though the following word is not in the form that requires an "of" it is a modifier to "sign."

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

NIV Translation Issues: 

7
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "wicked" is not the common translation for this word.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "looks" is not a form that means "see" of "look."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "but" should be "and."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "none" should be "not."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "sign" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "to it" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "of the prophet" doesn't exist in the source.

Front Page Date: 

Feb 5 2021