Matthew 16:6 Take heed and beware of the leaven

Spoken to: 

Apostles

Context: 

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

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Watch out and be on guard from the leaven of the dedicated and the righteous.

My Takeaway: 

We judge spirit, which is invisible, but how something behaves.

KJV : 

Matthew 16:6 Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

NIV : 

Matthew 16:6 “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The meaning of this verse is tied up with a word that it doesn't contain. The Greek word for "spirit" means "breath" and leaven puts breath, that is, air (CO2) bubbles, into the dough, making it rise.  A keyword in this verse is mistranslated as "of" when it actually means "from" in a very specific way. The point of this verse is that we cannot see the "leaven" in dough. To see if dough is leavened or not, we must observe how it behaves.  Spirit is invislbe except for the actions it motivates. The leaven itself is a symbol. Jesus only mentions the Sadducees here and in a followup to this statement in Matthew 16:11.

Wordplay: 

Leaven produces a type of spirit, that is, air.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ὁρᾶτε (verb 2nd pl pres imperat act) "Take heed" is from horao, which means "to see with the eyes," "to look," "to observe," "see," "aim," "have sight," "behold," "keep in sight," and as a metaphor of mental sight, "discern," and "perceive."

καὶ (conj/adv) "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."

προσέχετε [9 verses](verb 2nd pl pres imperat act) "Beware" is 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."

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.

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

ζύμης [4 verses](noun sg fem gen)"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/adv) "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: 

Take heed  -- (CW) "See" is from a Greek verb, which means "to see with the eyes," "to look," and "to observe." It is a metaphor for mental seeing, that is, perceiving. However, it is one of the many words that Christ uses to mean "see," but it is not one of the most common ones. Jesus seems to use this word often to mean "watch out" or "look out" as a warning. It is a command to the group of listeners.

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."

beware   - (CW) The word translated as "beware" means"hold to," "offer," "turn toward," "attend to," "pay attention," and "be on your guard against."  It is also translated as "take heed" in the gospels. Its root is the Greek word meaning "have" and "hold." It works somewhat like our phrase "hold fast." It is a command to the group of listeners.

of -- (WW) The preposition translated as "of" is not the normal "of" that indicates possession. It is a very different word that means "from" in both location and when referring to a source.  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"). See this article for more. 

leaven "Leaven" means "yeast" the culture that spreads through flour to create the "bubbles" that make bread rise. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to leaven as well and the ideas of the Pharisees. Both create "spirit" which is an invisible gas so the yeast can only be seen by its actions.

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"). See this article for more. 

Pharisees -- The Pharisees is a Greek word that means "dedicated," "distinguished,"  or "separated." The root is an Aramaic word that means "distinguish." They saw themselves "separated from common people as those 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: 

4
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "take heed" is associated with vision like our "watch out."
  • 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: 

missing "watch out"  -- (MW) The untranslated word means "to see with the eyes," "to look," and "to observe." It is a metaphor for mental seeing, that is, perceiving. However, it is one of the many words that Christ uses to mean "see," but it is not one of the most common ones. Jesus seems to use this word often to mean "watch out" or "look out" as a warning. It is a command to the group of listeners.

missing "and"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "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."

Be on your guard   - The word translated as "be on your guard " means"hold to," "offer," "turn toward," "attend to," "pay attention," and "be on your guard against."  It is also translated as "take heed" in the gospels. Its root is the Greek word meaning "have" and "hold." It works somewhat like our phrase "hold fast." It is a command to the group of listeners.

against -- (CW) The preposition translated as "of" is not the normal "of" that indicates possession. It is a very different word that means "from" in both location and when referring to a source.  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"). See this article for more. 

yeast -- "Yeast" means "yeast" the culture that spreads through flour to create the "bubbles" that make bread rise. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to leaven as well and the ideas of the Pharisees. Both create "spirit" which is an invisible gas so the yeast can only be seen by its actions.

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"). See this article for more. 

Pharisees -- The Pharisees is a Greek word that means "dedicated," "distinguished,"  or "separated." The root is an Aramaic word that means "distinguish." They saw themselves "separated from common people as those 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."

NIV Translation Issues: 

4
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "watch out" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "and" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "against" is not the common word usually translated as "against."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "the" doesn't exist in the source.

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

Leaven is Christ's symbol for self-propagating ideas. What keeps a culture alive? What is the inner essence that maintains a culture? Jesus uses the symbolism of leaven to capture the idea of the inner spirit of a culture.  He uses it to describe both the kingdom of heaven (in a verse discussed here) and the spirit behind the Pharisees and Saducees.

Front Page Date: 

Feb 6 2021