Matthew 17:20 Because of your unbelief: for ...

Spoken to: 

Apostles

Context: 

Apostles asked why they were unable to caste out a demon.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Through this distrust of yours! Because, truly, I tell you, when you have trust  like a seed of mustard, you will say to the mountain/mule, this one. "It shifts from here to there." And not only might it shift itself, but also will nothing will be impossible for you."  

My Takeaway: 

Our capability arise from our belief in our sleves.

KJV : 

Matthew 17:20 Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

NIV : 

Matthew 17:20 Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse is another play on words. It could mean what the KJV translates it to mean, but it would be a reach because the verbs and noun are in the wrong forms in the final phrase. However, if we assume that the mountain is actually a "mule," a metaphor for the stubborn "evil spirit," it has the sense that "evil spirits" can be harnessed to our will. You might want to read this article about the meaning of "evil spirits" in Greek times. Interesting, however, it is not a humorous, ironic, contrary to fact statement as in Luke 17:6.

Wordplay: 

 Play on the double meaning of the word "mountain" and "mule." 
The word translated as "remove" means "pass over" or "to change." The joke is that you are asking a mule to change while you are asking a mountain to move. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Διὰ [88 verses](prep) "Because" is from dia which means "through," "in the midst of," "in a line (movement)," "throughout (time)," "by (causal)," "among," and "between."

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

ὀλιγοπιστίαν [6 verses](noun sg fem acc) "Unbelief" is oligopistos, which means literally, "small trust." It is a word built of two words. "Faith" is from pistis, which means "confidence," "assurance," "trustworthiness," "credit," "a trust," "that which give confidence," and, as a character trait, "faithfulness." From oligos, which means "little," "small," "slight," "few," and "weak." As an adverb it means "a little," "slightly," and "little."

ὑμῶν: (pron 2nd pl gen) "Your" is from humon, the plural possessive form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

ἀμὴν (adv) "Verily" is from amen, which is from the Hebrew, meaning "truly," "of a truth," and "so be it." It has no history in Greek of this meaning before the NT. However, this is also the infinitive form of the Greek verb amao, which means "to reap" or "to cut."

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

λέγω (verb 1st sg pres ind act) "I say" is from lego, which means "to recount," "to tell over," "to say," "to speak," "to teach," "to mean," "boast of," "tell of," "recite," nominate," and "command." It has a secondary meaning "pick out," "choose for oneself," "pick up," "gather," "count," and "recount." A less common word that is spelt the same means "to lay," "to lay asleep" and "to lull asleep."

ὑμῖν, (pron 2nd pl dat) "You" is from humas and humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

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.

ἔχητε (2nd pl pres subj act) "Have" is from echo, which means "to have," "to hold," "to possess," "to keep," "to have charge of," "to maintain," "to hold fast," "to bear," "to keep close," "to keep safe," and "to have means to do."

πίστιν [26 verses](noun sg fem acc) "Faith" is pistis, which means "confidence," "assurance," "trustworthiness," "credit," "a trust," "that which give confidence," and, as a character trait, "faithfulness."--

ὡς (adv) "As" is from hos, an adverb which means to "thus," "as," "how," "when," "where," "like," "just as," "so far as," "as much as can be," "that," "in order that," "nearly (with numbers)," and "know that." --

κόκκον [6 verses](noun sg masc acc) "A grain" is from kokkos, which means "a grain" and "a seed," "testicles," and it is a metaphor for a "grain of sense."

σινάπεως,, [4 verses] (noun sg neut gen) "Mustard seed" is sinapi which means simply "mustard."

ἐρεῖτε [162 verses](2nd pl fut ind act) "Ye shall say" 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."

τῷ (article masc/neut dat)  "This" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

ὄρει [10 verses](noun sg masc/neut dat) "Mountain" is oros, which means "mountain," "hill," "canton," and "parish." In Egypt, it was also used to mean the "desert" and a place of burial. An homonym oros means a "boundary," "landmark," "time limits," "decisions of judges," "memorial stones and pillars," "standard," "measure," "term (in logic)," "definition," "terms," and "conditions." Another, similar word, oreus, which matches oros in some forms means "mule."

τούτῳ [92 verses](adj sg masc/neut dat) "Unto this" is from touto, which means "from here," "from there," "this [thing]," or "that [thing]."

Μετάβα [3 verses](3rd sg aor ind act) "Remove" is metabaino, which means "to pass over," "pass from one state to another," "change," "make a transition," "to pass to another place or state," and "to carry over."

ἔνθεν [4 verses](adv) "Hence" is from enteuthen, which means "from that place" and "hence."

ἐκεῖ, [33 verses](adv) "To yonder place" is from ekei, which means "there," "in that place," and in philosophy means "the intelligible world."

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." --

μεταβήσεται, [3 verses](3rd sg fut ind mid or 3rd sg aor subj mid) "It shall remove" is from metabaino, which means "to pass over," "pass from one state to another," "change," "make a transition," "to pass to another place or state," and "to carry over."

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." --

οὐδὲν [69 verses](adj sg neut nom/acc) "Nothing" is oudeis which means "no one," "not one," "nothing," "naught," "good for naught," and "no matter." --

ἀδυνατήσει [1 verse](verb 2nd sg fut ind mid or, more likely, verb 3rd sg fut ind act ) "Shall be impossible" is from adynateo, , which means "to be unable to do," "lack strength," and of things, "to be impossible."

ὑμῖν. (pron 2nd pl dat) "To you" is from hymin (humin), which is the 2nd person plural dative pronoun. Dative is the case which indicates to whom something is given. --

KJV Analysis: 

Because  - (CW) The word translated as "because" means "through," in the midst of," or "by (a cause)." It is not the usual Greek word used to explain a cause. It is a preposition.

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

your  - -- The word translated as "your" is a plural, second-person pronoun in the genitive case. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

unbelief:  - "Unbelief" is a word that means small or little trust. It is different than the word used in the previous verse which means "no trust" or "without trust."

for  - The word translated as "for" does explain a cause and can be treated as supporting a dependent clause but in short questions, it acts as "what."

verily -- The word translated as "verily" is from the Hebrew word that means "truly" or "certainly," but it sounds like the Greek word with the same meaning. In Greek, the word also means "to reap." See this article discussing this "amen phrase."

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

say -- The word translated as "say" is the most common word that means "to say," and "to speak," but it also means "to teach," which seems to be the way Christ uses it more frequently. It also has many ancillary meanings such as "to count" ("to number" or like we might say, "to recount" a story) or "to choose for yourself." Christ usually uses this word to refer to his own speaking or teaching.

unto -- This word "unto" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English, but the translator must decide which preposition to use: a "to" as an indirect object.

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

If  - The Greek word translated as "if" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. We use "when" for this idea.

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

have  - The word translated as "have" means "to possess" or "to keep" but it isn't used in the same way as a "helper" verb than the English "have" is.

faith  - The term translated as "faith" was much closer to our general idea of having confidence or trust in people and especially their words rather than religious belief.

as  - The word translated as "as" is a comparative adverb that means "like," "as much as," and "where."

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.

grain  - The word translated as "grain" means "kernel," or "grain." It can also mean "seed." However, it is not the most common word for a "seed" in Greek.

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.

mustard  - The word translated as "mustard seed" means simply "mustard." However, the mustard seed was the Jewish metaphor for the smallness of the knowable world compared to the whole universe. Christ uses it in Matthew 13:31 to refer to how the realm of the skies grows from a small seed.

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

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

say  - The word translated as "ye shall say" is the verb meaning "say," "speak," and "tell." It is in the future tense, plural.

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.

this  - The word translated as "this" means "this" or "that."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

mountain,  - (MM) The word translated as "mountain" means "mountain" or "hill"in the neuter but it could also be the word that means "mule." In either case, it seems to be a metaphor used to describe the stubborn evil spirit. The word is in a form that could indicate the person addressed, but that form has a number of other uses as well (see the list at the bottom of this page). Here, it could be a comparison ("like a mule"). This verb and the surrounding article and adjective are all in a form that could be either masculine ("mule") or neuter ("mountain").

Remove  - (WF, WW) The verb translated as "remove" does not mean "remove" and is not in the form of a command. No one is telling the mountain or the mule to do anything. It is a simple active verb in the third person.  The word means "to pass over" or "to make a change." In English, the verb "shifts" captures the same feeling of changing places or nature. The tense indicates this happening at some point in time, past, present, or future. This is usually translated as the past in English.

hence  - "Hence" is a word that means "from that place" and "hence." In English, in this context, we would say "from here."

to yonder place;  - "Yonder place" is a word meaning "there," "in that place," and in philosophy means "the intelligible world."

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

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

remove;  - (WW) The word translated as "remove" is the same verb as above.  It means to pass over, to make a transition from one state to another, to change, or to carry over. So "it passes over" or "it changes." In English, the verb "shifts" captures the same feeling of changing places or nature. It is in the form of something that will or might happen, but the subject acts on itself: "it might shift itself." 

missing "itself"-- (WV) A phrase is necessary because the form of the previous verb is a middle voice, which means that the subject is to  act on "itself," "for itself" or "by itself."

and  - Here is the second "and" the series, so it could mean "but also."

nothing  - The Greek word translated as "nothing"  is either the subject or object of 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.

be impossible   - The word translated as "be impossible" is a verb that means "to be unable to do" but of things means "to be impossible."  It is the negative form of the verb commonly translated as "can," which means  "to be able to do," "to have the power to do."  The form of the verb could be the second person future, "you are Shall be unable to do nothing," this double negative would really mean "you shall be able to do anything." Ot could also mean "nothing will be impossible."

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.

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

KJV Translation Issues: 

10
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "because" is not the common word usually translated as "because."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "of" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "unbelief" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "seed" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "mountain" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MM -- Many Meanings -- This word "mountain" has several different meanings that work here and is a form of wordplay.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "remove" is not a command but a statement.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "remove" should be "pass over."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "remove" should be "pass over."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "itself" is not shown in the English translation to capture its middle voice.

NIV Analysis: 

Because  - (CW) The word translated as "because" means "through," in the midst of," or "by (a cause)." It is not the usual Greek word used to explain a cause. It is a preposition.

you  - -- (WF) The word translated as "your" is a plural, second-person pronoun in the genitive case. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

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

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

little faith:  - "Unbelief" is a word that means small or little trust. It is different than the word used in the previous verse which means "no trust" or "without trust."

for  - The word translated as "for" does explain a cause and can be treated as supporting a dependent clause but in short questions, it acts as "what."

truly -- The word translated as "truly " is from the Hebrew word that means "truly" or "certainly," but it sounds like a Greek word with the same meaning. In Greek, the word also means "to reap." See this article discussing this "amen phrase."

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

tell -- The word translated as "say" is the most common word that means "to say," and "to speak," but it also means "to teach," which seems to be the way Christ uses it more frequently. It also has many ancillary meanings such as "to count" ("to number" or like we might say, "to recount" a story) or "to choose for yourself." Christ usually uses this word to refer to his own speaking or teaching.

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

if - The Greek word translated as "if" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. We use "when" for this idea.

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

have  - The word translated as "have" means "to possess" or "to keep" but it isn't used in the same way as a "helper" verb than the English "have" is.

faith  - The term translated as "faith" was much closer to our general idea of having confidence or trust in people and especially their words rather than religious belief.

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

as  - The word translated as "as" is a comparative adverb that means "like," "as much as," and "where."

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.

mustard  - The word translated as "mustard " means simply "mustard." However, the mustard seed was the Jewish metaphor for the smallness of the knowable world compared to the whole universe. Christ uses it in Matthew 13:31 to refer to how the realm of the skies grows from a small seed.

seed- The word translated as "seed" means "kernel," or "grain." It can also mean "seed." However, it is not the most common word for a "seed" in Greek

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

can -- (WW) This helping verb "can" indicates that the verb is the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

say  - The word translated as "ye shall say" is the verb meaning "say," "speak," and "tell." It is in the future tense, plural.

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.

this  - The word translated as "this" means "this" or "that."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, "the." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

mountain,  - (MM) The word translated as "mountain" means "mountain" or "hill"in the neuter but it could also be the word that means "mule." In either case, it seems to be a metaphor used to describe the stubborn evil spirit. The word is in a form that could indicate the person addressed, but that form has a number of other uses as well (see the list at the bottom of this page). Here, it could be a comparison ("like a mule"). This verb and the surrounding article and adjective are all in a form that could be either masculine ("mule") or neuter ("mountain").

Move - (WF) The verb translated as "move"  is not in the form of a command. No one is telling the mountain or the mule to do anything. It is a simple active verb in the third person.  The word means "to pass over" or "to make a change." In English, the verb "shifts" captures the same feeling of changing places or nature. The tense indicates this happening at some point in time, past, present, or future. This is usually translated as the past in English.

from here  - "from here" is a word that means "from that place" and "hence." In English, in this context, we would say "from here."

to there;  - "To there is a word meaning "there," "in that place," and in philosophy means "the intelligible world."

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

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

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.

move;  - The word translated as "move" is the same verb as above.  It means to pass over, to make a transition from one state to another, to change, or to carry over. So "it passes over" or "it changes." In English, the verb "shifts" captures the same feeling of changing places or nature. It is in the form of something that will or might happen, but the subject acts on itself: "it might shift itself." 

missing "itself"-- (WV) A phrase is necessary because the form of the previous verb is a middle voice, which means that the subject is to  act on "itself," "for itself" or "by itself."

missing "and"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is second "and" the series, so it could mean "but also."

Nothing - The Greek word translated as "nothing"  is either the subject or object of the verb.

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 impossible   - The word translated as "be impossible" is a verb that means "to be unable to do" but of things means "to be impossible."  It is the negative form of the verb commonly translated as "can," which means  "to be able to do," "to have the power to do."  The form of the verb could be the second person future, "you are Shall be unable to do nothing," this double negative would really mean "you shall be able to do anything." Ot could also mean "nothing will be impossible."

for -- This word "for " 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 effect. -

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

NIV Translation Issues: 

11
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "because" is not the common word usually translated as "because."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "you" is not a subjective but a possessive, "your."
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "have so" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "little faith" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "small as" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "can" should be "will."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "mountain" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MM -- Many Meanings -- This word "mountain" has several different meanings that work here and is a form of wordplay.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "move" is not a command but a statement.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "and" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "itself" is not shown in the English translation to capture its middle voice.

Front Page Date: 

Feb 26 2021