Matthew 5:34 ...Swear not at all;

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Sermon on Mount, law and fulfillment, visible and hidden, vows and debts

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

I myself, however, tell you, don't think to swear for yourself at all. Neither on the sky because a judge's bench is for the Divine."

My Takeaway: 

Making promises to the hidden Divine to get visible benefits from others is profaning what should be sacred.

KJV : 

Matthew 5:34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

NIV : 

Matthew 5:34  But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;

3rd Translation: 

Matthew 5:34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Jesus starts with one of his exaggerated--starting with "I myself" catchphrases so the initial effect is largely humorously.

The key untranslated idea here is that this swearing is done for the personal benefit of the one making the pledge. Without this idea, what follows makes less sense. The verb translated as "swear/make vows" is used by Jesus in seven verse, but only here is it in the middle voice, meaning that the subject acts on or for himself. This word is used 155 times in the Greek OT in key verses related to swearing such as Lev 19:12.  It is completely unrelated to the  Greek words used in the previous verse, Mathew 5:33.

The phrase that begins with "neither/either" in KJV and NIV looks in Greek like a new sentence, one that is completed in the next verse in. We can tell because of the use of the Greek word translated as "neither", which is almost always used in pairs as we use "neither...nor". This word is dropped in the NLT completely losing the connection. Its partner "nor" begins the next verse.

The rest of this sentence in continued in Matthew 5:35.

Wordplay: 

 The use of "whole" here could be a prohibition against all swearing or against swearing to anything completely. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἐγὼ (pron 1st sg nom) "I" is from ego, which is the first person singular pronoun meaning "I". It also means "I at least", "for my part", "indeed," and for myself.

δὲ (partic) "But" is from 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").

λέγω (1st sg pres ind act) "Tell" is from llego means "pick up", "choose for oneself", "pick out," and "count," "recount", "tell over", "say", "speak", "teach", "mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," "nominate," and "command."

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

μν̀ (partic) "Not" is from me, which is the negative used in prohibitions and expressions of doubt meaning "not" and "no." As οὐ (ou) negates fact and statement; μή rejects, οὐ denies; μή is relative, οὐ absolute; μή subjective, οὐ objective.

ὀμόσαι [7 verses] (2nd sg aor imperat mid) "Swear" is from omnyo, which means "to swear to a thing", "to take an oath", "to promise one will", "give word of honor", "swear by," and "affirm or confirm by oath." This word appears 155 times in the Septuagint. The Hebrew word is שָׁבַע shaba.

ὅλως: (adv) "At all" is from holos, which means as an adverb, it means "wholly", "altogether", "entirely", "on the whole", "speaking generally", "utter," "actually", and "really".

μήτε (partic) "Neither" is from mete, which means "and not" and "either...or." It is used mostly double as a "neither...nor." A variation on mede.

ἐν (prep) "By" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with".

τῷ (article sg masc dat)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

οὐρανῷ, (noun sg masc dat) "Heaven" is from ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate."

ὅτι (adv) "For" 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."

θρόνος (noun sg masc nom) "Throne" is from thronos, which means "seat", "chair", "seat of state", "chair of a teacher," and "judge's bench."

ἐστὶν (3rd sg pres ind act) "Is" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

τοῦ (article sg masc gen)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). --

θεοῦ:” (noun sg masc gen ) "God" is from theos (theos), which means "God," "divine," and "Deity."

KJV Analysis: 

But -- The term translated as "but" means that, but since it always appears in the second position in a phrase, it feels more like our word "however," which can appear in the second position. The effect is to change the direction of the phrase after it is started.

I -- (MW) The pronoun is used here explicitly as the subject of the sentence. Since this information is already in the verb, the sense is repetitive as we say "I myself."

say -- The word translated as "I tell" 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 "to" 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. 

Swear  -- The word translated here as "swear" means "to swear on a thing" and "to promise one will". The command is singular, that is, a singular you. This follows the form of the commands given earlier in the verse. Its form also indicates something that the subject does on, for, or to themselves so the sense is not to do this for your own benefit. The Greek of the old testament refers does not use the middle voice with this verb.

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

not -- The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion, commands, and requests. The sense is that "you don't want" to do something, not that it isn't done or don't think something that might be true. If it wasn't done or wasn't true, the objective negative of fact would be used.  With the verb "to be," the sense is "doesn't seem." When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause. When it precedes other words, its force is limited to those words.

at all; -- The word translated as "at all" is the adverbial form of the word usually translated as "whole". Used as an adverb, it  means "wholly", "really", "entirely", or "generally speaking." The sense is "entirely" here, but that works best as "at all." This is not the Greek word usually translated as "all" in the Gospels. It

neither -- This Greek word means means "and not." It is used mostly double as a "neither...nor."

by -- The word translated as "by" also means "in," "within", "with," or "among."  It can means "on," "at," or "by" in the sense of "near." 

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. 

heaven; -- Heaven" here is the singular form of the Greek word that means "sky," not the plural form we see in "the realm of the skies." It is preceded by an article, so "the sky." More about the meaning of this word in this article.

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

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

is -- The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. When the verb "to be" appears early in the clause before the subject, the sense is more like "it is" or, in the plural, "there are." 

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. 

God's -- -- The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is introduced with an article, so "the God." Jesus often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods. The form is genitive so the sense is possessive, but the word follows "throne" so "of God."

throne: -- The Greek word translated as "throne" is commonly used to mean "chair" or "seat." It was also used to indicate the seat of state, a teacher's chair, or a judge's bench. Though it is the source of our English word "throne", it didn't have that meaning in Greek in Christ's time. Jesus often uses it in the specific context of a "judge's seat", in verses in which judging people are discussed. It does not have a definite article ("the") so not "the judgment seat" but "a judgment seat".

KJV Translation Issues: 

3
  • MW -- Missing Word  -- The pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "i myself."
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "heaven" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "God" is not shown in the English translation.

NIV Analysis: 

But -- The term translated as "but" means that, but since it always appears in the second position in a phrase, it feels more like our word "however," which can appear in the second position. The effect is to change the direction of the phrase after it is started.

I -- (MW) The pronoun is used here explicitly as the subject of the sentence. Since this information is already in the verb, the sense is repetitive as we say "I myself."

tell -- The word translated as "I tell" 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. 

do -- This helping verb is used to create commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

not -- The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion, commands, and requests. The sense is that "you don't want" to do something, not that it isn't done or don't think something that might be true. If it wasn't done or wasn't true, the objective negative of fact would be used.  With the verb "to be," the sense is "doesn't seem." When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause. When it precedes other words, its force is limited to those words.

swear -- The word translated here as "swear" means "to swear on a thing" and "to promise one will". The command is singular, that is, a singular you. This follows the form of the commands given earlier in the verse. Its form also indicates something that the subject does for or to themselves so the sense is not to do this for your own benefit.

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

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

at all; -- The word translated as "at all" is the adverbial form of the word usually translated as "whole". Used as an adverb, it  means "wholly", "really", "entirely", or "generally speaking." The sense is "entirely" here, but that works best as "at all." This is not the Greek word usually translated as "all" in the Gospels. It

either -- This Greek word means means "and not." It is used mostly double as a "neither...nor."

by -- The word translated as "by" also means "in," "within", "with," or "among."  It can means "on," "at," or "by" in the sense of "near." 

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. 

heaven; -- Heaven" here is the singular form of the Greek word that means "sky," not the plural form we see in "the realm of the skies." It is preceded by an article, so "the sky." More about the meaning of this word in this article.

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

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

is -- The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. When the verb "to be" appears early in the clause before the subject, the sense is more like "it is" or, in the plural, "there are." 

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. 

God's -- -- The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is introduced with an article, so "the God." Jesus often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods. The form is genitive so the sense is possessive, but the word follows "throne" so "of God."

throne: -- The Greek word translated as "throne" is commonly used to mean "chair" or "seat." It was also used to indicate the seat of state, a teacher's chair, or a judge's bench. Though it is the source of our English word "throne", it didn't have that meaning in Greek in Christ's time. Jesus often uses it in the specific context of a "judge's seat", in verses in which judging people are discussed. It does not have a definite article ("the") so not "the judgment seat" but "a judgment seat".

NIV Translation Issues: 

5
  • MW -- Missing Word  -- The pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "i myself."
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "an oath" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "heaven" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "God" is not shown in the English translation.

3rd Analysis: 

But -- The term translated as "but" means that, but since it always appears in the second position in a phrase, it feels more like our word "however," which can appear in the second position. The effect is to change the direction of the phrase after it is started.

I -- (MW) The pronoun is used here explicitly as the subject of the sentence. Since this information is already in the verb, the sense is repetitive as we say "I myself."

say -- The word translated as "I tell" 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.

untranslated "you"-- (MW) The untranslated word "you" here is plural and in the form of an indirect object, "to you", "for you", etc. 

Do -- This helping verb is used to create commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

not -- The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion, commands, and requests. The sense is that "you don't want" to do something, not that it isn't done or don't think something that might be true. If it wasn't done or wasn't true, the objective negative of fact would be used.  With the verb "to be," the sense is "doesn't seem." When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause. When it precedes other words, its force is limited to those words.

make -- This verb doesn't exist in the Greek, but it is used to transform the Greek verb into a verbal phrase.

any -- The word "any" is the adverbial form of the word usually translated as "whole". Used as an adverb, it  means "wholly", "really", "entirely", or "generally speaking." The sense is "entirely" here, but that works best as "at all." This is not the Greek word usually translated as "all" in the Gospels.

vows -- (CW)  The word translated here as "swear" means "to swear on a thing" and "to promise one will".  The Greek noun "vows" in the previous verse is not related to this verb directly and has the sense of the thing sworn upon in the sense that "vows" doesn't, but th Hebrew verb used in tis verse is related to the Hebrew noun in the previous verse.  The command is singular, that is, a singular you. This follows the form of the commands given earlier in the verse. Its form also indicates something that the subject does for or to themselves so the sense is not to do this for your own benefit.

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

untranslated "neither"  -- (MW) The untranslated word s "neither" and "and not." It is used mostly double as a "neither...nor."

Do not say, -- (IP) There is nothing that can be translated as "do not say" in the Greek source.

‘By -- The Greek word translated as "by" also means "in," "within", "with," or "among."  It can means "on," "at," or "by" in the sense of "near." 

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. 

heaven! -- Heaven" here is the singular form of the Greek word that means "sky," not the plural form we see in "the realm of the skies." It is preceded by an article, so "the sky." More about the meaning of this word in this article.

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

heaven  -- This repetition doesn't exist in the Greek the context clearly refers to "heaven" here.

is -- The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. When the verb "to be" appears early in the clause before the subject, the sense is more like "it is" or, in the plural, "there are." 

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. 

God's -- -- The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is introduced with an article, so "the God." Jesus often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods. The form is genitive so the sense is possessive, but the word follows "throne" so "of God."

throne: -- The Greek word translated as "throne" is commonly used to mean "chair" or "seat." It was also used to indicate the seat of state, a teacher's chair, or a judge's bench. Though it is the source of our English word "throne", it didn't have that meaning in Greek in Christ's time. Jesus often uses it in the specific context of a "judge's seat", in verses in which judging people are discussed. It does not have a definite article ("the") so not "the judgment seat" but "a judgment seat".

3rd Issue Count: 

9
  • MW -- Missing Word  -- The pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "I myself."
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "vows" is not the verb and the verb doesn't quite match the idea of "vows" in the previous verse.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "you" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "neither" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase do not say" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "heaven" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "God" is not shown in the English translation.

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

“I myself, however?” he said, returning to his usual playful arrogant manner.
Laughter greeted the familiar phrase.
“I am telling you,” he announced with a sweeping gesture.
“Don’t swear for your own benefit at all,”  he continued earnestly, holding up his right hand.
Some laughed at this idea, and almost everyone was surprised by the recognition that people only make these vows for their own benefit. Among Judeans, most business contracts have been turned into vows sworn to the Divine.
Several in the crowd expressed their confusion about this idea.
“Maybe those in your realm of the skies need not guarantee their word by swearing,” said one louder than the rest, “but are you really saying we cannot make personal guarantees on earth?”
“Neither in the sky, since a judge’s bench is for the Divine,” the Teacher assured him, gesturing toward the clouds and assuming the authority of a judge.

evidence: 

33.00

Front Page Date: 

May 10 2020