Matthew 7:16 You shall know them by their fruits.

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Sermon on Mount, law and fulfillment, visible and hidden, worthwhile and worthless

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

From those fruits of theirs, you will find out about them for yourselves. By skill, do they collect from thorn bushes bunches of grapes? Or from cacti, figs?

My Takeaway: 

Those who torment us do not create beneficial produce.

KJV : 

Matthew 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

NIV : 

Matthew 7:16  By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

What is Lost in Translation: 

In this verse, almost all of the nouns and verbs are uncommon. The exception is the first noun "fruit," which is common, but it means "produce" and it is used to mean the "profit" of any enterprise. This continued the economic message hidden in the previous verse, Matthew 7:15. A key untranslated Greek word meaning "by skill" (see below) also has an economic meaning.

The Greek words translated as "thorns" and "thistles" both mean any type of thorny plant.  These words are uncommon for Jesus, but there two different words are used because this is a reference to Gen 3:18, where these same Greek words are used in the Septuagint, the Greek OT. That verse refers to thistles and thorns a punishment for humanity's fall  Both grapes and figs were symbolic of Israel, especially of the fertility of the land given to the Jews by God. The thorns, grapes, and figs are used frequently in the OT though uncommon for Jesus.

In the Greek source, there is a word here that is untranslated in the KJV and most other Biblical translation of this verse. It could be either an adverb meaning "much less" or a form of the Greek word for "wisdom" or "skill" in the form of "by skill."

Wordplay: 

 The double meaning of "fruit" and "profits." 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ἀπὸ (prep) "By" 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.

τῶν (article)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

καρπῶν (noun pl masc gen) "Fruits" is from karpos, which means "fruit," "the fruits of the earth," "seed," "offspring," "returns for profit," and "reward."

αὐτῶν (adj pl masc gen ) "Their" 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."

ἐπιγνώσεσθε [3 verses](2nd pl fut ind mid) "Ye shall know" is epiginosko. which means "look upon," "witness," "observe," "recognize," "find out," "discover," "learn to know," "take notice of," "come to a judgment," "decide," "acknowledge," and "approve."

αὐτούς: (adj pl masc acc) "Them" 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."

μήτι [3 verses](adv or noun sg fem dat) Untranslated is metis, which is one of two possible Greek words. It could be a form the dative form of the noun meaning "wisdom," "skill," "craft," "counsel," "plan," and "undertaking. Or it could be the adverb, meaning "let alone," "much less," "do I [in direct questions],"  "lest any one," "lest anything," "that no one," and "that nothing."

συλλέγουσιν [8 verses](3rd pl pres ind act) "Do men gather" is sylego, a term meaning "gather," "collect," "come together," "collect," "get together [people]," "compose," "compile," "scrape together," and "compile a list of."

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.

ἀκανθῶν [8 verses](noun pl fem gen) "Thorns" is akantha, which means "thorn," "prickle," or "any thorny or prickly plant." It is also a metaphor for a "thorny" question.

σταφυλὰς [2 verses](noun pl fem acc) "Grapes" is staphyle, which means "bunch of grapes," "of ripe, fresh grapes," "uvula when swollen," and "plumb of a level."

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

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.

τριβόλων [1 verses](adj pl masc gen ) "Thistles" is from tribolos, which means "various prickly plants," "a threshing-machine (a box with spikes)," "caltrops and other defensive systems with spike," and, as an adjective, "three-tiered"

σῦκα; [2 verses](noun pl neut acc) "Figs" is from sykon, which means "fruit of the fig," "large wart on the eyelids," "tumors," and "a woman's sex organ."

KJV Analysis: 

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.

know  - (CW) "Know" is a Greek verb that is a more complex form of a common word usually translated as "to know" (but meaning more "learn to know") . Jesus only uses this word three times. The word means literally, "upon learning to know" or "by learning to know." Generally, it means "to witness" or "to discover" but the sense seems to be "learn about." It is in the future tense, but it is also in a form where the person acts for their own benefit, "you are going to find them out for yourselves."

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

them -- The word translated as "them" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. The pronoun translated as "them" also means "one's true self," as opposed to the body or appearances.

by == The word translated as "by" is translated twice more in this verse as "of." It actually means "from" and is used here in the sense of an "origin" or "cause" as much as a location. It also means the instrument "by" which a thing is done.

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

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. 

fruits.  - The word translated as "fruits" primary meaning is "fruit," "seed," or "offspring," but its secondary meaning is "returns," specifically, "profit," as we would say "fruit of our labors."

Do -- There is no Greek verb "do" here, but this helping verb is added by translators to create commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

untranslated "by skill" or "much less" -- (MW) The untranslated word here could be either an adverb meaning "much less" or a form of the Greek word for "wisdom" or "skill" in a form describing a purpose or instrument by which the "learning" or "the collecting" is done.

men -- (WW) There is nothing that can be translated as "men" in the Greek source. The verb is the plural, third-person so "they."

gather  - (CW) The Greek verb translated as "gather" specifically means collecting something for use. The word means a selective choosing rather than an indiscriminate gathering as in the selection of ripe grapes and figs from a tree or vine. A related by different word is used to describe people gathering together.

grapes  - The Greek word translated as "grapes" means "a bunch of grapes." Grapes were generally symbolic of fertility in most cultures but, among the Jews, also of humility between of the similarity between the Hebrew words for them.

of == (CW) The word translated as "of" is translated earlier in the verse as "by." It actually means "from" and is used here in the sense of an "origin" or "cause" as much as a location. It also means the instrument "by" which a thing is done. 

thorns,  -"Thorns" is a Greek noun that means "thorn," "prickle," or "any thorny or prickly plant." It is also a metaphor for a "thorny" question.

or  -  "Or" is translated from a Greek word that means primarily "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison. The same word could also be the exclamation "hi" or the adverb meaning "in truth."

figs  - "Figs" are from the Greek word meaning the "fruit of the fig tree." It is another word for "tumors" and a woman's sex order.

of == (CW) The word translated as "of" is translated earlier in the verse as "by." It actually means "from" and is used here in the sense of an "origin" or "cause" as much as a location. It also means the instrument "by" which a thing is done. 

thistles?  - "Thorns" is a Greek noun that means "thorn," "prickle," or "any thorny or prickly plant." It is also a metaphor for a "thorny" question.

KJV Translation Issues: 

8
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "know" is not the common on for "know"  but one that means "to learn about."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "heaven" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "by skills" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "men" should be something more like "they."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "gather" is confused with the word referring to "gathering" people.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "of" before "thorns" means "from" or "by,"
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "of" before "thistles" means "from" or "by,"

NIV Analysis: 

By == The word translated as "by" is translated twice more in this verse as "of." It actually means "from" and is used here in the sense of an "origin" or "cause" as much as a location. It also means the instrument "by" which a thing is done.

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

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. 

fruit.  - (WN) The word translated as "fruits" primary meaning is "fruit," "seed," or "offspring," but its secondary meaning is "returns," specifically, "profit," as we would say "fruit of our labors."

you -- This is from the second-person, plural 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.

recognize - ("Recognize" is a Greek verb that means literally, "upon learning to know" or "by learning to know." Generally, it means "to witness" or "to discover" but the sense seems to be "learn about." Jesus only uses this word three times. The word is in the future tense, but it is also in a form where the person acts for their own benefit, "you are going to find them out for yourselves."

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

them -- The word translated as "them" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. The pronoun translated as "them" also means "one's true self," as opposed to the body or appearances.

Do -- There is no Greek verb "do" here, but this helping verb is added by translators to create commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

untranslated "by skill" or "much less" -- (MW) The untranslated word here could be either an adverb meaning "much less" or a form of the Greek word for "wisdom" or "skill" in a form describing a purpose or instrument by which the "learning" or "the collecting" is done.

people -- (WW) There is nothing that can be translated as "people " in the Greek source. The verb is the plural, third-person so "they."

pick - (CW) The Greek verb translated as "gather" specifically means collecting something for use. The word means a selective choosing rather than an indiscriminate gathering as in the selection of ripe grapes and figs from a tree or vine. A related by different word is used to describe people gathering together.

grapes  - The Greek word translated as "grapes" means "a bunch of grapes." Grapes were generally symbolic of fertility in most cultures but, among the Jews, also of humility between of the similarity between the Hebrew words for them.

from == The word translated as "from" is translated earlier in the verse as "by." It actually means "from" and is used here in the sense of an "origin" or "cause" as much as a location. It also means the instrument "by" which a thing is done. 

thornbushes,  -"Thorns" is a Greek noun that means "thorn," "prickle," or "any thorny or prickly plant." It is also a metaphor for a "thorny" question.

or  -  "Or" is translated from a Greek word that means primarily "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison. The same word could also be the exclamation "hi" or the adverb meaning "in truth."

figs  - "Figs" are from the Greek word meaning the "fruit of the fig tree." It is another word for "tumors" and a woman's sex order.

from == The word translated as "from" is translated earlier in the verse as "by." It actually means "from" and is used here in the sense of an "origin" or "cause" as much as a location. It also means the instrument "by" which a thing is done. 

thistles?  - "Thorns" is a Greek noun that means "thorn," "prickle," or "any thorny or prickly plant." It is also a metaphor for a "thorny" question.

NIV Translation Issues: 

6
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "heaven" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "fruit" is translated as singular but it is plural, "fruits."
  • WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "by skills" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "people" should be something more like "they."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "pick "  does not have the sense of "pluck" but "collect."

evidence: 

98.00

Front Page Date: 

Jul 11 2020