Matthew 9:4 Why do you think evil

Spoken to: 

The Pharisees

Context: 

To the Pharisees who reacted to his telling a youth his mistakes were being let go.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Because? Why do you all infer for yourselves worthless things in your hearts.

My Takeaway: 

People often assume the worst in others.

KJV : 

Matthew 9:4 Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?

NIV : 

Matthew 9:4 Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse has a lot hidden in the Greek. It seems more a humorous rejoiner than an accusation.

The first words makes this verse seem like an answer to a question. This word is edited out in translation. Jesus uses this Greek word most commonly to begin an answer as "in order that" or "because." The literal translation of the two words is "because why?" This is used as a humorous phrase in response in English.  It seems like the answer to a question where the exact question was not recorded. However, it also works as a question, "because?" Followed by a second question beginning with "why."

The word translated as "think" is used uniquely here so we don't know exactly how Jesus used it. It can mean "think deeply" or "infer." Because of the context, "infer" seems more likely as an uncommon word.

The word "evil" doesn't mean that and it is plural and neutral. The sense is "worthless things."

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἵνα (adv/conj) "Wherefore" is from hina (with tis below), which means "in that place", "there", "where", or "when", but when beginning a phrase "that", "in order that", "when," and "because."

τί (irreg sg neut nom/acc) "Wherefore" is from tis (with hina above) which can mean "someone", "any one", "everyone", "they [indefinite]", "many a one", "whoever", "anyone", "anything", "some sort", "some sort of", "each", "any", "the individual", "such," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

ἐνθυμεῖσθε [unique](verb 2nd pl pres ind mp or verb 2nd pl imperf ind mp) "Think" is from enthumeomai, which means "to ponder", "to notice", "to infer", "think much or deeply of", "take to heart", "be concerned or angry at", "form a plan", "conclude. In the passive, it means "to be in a person's thoughts," and "to be desired."

πονηρὰ (adj pl neut acc) "Evil" is from poneros, which means "burdened by toil", "useless," and "worthless." In a moral sense, it means "worthless", "base," and "cowardly.

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

ταῖς ((noun pl fem dat)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

καρδίαις (noun pl fem dat) "Hearts" is from kardia, which means "heart (the physical organ)", "the seat of emotions (especially passion, rage, and anger)", "inclination", "desire," "purpose", "mind", "the pith (in wood), and "the deep (of the sea)."

ὑμῶν; (adj pl masc gen ) "Your" is from humon, which is a plural forms of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

KJV Analysis: 

Wherefore  - (WW) The word translated as "wherefore" is from two words. The first is used as conjunction that starts a subordinate clause  "that," "in order that" or "because" or an adverb that means "where" or "there." The second is the pronoun that means "anything" or "anyone." Its form is neutral so "anything." It is the object of the verb.  It can also be an interrogatory "why," "what" or "who." 

think  - (WW) The term translated as "think" is not a common Greek word that is usually translated as "think" in the KJV. This word is used by Jesus only here. It means "to ponder", "to notice," or "to infer." The form s either the passive of the middle voice. In the passive, it means "to be thought about or desired" neither of which fits when referring to the Pharisees. This means that it is the middle voice, which means that the subject is being acted upon by itself or for its own benefit, that is, "you are thinking about yourselves". This form is plural.

missing "by/for yourselves"-- (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 yourselves" or "by yourselves."

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

evil  - (WW, WN) The word translated as "evil" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This article explores it meaning in more detail. It is an adjective. When it is used as a noun, an article usually precedes it. However, its form (neuter plural) does not match any of the nouns used here, so it described neither the people Christ is addressing nor their hearts nor the "what" that begins the verse. It therefore must mean "worthless things". This is plural, neutral so "worthless things."

in  - The word translated as "in" also means "within" or "among."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

your -- The word translated as "thy" is the genitive form of the singular, second-person pronoun, which is most commonly the possessive form. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

hearts?  - "Hearts" is from the Greek word that means "heart" both the physical organ and as the seat of emotions, which we discuss in a larger context of Christ's description of human faculties in this article here. This word is used to describe the human (as opposed to animal) motives for people's actions.

KJV Translation Issues: 

6

WW - Wrong Words -- The word translated as "wherefore" should be two words, "because why."

WW - Wrong Words -- The word translated as "think" should be "ponder" or more likely, "infer."

WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.

WW - Wrong Words -- The word translated as "evil" should be  "worthless."

WN  - Wrong Number- The word "evil" is translated as singular but it is plural, "worthless things."

MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" is not shown in the English translation.

NIV Analysis: 

untranslated "Because"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is -used as conjunction that starts a subordinate clause  "that," "in order that" or "because" or an adverb that means "where" or "there."

Why -- The second is the pronoun that means "anything" or "anyone." Its form is neutral so "anything." It is the object of the verb.  It can also be an interrogatory "why," "what" or "who."  The sense is "because why."

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.

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

entertain - (WW) The term translated as "entertain " is used by Jesus only here. It means "to ponder", "to notice," or "to infer." The form is either the passive of the middle voice. In the passive, it means "to be thought about or desired" neither of which fits when referring to the Pharisees. This means that it is the middle voice, which means that the subject is being acted upon by itself or for its own benefit, that is, "you are thinking about yourselves". This form is plural.

missing "by/for yourselves"-- (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 yourselves" or "by yourselves."

evil  - (WW) The word translated as "evil" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This article explores it meaning in more detail. It is an adjective. When it is used as a noun, an article usually precedes it. However, its form (neuter plural) does not match any of the nouns used here, so it described neither the people Christ is addressing nor their hearts nor the "what" that begins the verse. It therefore must mean "worthless things". This is plural, neutral so "worthless things."

thoughts -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "thoughts" in the Greek source.  This is used to get the verb closer to its original meaning.

in  - The word translated as "in" also means "within" or "among."

untranslated "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

your -- The word translated as "thy" is the genitive form of the singular, second-person pronoun, which is most commonly the possessive form. This pronoun follows the noun so "of yours."

hearts?  - "Hearts" is from the Greek word that means "heart" both the physical organ and as the seat of emotions, which we discuss in a larger context of Christ's description of human faculties in this article here. This word is used to describe the human (as opposed to animal) motives for people's actions.

NIV Translation Issues: 

6

MW - Missing Word -- The word "because" is not shown in the English translation.

WW - Wrong Words -- The word translated as "entertain" should be "ponder" or more likely, "infer."

WV  - Wrong Voice - The verb is in the middle voice requiring the concept of "yourselves" as its object.

WW - Wrong Words -- The word translated as "evil" should be  "worthless."

IW - Inserted Word -- The word "thoughts" doesn't exist in the source.

MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" is not shown in the English translation.

Front Page Date: 

Aug 4 2020