Matthew 20:15 Is it not lawful for me

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

A parable comparing the realm of the skies to hiring workers throughout the day.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

No? Isn't it allowed for me? What I want to accomplish with these things of mine? In truth, this view of yours is worthless because I myself am worthy.

My Takeaway: 

The wrong viewpoint can make anyone, even Jesus himself, seem worthless.

KJV : 

Matthew 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I want with mine own? Is your eye evil because I am good?

NIV : 

Matthew 20:15  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The word "eye" here takes on a meaning where we would use "view" or "viewpoint." This is much easier to understand than the KJV "evil eye" or the NIV which inserts the terms "envious" and "generous" out of nowhere. The words of Jesus here are more comprehensible if we translated them according to how he said them rather than trying to add our own perspective to them.

Both NIV and KJV (and most other Biblical translations) phrase the last clause as a question, but the word order doesn't follow the order Jesus usually uses to ask questions, which is much like English, puts the verbs early in the clause. Here, we can actually see that order in the first two clauses, but in the last two? Not at all. They look more like regular statements. We can add an "or" before the statement as the NIV does, but this word also can be translated as "surely," which fits better here. 

Wordplay: 

The use of "eye" to mean vision or sight" 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

οὐκ (partic) "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective.

ἔξεστίν [7 verses] (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Is it...lawful" is exesti, which means "to be allowed," "is possible," and, in the passive, "to be in one's power."

μοι (pron 1st sg masc dat) "Me" is from emoi, which is 1st person,singular dative pronoun meaning "me' as the indirect object of a verb

(pron sg neut acc) "What" is from hos, which means "this," "that," "he," "she," "which," "what," "who," "whosoever," "where," "for which reason," and many similar meanings. --

θέλω [64 verses](verb 1st sg pres ind act) "I will" is from thelo, which as a verb means "to be willing (of consent rather than desire)," "to wish," "to ordain," "to decree," "to be resolved to a purpose" "to maintain," "to hold," "to delight in, and "will (too express a future event)." As an adverb, "willingly," and "gladly." and "to desire." As an adjective, it means "wished for" and "desired." -- The Greek word translated as "will" is not the same as the helper verb "will" in English, which primarily expresses the future tense. Its primary purpose is to express consent and even a delight in doing something.

ποιῆσαι [168 verses](verb aor inf act) "To do" is from poieo, which means "to make," "to produce," "to create," "to bring into existence," "to bring about," "to cause," "to render," "to consider," "to prepare," "to make ready," and "to do." -- The Greek word translated as "to do" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service.

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

τοῖς (article pl neut dat) "Own" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one."

ἐμοῖς; (adj pl neut dat) "Mine" is from emoi, which is 1st person, singular dative pronoun meaning "me' as the indirect object of a verb.

(conj sg masc nom) Untranslated is e is a particle meaning "either," "or," or "than." -

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

ὀφθαλμός (noun sg masc nom) "Eye" is ophthalmos, which means "eye," "sight," "the dearest and best," "light," "cheer," "comfort," and "the bud [of a plant]."

σου (pron 2nd sg gen) "Thy" is from sou which means "you" and "your." -- The word translated as "thy" is the possessive form of the second person pronoun.

πονηρός [38 verses](adj sg masc nom) "Evil" is poneros, which means "burdened by toil," "useless," and "worthless." In a moral sense, it means "worthless," "base," and "cowardly."

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

ὅτι (adv/conj) "That" 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."

ἐγὼ [162 verses](pron 1st sg masc 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.

ἀγαθός [23 verses](adj sg masc nom) "Good" is agathos which means "good" and, when applied to people, "well-born," "gentle," "brave," and "capable." When applied to things, it means "serviceable," "morally good," and "beneficial."

εἰμι; (verb 1st sg pres ind act) "Is" is from eimi, which means "to be," "to exist," "to be the case," and "is possible."

KJV Analysis: 

Is  -- This helping verb is added to make this a question, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

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

not  - The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact.

lawful  - "Lawful" is from a verb that means "to be allowed," "is possible," and, in the passive, "to be in one's power." The word literally means "from being," in other words, from its very nature, rather than by the laws of society.

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.

me  - The "me" is in the dative, which has a number of uses in Greek. It is usually an indirect object "to me" but it can mean "for one's benefit."

to -- This "to" is added because the infinitive form of the verb requires a "to" in English.

do  - "To do" is from verb which has two general meanings of "make," and "do" and this verse combines both meanings. No English word has quite the same two ideas. The same word is translated in Matthew 20:12 (two verses prior) as "wrought" and "made." Both In the sense of "make" this word means "to produce," "to bring into existence," "to bring about," and "to cause." In the sense of "to do," it means "to act" and "to be effective." It is usually translated as "do" in the Gospels, but both examples here are its primary meaning.

what  - The word translated as "what" is a demonstrative pronoun, but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause.

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

want  - The Greek word translated as "want" is not the same as the helper verb "will" in English, which usually expresses the future tense. Its primary purpose is to express consent and even delight in doing something. We saw it used in the previous verse Matthew 20:14.

with  - -- The word translated as "in" means "in," "within," "with," "during" (time),  or "among"  with a dative object as the one here. 

mine --  "My" is the regular first-person pronoun in Greek in the possessive form, so "my" or "of me." This pronoun follows the noun so "of mine."

own? -- (WW) The word translated as "own" is the Greek definite article, which when not preceding a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." However, here the gender is "neutral," so the idea is "these things." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those"). See this article for more. 

missing "if"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "if" is in the source used by the KJV translators, but in our current source, the missing word is "or," but the same word could also be the exclamation "hi" or the adverb meaning "in truth."

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. 

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."

missing "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. 

eye  - The word translated as "eye," also means "sight," "the dearest and best," "light," "cheer," "comfort," and "the bud [of a plant]." Jesus often uses it to mean a person's "sight" as in their ability to understand what they see. In English, the idea is "view" or "viewpoint."

evil  - The word translated as "evil" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This article explores it meaning in more detail. It is an adjective, but when used as a noun, therefore, "what is worthless."

because  - The word translated as "because" is 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."

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

am -- 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. 

good?  - The adjective translated as "good" means "useful," "worthwhile," and "of high quality. See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil.

NIV Analysis: 

Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

Front Page Date: 

May 19 2021