Matthew 21:30  And he came to the second, and said likewise

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

In a lesson about authority, after opponents question his authority, Jesus tells a story of a father with two sons to set up a question about authority.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

So, approaching the second, he said this the same. That one, however, answering, proclaimed, "I don't want to!" Afterward, being made to feel regret, he departed.

My Takeaway: 

Some people see obedience as being told what they want to hear.

KJV : 

Matthew 21:30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

NIV : 

Matthew 21:30 Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Again, the humor here is edited out. The word translated as "came/went" is a special word for people approaching someone in a superior position, which is how Jesus always uses it except in this story. The idea is that the sons, even the second son, saw themselves as better than their father.

In the Greek, the son does not say "I go" or "I will." He simply says "I" in the form of a subject, followed by the word for "master" or "lord." When a Greek subject appears without a verb, the verb "to be" is assumed, so the sense of what he said is "I am, master," which certainly gives the sense of agreement. Why does he speak this way? Because he is not lying as he would be if he said "I go" or "I will." This allows Jesus's opponents to see his answer as the best. He did not lie and he did not deny his father's will.

By switching the two son's responses, (see note below) the punchline of Jesus's story is messed up. Since this change happened in the Vulgate, the humor of Jesus's saying was already being lost by the fourth century. The son's response the Bible puts here is clearly the setup line, not the punch line. In Jesus's version, the son says he will do it, calling him "master," which makes his father happy. But then he doesn't do it, something the son doesn't expect his father to discover and doesn't in the story. The punchline is that the "second" or worse son denies his father and doesn't honor him as "master," making him mad. But this was probably an honest response, what the second son thought he would do, considering the first son's behavior. But then Jesus switches it around, and here, the son changes his mind, doing what is right, after making his father mad. The response that would have appeased his father is the one that Jesus's critics proclaim as the right one (in the next verse), making it clear that they thought words were more valuable than deeds.

This change in responses between the first son to the second (see note below and Greek translation) goes back to the Latin Vulgate. This is because Jesus's opponents say that the first son is the more virtuous in Matthew 21:31. This seemed like a "mistake" on the part of Gospel writers, but I suggest that Jesus's opponents really did see the son that answered correctly as the one who did his father's will, that is, telling him what he wanted to hear and doing so cleverly, without lying.

NOTE: The sources used by Biblical translators differ in this verse from my source. So I in this post I first translated the Greek source I use, then I translate the Greek used by Biblical translators (the son's response in the next verse).  My Greek source shows the first son giving a positive response but negative action and the negative response and positive action in the following verse about the second son. In my analysis of the Biblical translations, I will compare with the Greek in the next verse.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

προσελθὼν [6 verses](part sg aor act masc nom) "He came" is proserchomai, which means "come", "go to", "approach", "draw nigh," in hostile sense, "attack", "come in", "surrender", "capitulate", "come forward to speak", "appear before a tribunal or official", "apply oneself to," of things, "to be added", "come in (of revenue)" and "have sexual intercourse."

δὲ (conj) "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").

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

δευτέρῳ [5 verses](adj sg masc dat) "To the second" is deuteros, which means "second", "next", "second of two," and "later."

εἶπεν [162 verses] (verb 3rd sg aor ind) "Said" 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."

ὡσαύτως: [5 verses](adv)"Likewise' is hōsautōs, which an adverb that means "in like manner," and "just so." It is literally "this the same."

(article sg masc nom) "He" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun but here is separated from its noun by the following conjunction.

δὲ (conj) "Untranslated" is 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"). --

ἀποκριθεὶς [17 verses](part sg aor pass masc nom) "Answered" is apokrinomai that means to "set apart," "choose", "exclude," "reject on examination", "decide", "answer" the question, "answer charges," and "defend oneself" and, in the passive, "to be parted or separated." In the Gospels, it is always translated as "answered."

εἶπεν [162 verses](verb 3rd sg aor ind) "Said" 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."

The Biblical Version mGNT:

Ἐγώ,[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. -- The pronoun "I" is used here. Since, as the subject of the sentence, it is part of the verb, its explicit use accentuates who is speaking "I." Saying "I myself" captures this feeling in English.

κύριε: [92 verses](noun sg masc/fem voc) "Lord" is kyrios (kurios), which means "having power", "being in authority" and "being in possession of." It also means "lord", "master of the house," and "head of the family."

καὶ (conj/adv) "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."

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.

ἀπῆλθεν. [22 verses] (verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "Went" is aperchomai, which means "to go away," "to depart from", "to spread abroad," and "to depart from life."

The Perseus Version mGNT:

Οὐ (partic) "No" 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.

θέλω: [64 verses](verb 1st sg pres ind act) "I will" is from thelô (thelo), which as a verb means "to be willing", "to wish", "to ordain", "to decree", "to be resolved to a purpose" and "to desire." As an adjective, it means "wished for" and "desired."

ὕστερον [5 verses](adj sg masc acc) "Afterwards" is hysteros (husteros), which means "latter", "last", "coming after", "after" (in Time), "posterior", "inferior", and "extremely."

μεταμεληθεὶς [1 verse of 2](participle, passive, aor) "Repent" is metamellomai, which means "to feel repentance", "to repent a thing", "to change one's purpose or conduct," and "to feel regret." Since this is a passive participle, "being made to feel regret."

ἀπῆλθεν. [22 verses](verb 3rd sg aor ind act) "He went" is aperchomai, which means "to go away," "to depart from", "to spread abroad," and "to depart from life."

KJV Analysis: 

And  - (WW) The Greek word translated as "and" but it is usually translated as "but." However, in explaining the cause, as it does here, it is translated as "so."

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

came  - (CW, WF) The word translated as "came" is the first bit of humor. It is not the common word for "come," but a special form of the word that has the sense of "coming forward" and "approach" but it is typically used for an inferior approaching a superior, which suggests that the son considered himself superior. This is a verb in the form of an adjective, "approaching."

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.

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

second,  - The word translated as "second"  means "second", "next", "second of two," and "later."

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

said, - "Said" is from the Greek verb that means "to say" and "to speak" but, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and talking that the others common word for "to speak."

likewise.  - The adverb translated as "likewise" means "in like manner," and "just so." It is literally "this the same." There is a more common way of saying "likewise", but Jesus seems to use this one to emphasize repeated actions so it is used here to describe a repeated line. 

And (WW) The Greek word translated as "and" but it is usually translated as "but." However, in explaining the cause, as it does here, it is translated as "so."

he -- (WW) The word translated as "he" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

answered  - (WF)  "Answered" is from a verb that means to "set apart," "choose", "answer" a question, "answer charges," and "defend oneself." In the passive, it means "to be parted or separated." In the Gospels, it is always translated as "answered." However, in the passive but our English word "answer" doesn't quite work that way this word does. It is in the form of an adjective, a particle, "answering."

and -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "and" in the Greek source. It was added because the previous verb was translated as active rather than a participle.

said, "Said" is from a verb that means "to say" and "to speak" also. However, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and proclaiming.

I -- The pronoun "I" is used here. It is in the form of a subject without a verb so it implies the verb "to be" or "I am."

go, -- (WW) There is no verb   here in the Greek. However, when nouns, pronouns or adjectives appear in the form of a subject without a verb, the verb "to be" is implied. However, "go" cannot be assumed.

sir: -- (CW) The word translated as "sir" is the same word that is often translated as "Lord" or "the Lord" in the NT. It also means "lord", "master of the house," and "head of the family."  The use of this word is what indicates that child agrees.

and  - - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

went. -- (CW) "Went" is from a verb that means "to go away," and "to depart from." It is not the past tense of the word "to go."

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.

KJV Translation Issues: 

10
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "and" should be "but."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "came" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "came" is not an active verb but a participle, "approaching."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "and" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "he" should be "the one."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "answered" is not an active verb but a participle, "answering."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "and" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "go" should be "am."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "sir" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "went" is not the same as the word usually translated as "go."

NIV Analysis: 

Then - (WW) The Greek word translated as "then" but it is usually translated as "but." However, in explaining the cause, as it does here, it is translated as "so."

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

went - (WW, WF) The word translated as "went " is the first bit of humor. It is not the common word for "come," but a special form of the word that has the sense of "coming forward" and "approach" but it is typically used for an inferior approaching a superior, which suggests that the son considered himself superior. This is a verb in the form of an adjective, "approaching."

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.

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

other,  - (WW) The word translated as "second"  means "second", "next", "second of two," and "later." This is not the word for "other."

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

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

said, - "Said" is from the Greek verb that means "to say" and "to speak" but, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and talking that the others common word for "to speak."

the same thing.  - The adverb translated as "the same thing" means "in like manner," and "just so." It is literally "this the same." There is a more common way of saying "likewise", but Jesus seems to use this one to emphasize repeated actions so it is used here to describe a repeated line. 

He -- (WW) The word translated as "he" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") than the English "the." See this article for more.

missing "however"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "however" means "but", "however", and "on the other hand". It joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.  It also an explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

answered  - (WF)  "Answered" is from a verb that means to "set apart," "choose", "answer" a question, "answer charges," and "defend oneself." In the passive, it means "to be parted or separated." In the Gospels, it is always translated as "answered." However, in the passive but our English word "answer" doesn't quite work that way this word does. It is in the form of an adjective, a particle, "answering."

missing "said"  -- (MW) The untranslated word"Said" is from a verb that means "to say" and "to speak" also. However, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and proclaiming.

I -- The pronoun "I" is used here. It is in the form of a subject without a verb so it implies the verb "to be" or "I am."

will, - (WW) There is no verb here in the Greek. However, when nouns, pronouns or adjectives appear in the form of a subject without a verb, the verb "to be" is implied. This will should be an "am."

sir: -- (CW) The word translated as "sir" is the same word that is often translated as "Lord" or "the Lord" in the NT. It also means "lord", "master of the house," and "head of the family."  The use of this word is what indicates that child agrees.

but - - (WW) The Greek word translated as "but " is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

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

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

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.

go. -- (CW) "Go" is from a verb that means "to go away," and "to depart from." It is not the past tense of the word "to go."

NIV Translation Issues: 

15
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "then" should be "but."
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "the father" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "went" should be "approaching."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "went" is not an active verb but a participle, "approaching."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "other" should be "second."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "son" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "and" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "he" should be "the one."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "however" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "answered" is not an active verb but a participle, "answering."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "said" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "will" should be "am."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "but" should be "and."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "sir" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The word translated as "go" is not the same as the word usually translated as "go."

Front Page Date: 

Jun 12 2021