Matthew 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.

Spoken to: 

The Pharisees

Context: 

Pharisee asks what the greatest commandment is.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

This is the great and first commandment.

My Takeaway: 

God is both great and first.

KJV : 

Matthew 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.

NIV : 

Matthew 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The adjectives used here have a lot of different meanings, It is interesting that Jesus does not use superlatives (greatest") or comparatives ("greater"), though the NIV version does and the KJV makes it sound that way. The Bible also reverses the order of the adjectives. The obvious thing is to say a word like "first" first but he doesn't. He says it "great" first because it is more entertaining to put the word "first" second.

Wordplay: 

Saying the word "first" second. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

αὕτη [137 verses](adj sg fem nom) "This" is houtos, which means "this", "that", "the nearer." As an adverb, it means "in this way", "therefore", "so much", "to such an extent," and "that is why."

ἐστὶν [614 verses](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.")

(article sg fem nom) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the")."

μεγάλη [47 verses](adj sg fem nom) "Great" is megas, which means "big", "full-grown", "vast", "high", "great", "mighty", "strong (of the elements)", "Loud" (of sounds), "over-great,(with a bad sense), "impressive" (of style), and "long" (of days).

καὶ [1089 verses](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."

πρώτη [41 verses](adj sg fem nom) "First" is protos. In place, this means "before", "in front," and, as a noun, "the foremost." Of time, it means "former", "earlier," and, as a noun, "the initial." In order, it means "the first." In math, it means prime numbers. Of rank or degree, it means "superior" or, as a noun, "the highest" or "the best."

ἐντολή[23 verses](noun sg fem nom) "Commandment" is from entole which means "injunction", "order," and "command."

KJV Analysis: 

This -- "This" is translated from a Greek word that means "this", "that", "the nearer."

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.

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"). See this article for more. 

first -- (OS) The word translated as "first" takes a lot of different types of "first" meanings from its context. Here, it is technically an adjective but it plays the role of the English adverb "initially." The gender of this adjective matches the gender of the word "commandment" so it clearly refers to it from the question Jesus was asked.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

great -The word translated as "great" means "big", "high" "great," and "impressive."

commandment. -- -- The word translated as "commandments" has the sense of a direct "order" or "command" given by someone as opposed to a body of law or tradition in society.

KJV Translation Issues: 

1

OS -- Outdated Source --- The word "greatest" doesn't appear here in current Greek but before the "and."

NIV Analysis: 

This -- "This" is translated from a Greek word that means "this", "that", "the nearer."

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.

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"). See this article for more. 

first -- The word translated as "first" takes a lot of different types of "first" meanings from its context. Here, it is technically an adjective but it plays the role of the English adverb "initially." The gender of this adjective matches the gender of the word "commandment" so it clearly refers to it from the question Jesus was asked.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

greatest - (WP, WF) The word translated as "great" means "big", "high" "great," and "impressive."

commandment. -- -- The word translated as "commandments" has the sense of a direct "order" or "command" given by someone as opposed to a body of law or tradition in society.

NIV Translation Issues: 

2
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The word "greatest" doesn't appear here but before the "and."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "greatest" is not the superlative but a regular adjective.

Front Page Date: 

Jul 17 2021