Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law

Spoken to: 

The Pharisees

Context: 

Pharisee asks what the greatest commandment is.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Within these, the two commandments, the entire law is hung and prophets.

My Takeaway: 

All laws are dangling from two basic ideas.

KJV : 

Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

NIV : 

Matthew 22:40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

If the word "hang" seems odd here, it is because it was chosen to be surprising. Jesus seemingly makes the point that from these two commandments, we get all of the rest of the law, but that is not what he says. There is a joke here that is hidden by the form of the "hang" verb. The joke has two prongs, 1) that these two commands are bigger than the law, and 2) the law holds or pins them down. The only other time Jesus uses this verb is to talk about a millstone hung around someone neck, dragging them into the sea.

Wordplay: 

The law "hangs itself" when it is judged by these two commands. They are larger than the law since the law fits within them, leaving enough room for the prophets. The law is "wholly taken up" that is, completely focused on them. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ἐν (prep)"On" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with". -- The word translated as "in" also means "within", "with," or "among."

ταύταις [96 verses](adj pl fem dat) "These " is from tauta, which is a referring pronoun meaning "these", "this", "that," and "here." It can mean the nearer or the further depending on usage. As an adverb it can mean "therefore" and "that is why."

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

δυσὶν [36 verses](noun sg fem acc) "Two" is duo, which means the number "two", "a couple," and "a pair." -- The Greek word for "two" means "two" or a "couple."

ἐντολαῖς [23 verses](noun sg fem acc) "Commandments" is entole which means "injunction", "order," and "command."

ὅλος [23 verses](adj sg masc nom) "All" is holos, which means "the whole", "entire", "complete", "complete in all its parts", "wholly", "altogether", "on the whole", "speaking generally", "utter," "actually", "really, "the universe," and "safe and sound."

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

νόμος [16 verses](noun sg masc nom) "Law" is nomos, which means "anything assigned", "a usage", "custom", "law", "ordinance," or "that which is a habitual practice." It is the basis of the English words "norm" and "normal."

κρέμαται [2 verses](verb 3rd sg pres ind mp) "Hang" is from kremannymi, which means to "hang up", "hang", "crucify", "hang over," and, in the passive, "to be hung up", "to be hanged", "suspended," "to be wholly taken up with," and, metaphorically, "to be in suspense."

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."

οἱπροφῆται. [37 verses](noun pl masc nom) "The prophets" is prophetes, which means "one who speaks for a god and interprets his will", "interpreter", "keepers of the oracle", "the highest level of priesthood in Egypt", "interpreter," and "herald."

KJV Analysis: 

On  - (WW) The word translated as "on" means "in", "within", "with," or "among." "On" is chosen because it seems to work better with the word "hang." However, the preposition choice indicates that these two commands are so large that all of the law fits within them.

these  - The "these" is from an adjective that acts as a pronoun and can mean "this" or "that," the nearer or the further depending on usage. It is not typically used as an adjective and its position in the sentence makes it stand alone. It is usually translated as "these things."

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. 

two  - The Greek word for "two" means "two" or a "couple."

commandments  - 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. It is introduced by an article, so "the two commands."

hang  - (WF)  "Hang" is from a verb that mean "to hang" and, in the passive, "to be hanged." Interestingly, it also has a little of the sense we used in phrases such as to be "hung up" on something as in to be "wholly taken up with it." Christ uses it only one other place so far in Matthew, Matthew 18:6, to describe a millstone "hung" around someone's neck. It is either in the passive voice or in the voice where the subject acts on itself, "the law hangs itself."

all  - (CW) The word translated as "all" means something that is "complete" or "the whole" of something, and can mean "the whole universe" as well as being "safe and sound" in being kept "whole." Another word is Greek is usually translated as "all." Its use points to the "wholly taken up with" meaning of "hang."

the   -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

law  - The Greek word translated as "law" describes the social norms, which can be from "tradition", "common practice," or the "laws." Christ also uses it to refer to the first five books of the OT written by Moses. This is the subject of the sentence and appears before the verb.

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".

the  -  There is no "the" in the source but we would normally add a definite article before a plural verb.

prophets -- The Greek word translated as "prophets" means "one who speaks for God", "interpreter" and was the highest level of priesthood in Egypt. Christ uses it to refer not only to divine spokepeople, but their books in the OT. This appears after the verb as an add-on, perhaps a punch line. The lack of an article may indicate that Jesus was referring to the books of the prophets, not the men themselves.

KJV Translation Issues: 

4
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "on" should be "in."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "two" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "hang" is not an active verb but a passive one, "are hung."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "all" is not the common word usually translated as "all."

NIV Analysis: 

All - (CW) The word translated as "all" means something that is "complete" or "the whole" of something, and can mean "the whole universe" as well as being "safe and sound" in being kept "whole." Another word is Greek is usually translated as "all." Its

the   -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

Law - The Greek word translated as "law" describes the social norms, which can be from "tradition", "common practice," or the "laws." Christ also uses it to refer to the first five books of the OT written by Moses. This is the subject of the sentence and appears before the verb.

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".

the  -  There is no "the" in the source but we would normally add a definite article before a plural verb.

Prophets -- The Greek word translated as "prophets" means "one who speaks for God", "interpreter" and was the highest level of priesthood in Egypt. Christ uses it to refer not only to divine spokepeople, but their books in the OT. This appears after the verb as an add-on, perhaps a punch line. The lack of an article may indicate that Jesus was referring to the books of the prophets, not the men themselves.

hang  - (WF)  "Hang" is from a verb that mean "to hang" and, in the passive, "to be hanged." Interestingly, it also has a little of the sense we used in phrases such as to be "hung up" on something as in to be "wholly taken up with it." Christ uses it only one other place so far in Matthew, Matthew 18:6, to describe a millstone "hung" around someone's neck. It is either in the passive voice or in the voice where the subject acts on itself, "the law hangs itself."

on - (WW) The word translated as "on" means "in", "within", "with," or "among." "On" is chosen because it seems to work better with the word "hang." However, the preposition choice indicates that these two commands are so large that all of the law fits within them.

these  - The "these" is from an adjective that acts as a pronoun and can mean "this" or "that," the nearer or the further depending on usage. It is not typically used as an adjective and its position in the sentence makes it stand alone. It is usually translated as "these things."

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. 

two  - The Greek word for "two" means "two" or a "couple."

commandments  - 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. It is introduced by an article, so "the two commands."

NIV Translation Issues: 

4
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "all" is not the common word usually translated as "all."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "hang" is not an active verb but a passive one, "are hung."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "on" should be "in."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "two" is not shown in the English translation.

Front Page Date: 

Jul 19 2021