Matthew 23:16 Woe unto you...Whosoever shall swear by the temple,

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

A long condemnation of the religious leaders of the time, now focusing on swearing oaths.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Sadly for you, blind guides, the ones saying: Who when he promises on the temple is nothing. Who, however, when he promises on the gold of the temple, he might swear in gold of the temple, he owes.

My Takeaway: 

People are blinded by gold.

KJV : 

Matthew 23:16 Woe unto you, you blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

NIV : 

Matthew 23:16 Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Again, the sense is that these attacks are primarily humorous, getting people to laugh at the scribes and Pharisees. So Jesus uses uncommon words with double meanings, here the meanings of
the "blind" and "gold". The "blind" are those lacking common sense, something Jesus accuses his opponents of using the analogy of "salt" in the Sermon on the Mount. "Gold" means "golden word," but the joke is that those who are blind can see the color gold.

I find myself wondering if swearing on the "gold of the temple" somehow implied giving gifts to the temple. My sense is generally that oaths were sealed by the giving of such gives, which the Pharisees supported.

In Matthew 5:34, Jesus makes his opinion of oath-taking clear, basically telling people at the Sermon not to do it. He has also used the term "blind guides" before as well in Matthew 15:1, describing his opponents as the blind leading the blind.

Wordplay: 

One joke here is that, despite being blind, Jesus's opponents care about what appears golden. Another is the idea of swearing on gold to become a debtor. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Οὐαί [27 verses](exclam) "Woe" is ouai, which is an exclamation of pain or anger meaning "woe" or "alas."

ὑμῖν [289 verses] (pron 2nd pl dat) "To you" is from hymin (humin), which is the 2nd person plural dative pronoun. Dative is the case which indicates to whom something is given. --

ὁδηγοὶ [3 verses](noun pl masc voc/nom) "Guides" is hodegos, which means "guide" and "pilot."

τυφλοὶ [15 verses](adj pl masc voc/nom) "Blind" is typhlos, which means "blind", "lacking vision of the future," [of things]"dim", "obscure", "dark," [of passages] "blind", "enclosed", "with no outlet," and is a metaphor for lacking sense."

οἱ [692 verses] (article pl masc nom)  "Which " is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

λέγοντες [264 verses](part pl pres act masc nom) "say" is lego, which means "to recount", "to tell over", "to say", "to speak", "to teach", "to mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," nominate," and "command." It has a secondary meaning "pick out," "choose for oneself", "pick up", "gather", "count," and "recount." A less common word that is spelt the same means "to lay", "to lay asleep" and "to lull asleep."

Ὃς (pron sg masc nom) "Whosoever" is from hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

ἂν [162 verses](conj) Untranslated is is ean, which is a conditional particle (derived from ei (if) and an (might), which makes reference to a time and experience in the future that introduces but does not determine an event.

ὀμόσῃ [7 verses] (verb 3rd sg aor subj act) "Swear" is from omnyo, which means "to swear to a thing", "to take an oath", "to promise one will", "give word of honor", "swear by," and "affirm or confirm by oath." This word appears 155 times in the Septuagint, translating the Hebrew word is שָׁבַע shaba.

ἐν [413 verses](prep)  "By" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with".

τῷ [692 verses] (article sg masc dat)  "Which " is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ναῷ, (5 verses] (noun sg masc dat) "The temple" is naos, which means "temple," "inmost part of a temple", "shrine," and "portable shrine carried in processions."

οὐδέν [69 verses](adj sg neut nom) "Nothing" is oudeis which means "no one", "not one", "nothing", "naught", "good for naught," and "no matter."

ἐστιν, [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 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

ὃς [294 verses](pron sg masc nom) "Whosoever" is from hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

δ᾽  [446 verses](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").

ἂν [162 verses](conj) Untranslated is is ean, which is a conditional particle (derived from ei (if) and an (might), which makes reference to a time and experience in the future that introduces but does not determine an event.

ὀμόσῃ  [7 verses] (verb 2nd sg fut/aor ind/sub mid) "Swear" is from omnyo, 2nd sg aor imperat mid) which means "to swear to a thing", "to take an oath", "to promise one will", "give word of honor", "swear by," and "affirm or confirm by oath."

ἐν [413 verses](prep) "By" 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."

τῷ [692 verses] (article sg masc dat)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

χρυσῷ [3 verses](noun sg masc dat) "Gold" is chrysos, which means "gold", "anything made of gold", "anything dear or precious," and "golden words."

τοῦ 692 verses] (article sg masc gen)  "Which " is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ναοῦ (5 verses] (noun sg masc gen) "The temple" is naos, which means "temple," "inmost part of a temple", "shrine," and "portable shrine carried in processions."

ὀφείλει: [5 verses](verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Debtor" is opheilo, which means "to owe", "to have to pay," "to account for," and, in the passive, "to be due," "to be bound", "to be obliged (to do)"

KJV Analysis: 

Woe  - "Woe" is from an exclamation of grief, meaning "woe" or "alas." Today we would say "sadly [for you]" or "boo-hoo to you." More about this phrase in this article on Christ's humor, under the subtitle, "exaggeration."

unto  -- This word "unto" 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.

you,  -- The Greek pronoun "you" here is plural and in the form of an indirect object, "to you", "for you", etc. 

you  - -- This is inserted to indicate the vocative form, that is, the form of address, of a noun. The noun, could also be just the subject of the sentence.

blind  - "Blind" is a word that means both physically and mentally blind. It also means all things that are obscure. It is also a metaphor for disabilities of the other senses.

guides,  - "Guides" is from a noun, which means "guide." It is in the form of a subject of the sentence and immediately follows the verb "to be."

which -- (CW) The word translated as "which" 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. 

say,  - (WF) The word translated as "which say" is the most common word that means "to say," and "to speak," but it also means "to teach," which seems to be the way Christ uses it more frequently. It is not an active verb, but a verb in the form of an adjective, introduced by an article, "the ones saying,"

Whosoever  - The word translated as "whosoever" is a demonstrative pronoun, ("this", "that,") but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause.

missing "when"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when".

shall -- (CW) This helping verb "shall" does not indicate the future tense, but that the verb describes a possibility, the subjunctive voice. A "might" or "should" in English is more appropriate, but is assumed in an "if" or "when" clause. Helping verbs are not needed in Greek since the main verb carries this information in its form. The "when" is untranslated here.

swear  - The word translated as "shall swear" means "to swear to a thing", "to promise," and "to take an oath." It is an uncommon word for Christ but doesn't have any double meanings. It is not in the future tense, but a form indicating something that might happen.

by  - The word translated as "by" also means "in," "within", "with," or "among." The sense is not usually like how we use "swearing on" something.

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. 

temple,  - The word translated as "temple" means "temple", "the inner room of the temple," and "shrine."

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

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. 

nothing;  - The Greek word translated as "nothing" also means "no one" and other negatives nouns.

but  - The Greek word translated as"but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

whosoever - The word translated as "whosoever" is a demonstrative pronoun, ("this", "that,") but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause.

missing "when"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when".

shall -- (CW) This helping verb "shall" does not indicate the future tense, but that the verb describes a possibility, the subjunctive voice. A "might" or "should" in English is more appropriate, but is assumed in an "if" or "when" clause. Helping verbs are not needed in Greek since the main verb carries this information in its form. The "when" is untranslated here.

swear  - The word translated as "shall swear" means "to swear to a thing", "to promise," and "to take an oath." It is an uncommon word for Christ but doesn't have any double meanings. It is not in the future tense, but a form indicating something that might happen.

by - The word translated as "by" also means "in," "within", "with," or "among." The sense is not usually like how we use "swearing on" something.

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. 

gold  - The word translated as "gold" means "gold," anything made of gold, or anything precious for which gold is a metaphor. It also means "golden words," as we use the saying, "comic gold."The word translated as "gold" means "gold," anything made of gold, or anything precious for which gold is a metaphor. It also means "golden words," as we use the saying, "comic gold."

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession.

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. 

temple, - The word translated as "temple" means "temple", "the inner room of the temple," and "shrine."

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

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

a debtor!  - (WF) This is from a verb that means "to owe," "to be bound," "to be obligated," and "to have to pay." This verb is the punchline of the verse. The sense here is being bound, but the idea demonstrates how closely the idea of debtl obligation, and having to pay are connected.

KJV Translation Issues: 

8
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "which" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "say" is not an active verb but a participle, "saying."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "when" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "shall" does not mean the future tense.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "when" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "shall" does not mean the future tense.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "is" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "a dentor" is not a noun but a verb, "he is bound."

NIV Analysis: 

Woe  - "Woe" is from an exclamation of grief, meaning "woe" or "alas." Today we would say "sadly [for you]" or "boo-hoo to you." More about this phrase in this article on Christ's humor, under the subtitle, "exaggeration."

to  -- This word "unto" 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.

you,  -- The Greek pronoun "you" here is plural and in the form of an indirect object, "to you", "for you", etc.

blind  - "Blind" is a word that means both physically and mentally blind. It also means all things that are obscure. It is also a metaphor for disabilities of the other senses.

guides,  - "Guides" is from a noun, which means "guide." It is in the form of a subject of the sentence and immediately follows the verb "to be."

You -- (WW) The word translated as "which" 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. 

say,  - (WF) The word translated as "which say" is the most common word that means "to say," and "to speak," but it also means "to teach," which seems to be the way Christ uses it more frequently. It is not an active verb, but a verb in the form of an adjective, introduced by an article, "the ones saying."

If  -- (CW) The word means "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when".

anyone - (CW) The word translated as "anyone" is a demonstrative pronoun, ("this", "that,") but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause. It is not the word usually translated as "anyone."

swears  - The word translated as "swear" means "to swear to a thing", "to promise," and "to take an oath." It is an uncommon word for Christ but doesn't have any double meanings. It is not in the future tense, but a form indicating something that might happen.

by  - The word translated as "by" also means "in," "within", "with," or "among." The sense is not usually like how we use "swearing on" something.

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. 

temple,  - The word translated as "temple" means "temple", "the inner room of the temple," and "shrine."

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

means -- (WW) The verb "means" 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. 

nothing;  - The Greek word translated as "nothing" also means "no one" and other negatives nouns.

but  - The Greek word translated as"but" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

anyone - The word translated as "anyone " is a demonstrative pronoun, ("this", "that,") but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause.

missing "when"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when".

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

swears  - The word translated as "swear" means "to swear to a thing", "to promise," and "to take an oath." It is an uncommon word for Christ but doesn't have any double meanings. It is not in the future tense, but a form indicating something that might happen.

by - The word translated as "by" also means "in," "within", "with," or "among." The sense is not usually like how we use "swearing on" something.

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. 

gold  - The word translated as "gold" means "gold," anything made of gold, or anything precious for which gold is a metaphor. It also means "golden words," as we use the saying, "comic gold."The word translated as "gold" means "gold," anything made of gold, or anything precious for which gold is a metaphor. It also means "golden words," as we use the saying, "comic gold."

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession.

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. 

temple, - The word translated as "temple" means "temple", "the inner room of the temple," and "shrine."

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

is -- This helping verb indicates the present tense of the verb.

a debtor!  - (WF) This is from a verb that means "to owe," "to be bound," "to be obligated," and "to have to pay." This verb is the punchline of the verse. The sense here is being bound, but the idea demonstrates how closely the idea of debtl obligation, and having to pay are connected.

NIV Translation Issues: 

7
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "you" should be "the ones."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "say" is not an active verb but a participle, "saying."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "if" is not the common word usually translated as "if."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "anyone" is not the common word usually translated as "anyone."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "means" should be "is."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "shall" does not mean the future tense.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "a debtor" is not a noun but a verb, "he is bound."

Front Page Date: 

Aug 7 2021