Matthew 23:18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing;

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

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

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

And who when he promises at the altar is nothing; who, however, when he promises on the offering the one on top of it, he owes.

KJV : 

Matthew 23:18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever swears by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Again, the sense of these attacks is primarily humorous, getting people to laugh at the scribes and Pharisees. The humor here is partly repetition, of the words in Matthew 23:16, and partly the new images and double meanings changing those words. A lot of the images are lost in translation because the keywords, "altar" and "gift" don't mean today what they did in Jesus's time.  The word "gift" means an "offering," a "burnt offering" in the context of an altar, which was not a table, as we think of it today, but a grill.

The word translated as "upon" means "on top of" but it also means "superior to." This "superior to" idea reflects both the comparison of the offering to the altar and the comparison of different offerings, going back to Cain and Able.

NIV : 

Matthew 23:18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’

Wordplay: 

The word "gift" means an "offering," a "burnt offering" in the context of an altar, which was a grill.

The word translated as "upon" means "on top of" but it also means "superior to."

My Takeaway: 

Some cooking is just divine.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

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."

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.

ἂν [162 verses](conj) Untranslated 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 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."

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

θυσιαστηρίῳ,  [7 verses] (noun sg masc dat) "Altar" is thysiastērion , which means "altar."

οὐδέν [69 verses](adj sg neut nom) "Nothing" is from 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 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.i

ὀμόσῃ [7 verses] (verb 3rd sg aor subj act) "Swears" is 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".

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

δώρῳ (noun sg neut dat) "Gift" is from dôron (doron) which means "gift", "present," and specifically a "votive gift" or "offering" to a god. The simpler term without the sense of a votive offering is "dorea."

τῷ (pron neut sg dat) "That is" is from tis which can mean "someone", "any one", "everyone", "they [indefinite]", "many a one", "whoever", "anyone", "anything", "some sort", "some sort of", "each", "any", "the individual", "such," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

ἐπάνω [8 verses] (prep/adv) "Upon" is epano, which is an adverb meaning "above", "on the upper side", "superior to," "[former] times", "more [of numbers]", "in front of," and "in the presence of."

αὐτοῦ (adj masc/neut gen) "It" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

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: 

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

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 "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. 

altar,  - The word for "altar" means "altar" but an altar wasn't a table in Jesus's time. It was a grill with a fire under it for burning sacrifices.

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. 

gift  - The word translated as "gift" means "gift," or "offering," In the context of an altar, it has the special meaning of an offering to the gods. These gifts were "burnt" offerings, offerings that were burnt upon the grill that was the altar.

that -- The word translated as "that" 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. 

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

upon -- (CW) The word "upon" is from a preposition meaning both "above," "on the upper part of," and "in front of." It also means "superior to." Jesus only uses this word eight times. It is not the common word translated as "upon,"

it,  - -- The word translated as "it" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.  It is the genitive form, "of it," required by the preposition, making it mean "superior to." 

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

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

guilty.  - (WW) "Guilty" is from a verb that means "to owe," and "to have to pay." The form of this verb means "he owes." There is not verb "is" or "debtor" here.

KJV Translation Issues: 

7
  • 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 "he" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "upon" is not the common word usually translated as "upon."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "guilty" should be "owes."

NIV Analysis: 

You also say, -- (IP) There is nothing that can be translated as "you also say" in the Greek source.

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

‘If -- (CW) The "if means "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when". It is not the common word meaning "if."

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. This is not the common 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. 

altar,  - The word for "altar" means "altar" but an altar wasn't a table in Jesus's time. It was a grill with a fire under it for burning sacrifices.

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 - (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. This is not the common word usually translated as "anyone."

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

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".

swears  - 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. 

gift  - The word translated as "gift" means "gift," or "offering," In the context of an altar, it has the special meaning of an offering to the gods. These gifts were "burnt" offerings, offerings that were burnt upon the grill that was the altar.

missing "the one"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "the one" 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.

on -- (CW) The word "on" is from a preposition meaning both "above," "on the upper part of," and "in front of." It also means "superior to." Jesus only uses this word eight times. It is not the common word translated as "upon,"

on   - -- The word translated as "it" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.  It is the genitive form, "of it," required by the preposition, making it mean "superior to." 

the altar --(WW)  This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb. It should be "it."

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

bound   - "Bound" is from a verb that means "to owe," and "to have to pay." The form of this verb means "he owes." It also means binding or obligating yourself.

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

NIV Translation Issues: 

11
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "you also say" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "and" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "if" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "anyone" is not the common word usually translated as "anyone."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The  second "anyone" is not the common word usually translated as "anyone."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "who" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "when" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the one" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "by that oath" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "on" is not the common word usually translated as "on."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "the altar"should be "it."

The Spoken Version: 

"And," he continued, switching back into the funny voice mimicking his accusers. "Anyone who might make promises on the temple is a nothing."

He repeated the blind swipe of his arms indicating the crowd as he said "nothing." The crowd laughed again.

"But whoever promises on the offering on it," he continued, drawing out the word gift and sniffing as if smelling something good cooking and licking his lips.

The crowd laughed again.

Then he struck a pose as if deciding something profound, "He has to pay."

The crowd laughed.

Front Page Date: 

Aug 9 2021