Matthew 23:19 Fools and blind... greater, the gift, or the altar

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

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

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

You blind yourselves. Because? Because how the gift better than the altar? The one purifying that gift ?

KJV : 

Matthew 23:19 Fools and blind: for whether [is] greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift?

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The adjective that begins this verse could also be a verb. The form is the second person in the middle voice, having the sense of "you make yourself blind." This is a little more interesting than the name-calling that the Bible translates this as.

The word translated as "sanctify" and "make holy" has the sense of "purifying" something, setting it apart for the worship of the Divine. Purification rituals always involved some form of cleansing, with water or, on an altar, with fire. The "gift" here was burnt on an altar, but some of it was consumed.

NIV : 

Matthew 23:19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?

My Takeaway: 

We make ourselves blind when looking

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

τυφλοί, [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." OR (verb 2nd sg pres ind mp) "Blind" is from typhloo, which means to "blind," "make blind", "baffle", "make a passage blind," and "stop up."

τί [252 verses](pron sg neut acc) "Whether" 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."

γὰρ [205 verses](partic) "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question it means "why" and "what."

μεῖζον [22 verses](adj sg masc nom comp) "Greater" is from meizon which means "bigger", "higher", "longer," and "greater" and is the comparative form of megas, which means "big" and "great." The superlative form "greatest" is megistos, μέγιστος.

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

δῶρον [8 verses](noun sg neut nom) "Gift" is 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."

(conj/adv) "Or" is e which is a particle meaning "either", "or," or "than."

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

θυσιαστήριον  [7 verses] (noun sg neut nom) "The altar" is thysiastērion , which means "altar."

τὸ [692 verses](article sg neut nom)  "That" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἁγιάζον (part sg aor act masc nom) "that sanctifieth" is from is hagiazo, which means "to separate from profane things and dedicate to God", "to dedicate people to God", "to purify," and "to cleanse externally or internally." This may be a special form of hagizo which means "to hallow", "to dedicate," and "to make sacred," commonly by burning a sacrifice. It may also be a verb from of the noun hagos, which means "a thing that creates awe."

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

δῶρον; [8 verses](noun sg neut acc) "Gift" is 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."

KJV Analysis: 

Fools and -- (OS) There is nothing in the Greek that can be translated as "fools and" in the source we use today but it does exist in the source that the KJV translators used.

blind:  - "Blind" is a word that means both physically and mentally blind. Its form could also be the adjective "blind," or a verb, meaning "you blind yourselves." The latter seems more likely because in the earlier parallel verse, Matthew 23:16, the Greek for "fools" could only be a verb.

for  - The word translated as "for" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, to prevent a run-on sentence, translated as a "this is because..." to start a new sentence.

whether  - (WW) The Greek word translated as "whether" in the singular means "anyone", "someone," and "anything," but in a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

is  - There is no "is" here as there was in the parallel verse of Matthew 23:17. It is implied by the equating of "which," "greater," and "gift," all in the Greek form of a subject.

greater,  - "Greater" is an adjective which is the comparative form of the word meaning "big" or "great." It means "bigger", "higher", "longer", "greater" and simply, "superior." When it is introduced by an article, it means "the greater." It is not the superlative form.

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" but 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.

or  - (CW) "Or" is translated from a Greek word that means "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison. Here, the use of the comparative, "greater" would cause it to be heard as "than" rather than "or."

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 front of a church in Christ's time. It was a grill with a fire under it for burning sacrifices.

that -- 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. 

sanctifieth -- (WF) The Greek verb translated as "sanctifieth" is difficult because it is not the standard Greek verb but one that Jesus uses. It is perhaps, an unusual form of another Greek verb meaning "to dedicate to God" and "to sanctify" usually by burning an offering. It may also be a verb form of a Greek noun, meaning "a thing that creates awe." In a good sense, this can mean holy or sacred, but it also means accursed. Another way to think about this word is that it describes something set apart only for God. Jesus uses this word to describe the name, "our Father in the skies," in the Lord's Prayer. It is in the noun form of a verb, "which sets it apart for God." The form is that of a participle, "sanctifying."

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" but 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.

KJV Translation Issues: 

3
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "whether" should be "what."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "or" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "sanctifieth" is not an active verb but a participle, "purifying."

NIV Analysis: 

You  - - This is from the possible vocative form of the noun, naming the person being talked to.

blind:  - "Blind" is a word that means both physically and mentally blind. Its form could also be the adjective "blind," or a verb, meaning "you blind yourselves." The latter seems more likely because in the earlier parallel verse, Matthew 23:16, the Greek for "fools" could only be a verb.

men! - (CW) This can be justified by the masculine gender of the adjective above. However, making an adjective into a noun usually involves adding a definite article before it. It is not the Greek word for "men."

missing "because"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "because" introduces a reason or explanation so "because" and, in questions, "why." However, since this word always appears in the second position, it is more like an aside remark like, "consequently" or "as a cause". 

Which - The Greek word translated as "which" in the singular means "anyone", "someone," and "anything," but in a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what.

is  - There is no "is" here as there was in the parallel verse of Matthew 23:17. It is implied by the equating of "which," "greater," and "gift," all in the Greek form of a subject.

greater,  - "Greater" is an adjective which is the comparative form of the word meaning "big" or "great." It means "bigger", "higher", "longer", "greater" and simply, "superior." When it is introduced by an article, it means "the greater." It is not the superlative form.

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" but 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.

or  - (CW) "Or" is translated from a Greek word that means "or" but serves as "than" in a comparison. Here, the use of the comparative, "greater" would cause it to be heard as "than" rather than "or."

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 front of a church in Christ's time. It was a grill with a fire under it for burning sacrifices.

that -- 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. 

makes -- (WF) The Greek verb translated as "makes sacred" is difficult because it is not the standard Greek verb, but one that Jesus uses. It is perhaps, an unusual form of another Greek verb meaning "to dedicate to God" and "to sanctify" usually by burning an offering. It may also be a verb form of a Greek noun, meaning "a thing that creates awe." In a good sense, this can mean holy or sacred, but it also means accursed. Another way to think about this word is that it describes something set apart only for God. Jesus uses this word to describe the name, "our Father in the skies," in the Lord's Prayer. It is in the noun form of a verb, "which sets it apart for God."

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" but 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.

Christ to use.

sacred - This word completes the sense of the verb.

  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "men" is not the common word usually translated as "men."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "because" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "or" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "makes...holy" is not an active verb but a participle, "purifying."

The Spoken Version: 

"You are all blinding yourself," he continued, convering his eyes again.

"Because?" he asked. "How?"

Then he held out his hand signifying the gift. "The gift..."

"Better than the altar," he said, holding out his other hand representing the temple.

Then he again balanced one hand against the other as he did before.

"When the temple," he said, shaking the hand representing the temple. "Makes the gift holy."

The hand represented that temple fell and the one reprenting the gift rose, showing the final balance of the scale, as he said the word "holy."

The crowd laughed and offered a scattering of applause.

Front Page Date: 

Aug 10 2021