Matthew 20:2 And when he had agreed with the labourers...

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

A parable about the realm of the skies.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Agreeing, however, with the workmen on a silver a day, he sent them into that vineyard of his.

My Takeaway: 

We can agree on what is fair.

KJV : 

Matthew 20:2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

NIV : 

Matthew 20:2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

As part of a parable, the verse is straightforward with no real wordplay. The main point here is that people are free to agree about what is fair. Here, the price, "a penny a day" is based on an outdated translation. The actual amount is the fair daily pay for a worker at the time.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

συμφωνήσας [2 verses](part sg aor act masc nom) "When he had agreed" is sumphoneo, which means "to sound together." It means "to make an agreement or bargain" and it is a is a metaphor for harmonizing.

δὲ (conj) "And" 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").

μετὰ (conj) "With" is from meta, which means "in the midst of," "among," "between," "in common," "along with," "by the aid of," "in one's dealings with," "into the middle of," "coming into," "in pursuit of," "after," "behind," "according to," and "next afterward"

τῶν (article pl masc gen)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἐργατῶν (noun pl masc gen) "Labourers" is from ergates, which means "workman," "one who works the soil," "husbandman," "hard-working," "strenuous," "one who practices an art," "practitioner," "doer," and "producer."

ἐκ (prep) "For" is from ek, which means 1) [of motion] "out of," "from," "by," "away from;" 2) [of place] "beyond," "outside of," "beyond;" 3) [of succession] "after," "from;" 4) [of rest] "on," "in," 5) [of time] "since," "from," "at," "in;" 5) [of materials] "out of," "made from;" [of a cause] "by" "in accordance with," and "whereof."

δηναρίου [8 verses](noun sg neut gen) "Penny" is denarion, which was the principal silver coin of the Roman Empire in NT times.

τὴν (article sg fem acc)  "A" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἡμέραν [96 verses](noun sg fem acc) "Day" is hemera, which, as a noun, means "day" "a state or time of life," "a time (poetic)," "day break" and "day time." It is also and also has a second meaning, of "quiet," "tame (animals)," "cultivated (crops)," and "civilized (people)."

ἀπέστειλεν [60 verses](verb 3rd sg aor ind act "He sent" is apostello, which means "to send off," "to send away," or "to dispatch."

αὐτοὺς (adj pl masc acc) "Them" 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."

εἰς (prep) "Into" is from eis, which means "into (of place)," "up to (of time)," "until (of time)," "as much as (of measure or limit)," "as far as (of measure or limit)," "towards (to express relation)," "in regard to (to express relation)," "of an end or limit," and "for (of purpose or object)."

τὸν (article  sg masc acc)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

ἀμπελῶνα (noun sg masc acc) "V ineyard" is from ampelon which means simply "vineyard."

αὐτοῦ. (adj sg masc gen) "His" 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."

KJV Analysis: 

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

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

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

had -- (WT) This helping verb "had" indicates that the verb is the tense indicating an action completed in the past. This is not the tense of the verb here.

agreed - The word "agreed" is from a verb that means"to sound together." It means "to make an agreement or bargain" and it is a metaphor for harmonizing.

with - "With" is from a preposition that means "among," "between," "in common," "by the aid of," "in one's dealings with," "in pursuit of," "after," and "according to."

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") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

labourers  - "Labourers" is from a noun that means "workman," "one who practices an art," a "doer," and a "producer."

for  - (CW) The Greek preposition translated as "for" generally means "out of" or "from." It has a special use when applied to a cause or means where it means "by." This is the amount by which the agreement was made.

a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

penny  - (CW) "Penny" is from the Greek word for a denarius, which was a coin of silver, which had the purchasing power of about $70-$80 today (though comparisons are obviously not very meaningful). It was the standard wage for a day's labor by a general laborer, which for most of human history was an agricultural worker. To offer and agree to work for this wage would be considered the expected practice for hundreds of years around the birth of Christ in the Roman Empire.

a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

day, -- The Greek word translated as "day" also means "time," in general, and refers specifically to the "daytime."

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

sent  - The "sent" here is from a word that means "to send off" and "dispatch." It is the source of our word "apostle."

them  - The word translated as "them" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

into -- The word translated as "into" means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, "in regards to" a subject, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

his  - The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.  This pronoun follows the noun so "of his."

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. 

vineyard. -- The Greek word for "vineyard" only means "vineyard. "Into his vineyard" is the same phrase as we saw in the previous verse, Matthew 20:1. So this agreement was not only fair, but it was what was expected.

KJV Translation Issues: 

6
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "and" should be "but."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "when" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "had" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is something that happens at a specific point in time (past, present, or future).
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "for" is not the common word usually translated as "for."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "penny" is an amount more than that.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "vineyard" is not shown in the English translation.

NIV Analysis: 

missing "and"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "and" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.  

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

agreed - The word "agreed" is from a verb that means"to sound together." It means "to make an agreement or bargain" and it is a metaphor for harmonizing.

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

missing "with"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "among," "between," "in common," "by the aid of," "in one's dealings with," "in pursuit of," "after," and "according to."

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "these," "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

them - (WW) "Labourers" is from a noun that means "workman," "one who practices an art," a "doer," and a "producer."

missing "by"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "by" generally means "out of" or "from." It has a special use when applied to a cause or means where it means "by." This is the amount by which the agreement was made.

a -- There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

denarius -  "Denarius " is from the Greek word for a denarius, which was a coin of silver, which had the purchasing power of about $70-$80 today (though comparisons are obviously not very meaningful). It was the standard wage for a day's labor by a general laborer, which for most of human history was an agricultural worker. To offer and agree to work for this wage would be considered the expected practice for hundreds of years around the birth of Christ in the Roman Empire.

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

day, -- The Greek word translated as "day" also means "time," in general, and refers specifically to the "daytime."

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

sent  - The "sent" here is from a word that means "to send off" and "dispatch." It is the source of our word "apostle."

them  - The word translated as "them" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.

into -- The word translated as "into" means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, "in regards to" a subject, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

his  - The word translated as "his" is a Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English.  This pronoun follows the noun so "of his."

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. 

vineyard. -- The Greek word for "vineyard" only means "vineyard. "Into his vineyard" is the same phrase as we saw in the previous verse, Matthew 20:1. So this agreement was not only fair, but it was what was expected.

NIV Translation Issues: 

8
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "but" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "to pay" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "with" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "them" should be "laborers."
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "for the" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "and" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "vineyard" is not shown in the English translation.

Front Page Date: 

May 6 2021