Matthew 21:13 It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer;

Spoken to: 

group

Context: 

After tipping over the tables of money changers and dove sellers.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

It has been written, "This household of mine a household of prayer will be named. You yourselves, however, it you made a cave of pirates.

My Takeaway: 

People are strongly tempted to use religion to make money.

KJV : 

Matthew 21:13 It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

NIV : 

Matthew 21:13 It is written,  ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Here, he is quoting the prophets (not "the law," Moses) Isa 56:7 ("house of prayer") and Jer 7:11 ("Den of robbers"). As is usual, Jesus's Greek follows the Greek Septuagint exactly, word for word.

The original Greek is more colorful, contrasting the "house of prayer" not just with a "den of thieves" but with "a cave of priates." The temple of Jesus's time was called a place of sacrifice.

This is the first mention of the word "prayer" by Jesus in the Gospels, but he only uses it five times total. He earlier talks about praying, but doesn't use the noun.

Wordplay: 

The phrase translated as "den of thieves" could also be translated as a "pirates'cave." The word "cave" is also slang for private parts, so, politely, a "pirates' butt." 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Γέγραπται [34 verses](verb 3rd sg perf ind mp) "It is written" is grapho, which means "to mark," "to express by written characters," "to write a letter," "to write down [a law]," "to proscribe," "to ordain," "to write for oneself," "to enroll oneself," "to draw signs," "to describe a figure" "to brand," and "to indict."

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

οἶκός [29 verses](noun sg masc nom) "House" is from oikos, which means "house," "dwelling place," "room," "home," "meeting hall," "household goods," "substance," and "ruling family." It is any dwelling place but not exclusively a separate house.

μου (noun sg masc gen) "My" is from mou, which mean "my," or "mine."

οἶκος [29 verses](noun sg masc nom) "House" is from oikos, which means "house," "dwelling place," "room," "home," "meeting hall," "household goods," "substance," and "ruling family." It is any dwelling place but not exclusively a separate house.

προσευχῆς [5 verses](noun sg fem gen) "Prayer" is proseuche, which means "prayer" and also "place of prayer," "sanctuary," and "chapel." Christ more commonly uses the verb form of the word, proseuchomai.

κληθήσεται,” [38 verses](verb 3rd sg fut ind pass) "Shall be called" is kaleo, which means "call," "summon," "invite," "invoke," "call by name," and "demand."

ὑμεῖς [92 verses](pron 2nd pl nom) "You" is hymeis (humeis), which are the singular nominative form of the second person, "you." -- The pronoun is used explicitly as the subject of the sentence. Since it is already part of the verb, its use creates emphasis on the "you." The "you" here is plural, indicating many of Christ's listeners.

δὲ (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").

αὐτὸν (adj sg masc acc) "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." -

ποιεῖτε [168 verses](verb 2nd pl imperf ind act or verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Have made" is poieo, which means "to make," "to produce," "to create," "to bring into existence," "to bring about," "to cause," "to render," "to consider," "to prepare," "to make ready," and "to do."

σπήλαιον [3 verses](noun sg neut acc) "Den" is spelaion, which means "grotto," "cavern," and "cave." It is the source for our term for exploring caves, "spelunking." It also means "behind the scenes" in a theater and was slang for one's "private parts."

λῃστῶν.” [10 verses](noun pl masc gen) "Thieves" is lestes, which means "robber" or "pirate."

KJV Analysis: 

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

is -- (WT) This helping verb "is" indicates that the following verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English. However, the tense here is the past perfect, so "has been."

written -- "Written" is a verb that means "to mark," "to express by written characters," and "to write down [a law]".  The verb is passive, completed in the past, "it has been written."

My -- "My" is the first-person possessive singular pronoun. This pronoun follows the noun so "of mine."

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. 

house  - The Greek word translated as "house," is any dwelling place but not exclusively a separate house. It means the household or clan that lives in the building as well.

shall -- This helping verb "shall" indicates that the verb is the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

called  - The term translated as "called" is like our word "call" means both "to summon" and also "to name." It is in the future passive, indicating something that has not happened, but something that will happen.

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

house   - The Greek word translated as "house," is any dwelling place but not exclusively a separate house. It means the household or clan that lives in the building as well.

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.

prayer;  - - "Prayer" is from a noun that means "prayer" and also "place of prayer," "sanctuary," and "chapel." Jesus more commonly uses the verb form of the word. This is the first mention of the word "prayer" by Jesus in the Gospels, but he only uses it five times total. He earlier talks about praying, but doesn't use the noun but the verb. It means both the act of talking to the divine and the place for it as well.

but -- The Greek word translated as "but" means "but," "however," and "on the other hand". It joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.  It also an explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

ye  - -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

have -- (WT) This helping verb "have" indicates that the verb is the tense indicating an action completed in the past. This is not the tense of the verb here. The tense of the verb is not as simple as it appears. It might be refer to the past "made" but the form could also refer to the present, "make" but it is not the past perfect.

made  - The Greek word translated as "have made" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service. However, it is usually translated as "do" in the Gospels. This verse is a good example of where that meaning doesn't work, since the verb means making something not just doing it.

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

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.

den  - The term translated as "den" means "cave" or "grotto."

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.

thieves. -- The term translated as "of thieves" means "robber" or "pirate."

KJV Translation Issues: 

4
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The English verb  "is" is the present tense, but the tense is the past perfect.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "house" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "the" before this second "house" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "have" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is either the simple past of present.

NIV Analysis: 

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

is -- (WT) This helping verb "is" indicates that the following verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English. However, the tense here is the past perfect, so "has been."

written -- "Written" is a verb that means "to mark," "to express by written characters," and "to write down [a law]".  The verb is passive, completed in the past, "it has been written."

My -- "My" is the first-person possessive singular pronoun. This pronoun follows the noun so "of mine."

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. 

house  - The Greek word translated as "house," is any dwelling place but not exclusively a separate house. It means the household or clan that lives in the building as well.

will -- This helping verb "will" indicates that the verb is the future tense. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

called  - The term translated as "called" is like our word "call" means both "to summon" and also "to name." It is in the future passive, indicating something that has not happened, but something that will happen.

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.

house   - The Greek word translated as "house," is any dwelling place but not exclusively a separate house. It means the household or clan that lives in the building as well.

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.

prayer;  - - "Prayer" is from a noun that means "prayer" and also "place of prayer," "sanctuary," and "chapel." Jesus more commonly uses the verb form of the word. This is the first mention of the word "prayer" by Jesus in the Gospels, but he only uses it five times total. He earlier talks about praying, but doesn't use the noun but the verb. It means both the act of talking to the divine and the place for it as well.

but -- The Greek word translated as "but" means "but," "however," and "on the other hand". It joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.  It also an explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if").

you - -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the verb.

are -- This helping verb "are" indicates that the verb is the present tense but it might be the past tense.

making - The Greek word translated as "have made" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service. However, it is usually translated as "do" in the Gospels. This verse is a good example of where that meaning doesn't work since the verb means making something not just doing it.

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

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.

den  - The term translated as "den" means "cave" or "grotto."

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.

robbers . -- The term translated as "of thieves" means "robber" or "pirate."

  • WT - Wrong Tense - The English verb  "is" is the present tense, but the tense is the past perfect.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "house" is not shown in the English translation.

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

Offering sacrifices to God is too often a form of trade rather than a form of worship, a form of bargaining with God: if I give God this sacrifice, then I want God to give me what I want in return. Since we cannot bargain with God (a point Jesus makes clear in the previous chapter), sacrifice as a form of bargaining is worthless, which, of course, is the word that always gets translated as "evil" in the New Testament.

For Jesus, the relationship between people must be voluntary, arising from a free agreement. Bargaining and trade are both seen as good things among people. What is bad is coercion, that is, threatening people unless they comply to our wishes. However, between God and humans, bargains are not possible. Trade is not possible. God needs nothing we can offer. The tradition of religious sacrifice always mixed elements of worship and bargaining. Here Christ makes it clear that prayer, that is, seeking guidance and favors from God is not a form of trade, but simply an acceptance of God's control over our world.

Front Page Date: 

Jun 2 2021