Matthew 21:24 I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell me,

Spoken to: 

The Pharisees

Context: 

Jesus is asked for his authority by the chief priests and elders.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

I  will question you, I myself also, an idea, one, that, when you tell me, I myself also will tell you with what authority I perform these things.

My Takeaway: 

We often do not know enough to ask the right questions.

KJV : 

Matthew 21:24 I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.

NIV : 

Matthew 21:24 I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,”

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

A lot is hidden here, including the fact that Jesus uses the important Greek word usually translated as "word" in this verse. It is translated as "thing" and "question." The humor here in his use of that word, which actually means "idea," "teaching," though "explanation" may work better here.

The NIV translates this verse by leaving out over forty percent of the ideas that Jesus expresses. I am not sure at what point a translation becomes an abbreviation, but this is close here. I find the oddities that the NIV ignores to be the most interesting part of Jesus's words. Here, the repeated use of "I myself also" is noteworthy,  entertaining though ignored in translation. The unusual word translated as "ask" in the KJV is also ignored in the NIV.

Wordplay: 

The phrase repeats the use of the first and second person pronouns to see up a contrast. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἐρωτήσω [17 verses](verb 1st sg fut ind act) "Will ask" is erotao, which means "to ask," "to question," and "to ask about."

ὑμᾶς (pron 2nd pl acc) "You" is from humas, which is the 2nd person plural pronoun for objects of a sentence.

κἀγὼ [31 verses](pron 1st sg masc/fem nom) "I also" is kago, a contraction of kai ego, which is the contraction of "I" and "and" the common conjunction. 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." "I" is from ego, which is the first person singular pronoun meaning "I." It also means "I at least," "for my part," "indeed," and "for myself."

λόγον [81 verses](noun sg masc acc) "Thing" is logos, which means "computation," "relation," "explanation," "law," "rule of conduct," "continuous statement," "tradition," "discussion," "reckoning," word," and "value."

ἕνα, [94 verses](noun sg masc acc) "One" is heis, which means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same." As in English, it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person.

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

ἐὰν (partic) "If" is from 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. -- The Greek word meaning "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone.

εἴπητέ [162 verses] (verb 2nd pl aor subj act) "Ye tell" is eipon, which means "to speak," "to say," "to recite," "to address," "to mention," "to name," "to proclaim," "to plead," "to promise," and "to offer."

μοι (pron 1st sg masc/fem dat) "Me" is from moi, which means "I," "me," and "my." -- The "me" is in the dative, which has a number of uses in Greek.

κἀγὼ [31 verses](pron 1st sg masc/fem nom) "I in likewise" is from kago, a contraction of kai ego.

ὑμῖν (pron 2nd pl dat) "To you" is from humin, the 2nd person pronoun.

ἐρῶ [162 verses](verb1st sg fut ind act) "I will tell" is eipon, which means "to speak," "to say," "to recite," "to address," "to mention," "to name," "to proclaim," "to plead," "to promise," and "to offer."

ἐν (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."

ποίᾳ [13 verses](adj sg fem dat) "What" is poios, which means "of what kind," "whose," "what," and "which."

ἐξουσίᾳ [23 verses](noun sg fem dat) "Authority" is exousia which means "control," "the power of choice," "permission," "the power of authority," "the right of privilege," "abundance of means," and "abuse of power." -- The term translated as "power" isn't the "power" of skill or energy but of authority, control, and the ability to choose.

ταῦτα [96 verses](adj pl neut acc) "These things" is from tauta, which is a referring pronoun meaning "these," "this," "that," and "here." It can mean the nearer or the further depending on usage. As an adverb it can mean "therefore" and "that is why." -- The "this" is from a pronoun that can mean "this" or "that," the nearer or the further depending on usage. As an adverb it can mean "therefore" and "that is why." It is not typically used as an adjective.

ποιῶ: [168 verses](verb 1st sg pres ind act) "I do" 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."

KJV Analysis: 

I also  - A contraction is used that means "I also" or more commonly "I and," but pronouns such as "I" are only used as the subject in Greek when the speaker wants to emphasize them since they are already part of the verb. Here, since the verb appears first in the Greek, this is a repetition of the fact Jesus is asking.

missing "myself" -- (MW)  The subjective pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "I myself."

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.

ask  - Ask" is from a verb that means "to ask," "to question," and "to ask about." This is the second time Jesus uses this term in Matthew. It appears seldom in Matthew and Mark, but more commonly in Luke and John.

you -- The "you" here is the second-person, plural pronoun in the form of an object.

one   -- The Greek word translated as "one " means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same."As in English, it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person.

thing,  -- (WW) "Thing" is translated from a Greek word that means "calculation," or "reasoning," but it has many, many specific meanings from "deliberation" to "narrative."  It is the source of our word "logic" and is the root word for all the English words that end in "-ology." Most biblical translations translated it as "word" for somewhat poetic reasons. More about this word in this article. In English, we would say "idea" to describe it. Here the sense might be more "explanation."

which  - The word translated as "which" is a demonstrative pronoun, but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause.

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

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

tell  - "Tell" is from the Greek verb that means "to say," "address," and "to speak" but, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and talking than the other common word for "to speak."

me, -- The "me" is in the indirect object form on the first-person pronoun, so usually "to me," though the form has other uses in Greek.

I in like wise  - The "I in like wise" here is the same "and I" contraction used above. Pronouns such as "I" are only used as the subject in Greek when the speaker wants to emphasize them since they are already part of the verb. Here, since the verb appears first in the Greek, this is a repetition of the fact Jesus is asking.

missing "myself" -- (MW)  The subjective pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "I myself."

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.

tell - "Tell" is from the Greek verb that means "to say," "address," and "to speak" but, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and talking than the other common word for "to speak. Here it is the first person future form.

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

by -- (CW) The word translated as "by" means "in," "within," "with," "during" (time),  or "among"  with a dative object as the one here.  It can mean "by," but in the sense of "near." It has the sense of "with" here.

what  - The word translated as "what" also means "what kind" and "whose."

authority  - "Authority" is from a noun that means "control," "the power of choice," "permission," "the power of authority," "the right of priveledge," "abundance of means," and "abuse of power."

I -- This is from the first-person, singular form of the verb.

do  - The Greek word translated as "I do" has the primary meaning of to "make," "create," or produce" something or to "cause" or "render" as service.

these -- The "this" is a pronoun that can mean "this" or "that," the nearer or the further depending on usage.

things. - There is no word, "things," in the Greek source, but this word comes from the neuter, plural form of the previous adjective.

KJV Translation Issues: 

5
  • MW -- Missing Word  -- The pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "I myself."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "thing" should be "explanation."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "if" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • MW -- Missing Word  -- The pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "I myself."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "by" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.

NIV Analysis: 

- The "I" here is the same "and I" contraction used elsewhere in this sentence. Pronouns such as "I" are only used as the subject in Greek when the speaker wants to emphasize them since they are already part of the verb. Here, since the verb appears first in the Greek, this is a repetition of the fact Jesus is asking.

missing "myself" -- (MW)  The subjective pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "I myself."

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

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.

tell - "Tell" is from the Greek verb that means "to say," "address," and "to speak" but, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and talking than the other common word for "to speak. Here it is the first person future form.

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

by -- (CW) The word translated as "by" means "in," "within," "with," "during" (time),  or "among"  with a dative object as the one here.  It can mean "by," but in the sense of "near." It has the sense of "with" here.

what  - The word translated as "what" also means "what kind" and "whose."

authority  - "Authority" is from a noun that means "control," "the power of choice," "permission," "the power of authority," "the right of priveledge," "abundance of means," and "abuse of power."

I -- This is from the first-person, singular form of the verb.

do  - The Greek word translated as "I do" has the primary meaning of to "make," "create," or produce" something or to "cause" or "render" as service.

these -- The "this" is a pronoun that can mean "this" or "that," the nearer or the further depending on usage.

things. - There is no word, "things," in the Greek source, but this word comes from the neuter, plural form of the previous adjective.

missing "I myself" -- (MW)  The subjective pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "I myself."

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

missing "ask"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "ask," "to question," and "to ask about." This is the second time Jesus uses this term in Matthew. It appears seldom in Matthew and Mark, but more commonly in Luke and John.

missing "you"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "you" here is the second-person, plural pronoun in the form of an object.

missing "that"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "that" is a demonstrative pronoun, but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause.

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

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

answer - (CW) "Answer " is from the Greek verb that means "to say," "address," and "to speak" but, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and talking than the other common word for "to speak." It is the same word translated as "tell" above.

one   -- The Greek word translated as "one " means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same."As in English, it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person.

question,  -- (WW) "Question" is translated from a Greek word that means "calculation," or "reasoning," but it has many, many specific meanings from "deliberation" to "narrative."  It is the source of our word "logic" and is the root word for all the English words that end in "-ology." Most biblical translations translated it as "word" for somewhat poetic reasons. More about this word in this article. In English, we would say "idea" to describe it. Here the sense might be more "explanation."

missing "to me"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "me" is in the indirect object form on the first-person pronoun, so usually "to me," though the form has other uses in Greek.

NIV Translation Issues: 

12
  • MW -- Missing Word  -- The pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "I myself."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "also" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "by" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • MW -- Missing Word  -- The pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "I myself."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "also" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "ask" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "you" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "that" 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 "answer" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "question" should be "explanation."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "to me" is not shown in the English translation.

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

While Jesus addresses this statement to the priests and elders who questioned his teaching, how well it fits with his previous statement about God answering our prayers. God gives us the opportunity, but we must take advantage of those opportunities to make our prayers come true.

Front Page Date: 

Jun 7 2021