Matthew 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne,

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Jesus is speaking to a crowd including his disciples.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

They, however,  shackle with heavy burdens and impose them upon the shoulders of these men. They themselves, however, with that finger of theirs they do not want to remove them.

My Takeaway: 

Translators did not want to lighten Jesus's words, as much as burden us with their dogmas.

KJV : 

Matthew 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

NIV : 

Matthew 23:4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse uses a number of Greek words that Jesus doesn't commonly use. They are noted in the vocabulary section,  A number of the terms here also have double meanings regarding pregnancy, which may be a coincidence but seems like Jesus humor to me. There are also differences between the KJV source and today's better Greek sources, but the main humor hear relies upon a euphemism regarding a "finger," which is echoed in English today in several forms. However, the main mistranslation seems to be the word "move," which probably should be "remove." 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

δεσμεύουσιν [1 verse] (verb 3rd pl pres ind act) "They bind" is from desmeuo, which means "fetter", "put in chains", "tie together", "to lay snares for," and "bind fast to."

δὲ [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").

φορτία [3 verses](noun pl neut nom/acc) "Burdens" is phortion, which means "load", "burden", "freight" and "a child in the womb." In plural, it means "merchandise" and "wares."

βαρέα [2 verses] (adj pl neut nom) "Heavy" is barys, which means "heavy in weight", "heavy of strength and force", "heavy with age, infirmity or suffering", "pregnant", "heavy, slow", "heavy to bear", "grievous", "burdensome," "oppressive", "causing disgust", "unwholesome," of persons, "severe", "stern", "wearisome", "troublesome", "overbearing," of sound, "strong", "deep", "bass," of smell, "strong," and "offensive."

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."

ἐπιτιθέασιν [4 verses]] (verb 3rd pl pres ind act) "Lay" is epitithemi, which means "to lay", "to put", "to place upon", "to set upon", "to put on," and "to dispatch."

ἐπὶ [138 verses](prep)  "Against" is from epi. which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against."

τοὺς (article pl masc acc)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

ὤμους [2 verses] (noun pl masc acc) "Shoulders" is homos, which means "the shoulder with the upper arm," "the shoulder", "the parts below the top or head of any thing," esp. of the fork of a vine, and "the womb."

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

ἀνθρώπων, (noun pl masc gen) "Of man" is from anthropos, which is "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate.

αὐτοὶ [720 verses](adj pl masc nom) "They themselves" is 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."

δὲ [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").

τῷ  (article sg masc dat)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

δακτύλῳ [5 verses] (noun sg masc dat) "fingers" is daktylos, which means "finger", "thumb", "toes," a measure of length, "finger's breadth," "date," and "a kind of grape."

αὐτῶν [720 verses](adj pl masc/fem gen) "Their" 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." -

οὐκ [269 verses](partic) "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective.

θέλουσιν [64 verses](part pl pres act masc dat)  "Will" is thelo, which as a verb means "to be willing (of consent rather than desire)", "to wish", "to ordain", "to decree", "to be resolved to a purpose" "to maintain", "to hold", "to delight in, and "will (too express a future event)." As an adverb, "willingly," and "gladly." and "to desire." As an adjective, it means "wished for" and "desired."

κινῆσαι [1 verse] (verb aor inf act) "Move" is kineo, which means to "set in motion, "set in motion" a process of law, "remove" a thing from its place, "change", "innovate", "arouse", "set going", "cause", "call forth," Pass., "to be put in motion", "go," of persons, "to be moved", "stirred," of soldiers, "move forward," "to be disturbed or in rebellion."

αὐτά. [720 verses](adj pl neut nom/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." -

KJV Analysis: 

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

they -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

bind  - -(CW) "Bind" is from a Greek word that means "to fetter", "to put in chains", "to tie together," and "to lay snares for."  Jesus only uses this word in this verse. It is not the common word translated as "bind" used by Jesus ten times.

heavy  - - The Greek word translated as "heavy" (used by Jesus in two verses) means "heavy in weight", "heavy with age, infirmity or suffering", "grievous", "oppressive", "causing disgust," and many other negative ideas. This negativity comes from the idea that negative things fall to earth and positive ones fly to the heavens. Its only positive meaning is "pregnant."

burdens  - "Burdens" is another Greek word Jesus only uses in three verses that means "load", "burden," and, in plural (as it is here) means "merchandise" and "wares." It is also a term for "a child in the womb."

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

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

lay  - "Lay" is from another uncommon Greek word for Christ that means "to lay", "to put", "to impose," and "to place upon." Christ commonly uses its root form that also means "to put" but this version has a prefix emphasizing the idea of the being putting "upon" or "against" something.

them  - There is no "them" in the Greek source, it is added for clarity in English. In Greek, pronoun objects are not repeated after each verb because they are implied by their first occurrence.

on  - The word translated as "on" means "against", "before", "by" or "on." It is the same word used in the prefix of the verb "lay" used above.

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.

men's  - The Greek word for "men's" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in the plural. If follows "shoulders" so "those of men."

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. 

shoulders;  - The Greek word "shoulders" means the "shoulder and upper arm" together, but it is used more generally like the word "shoulder" in English.

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.

they -- -- The word translated as "they" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. Pronouns are not usually used as a subject of a sentence because the information is in the verb so it is used for emphasis like we use "they themselves." Strangely enough, this word appears in the current Greek source, but it did not appear in the one that the KJV translators used.

themselves - This is needed to emphasize the subject. This is one of the few times where Biblical translators handle the subjective use of a pronoun correctly. But they did it where the pronoun did not appear.

will  - (CW) The Greek word translated as "will" is not the same as the helper verb "will" in English, which primarily expresses the future tense. Its primary purpose is to express consent and even a delight in doing something. It means "to consent" and "to be resolved to a purpose".

not  - The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. Adding "really" to the sentence captures the same idea.

move  - (WW, WF) "Move" is a Greek verb that means "to set in motion", "to move", "to remove", "to change," and "to disturb." While "move" is the most common meaning, it just doesn't make sense here where the idea of "remove" fits better.   Jesus only uses this word in this verse.

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

with -- This word "with" comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. The most common is a "to" for the English indirect object. However, the translator can choose other prepositions: "with,"  "in,"   "of,"  "as," "by," "for," "at," or "on" depending on the context.

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

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

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. 

fingers.  - - (WN) "Fingers" is from another uncommon Greek word for Jesus, used only in five verses. It means "fingers", "toes", "the thumb" "an inch," and "a digit." It is used in the same sense that we might say, "keeping someone under your thumb." The Greek word is singular rather than plural, which is why the "one of" was added, but two wrongs do not make a right.

KJV Translation Issues: 

10
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "so" should be "but."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "bind" is not the common word usually translated as "bind."
  • OS -- Outdated Source -- The Greek word translated as "and grievous to be borne" existed in the KJV Greek source but not the one we used today.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "men" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "shoulders" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "will" does not mean the future tense.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "move" should be "remove."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "move" is not an active verb but an infinitive, "to remove."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "finger" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "fingers" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.

NIV Analysis: 

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

They -- This is from the third-person, plural form of the verb.

tie up - - "Tie up " is from a Greek word that means "to fetter", "to put in chains", "to tie together," and "to lay snares for."  Jesus only uses this word in this verse. It is not the common word translated as "bind" used by Jesus ten times.

heavy  - - The Greek word translated as "heavy" (used by Jesus in two verses) means "heavy in weight", "heavy with age, infirmity or suffering", "grievous", "oppressive", "causing disgust," and many other negative ideas. This negativity comes from the idea that negative things fall to earth and positive ones fly to the heavens. Its only positive meaning is "pregnant."

cumbersome -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "cumbersome" in the Greek source. It is a reiteration of the previous word.

loads - "Loads " is another Greek word Jesus only uses in three verses that means "load", "burden," and, in plural (as it is here) means "merchandise" and "wares." It is also a term for "a child in the womb."

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

put - (CW) "Put" is from another uncommon Greek word for Christ that means "to lay", "to put", "to impose," and "to place upon." Jesus commonly uses its root form that also means "to put" but this version has a prefix emphasizing the idea of the being putting "upon" or "against" something.

them  - There is no "them" in the Greek source, it is added for clarity in English. In Greek, pronoun objects are not repeated after each verb because they are implied by their first occurrence.

on  - The word translated as "on" means "against", "before", "by" or "on." It is the same word used in the prefix of the verb "lay" used above.

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.

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

people’s - The Greek word for "men's" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in the plural. If follows "shoulders" so "those of people."

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. 

shoulders;  - The Greek word "shoulders" means the "shoulder and upper arm" together, but it is used more generally like the word "shoulder" in English.

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.

they -- -- The word translated as "they" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. Pronouns are not usually used as a subject of a sentence because the information is in the verb so it is used for emphasis like we use "they themselves." Strangely enough, this word appears in the current Greek source, but it did not appear in the one that the KJV translators used.

themselves - This is needed to emphasize the subject. This is one of the few times where Biblical translators handle the subjective use of a pronoun correctly. But they did it where the pronoun did not appear.

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

not  - The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. Adding "really" to the sentence captures the same idea.

willing  - This verb expresses consent and even a delight in doing something. It means "to consent" and "to be resolved to a purpose".

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

a -- (WW) The word translated as "a" should be "the."

finger  - -(WF)  "Finger" is from another uncommon Greek word for Jesus, used only in five verses. It means "fingers", "toes", "the thumb" "an inch," and "a digit." It is used in the same sense that we might say, "keeping someone under your thumb." The form is not the object of the verb, but the dative, which requires the addition of a preposition in English. The translator can choose prepositions: "with,"  "in,"   "of,"  "as," "by," "for," "at," or "on" depending on the context.

missing "of theirs"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "of theirs" is the Greek word commonly translated as third-person pronouns in English. This pronoun follows the noun so "of theirs."

to -- This "to" is added because the infinitive form of the verb requires a "to" in English.

move - (WW) "Move" is a Greek verb that means "to set in motion", "to move", "to remove", "to change," and "to disturb." While "move" is the most common meaning, it just doesn't make sense here where the idea of "remove" fits better.   Jesus only uses this word in this verse.

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

NIV Translation Issues: 

11
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "but" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "cumbersome" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "put" is not the common word usually translated as "put."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "people" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "other" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "shoulders" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "to lift" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "a" should be "the."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "finger" is not an object but in a form that requires a preposition in English.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "of theirs" after "finger" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "move" should be "remove."

Front Page Date: 

Jul 26 2021