Matthew 23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased;

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Jesus is speaking to a crowd including his disciples about scribes and Pharisees.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Anyone, however, who will raise himself up will be lowered and anyone who will lower himself will be lifted up.

My Takeaway: 

That which goes up must come down. That going down must come up.

KJV : 

Matthew 23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

NIV : 

Matthew 23:12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse it typical of Jesus's use of double meanings and reversals. The main play on words here is the contrast between raising and lowering. Playing on the ideas of "higher" and "underling" in the previous verse

The second phrase in this verse is identical to the first but reverses the verbs and their forms. This is captured better in the NIV version, which at least translates the word consistently. The first part echos an earlier such phrase, Matthew 18:4. Some of the sense of it being a parallel is lost because there KJV translators translated the same Greek word differently in the first phrase and the second.

Wordplay: 

The whole verse is a play on words. The two verbs have a double meaning,both the opposite of each other. Their primary meanings are "to lift up" and "to lower." There secondary meanings are "to praise" and "to disparage."

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ὅστις [90 verses](pron sg masc nom) "Whosoever" is from hostis, which means "that", "anyone who", "anything which", "whosoever," "whichsoever" and "anybody whatsoever."

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").

ὑψώσει  [8 verses](verb 3rd sg fut ind act) "Shall exhalt" is hypsoo, which means "to lift high", "to raise up." It is a metaphor for "to elevate" and "to exalt."

ἑαυτὸν  [75 verses](adj sg masc acc) "Himself" is heautou, is a reflexive pronoun that means "himself", "herself", "itself" "themselves," and "ourselves." It is an alternative to autos.

ταπεινωθήσεται, [4 verses] (verb 3rd sg fut ind pass) "Shall be abased" is tapeinoô, which means "to lower", "to reduce", "to lessen", "to disparage", "to minimize," and "to humble."

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."

ὅστις [90 verses](pron sg masc nom) "Whosoever" is from hostis, which means "that", "anyone who", "anything which", "whosoever," "whichsoever" and "anybody whatsoever."

ταπεινώσει [4 verses] (verb 3rd sg fut ind act) "Shall humble" is tapeinoô, which means "to lower", "to reduce", "to lessen", "to disparage", "to minimize," and "to humble."

ἑαυτὸν  [75 verses](adj sg masc acc) "Himself" is from heautou, is a reflexive pronoun that means "himself", "herself", "itself" "themselves," and "ourselves." It is an alternative to autos.

ὑψωθήσεται.  [8 verses](verb 3rd sg fut ind pass) "Shall be exhalted" is from hypsoo (hupsoo), which means "to lift high", "to raise up." It is a metaphor for "to elevate" and "to exalt."

KJV Analysis: 

And  - (WW) . -- The Greek word translated as "and" means "but", "however", and "on the other hand". It joins phrases in an adversarial way.

whosoever  - The word translated as "whosoever" means "anyone who," or "anything which," acting both within a primary clause and a dependent one.

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.

exalt  - The word translated as "shall exalt" is from a verb that means "to lift high", "to raise up." It is a metaphor for "to elevate" and "to exalt." It is in the future tense. Christ uses several words to mean "lift" or "raise" up but he uses this one primarily when making a play on words.

himself  - "Himself" is a special reflexive pronoun that means "himself", "herself," and so on. There is a verb form that indicates someone acting on themselves, but the use of this pronoun puts more emphasis on the fact he is doing this to himself rather than to another.

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.

abased; - "Abased" is a verb that means "to lower", "to reduce", "to lessen", "to disparage", "to minimize," and "to humble." It is in the future tense but passive.

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

he that  - - (WW) The word translated as "he that" means "anyone who," or "anything which," acting both within a primary clause and a dependent one.

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.

humble  - (CW) "Humble" is a verb that means "to lower", "to reduce", "to lessen", "to disparage", "to minimize," and "to humble." It is in the future tense. It is confusing because it is translated as "based."

himself  - "Himself" is a special reflexive pronoun that means "himself", "herself," and so on. There is a verb form that indicates someone acting on themselves, but the use of this pronoun puts more emphasis on the fact he is doing this to himself rather than to another.

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.

exalted.  - - The word translated as "shall exalt" is from a verb that means "to lift high", "to raise up." It is a metaphor for "to elevate" and "to exalt." It is in the future tense. Christ uses several words to mean "lift" or "raise" up but he uses this one primarily when making a play on words.

KJV Translation Issues: 

3
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "and" should be "however."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "he that" should be "whosoever" or anyone who."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "humble" is a Greek word translated as "abased" above.

NIV Analysis: 

For - (WW) -- The Greek word translated as "and" means "but", "however", and "on the other hand". It joins phrases in an adversarial way.

those who- (WN) The word translated as "those who" means "anyone who," or "anything which," acting both within a primary clause and a dependent one. The pronoun is singular not plural.

exalt  - (WT) The word translated as "shall exalt" is from a verb that means "to lift high", "to raise up." It is a metaphor for "to elevate" and "to exalt." It is in the future tense. Jesus uses several words to mean "lift" or "raise" up but he uses this one primarily when making a play on words. The tense is future, not present.

themselves - (WN) "Themselves " is a special reflexive pronoun that means "himself", "herself," and so on. There is a verb form that indicates someone acting on themselves, but the use of this pronoun puts more emphasis on the fact he is doing this to himself rather than to another.The pronoun is singular not plural.

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.

humbled; - "Humbled" is a verb that means "to lower", "to reduce", "to lessen", "to disparage", "to minimize," and "to humble." It is in the future tense but passive.

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

those who   - - (WN) The word translated as "he that" means "anyone who," or "anything which," acting both within a primary clause and a dependent one. The pronoun is singular not plural.

humble  - (WT) "Humble" is a verb that means "to lower", "to reduce", "to lessen", "to disparage", "to minimize," and "to humble."The tense is future, not present.

themselves - (WN) "Themselves " is a special reflexive pronoun that means "himself", "herself," and so on. There is a verb form that indicates someone acting on themselves, but the use of this pronoun puts more emphasis on the fact he is doing this to himself rather than to another.The pronoun is singular not plural.

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.

exalted.  - - The word translated as "shall exalt" is from a verb that means "to lift high", "to raise up." It is a metaphor for "to elevate" and "to exalt." It is in the future tense. Christ uses several words to mean "lift" or "raise" up but he uses this one primarily when making a play on words.

NIV Translation Issues: 

7
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "for" should be "however."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "those" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The English verb  "exalt" is the present tense, but Greek is in the future tense, "will exalt."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "themselves" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "those" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The English verb  "humble" is the present tense, but Greek is in the future tense, "will humble."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "themselves" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.

Front Page Date: 

Aug 3 2021