Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Jesus is speaking to a crowd including his disciples about scribes and Pharisees. This section begins a long condemnation of the religious leaders of the time that continues until the end of this chapter, Mat 23:39.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

But boo-hoo for you, you writers and distinguished, actors! Because you celebrate/shut up the realm of the skies in front of these people. Because you yourselves do not enter for yourselves nor the ones entering by themselves let go to enter.

My Takeaway: 

We have to choose to go into the realm of the skies.

KJV : 

Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

NIV : 

Matthew 23:13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse is full of wordplay and humor. It uses a lot of Jesus's forms of humor including exaggeration, double meanings, repeating words, and so on. This is all lost in translation. The beginning of this verse ("Woe to you") is repeated many times in the following verses. It is hard to imagine this working as a lecture,  but, if we think of it in a lighter vein  ("boo-hoo to you"), the repetition itself is a form of humor. This first verse sets the comedic tone for a series of verses, while certainly critical, they are also really extremely playful.

The most interesting philosophical aspect of this verse is the first two occurrences of the Greek verb translated as "go in" and "enter." They are not in the active voice but either the passive or middle voice. So people are either show into the realm, which seems a good description of Jesus's mission, or they show themselves in, a good description of the personal nature of the journey. They do not simply "go in" or "enter in." In looking at other uses of this word to describe entering the "kingdom," I find middle voice examples (Matthew 19:23, Matthew 7:21, Mark 10:23) but no passive examples. Most occurrences are active but either as subjunctive or infinitives. The most likely meaning seems the middle voice.

Wordplay: 

The beginning is a repeated comedic phrase, "boohoo to you." 

The word translated as "shut up" has a double meaning as "celebrate," that listeners wouldn't hear until the second half of the verse. 

The word translated as "go in" and "entering" is repeated three times in different forms in close enough proximity to make the effect humorous. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

Οὐαί [27 verses](exclam) "Woe" is ouai, which is an exclamation of pain or anger meaning "woe" or "alas."

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"). --

ὑμῖν [289 verses] (pron 2nd pl dat) "To you" is from hymin (humin), which is the 2nd person plural dative pronoun. Dative is the case which indicates to whom something is given. --

γραμματεῖς [17 verses](noun pl masc nom/acc/voc) "Scribes" is grammateus, which is generally a "secretary", "registrar", "recorder," and "scholar," but specifically means someone who uses gramma which is Greek for "drawings", "a letter," (as in an alphabet)"diagrams," and "letters" (as in correspondence).]

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."

Φαρισαῖοι  [19 verses](noun pl masc nom/voc) "Pharisees" is Pharisaios, which means "the separated", "the separate ones", "separatist" and refers to the religious sect. The word comes from the Hebrew, parash, which means "to distinguish." So the sense is also "the distinguished" or "the elite."

ὑποκριταί, [18 verses](noun pl masc nom/voc) Hypocrites" is from hypokrites, which means "an interpreter", "an actor", "a stage player," and "a dissembler."

ὅτι [332 verses](adv/conj) "For" is from hoti, which introduces a statement of fact "with regard to the fact that", "seeing that," and acts as a causal adverb meaning "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore."

κλείετε [5 verses](verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Ye shut up" can be one of two words. One is kleio, which means "to shut", "to close", "to bar", "to block up", "to shut in", "to confine," and "to shut up." It is a metaphor for causing the heavens to withhold rain. However, this form of the word is also a form of the verb kleo, which means to "tell of", "make famous," and" "celebrate." This second meaning " fits better with the word "actors."

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

βασιλείαν [98 verses] (noun sg fem acc) "The kingdom" is from basileia, which means "kingdom", "dominion", "hereditary monarchy", "kingly office," (passive) "being ruled by a king," and "reign."

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

οὐρανῶν [111 verses](noun pl masc gen) "Heaven" is from the Greek ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate."

ἔμπροσθεν [18 verses](adv, prep)  "Against" is emprosthen, which as an adverb means [of place]"in front of", "before", "forwards," [of time] "before", "of old," and as a preposition, "facing", "opposite", "in front," [of time] beforehand," and [of degree] "preferred before." It also denotes a ranking. Those hearing "celebrate," and "tell of" would hear this as "before."

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

ἀνθρώπων:  [209 verses](noun pl masc gen) "Men" is 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.

ὑμεῖς [92 verses]  (pron 2nd pl nom) "Ye" is from hymeis (humeis), which are the singular nominative form of the second person, "you."

γὰρ [205 verses](partic) "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question it means "why" and "what."

οὐκ [269 verses](partic) "Neither" 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.

εἰσέρχεσθε,[68 verses](verb 2nd pl pres ind mp) "Go in" is eiserchomai which means both "to go into", "to come in", "to enter", "to enter an office", "to enter a charge," (as in court) and "to come into one's mind."

οὐδὲ [51 verses](partic) "Nor" is from oude, which means "but not", "neither", "nor,"and "not even."

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

εἰσερχομένους [68 verses](part pl pres mp masc acc) "are entering" is from eiserchomai which means both "to go into", "to come in", "to enter", "to enter an office", "to enter a charge," (as in court) and "to come into one's mind." --

ἀφίετε [73 verses](verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Suffer ye" is aphiemi, which means "to let fall", "to send away", "give up", "hand over", "to let loose", "to get rid of", "to leave alone", "to pass by", "to permit," and "to send forth from oneself."

εἰσελθεῖν. [68 verses]((verb aor inf act) "To go in" is from eiserchomai which means both "to go into", "to come in", "to enter", "to enter an office", "to enter a charge," (as in court) and "to come into one's mind."

KJV Analysis: 

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.

woe  - "Woe" is from an exclamation of grief, meaning "woe" or "alas." Today we would say "sadly" or "boo-hoo." More about this phrase in this article on Christ's humor, under the subtitle, "exaggeration."

unto -- This word "unto" 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.

you, --  The "you" here is from the plural, dative, second-person pronoun.

scribes  - "Scribes" is translated from a Greek word describing anyone who used written records in their job, "secretary", "registrar,' and "scholar." However, Christ used it to name those scholars who specifically studied the Bible and wrote about its meanings.

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

Pharisees, -- (UW) "Pharisees" is an example of where we use the Greek word as the name of the religious sect, instead of translating it. In Greek, the word means the "separatists" or "the judgmental," but it is a Hebrew word meaning "distinguished" or "elite."

hypocrites! -- (UW) The Greek for "the hypocrites" is a great example of a word that has taken its English meaning from how it is used in the Bible rather than the original Greek. The primary meaning during Christ's era was "an actor." See this article on the word and its wordplay. 

for -- (CW) The word translated as "for" introduces a statement of fact or cause, "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore." It is not the word normally translated as "for" in the Gospel, used below, but a word normally translated as "that."

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

shut up The word translated as "shut up" is an entertaining bit of wordplay. It is a verb that means "to close" or "to shut in," but, in this form, it is also a similar form of another verb that means "to make famous" and "to celebrate in song." The listener would hear the sense of "celebrate" initially, but the sense of "close" comes later in the verse.

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. 

kingdom -- The word translated as "kingdom" can be the region, the reign, the castle or the authority of a ruler. Jesus does not seem to use it to mean a physical region, so its translation as "reign" or "realm" seems more appropriate. This is especially true because the "reign" of a king means the execution of his will.

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession,

untranslated "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. 

heaven: - (WN) The word translated as "heaven" means "sky," the "climate," and the "universe."     It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods. More about the word in this article.  This word is plural, not singular, so "skies." 

against  - The Greek word translated as "against" means "in front of" referring to place and when used to apply to time means "beforehand." However, those hearing "shut up" as "tell of" or "celebrate" would here this as "in front of." The "against" translation goes back to the Latin Vulgate.

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:  - The Greek word for "Men" means "people" and "peoples" in plural as it is here.

for  - The word translated as "for" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, to prevent a run-on sentence, translated as a "this is because..." to start a new sentence.

ye  - The pronoun "you...yourselves" is used explicitly as the subject of the sentence. Since it is already part of the verb, its use here creates emphasis on the "you." This emphasis is added by adding the "yourselves." However, the verb also adds this idea.

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

neither  - (CW) The Greek word translated as "neither" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. This is not the Greek word used to mean "neither/nor." which is used below.

go  - "Go in" is from a word that means "go or come into" and has the double meaning of "coming into one's mind." The verb is either passive "are...being entered in" or the middle voice, which indicates someone acting on themselves, so "enter yourselves in."

in -- This is from the prefix of the previous verb that means "into."

yourselves, -- The form of this verb is either passive or the middle voice. The KJV used this middle voice, adding "yourselves" here, but not below.  The sense of the middle voice is that the subject is to  act "for yourselves" or "by yourselves."

neither  - "Neither" is from the Greek negative meaning "but not" and as both parts of "neither...nor." If it meant "neither...nor" this word would appear twice, but it doesn't. This means the sense is "but not."

suffer  - The word translated as "suffer ye" primarily means "to let go" or "to send away." This same word is translated as "leave", "forgive", "suffer," and "let" in the New Testament. This is the point at which the listener would understand the double meaning of "celebrate" as "shut up."

ye  - This is the point at which the listener would understand the double meaning of "celebrate" as "shut up."

them -- (CW) The word translated as "them" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") than the English "the." See this article for more.  It is not the pronoun "them."

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

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

entering--  (CW, WV) "Entering" is from a participle form of the verb translated as "go in" above, meaning to "go or come into" and has the double meaning of "coming into one's mind." It is either the passive voice, "the ones being shown in," or the middle voice in the form of a verb acting on itself, "the ones showing themselves in."

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

go  - "Go in" is from the infinite form of the verb that means "go or come into" and has the double meaning of "coming into one's mind." The verb is in a form that indicates someone acting on themselves, so "take yourselves in." At this point, the word "shut up" seems more likely.

in -- This is from the prefix of the previous verb that means "into."

KJV Translation Issues: 

11
  • UW - Untranslated Word -- The word "Pharisees" means "distinguished." It is the untranslated Greek word adopted into English.
  • UW - Untranslated Word -- The word "hypocrites" means "actors." It is the untranslated Greek word adopted into English.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "for" is not the common word usually translated as "for."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "heaven" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "men" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "yourselves" to emphasize the subject is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "neither" is not the common word usually translated as "neither."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "them" is not the common word usually translated as "them."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "that" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "entering" is the same word translated as "go in" above.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "entering" is not an active verb but either the passive or middle voice.

NIV Analysis: 

missing "but"  -- (MW) The untranslated word"but" is not shown in the English translation. "But" joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

Woe - "Woe" is from an exclamation of grief, meaning "woe" or "alas." Today we would say "sadly" or "boo-hoo." More about this phrase in this article on Christ's humor, under the subtitle, "exaggeration."

to -- This word to" 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.

you, --  The "you" here is from the plural, dative, second-person pronoun.

teachers - (WW) "Teachers" is translated from a Greek word describing anyone who used written records in their job, "secretary", "registrar,' and "scholar." However, Christ used it to name those scholars who specifically studied the Bible and wrote about its meanings.

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

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

Pharisees, -- (UW) "Pharisees" is an example of where we use the Greek word as the name of the religious sect, instead of translating it. In Greek, the word means the "separatists" or "the judgmental," but it is a Hebrew word meaning "distinguished" or "elite."

hypocrites! -- (UW) The Greek for "the hypocrites" is a great example of a word that has taken its English meaning from how it is used in the Bible rather than the original Greek. The primary meaning during Christ's era was "an actor." See this article on the word and its wordplay.

missing "since"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "since" introduces a statement of fact or cause, "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore."

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

shut -- The word translated as "shut" is an entertaining bit of wordplay. It is a verb that means "to close" or "to shut in," but, in this form, it is also a similar form of another verb that means "to make famous" and "to celebrate in song." The listener would hear the sense of "celebrate" initially, but the sense of "close" comes later in the verse.

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

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. 

kingdom -- The word translated as "kingdom" can be the region, the reign, the castle or the authority of a ruler. Jesus does not seem to use it to mean a physical region, so its translation as "reign" or "realm" seems more appropriate. This is especially true because the "reign" of a king means the execution of his will.

of -- This word "of"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession,

untranslated "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. 

heaven: - (WN) The word translated as "heaven" means "sky," the "climate," and the "universe."     It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods. More about the word in this article.  This word is plural, not singular, so "skies."

in - The Greek word translated as "in" means "in front of" referring to place and when used to apply to time means "beforehand." However, those hearing "shut up" as "tell of" or "celebrate" would here this as "in front of."

 people’s:  - (WF) The Greek word for "Men" means "people" and "peoples" in plural as it is here. It is not, however, a possessive (genitive). It is the object of the preposition.

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

untranslated "because"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "because" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, to prevent a run-on sentence, translated as a "this is because..." to start a new sentence.

You - The pronoun "you...yourselves" is used explicitly as the subject of the sentence. Since it is already part of the verb, its use here creates emphasis on the "you." This emphasis is added by adding the "yourselves." However, the verb also adds this idea.

yourselves -- The subjective pronoun repeats the information in the verb so it should be repeated in English like "you yourselves."

do -- This helping verb is used to create questions, commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

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.

enter- (WF) "Enter" is from a word that means "go or come into" and has the double meaning of "coming into one's mind." The verb is either passive "are...being entered in" ort the middle voice, which indicates someone acting on themselves, so "enter yourselves in."

nor - "Neither" is from the Greek negative meaning "but not" and as both parts of "neither...nor." If it meant "neither...nor" this word would appear twice, but it doesn't. This means the sense is "but not."

will  -- (WT) This helping verb "will" indicates the future tense, but the verb is not the future.

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

let - The word translated as "let" primarily means "to let go" or "to send away." This same word is translated as "leave", "forgive", "suffer," and "let" in the New Testament. This is the point at which the listener would understand the double meaning of "celebrate" as "shut up."

those -- The word translated as "those" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") than the English "the." See this article for more.  It is not the pronoun "them."

enter  - (WF, WV) "Enter" is from a participle form of the verb translated as "go in" above, meaning to "go or come into" and has the double meaning of "coming into one's mind." It is either the passive voice, "the ones being shown in," or the middle voice in the form of a verb acting on itself, "the ones showing themselves in."

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

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

missing "enter"  -- (MW) The untranslated word "enter" is from a word that means "go or come into" and has the double meaning of "coming into one's mind." The verb is in a form that indicates someone acting on themselves, so "take yourselves in." At this point, the word "shut up" seems more likely.

NIV Translation Issues: 

16
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "but" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "teachers" should be "writers."
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "of the law" doesn't exist in the source.
  • UW - Untranslated Word -- The word "Pharisees" means "distinguished." It is the untranslated Greek word adopted into English.
  • UW - Untranslated Word -- The word "hypocrites" means "actors." It is the untranslated Greek word adopted into English.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "since" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "the door of" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "heaven" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "people" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "people's" is not a possessive form but an object, "people."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "faces" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "because" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "enter" is not a passive verb but a participle, "entering."
  • WV - Wrong Voice-  The "enter" is not an active verb but either the passive or middle voice.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "who are trying" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "enter" is not shown in the English translation.

Front Page Date: 

Aug 4 2021