Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you...for ye devour widows' houses,

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

A long condemnation of the religious leaders of the time

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

But sadly for you, scholars and elites, actors, the ones devouring the households of the bereaved [like prey] and the ones making themselves offer tedious prayers as a pretense, these are going to get an excessive judgment.

KJV : 

Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

NIV : 

(Does not exist).

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse does not exist in the Greek sources we use today. It is a variation of Mark 12:40, and Luke 20:47 with the same intro as the surrounding versions. Sometimes, the previous verse, Mat 23:13, is numbered in this place with verse 13 left blank. Since no source exists, the previous verse's intro will be duplicated followed by an analysis of Mark 12:40 vocabulary. However, there is no active verb in this verse, since it is a string of nouns or verbs used as nouns.

Wordplay: 

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

A number of exaggerated words are used including the words "devour," (describing a predictor eating prey),  "tedious," and "excessive." 

Also the idea is expressed that the Pharisees are making themselves pray. 

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

(The Greek below is from a combination of Matthew 23:13 and Mark 12:40 since this verse doesn't exist in today's best sources.)

From Matthew 23:13:

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."

From Mark 12:40

κατεσθίετε [7 times](verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Devour" is from katesthio, which means "to eat up" and "to devour." It is a term applied to animals of prey. It also means "to corrode" or "to be gnawed."

τὰς (article pl fem acc) Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

οἰκίας [40 times](noun pl fem acc) "Houses" is from oikia, which means "house", "building," and "household." It was also the term that was used to describe a family or clan and the people associated with that family or clan, such as their servants and slaves.

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

χηρῶν [9 verses](noun pl masc gen) "Widows'" is chera, which means "widow" and "bereaved."

καὶ (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."

προφάσει [5 verses] (noun sg fem dat) "For a pretense" is prophasis, which means "motive", "alleged cause", "actual motive", "plea", "falsely alleged motive", "pretext", "pretense", "purpose", "cause", "persuasion," and "suggestion."

μακρὰ [4 verses](noun/adj pl neut nom/acc) "Long" is makros, which means in length, "long," in height, "tall", "high", "deep," in distance, "long", "far", "remote," generally, "large in size or degree", "great," of Time, "long," and "tedious." As a noun, it means "length." As an adverb, "lengthy."

προσευχόμενοι: [26 verses](part pl pres mp masc nom/acc) "Make...prayers" is proseuchomai, which means "to offer prayers or vows", "to worship," and "to pray for a thing. It is the combination of two Greek word, pros, meaning "towards" or "by reason of," and euchomai, meaning "to pray to God."

οὗτοι [137 verses](adj pl masc nom) "These" is from houtos, which means "this", "that", "the nearer." As an adverb, it means "in this way", "therefore", "so much", "to such an extent," and "that is why."

λήμψονται [54 verse](part pl pres act masc nom) "Shall receive" is lambano means to "take", "take hold of", "grasp", "seize", "catch", "overtake", "find out", "detect", "take as", "take [food or drugs]", "understand", "take in hand", "undertake", "take in", "hold", "get", "receive [things]", "receive hospitably", "receive in marriage", "receive as produce", "profit", "admit", "initiate", "take hold of", "lay hold on", "seize and keep hold of", "obtain possession of", "lay hands upon", "find fault with", "censure," "to apprehend with the senses", "to take hold of," and "to seize." It is also specifically used to mean "seized with emotion."

περισσότερον [7 verses] (adj sg masc acc) "Greater" is perissoteros, which is a form of the word perissos, which means "beyond the regular number of size", "out of the common", "extraordinary" "more than sufficient", "superfluous", "useless", "excessive", "extravagant", "over-wise", "over-curious", "abundantly," and "remarkable."

κρίμα. [5 verses](noun sg neut acc) "Damnation" is from krima, which means "decision", "judgment", "decree", "resolution," and a "legal decision."

KJV Analysis: 

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 "that" introduces a statement of fact or cause, "for what", "because", "since," and "wherefore." It is not the word normally translated as "for" int the Gospel, but a word normally translated as "that."

devour -- (WF) "Devour" is a compound word that means "to eat up" and "to devour." It is a term applied to animals of prey. It also means "to corrode" or "to be gnawed." It is the common word that means "to eat" or "to devour" with a prefix that means "down." The sense is how we say "gulping down" in English. This verb is only used seven times, in parallels to this verse and in parables where the exaggeration creates humor. The form is not an active verb but an verb adjective, "devouring" or "gulping down."

untranslated  "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun, here, the noun "houses." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

widows' -- "Widows" is from chera, which means "widow" and "bereaved." The word follows "houses" in the form "of the widows."

untranslated "the" -- (MW)The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun, here, the noun "windows." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more.

houses, -- The Greek word translated as "house," in Christ's time, was not only the physical building but the whole household, its members, its property, business interests, and position in the community, all connected to the "name" of the head of the house.

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

for  -- This word comes from the dative case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English. Here, the sense is "for" a purpose.

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.

show --  (WW) "Show" is a noun that means "motive", "alleged cause", "actual motive", "plea", "falsely alleged motive", "pretext", "pretense", "purpose", "cause", "persuasion," and "suggestion." This word is used by Jesus only five times, most often in parallels of this verse.

make -- (WF) The Greek word translated as "make...prayers" means "to offer prayers of vows" either "to worship" or "to ask for a thing". This is not the normal Greek word for "make," but the verb for praying. The form is a verbal adjective, "praying" in the third person plural, "their praying," This is the last word in the clause.

lengthy -- "Lengthy" is an adjective that means in length, "long," in height, "tall", "high", "deep," in distance, "long", "far", "remote," generally, "large in size or degree", "great," of Time, "long," and "tedious." As a noun, it means "length." As an adverb, "lengthy."

prayers:  -- There is no Greek noun that means "prayers" in the source we use today nor was there one in the source that the KJV translators used. It is used to translate the verb into an noun to match the previous adjective.  However, this construction loses the sardonic edge of the original, "long their praying."

These  -- "These" is translated from a Greek word that means "this", "that", "the nearer."

men -- (IW) There is no Greek word that can be translated as "men" in the Greek source.

will -- (WT) This helping verb seems to indicates that the following verb is the future tense. This is not the case.  Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

be -- Though there is not verb here since the "these" and "getting" are both in the form of a subject, a verb "to be" can be inserted between them.

untranslated "take"-- (MW) The untranslated word means "take." However, it means "receive" in the same sense that we use "get" to mean "receive" and has many different uses as we use "get" in English. Among these are the ideas of "understanding" and "possessing." The form of this verb is again, a verbal adjective use, "getting."

punished .-- (WW) "Punished" is a noun that means "decision", "judgment", "decree", "resolution," and a "legal decision." It is the same root as the noun that means "judge" and the common Greek word translated as "judgment." It is not a verb but a noun.

most severely -- "Most severely" is an adjective that means "beyond the regular number of size", "out of the common", "extraordinary" "more than sufficient", "superfluous", "useless", "excessive", "extravagant", "over-wise", "over-curious", "abundantly," and "remarkable."

"Ye devour" is from a verb acting as a noun that means "to eat up" and "to devour." Christ uses this term as a humorous exaggeration because it refers to animals eating prey. It also means "to corrode" or "to be gnawed." It is no in the second person because this noun form has no "person." It should be translated as "the ones devouring.

The Greek word translated as "house," in Christ's time, was not only the physical building but the whole household, its members, its property, business interests, and position in the community, all connected to the "name" of the head of the house.

The word translated as "widows" more generally means "bereaved."

The Greek word translated as "for a pretense" means "motive" or "pretense." It describes the purpose of the prayer.

"Make...prayers" is from a verb in the form of a noun that means "to offer prayers or vows", "to worship," and "to pray for a thing." Again, this is not a active verb, but a noun introduced by an article ("the ones offering"). It is also in the form of a verb acting on itself, so "the ones making yourselves offer prayers".

The Greek word translated as "long" means "long", "tall", "high", "deep", "tedious," etc. It is in the form of an adjective, but there is no noun that matches its form. However, the "prayers" is understood as part of the verb so "tedious" prayers.

There is no noun for "prayers," but it is understood as part of the verb.

There is no therefor in this source. There is a word that means "these" from a Greek word that means "this", "that", "the nearer." It is in the form of a subject of the sentence.

The word translated as "ye shall receive" primarily means "take." However, it means "receive" in the same sense that we use "get" to mean "receive" and has many different uses as we use "get" in English. Among these are the ideas of "understanding" and "possessing." The form is not the second person ("you shall get") but the third person plural.

The word translated as "greater", it means "extraordinary" "superfluous," "excessive," and "extravagant." The word is an exaggeration.

The Greek word translated as "damnation" doesn't mean "damnation" but "judgment", "decision," and a "legal decision."

KJV Translation Issues: 

6
  • 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."
  • 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."

Front Page Date: 

Aug 5 2021