Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you...for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

A long condemnation of the religious leaders of the time

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

But boo-hoo for you, you writers and distinguished, actors! Since you circle the sea and the dry land to make one newcomer, and when he becomes himself, you make of him a son of a trash heap, twice the size of you.

My Takeaway: 

People have to consciously choose what they believe.

KJV : 

Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

NIV : 

Matthew 23:15 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

As we have seen in this section, the words here are uncommon and full of wordplay, using a number of words that are uncommon for Jesus. Such words are usually well-chosen for their shades of meaning, often humorous.

The word translated as "proselyte," translated as "convert" in the NIV, shows up in Greek the first time here. It was apparently a new idea in Jesus's era, appearing only in the NT (here and in Acts), and in a few early Christian writers. It is a form of the common verb meaning "showing up like." The word mistranslated as "making" or "succeeding" actually means "becoming himself" so he converts himself more than he is converted. 

The phrase "a child of hell" is particularly interesting. The term translated as "hell" is geenna which is Greek for Gehenna, the valley of Hinnom (the Hebrew word), south of Jerusalem where trash, including diseased animals and human corpses, was burned.  Were there orphaned children who made their living scavenging trash as there are in many large cities today? If so, the reference categorized the "scholarly" work of the religious leads as scavenging trash.

Wordplay: 

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

The word translated as "compass" has the sense of rotating and spinning so going in circles. when used with "sea water" and "arid land" there is the sense of mixing the two. Water is a symbol for life, while "dry" is the symbol for what is sterile, referring to the teachings of the Pharisees. 

The word translated as "hell" refers to a burning trash heap outside of Jerusalem.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

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

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."

περιάγετε [1 verse] (verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Ye compass" is periago, which means "to lead around", "to lead about with oneself", "carry about for sale," "to go about", "to walk about," turn round," "turn about", "pass round," "protract", "bring round to", "around" a period, "cause to revolve," and in the passive, "to rotate."

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

θάλασσαν [11 verses](noun sg fem acc) "Sea" is thalassa, which means also means "sea" or "sea water."

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."

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

ξηρὰν [2 verses] (adj sg fem acc) "Land" is xeros, which means "dry," of bodily condition "withered", "lean", "fasting," hence, generally, "austere", "aridity," as a noun, "dry land," and "room for dry heat."

ποιῆσαι [168 verses](verb aor inf act) "to make" 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." --

ἕνα [94 verses](noun sg masc acc) "One" is from 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.

προσήλυτον, [1 verse](adj sg masc acc) "Proselyte" is  proselytos, which means "one that has arrived at a place," "sojourner," "a newcomer," and, from the NT use, "convert," "proselyte," and "one who has come from the Gentiles to become a Jew."

καὶ [1089 verses](conj/adv)"And" is 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."

ὅταν [70 verses](adv/conj)  "When" is hotan, which means "whenever (as a condition)," and "since (as a cause)."

γένηται [117 verses](verb 3rd sg aor subj mid) "He is made" is ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", "to happen", "to be produced," and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being. It is the complementary opposite of the verb "to be" (eimi)which indicates existence in the same state.

ποιεῖτε [168 verses](verb 2nd pl pres ind acc) "Ye make" is from 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."

αὐτὸν [720 verses](adj sg masc gen) "His" (adj sg masc acc) "Him" 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."

υἱὸν [158 verses](noun sg masc acc) "Child" is from huios, which means a "son," and more generally, a "child."

γεέννης [11 verses](noun sg fem gen) "Hell" is geenna which is Greek for Gehenna, the valley of Hinnom (the Hebrew word), south of Jerusalem where trash, including diseased animals and human corpses was burned. A constant fire was kept burning there. --

διπλότερον [1 verse](adj sg masc/neut nom/acc comp) "Twofold more" is diplous, which means "twofold", "double", "twice the size of," and "as much again."

ὑμῶν. [168 verses](pron 2nd pl gen) "Your" is from humon, the plural possessive form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

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."

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

compass -- The Geek word "ye compass" means "to lead around", "carry about for sale," and "to go about." The word has a hidden sense of spinning around. This is an uncommon word for Jesus to use.

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. 

sea -- The "sea" is the common word for "sea" and "salt water." Christ uses "water" as a symbol for life. We are "born of water" because we come from the womb.

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

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. 

land -- (CW) The Greek word for "land" is the adjective for "dry," which, when used as a noun, as it is here, means "dry land." However, the word has a number of meanings that would relate to the behavior of the Pharisees including "fasting", "austere," and "withered." This is an uncommon word for Jesus to use, but in Matthew 12:43, Jesus uses another word meaning "waterless," translated as "dry places," to refer to where unclean spirits go when cast out of a person.

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

make - The Greek word translated as "make" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service.

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.

proselyte, -- (UW) The Greek word translated as "proselyte," isn't really translated since this is the Greek word itself. In Greek, the word means "newcomer," but it is used to refer to a person newly converted to a set of beliefs.

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

when -- The Greek word translated as "when" introduces a phrase that explains a certain condition so "whenever" or "since."

he -- This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb.

is -- (WV) This helping verb "is" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English. The verb is not passive, but the middle voice where the subject acts on themselves, "he becomes himself."

made, -- (WW) The word translated as "made" is nothing like the word translated as "make." It means "to become," that is, to enter into a new state. In Greek, especially as used by Jesus, it is the opposite of "being," which is existence in the current state. It is the middle voice, "he becomes himself."

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

make --The Greek word translated as "make" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service.

him - (WF) The "him" here isn't in the form making it the object of "making." It is a possessive form, "his" or "of him."

twofold - The "twofold " is another unusual word that means "twofold", "double", "twice the size of," and "as much again."

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

child he word translated as "child" is usually translated as "son" It refers to all offspring in later generations, just like "father" refers to all previous generations. Christ also used it metaphorically to describe those that follow a way of thought or set of beliefs that descend from an individual. More about it in this article. Since it has no article, it is more like "a son" or "an offspring."

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

hell - The word "hell" is the name of an area, Gehenna, the trash heap where a constant fire was kept for disposing of trash from the city of Jerusalem.  See this article on the words for "hell".  

than -- This word "than"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but here it is the "than" of comparisons.

yourselves. -- (CW) The word translated as "your" is a plural, second-person pronoun in the genitive case. It is not the reflexive pronoun, "yourselves."

  • 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 "sea" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "dry" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "land" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • UW - Untranslated Word -- The word "proselyte" means "newcomer." It is the untranslated Greek word adopted into English.
  • WV - Wrong Voice - The verb here is translated as passive but it is the middle voice.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "made" should be "become."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "him" is not an object but a genitive, "of him."
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "more the" doesn't exist in the source.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "yourselves" is not the common word usually translated as "yourselves."

NIV 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."

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.

travel - (WW) The Geek word "ye compass" means "to lead around", "carry about for sale," and "to go about." The word has a hidden sense of spinning around. This is an uncommon word for Jesus to use.

over -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "over" in the Greek source. The prefix of the verb means "around" not "over."

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. 

land  -(CW, WP) The Greek word for "land" is the adjective for "dry," which, when used as a noun, as it is here, means "dry land." However, the word has a number of meanings that would relate to the behavior of the Pharisees including "fasting", "austere," and "withered." This is an uncommon word for Jesus to use, but in Matthew 12:43, Jesus uses another word meaning "waterless," translated as "dry places," to refer to where unclean spirits go when cast out of a person. The "sea" comes before the "land" here.

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

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. 

sea  - The "sea" is the common word for "sea" and "salt water." Christ uses "water" as a symbol for life. We are "born of water" because we come from the womb.

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

win - (WW) The Greek word translated as "win" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service. It does not mean "win."

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.

single -- The Greek word translated as "single" 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.

convert,  -  The Greek word translated as "convert,"  means "newcomer," but it is used to refer to a person newly converted to a set of beliefs.

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

when  - The Greek word translated as "when" introduces a phrase that explains a certain condition so "whenever" or "since."

you -- (WW) This is from the third-person, singular form of the verb, "he" not "you."

have -- (WT This helping verb "have" indicates that the verb is the tense indicating an action completed in the past.

succeeded,  - (WW) The word translated as "succeeded" is nothing like the word translated as "make." It means "to become," that is, to enter into a new state. In Greek, especially as used by Jesus, it is the opposite of "being," which is existence in the current state. It is the middle voice, "he becomes himself."

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

make  - The Greek word translated as "make" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service.

them- (WF,WN) The "them" here isn't in the form making it the object of "making." It is a possessive, singular form, "his" or "of him."

twice - The "twofold " is another unusual word that means "twofold", "double", "twice the size of," and "as much again."

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

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.

child -- The word translated as "child" is usually translated as "son" It refers to all offspring in later generations, just like "father" refers to all previous generations. Christ also used it metaphorically to describe those that follow a way of thought or set of beliefs that descend from an individual. More about it in this article. Since it has no article, it is more like "a son" or "an offspring."

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

hell - The word "hell" is the name of an area, Gehenna, the trash heap where a constant fire was kept for disposing of trash from the city of Jerusalem.  See this article on the words for "hell".  

as -- This word "than"  comes from the genitive case of the following word that requires the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but here it is the "than" of comparisons.

you . -- The word translated as "your" is a plural, second-person pronoun in the genitive case. It is not the reflexive pronoun, "yourselves." 

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

NIV Translation Issues: 

18
  • 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.
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "travel" should be "circle"  or "go around."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "over" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "dry" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "land" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The word "dry land" doesn't appear here but  after "sea."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "win" should be "make"  or "produce."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "you" should be "he."
  • WT - Wrong Tense - The verb "have" indicates the past perfect tense, but the tense is something that happens at a specific point in time (past, present, or future).
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "succeeded" should be "become."
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "them" is not an object but a genitive, "of him."
  • WN  - Wrong Number- The word "them" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "as much" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "are" doesn't exist in the source.

Front Page Date: 

Aug 6 2021