Matthew 23:25 Woe unto you...for you make clean the outside of the cup

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

A long condemnation of the religious leaders of the time, their focusing on outward things not the inward.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Sadly for you, writers and distinguished, actors, you purify the outside of the cup and the meat platter. Inside, however, they are laden from robbery and rot.

KJV : 

Matthew 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse is much more entertaining in Greek because of the metaphor that it ends with that is completely lost in translation. The humor starts with the repetition of the beginning.  It ends with uncommon and exaggerated words, which are common in Jesus's use of humor.

The keyword here is mistranslated as "of" in the phrase "full of," which miss the point of Jesus's criticism. The word he used means "from," indicating that the cup and platters of his enemies were full from, or due to their robbery and rot.

The last two words are translated badly in both the KJV and NIV, probably trying to make religious points. The word translated as "extortion" and "greed" means "robbery" and "rape," with with the shipping metaphor indicated by the "full" verb, which is usually used to refer to a heavily laden ship, "piracy" words well.  The last word means "rot," specifically "rotten meat," and it is the punchline because it describes both how the platter was filled and what it was filled with.

NIV : 

Matthew 23:25 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

My Takeaway: 

Visible small things are less important than the hidden corruption of methods.

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."

καθαρίζετε [12 verses](verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Ye make clean" is katharizo, which means "to clean", "to clear the ground of weeds," "prune away", "to remove dirt", "to purify,"and "to remove impurities." It is also used to describe the removal of the inedible parts from grain (winnowing), clearing weeds from a field, pruning a plant and so on.

τὸ [692 verses](article sg neut acc)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ἔξωθεν [8 verses](adv) "Outside" is exothen, which is normally an adverb meaning "from without" and "outward." When used as a noun, "the outside" or "those outside."

τοῦ [692 verses](article sg neut gen)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

ποτηρίου [14 verses](noun sg neut gen) "Cup" is poterion, which means "a drinking-cup", "a wine-cup", "a jar," and "a receptacle" for offerings in the temple.

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."

τῆς [692 verses](article sg fem gen)  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

παροψίδος, [2 verses]](noun sg fem gen) Platter" is paropsis, which means "platter on which meat is served." It is a metaphor for "fresh tastes."

ἔσωθεν [6 verses](adv) "Inwardly" is from esothen, which means "from within", "inside", "within," and "inward." This is the adverb that is the opposite of exothen above.

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").

γέμουσιν [3 verses](verb 3rd pl pres ind act) "They are full" is gemo, which means "to be full" (especially referring to a ship), but generally as well), "to be full of" (w/gen), "to be filled with" (w/dat) and, of animals, "to be laden." ​

ἐξ [121 verses] (prep)"Of" is from ek, which means 1) [of motion] "out of", "from", "by", "away from;" 2) [of place] "beyond", "outside of", "beyond;" 3) [of succession] "after", "from;" 4) [of rest] "on", "in," 5) [of time] "since", "from", "at", "in;" 5) [of materials] "out of", "made from." -

ἁρπαγῆς [2 verses](noun sg fem gen)"Extortion" is harpage, which means "seizure", "robbery", "rape", "the thing seized", "booty", "prey," and "greediness,"

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."

ἀκρασίας. [1 verse](noun sg fem gen) "Excess" is from akrasia, which means "bad mixture" (of meats), "ill temperature," and "unwholesome" climate.

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 "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."

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

make clean  - The Greek word translated as "make clean," means to remove dirt. It is used for a lot of specific types of "cleaning" including cleansing a person of leprosy, which is how Jesus uses it most commonly. It also has a general meaning of "purifying" anything.

the -- The word translated as "the" 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. 

 outside  - The word translated as "outside" is normally an adverb meaning "outside" and "from without." It is the opposite of the Greek word translated later in verse as "inwardly." The difference is the presence of an article, making this "the outwardly."

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.

the -- The word translated as "the" 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. 

cup  - The word for "cup" means "a drinking-cup", "a wine-cup", "a jar," and "a receptacle" for offerings in the temple. The cup is used by Jesus as a symbol for sharing burdens.

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

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.

the -- The word translated as "the" 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. 

platter,  - The word translated as "platter" is specifically a platter for meat, and it is a metaphor for "fresh tastes."

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.

within  - "Within" is from the adverb meaning "inside" and "within." It is the opposite of the word above.

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

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

full  - The Greek word translated as "They are full" means "to be full" and, of animals, "to be laden." ​It is usually applied to ships and boats. Jesus only uses this word three times.

of -- (CW) The Greek preposition translated as "of" means "out of" or "from." In Greek, they use the genitive case instead of a preposition for "of." This word is used to indicate that the following crimes caused his enemy's cups to be full.

extortion  - (CW) The word translated as "extortion" means "seizure", "robbery," and "rape." However, with the ship metaphor above, another meaning in English would be "pillage" and "piracy."

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

excess.  - (CW)The word translated as "excess" means "bad mixture of meat." It also refers to a bad temperature or a bad climate. Note that this corresponds to the meat platter. One sense is spoiled meat.

KJV Translation Issues: 

5
  • 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 "of" is not the common word usually translated as "for."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "extortion" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "excess" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.

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."

you - This is from the vocative form of the noun that means it names the person being talked to.

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.

clean  - The Greek word translated as "make clean," means to remove dirt. It is used for a lot of specific types of "cleaning" including cleansing a person of leprosy, which is how Jesus uses it most commonly. It also has a general meaning of "purifying" anything.

the -- The word translated as "the" 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. 

 outside  - The word translated as "outside" is normally an adverb meaning "outside" and "from without." It is the opposite of the Greek word translated later in verse as "inwardly." The difference is the presence of an article, making this "the outwardly."

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.

the -- The word translated as "the" 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. 

cup  - The word for "cup" means "a drinking-cup", "a wine-cup", "a jar," and "a receptacle" for offerings in the temple. The cup is used by Jesus as a symbol for sharing burdens.

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.

dish,  - (CW) The word translated as "platter" is specifically a platter for meat, and it is a metaphor for "fresh tastes."

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.

inside - "Inside " is from the adverb meaning "inside" and "within." It is the opposite of the word above.

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

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

full  - The Greek word translated as "They are full" means "to be full" and, of animals, "to be laden." ​It is usually applied to ships and boats. Jesus only uses this word three times.

of -- (CW) The Greek preposition translated as "of" means "out of" or "from." In Greek, they use the genitive case instead of a preposition for "of." This word is used to indicate that the following crimes caused his enemy's cups to be full.

greed - (CW) The word translated as "greed " means "seizure", "robbery," and "rape." However, with the ship metaphor above, another meaning in English would be "pillage" and "piracy."

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

excess.  - (CW)The word translated as "self-indulgence" means "bad mixture of meat." It also refers to a bad temperature or a bad climate. Note that this corresponds to the meat platter. One sense is spoiled meat.

NIV Translation Issues: 

10
  • 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.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before "dish" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "dish" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "of" is not the common word usually translated as "for."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "greed" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "self-indulgence" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.

The Spoken Version: 

"Boo-hoo to you," he said, rubbing his eyes with the knuckles of his fists.

The crowd laughed.

"Scholars and elites," he announced as if praising them, and then added dismissively. "Actors!"

The crowd hooted and clapped.

"You purify the outside of the cup," he said, pantomiming polishing the outside bottom of a cup,.

The crowd chuckled.

"And..." he said pausing. "The meat platter!"

Again he patomimed cleaning it bottom and the crowd chuckled.

"Inside, however," he said, taking up the imaginary cup in his right and platter in his left. He looked at their insides.

"They are overloaded," he said staring. Then he widened his eyes, grimaced, and looked at the people standing around.

"With rape and pillage," he said pretending to hold up the cup. Then holding up the platter, he added, "And stinky meat!"

The crowd laughed.

Front Page Date: 

Aug 16 2021