Matthew 23:27 Woe unto you...for you are like whited sepulchres...

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: 

Oy-veh for you, writers and distinguished, actors! You are all so similar to tombs, plastered over so that outwardly they certainly shine with freshness. Inwardly, however, they are laden with bones of corpses and all impurity.

My Takeaway: 

Stinky on the inside is more dangerous than stinky on the outside.

KJV : 

Matthew 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

NIV : 

Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The verse begins with a humorous word, the "woe" having the feeling of "oy-veh" in Yiddish, and possibly the historical source of the word. The final Greek word translated here is the punchline, and a word Jesus only uses once. It is translated as "uncleanness" and "unclean," but describes the "foulness" of a wound, generally meaning "filth," and, in moral sense, "depravity." This word connects with the "rotten meat" idea describing the inside of the platter in Matthew 23:25. Literally, it means  "not pure," or "impurity," which I suspect had sexual connotations.

There are other double meanings here as well. The word translated as "whitened" actually means "plastered" or "painted" but it has the double meaning of "disguised." The word translated as "beautiful" primarily has the sense of "fresh," but a lot of double meanings as well, including "ripe for death" when applied to old people.  The word translated as "dead" means "corpses," "the dying" and "inanimate objects."

This verse continues the patterns we have seen in this section. Other than the humorous pattern of repeated phrases, in the most recent part, we see a pattern contrasting the "inward and "outward" starting at Matthew 23:25, before the, the large and small, before that, the earthly and spiritual. However, in a larger sense, everything goes back to the earthly and spiritual, where the earthly is temporary and eventually rots.

Wordplay: 

The word translated as "whitened" actually means "plastered" or "painted" but it has the double meaning of "disguised"

The word translated as "beautiful" primarily has the sense of "fresh," but a lot of double meanings as well, including "ripe for death" when applied to old people. 

The word translated as "dead" means "corpses," "the dying" and "inanimate objects." 

The word translated as "uncleanness" means the "foulness" of a wound and ceremonial impurity.

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."

παρομοιάζετε [1 verse] (verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Ye are like" is paromoiazo, which means "to be like" and "to be much like." This word is most often used is works about writing and elecution.

τάφοις [4 verses]](noun pl masc dat) "Sepulchres" is taphos, which means "funeral rights", "funeral feast", "grave," and "tomb."

κεκονιαμένοις, [1 verse](part pl perf mp masc dat) "Whitented" is koniao, which means "plaster with lime or stucco", "daub over," "paint," and "disguise."

οἵτινες [90 verses](pron pl masc nom) "Which" is hostis, which means "that", "anyone who", "anything which", "whosoever," "whichsoever" and "anybody whatsoever."

ἔξωθεν [8 verses](adv) "Outward" is exothen, which "from without" and "outward."

μὲν  [31 verses](partic) "Indeed" is men, which is generally used to express certainty and means "indeed", "certainly", "surely," and "truly."

φαίνονται [10 verses](verb 3rd pl pres ind mp) "Appear" is phaino, which means "to shine", "to give light," and "to appear." In its transitive form, not used here, it means "bring to light."

ὡραῖοι [1 verse] (adj pl masc nom) "Beautiful" is horaios, which means "produced at the right season", "seasonable", "timely," "yearling," of fish "salted or pickled in the season", "harvest-time," of persons, "seasonable or ripe for a thing," in reference to old people, "ripe or ready for death," in reference to age, "in the prime of life", "youthful," generally of things, "beautiful", "graceful," and as a metaphor "due", "proper,"(From hora , which means "season", "day", "an hour," and "a specific time.")

ἔσωθεν [6 verses](adv) "Within" is from esothen, which means "from within" and "inward."

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)"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." ​

ὀστέων [2 verses] (noun pl neut gen) "Bones" are osteon, which means "bone", "stone" of a fruit," and metaphorically, "stones."

νεκρῶν [21 verses](noun pl masc gen) "Of dead" is nekros, which specifically means "a corpse" as well as a "dying person", "the dead as dwellers in the nether world", "the inanimate," and "the inorganic."

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."

πάσης [212 verses](adj sg fem gen) "Of all" is from pas, which means "all", "the whole", "every", "anyone", "all kinds," and "anything." In the adverbial form, it means "every way", "on every side", "in every way," and "altogether."

ἀκαθαρσίας: [1 vese](noun sg fem acc/gen ) "Uncleanness" is akatharsia, which means "uncleanness", "foulness," referring specifically to a wound or sore, generally, "dirt", "filth," in moral sense, "depravity", "ceremonial impurity." and literally "not cleaned.

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 -- 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.

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

like  - (CW) The word translated as "are like" is from a verb that means "to be like" and "to be much like." This is NOT the verb that Jesus commonly uses all the "the kingdom of heaven is like" verse. This word is a more academic word and indicates more of a likeness than the metaphorical similarity of the more common word.

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.

whited  - (WW) The Greek word translated as "whited" has nothing to do with the color white. It means "plaster, "paint," and "disguise." It is in the form of an adjective, so plastered, painted, or disguised. It is chosen for its double meaning as a disguise. Jesus only uses it in this verse.

sepulchres,  - The word translated as "sepulchres" means "funeral rights," and "tomb." It is uncommon but not a fancy word like sepulchers, but a common one, more like tomb.

which -- "Which" is a pronoun that means "that", "anyone who", "anything which", "whosoever," "whichsoever" and "anybody whatsoever." 

indeed  - The word translated as "indeed" is generally used to express certainty so "certainly,"and "truly."

appear  - (CW) The Greek word translated as "appear" means "to shine." It is a common word for Jesus to use, often to describe how actors what to shine before the public.

beautiful  - The word translated as "beautiful" means "seasonable", "harvest-time," in reference to old people, "ripe or ready for death," in reference to age, "in the prime of life", "youthful," generally of things, "beautiful", "graceful," and as a metaphor "due", "proper."  This word plays the positive idea of "beautiful" against the more constrained idea of "ripe," a goodness that expires soon.

outward, - The word translated as "outward" is normally an adverb meaning "outside" and "from without." It is the opposite of the Greek word translated later in verse as "inwardly."  It is translated as "outside" in Matthew 23:25.

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. Like "and," it makes a good pausing point so that an important or humorous word can follow.

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

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

full  - The Greek word translated as "Are...full" means "to be full" and, of animals, "to be laden." ​It is usually applied to ships and boats. This is not the word Jesus uses frequently in the Gospels to mean described "being full." It too is first used in Matthew 23:26.

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.

dead  - The word translated as "dead" means "corpse", "a dying man," and "inanimate, non-organic matter." Christ uses it in all three senses, referring to the actual dead, the spiritually dead, and inanimate matter.

men's - -- (IW) There is nothing in the Greek that can be translated as "men" in the Greek source, except te word for "dead" is masculine.

bones,  - The word translated as "bones" primarily means "bones." It is a common word, but used only twice by  Jesus.

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.

all  - The word translated as "all" is from the Greek adjective meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas. When it is used as a noun, we would say "everything." As an adverb, it means "in every way", "on every side," and "altogether."

uncleanness.  -- "Uncleanness" is a word that describes the "foulness" of a wound, generally meaning "filth," and, in moral sense, "depravity." It also refers to "ceremonial impurity." This word connects with the "rotten meat" word in Matthew 23:25.

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 "like" is not the common word usually translated as "like."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "whited" should be "plastered."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "appear" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "men" doesn't exist in the source.

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.

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

like  - (CW) The word translated as "are like" is from a verb that means "to be like" and "to be much like." This is NOT the verb that Jesus commonly uses all the "the kingdom of heaven is like" verse. This word is a more academic word and indicates more of a likeness than the metaphorical similarity of the more common word.

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.

whitewashed - (WW) The Greek word translated as "whitewashed " has nothing to do with the color white. It means "plaster, "paint," and "disguise." It is in the form of an adjective, so plastered, painted, or disguised. It is chosen for its double meaning as a disguise. Jesus only uses it in this verse.

tombs,  - The word translated as "tombs" means "funeral rights," and "tomb."

which -- "Which" is a pronoun that means "that", "anyone who", "anything which", "whosoever," "whichsoever" and "anybody whatsoever." 

missing "truly"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "truly" is generally used to express certainty so "certainly," and "truly."

look - (CW) The Greek word translated as "look " means "to shine." It is a common word for Jesus to use, often to describe how actors what to shine before the public.

beautiful  - The word translated as "beautiful" means "seasonable", "harvest-time," in reference to old people, "ripe or ready for death," in reference to age, "in the prime of life", "youthful," generally of things, "beautiful", "graceful," and as a metaphor "due", "proper."  This word plays the positive idea of "beautiful" against the more constrained idea of "ripe," a goodness that expires soon.

on the outside, - The word translated as "on the outside" is normally an adverb meaning "outside" and "from without." It is the opposite of the Greek word translated later in verse as "inwardly."  It is translated as "outside" in Matthew 23:25. It is not a phrase, but an adverb.

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. Like "and," it makes a good pausing point so that an important or humorous word can follow.

on the inside -  "On the inside" is from the adverb meaning "inside" and "within." It is the opposite of the word above. It is not a phrase, but an adverb.

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

full  - The Greek word translated as "Are...full" means "to be full" and, of animals, "to be laden." ​It is usually applied to ships and boats. This is not the word Jesus uses frequently in the Gospels to mean described "being full." It too is first used in Matthew 23:26.

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

bones,  - The word translated as "bones" primarily means "bones." It is a common word, but used only twice by  Jesus.

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

dead  - The word translated as "dead" means "corpse", "a dying man," and "inanimate, non-organic matter." Christ uses it in all three senses, referring to the actual dead, the spiritually dead, and inanimate matter

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

everything  - The word translated as "everything " is from the Greek adjective meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas. When it is used as a noun, we would say "everything."

unclean.  -- "Unclean" is a word that describes the "foulness" of a wound, generally meaning "filth," and, in moral sense, "depravity." It also refers to "ceremonial impurity." This word connects with the "rotten meat" word in Matthew 23:25.

NIV Translation Issues: 

11
  • 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.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "like" is not the common word usually translated as "like."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "whitewashed" should be "plastered."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "look" does not capture the specific meaning of the word.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "indeed" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "the" before "bones" doesn't exist in the source.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "the" before "dead" doesn't exist in the source.

Front Page Date: 

Aug 18 2021