Mark 4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive;

Spoken to: 

Apostles

The beginning of the explanation of the parable of the sower.

KJV : 

Mark 4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

NIV : 

Mark 4:12  ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!

Listeners Heard: 

Because looking they might look and not see. And hearing, they might hear and not understand. Never might they turn around and it be excused for them.

My Takeaway: 

It takes some help to know what Jesus is saying in his teaching as well as his analogies.

Lost in Translation: 

There is no Greek word for "sins" here though it appeared in KJV source.

Two different Greek verbs mean "to see" in the first part this verse. The first one, used twice, means physical seeing while the second  means "see" and "understanding" in the same sense that "see" means "know" in English when we say "I see." The meaning is clearer if we translated the first verb as "look" and the second a "see." 

The second "see" and "hear" in the KJV are in the verb form of possibility: "seeing they might see" and "hearing they might hear." This "might" is  missing in the KJV and these repetitions are left out of the NIV entirely.

The Greek words translated as "not/never" here are the Greek negative of opinion and choice not the normal objective negative. This is because seeing and understanding are subjective actions.

The English of the last part makes it sound like Jesus talks in parables to prevent people from being forgiven. This is nothing like what he said. The KJV as "their sins" to the forgiven phrase, when it isn't there in the source we use today. The NIV translated "be forgiven" as it "they" were the subject, but the verb is singular. In the Greek, Jesus actually makes a rather sad observation. This is very different from the version in Matthew, which is closer to the original quote in the Septuagint Isaiah 6:10.

Original Word Order: 

ἵνα “       βλέποντες βλέπωσι           καὶ μὴ              ἴδωσιν,
Because seeing       they might see and not want to perceive.

καὶ   ἀκούοντες ἀκούωσι             καὶ  μὴ              συνίωσιν
And hearing,     they might hear and  not want to understand.

μήποτε              ἐπιστρέψωσιν                καὶ  ἀφεθῇ            αὐτοῖς.
Never,               might they turn around and  it be excused for them.

WORD-BY-WORD COMPARISON OF THE GREEK TO ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS: 

να [134 verses](adv/conj) "That" is hina, which means "in that place", "there", "where", "when", "that", "in order that", "when," and "because." --

βλέποντες [46 verses]( part pl pres act masc nom ) "Seeing" is from of blepo, which means "to look", "to see", "to look to", "to look like", "to rely on", "to look longingly", "to propose", "to beware", "to behold," and "to look for."

βλέπωσι [46 verses] ( verb 3rd pl pres subj act ) "They may see" is from of blepo, which means "to look", "to see", "to look to", "to look like", "to rely on", "to look longingly", "to propose", "to beware", "to behold," and "to look for."

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." --

μὴ [447 verses](partic) "Not" is me , which is the negative used in prohibitions and expressions of doubt meaning "not" and "no." As οὐ (ou) negates fact and statement; μή rejects, οὐ denies; μή is relative, οὐ absolute; μή subjective, οὐ objective. With pres. or aor. subj. used in a warning or statement of fear, "take care" It can be the conjunction "lest" or "for fear that." Used before tis with an imperative to express a will or wish for something in independent sentences and, with subjunctives, to express prohibitions. Used with infinitives that express a purpose.

ἴδωσιν, [166 verses] ( verb 3rd pl aor subj act ) "Perceive" is eido which means "to see", "to examine", "to perceive", "to behold", "to know how to do", "to see with the mind's eye," and "to know." --

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."

ἀκούοντες [95 verses]( part pl pres act masc nom ) "Hearing" is akouo, which means "hear of", "hear tell of", "what one actually hears", "know by hearsay", "listen to", "give ear to", "hear and understand," and "understand."

ἀκούωσι [95 verses]( verb 3rd pl pres subj act ) "Ye hear" is akouo, which means "hear of", "hear tell of", "what one actually hears", "know by hearsay", "listen to", "give ear to", "hear and understand," and "understand." --

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."

μὴ [447 verses](partic) "Not" is ou me, the two forms of Greek negative used together. Ou is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. Mê (me) is the negative used in prohibitions and expressions of doubt meaning "not" and "no." As οὐ (ou) negates fact and statement; μή rejects, οὐ denies; μή is relative, οὐ absolute; μή subjective, οὐ objective.

συνίωσιν[14 verses](verb 3rd pl pres subj) "Understand" is from syniemi which means "to bring together" or "to set together." It is also a metaphor for "perceive," "hear," and "understand" as we would say that we "put it all together" when figuring something out

μήποτε [2 verses](adv) "Lest" is mepote, which means "never," and "on no account." As a conjunction, "lest ever." Literally, it means "not when." Used in prohibitions with an aoric subjunctive.

ἐπιστρέψωσιν [9 times]( verb 3rd pl aor subj act ) "They should be converted" is from epistrephô, which means "to turn around", "to turn towards", "to cause to repent," and "to be converted." --

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."

ἀφεθῇ [73 verses] ( verb 3rd sg aor subj pass ) "Should be forgiven " 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." With a dative object, it means "remit" a debt or "excuse" a fault.

αὐτοῖς, [55 verses](pron/adj pl masc dat) "Them" is the dative case of the third-person, plural adjective that is used as a pronoun.

KJV Analysis: 

That  - -- The word translated as "that" is a conjunction that starts a subordinate clause  "that," "when," "in order that" "when," or "because."

seeing  - The verb translated as "seeing" means "to see", "to look to", "to look like", "to beware", and "to look for." It is the more tangible sense of seeing, such as seeing what is right in front of you rather than understanding "look" in English. The form is an adjective, "hearing."

they  - The "they" is from the masculine, plural form of the verb below.

may  - The "may" is from the subjunctive form of the following verb.

see,  - The verb translated as "they may see" means "to see", "to look to", "to look like", "to beware", and "to look for." It is the more tangible sense of seeing, such as seeing what is right in front of you rather than understanding "look" in English.

and  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

not -- (CW) The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion, commands, and requests. The sense is that "you don't want" or "think" something, not that it isn't done or thought.   With the verb "to be," the sense is "doesn't seem." When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause. When it precedes other words, its force is limited to those words. This is the negative used with commands or requests. Used with an imperative to express a will or wish. Used in negative "when" and "if" clauses. 

perceive; - "Perceive" is eido which means "to see," "to examine," "to perceive," "to behold," "to know how to do," "to see with the mind's eye," and "to know."is from a Greek verb that means "to bring together" or "to set together." It is also a metaphor for "perceive", "hear," and "understand" as we would say that we "put it all together" when figuring something out.

and  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

hearing "Hearing" is translated from a Greek word that has the same sense as the English not only of listening but of understanding.

they -  The "they" is from the masculine, plural form of the verb below.

may  - The "may" is from the subjunctive form of the following verb.

hear,  - "Hear" is translated from a Greek word that has the same sense as the English not only of listening but of understanding.

and  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as". not The "not" here is both of the Greek negatives used together. Greek has two negatives, one objective, one subjective. The use of both together is more extreme, like saying "you cannot really think."

not -- (CW) The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion, commands, and requests. The sense is that "you don't want" or "think" something, not that it isn't done or thought.   With the verb "to be," the sense is "doesn't seem." When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause. When it precedes other words, its force is limited to those words. This is the negative used with commands or requests. Used with an imperative to express a will or wish. Used in negative "when" and "if" clauses. 

understand;  - "Understand" is from a Greek verb which means "to bring together" or "to set together." It is also a metaphor for "perceive", "hear," and "understand" as we would say that we "put it all together" when figuring something out.

lest at any time The word translated as "lest at any time " is from an adverb, which means "never" and "on no account." Used in prohibitions with an aortic subjunctive. Today, we would say "no way!" Literally, the Greek word means "not when."

they  -  The "they" is from the masculine, plural form of the verb below.

should  - The "should" is from the subjunctive form of the following verb. This form was translated as "may" above. However, it is unnecessary because of the conjunction used.

be -- (WV) This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

converted,  - (CW) This phrase i is translated from a Greek verb "to turn about" or "to turn around," but also means "cause to return" and "to turn one's mind towards" something. It does not have the religious sense of "converted.".

and  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

their sins -- (OS) There is nothing in the Greek that can be translated as "their sins" in the source we use today but it does exist in the source that the KJV translators used.

should The "should" is from the subjunctive form of the following verb. This form was translated as "may" above.

be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

forgiven  -- (CW, WN) The word translated as "forgiven" primarily means "to let go" or "to send away." It has the sense of leaving something alone and letting it drop. This same word is usually translated as "leave," "forgive," "suffer," and "let" in the New Testament. With a dative object below, it means "remit" a debt or "excuse" a fault. See this article for more.  This is phrased to make the subject seem like the plural
 "they" but the verb is singular. WN  --Wrong Number- The word "forgiven" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.

them. -- The word translated as "them"  is the Greek adjective that acts like our third-person pronoun. The form is the third person, plural as an indirect object of the verb or the object of a preposition.

KJV Translation Issues: 

7
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "not" before "perceive" does not capture the word's specific meaning.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "not" before "understand" does not capture the word's specific meaning.
  • WV --Wrong Voice - The verb "converted" here is translated as passive but it is active.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "converted" does not capture the word's specific meaning.
  • OS -- Outdated Source -- The Greek word translated as "their sins" existed in the KJV Greek source but not the source we use today.
  • CW --Confusing Word -- The "forgiven" does not capture the word's specific meaning.
  • WN  --Wrong Number- The word "forgiven" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.

NIV Analysis: 

missing "because"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "because" is a conjunction that starts a subordinate clause  "that," "when," "in order that" "when," or "because."

they  - The "they" is from the masculine, plural form of the verb below.

may -- This helping verb "may" indicates that the verb indicates a possibility, the subjunctive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

be -- This helping verb indicates the present tense of the verb. It is used here to form the present, progressive tense, which doesn't exist in Greek but which can smooth the flow of English sentences.

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

seeing  - The verb translated as "seeing" means "to see", "to look to", "to look like", "to beware", and "to look for." It is the more tangible sense of seeing, such as seeing what is right in front of you rather than understanding "look" in English. The form is an adjective, "hearing."

missing "see"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "see" is a conjunction that starts a subordinate clause  "that," "when," "in order that" "when," or "because." "they may see" means "to see", "to look to", "to look like", "to beware", and "to look for." It is the more tangible sense of seeing, such as seeing what is right in front of you rather than understanding "look" in English.

but - (WW) The Greek word translated as "but" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

never -- (CW) The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion, commands, and requests. The sense is that "you don't want" or "think" something, not that it isn't done or thought.   With the verb "to be," the sense is "doesn't seem." When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause. When it precedes other words, its force is limited to those words. This is the negative used with commands or requests. Used with an imperative to express a will or wish. Used in negative "when" and "if" clauses. 

perceiving; - "Perceive" is eido which means "to see," "to examine," "to perceive," "to behold," "to know how to do," "to see with the mind's eye," and "to know."is from a Greek verb that means "to bring together" or "to set together." It is also a metaphor for "perceive", "hear," and "understand" as we would say that we "put it all together" when figuring something out.

and  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

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

hearing "Hearing" is translated from a Greek word that has the same sense as the English not only of listening but of understanding.

missing "hear"  -- (MW) The untranslated word   - "hear" is translated from a Greek word that has the same sense as the English not only of listening but of understanding.

but - (WW) The Greek word translated as "but" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

never -- (CW) The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion, commands, and requests. The sense is that "you don't want" or "think" something, not that it isn't done or thought.   With the verb "to be," the sense is "doesn't seem." When a negative precedes the verb, it affects the whole clause. When it precedes other words, its force is limited to those words. This is the negative used with commands or requests. Used with an imperative to express a will or wish. Used in negative "when" and "if" clauses. 

understanding;  - "Understanding" is from a Greek verb which means "to bring together" or "to set together." It is also a metaphor for "perceive", "hear," and "understand" as we would say that we "put it all together" when figuring something out.

otherwise (CW) The word translated as "otherwise" is from an adverb, which means "never" and "on no account." Used in prohibitions with an aortic subjunctive. Today, we would say "no way!" Literally, the Greek word means "not when." This is not the common word usually translated as "otherwise."

they  -  The "they" is from the masculine, plural form of the verb below.

might - The "might " is from the subjunctive form of the following verb. This form was translated as "may" above. However, it is unnecessary because of the conjunction used.

turn ,  - (CW) This phrase i is translated from a Greek verb "to turn about" or "to turn around," but also means "cause to return" and "to turn one's mind towards" something. Its root means "turn" but that ignore the prefix.

and  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

be -- This helping verb "be" indicates that the verb is passive. Helping or auxiliary verbs are needed to translate the Greek verb forms into English.

forgiven  -- (CW, WN) The word translated as "forgiven" primarily means "to let go" or "to send away." It has the sense of leaving something alone and letting it drop. This same word is usually translated as "leave," "forgive," "suffer," and "let" in the New Testament. With a dative object below, it means "remit" a debt or "excuse" a fault. See this article for more.  This is phrased to make the subject seem like the plural
 "they" but the verb is singular.

missing "them"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek adjective that acts like our third-person pronoun. The form is the third person, plural as an indirect object of the verb or the object of a preposition.

NIV Translation Issues: 

16
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "because" is not shown in the English translation. 
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "ever" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "see" is not shown in the English translation. 
  • WW --Wrong Word -- The word translated as "but" should be something more like "and."
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "never" before "perceiving" does not capture the word's specific meaning.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "ever" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "hear" is not shown in the English translation.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "never" before "understanding" does not capture the word's specific meaning.
  • WV --Wrong Voice - The verb "converted" here is translated as passive but it is active.
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "converted" does not capture the word's specific meaning.
  • WW --Wrong Word -- The word translated as "but" should be something more like "and."
  • CW --Confusing Word -- The "otherwise" does not capture the word's specific meaning.
  • CW --Confusing Word -- The "turn" does not capture the word's specific meaning.
  • CW --Confusing Word -- The "forgiven" does not capture the word's specific meaning.
  • WN  --Wrong Number- The word "forgiven" is translated as plural but the Greek word is singular.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "them" is not shown in the English translation."them" 

Related Verses: 

Unimportant Opinions and Imaginings: 

Jesus is paraphrasing Isaiah 6:10. Jesus reverses the pattern of hearing and seeing used in Isaiah. putting seeing first. We know this reversal is intentional because Jesus does it elsewhere quoting this section of Isaiah.

As evidence that Jesus taught in Greek, the contrasting wordplay here works better in the Greek Septuagint (and in English) than it does in the original Hebrew. The Greek words for seeing and perceiving, blepô and eido, both primarily mean "seeing" but the first is more physical and the second with the sense of understanding. In the original Hebrew, the words, ra'ah meaning primarily "to see" and yada meaning primarily "to know," the pun connecting them to sight is not as clear. In Greek, the word for hearing and understanding are also are both connected to hearing and have more of a connection the the original Hebrew shama` and biyn.

Though the second part of this verse seems to reference the next verse in Isaiah, it does not do so as closely as Matthew 13:15, which quotes Isa 6:10 almost directly except, again, reversing the order of eyes and ears. See my article on the Matthew version at the link for it above.

Front Page Date: 

Mar 16 2023