Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

When, however, he misunderstands them, speak to a community meeting. When, however, he even misunderstand the community meeting, must he be the same as a stranger or a tax collector?

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Does Jesus really say that we must divorce ourselves from those who do no see ho they have hurt us? There is anotehr interpretations here. The verb translated as "let him be" doesn't work in Greek as it does in English. It could well have been stated as a question. This verse is also a good example of how the success of Christianity itself has changed the meaning of Christ's words. The word he used for "church" didn't have that meaning at all in Greek in Christ's time.

The Greek word translated as "and" is usually translated as "but" because it joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

The Greek word translated as "if" means "if might" and indicates more of an expectation of something happening than the normal "if" alone. It is like we use the word "when."

"Neglect to hear" is from a verb which means literally "to hear beside," which is used to mean "to hear imperfectly", "to misunderstand," and "to pretend not to hear."

"Tell" is a verb that means "to say" and "to speak" also. However, it has less a sense of teaching and more a sense of addressing and proclaiming. This is different from the word that Christ uses to describe his speaking, which is usually translated as "tell."

Through its use in the Epistles, the word translated here as "church" came to mean "church" but this was later in history. In Christ's time, it means an assembly of local people, like a town meeting but less formal that we think of meetings. Christ uses it only used twice, once here and in Mat 16:18 (not at all in Mark, Luke, or John) when Christ tells Peter he is the rock on which this assembly will be built. The word only came into extensive use in the Act of the Apostles, which describes the local assemblies of the Christian community. Christ could not have used to term in that sense or at least those listening to him would not have heard it that way.

The Greek word translated as "but" is the same word translated as "and" above. It joins phrases in an adversarial way. Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

As explained at the beginning of this section, the Greek word translated as "if" has more the sense of "when." \

There is an untranslated Greek word here that is usually the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also").

The "let him be" here is the Greek verb "to be" in the form of a 3rd person command (something uncommon in English), which is usually translated into English as "let him (verb)." However, in English, this "command" is best translated as something that must happen. So the sense is, "He must be". However, there was no punctuation in the original Greek, so we have to wonder if this isn't a question, "must he be". This flows much better with the following statements, especially when Peter askes if we must always forgive our brothers, which is not what he seems to be saying here. 

"Heathen man" is from the Greek word meaning "foreigner" and it has the same root as our word "ethnic." It was used as we would use "foreigner" or "stranger."

The Greek term translated as "publican" means "farmer" and "tax collector." By Christ's time, they were no tax farmers, that is, private individuals who bought the right to collect taxes. Historically, these tax-collectors or rent collectors were notoriously corrupt. Christ is often criticized for being a friend of tax collectors, so this reference is in a sense, self-deprecating.

Greek Vocabulary: 

ἐὰν "If" is from ean, which is a conditional particle (derived from ei (if)and an (might)) which makes reference to a time and experience in the future that introduces but does not determine an event.

δὲ "And" 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").

παρακούσῃ (verb 2nd sg aor subj mid or verb 3rd sg aor subj act) "Neglect to hear" is from parakouô, which means "to hear beside", "to overhear", "to hear imperfectly", "to overhear", "to misunderstand", "to hear carelessly," and "to pretend not to hear."

αὐτῶν, (adj pl masc gen) "Them" 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."

εἰπὸν (verb 2nd sg aor imperat act) "Tell" is from eipon, which means "to speak", "to say", "to recite", "to address", "to mention", "to name", "to proclaim", "to plead", "to promise," and "to offer."

τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ: "The church" is from ekklêsia, which means an "assembly duly called." It comes from two Greek words meaning "to call away from." It describes an impromptu assembly of local people called away from their jobs to meet. The idea here is something less formal than to our idea of a jury, but a group of peers rather than a government organ.

ἐὰν "If" is from ean, which is a conditional particle (derived from ei (if)and an (might)) which makes reference to a time and experience in the future that introduces but does not determine an event.

δὲ "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").

καὶ Untranslated 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."

τῆς ἐκκλησίας (noun sg fem gen) "The church" is from ekklêsia, which means an "assembly duly called." It comes from two Greek words meaning "to call away from." It describes an impromptu assembly of local people called away from their jobs to meet. The idea here is something less formal than to our idea of a jury, but a group of peers rather than a government organ.

παρακούσῃ, (verb 3rd sg aor subj act) "He neglected to hear" is from parakouô, which means "to hear beside", "to overhear", "to hear imperfectly", "to overhear", "to misunderstand", "to hear carelessly," and "to pretend not to hear."

ἔστω (verb 3rd sg pres imperat act) "Let him be" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible."

σοι (pron 2nd sg dat) "You" is from soi which is the singular, second person pronoun, "you".

ὥσπερ "As" is from hosper, which means "the very man who", "the very thing, which", "the same as", "wherefore," and "although." It indicates a match with a person or thing.

ἐθνικὸς (adj sg masc nom) "Heathen man" is from ethnikos, which means "national", "provincial", "foriegn," and "gentile." It was used in the same way we would describe someone as an "ethnic" or "foreigner." Foreigners, the Greeks and Romans, were the rulers of the nation in Christ's time.

καὶ "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."

τελώνης. (noun sg masc nom) "Publican" is from telônês, which means "farmer" and "tax collector" and refers to any number of types of tax collectors. Originally tax collectors were "tax farmers," which explains the terms. These people worked as government agents.

 

verb 2nd sg aor subj mid

Wordplay: 

This verse ends a joke, with Christ saying that someone (and perhaps the community) should treat someone like a stranger, or, even worse, a tax collector. This job is a bit self-deprecating because Christ was condemned because he refused to honor the shunning of tax-collectors (Mat 11:19)

Related Verses: