Matthew 19:30 But many [that are] first shall be last

KJV Verse: 

Mat 19:30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Many, however, highest are going to be the lowest and lowest, highest.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The Greek vocabulary used here is interesting because all the key words are adjectives and they all rhyme. Usually, when adjectives are used as nouns, they are introduced by articles ("the") as they are in English. That doesn't occur here. These adjectives have several different meanings depending on their context. The context here can be either the previous verse Mat 19:29, describing those who leave their lives to follow him, or more likely, Mat 19:24 that describes how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. The next chapter begins with a parable illustrating this idea. The terms translated as "first" and "last" are superlative forms of adjectives. The meanings of these words are all connected.

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.

"Many " is from from a word that means "many" in number. In size, degree, and intensity, it means "much" and "mighty." Of value or worth, it means "of great worth" and "of great consequence." Of space, it means "large" and "wide." Of time, it means "long."

"First" is from an adjective that, of place, this means "the foremost." Of time, it means "the initial." In order, it means "the first." In math, it means the prime numbers. Of rank or degree, it means "the highest" or "the best."

"Last" is from an adjective that, in space, this means "furthest." In degree, it means "uttermost" and "highest." In persons, it means "lowest" and "meanest." Of time, it means "last" and "ending."

Greek Vocabulary: 

Πολλοὶ (adj pl masc nom) "Many" is from polys, which means "many (in number)", "great (in size or power or worth)," and "large (of space)."

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").

ἔσονται (verb 3rd pl fut ind mid) "Shall be" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.") -- When the verb "to be" appears early in the sentence before the subject, the sense is more like "it is" or, in the plural, "there are."

πρῶτοι (adj pl masc nom irreg_superl) "First" is from protos. In place, this means "the foremost." Of time, it means "the initial." In order, it means "the first." In math, it means the prime numbers. Of rank or degree, it means "the highest" or "the best."

ἔσχατοι (adj pl masc nom) "The last" is from eschatos. In space, this means "furthest." In degree, it means "uttermost" and "highest." In persons, it means "lowest" and "meanest." Of time, it means "last" and "ending."

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.

ἔσχατοι (adj pl masc nom) "The last" is from eschatos. In space, this means "furthest." In degree, it means "uttermost" and "highest." In persons, it means "lowest" and "meanest." Of time, it means "last" and "ending."

πρῶτοι.(adj pl masc nom irreg_superl) "First" is from protos. In place, this means "the foremost." Of time, it means "the initial." In order, it means "the first." In math, it means the prime numbers. Of rank or degree, it means "the highest" or "the best."

Wordplay: 

This verse is dense in multiple meanings and it is dense in rhyme. In Greek, all the adjectives end in "toi." The verb (shall be) ends in "tai." The "and" is "kai." Only the "but" doesn't follow the pattern. 

The Spoken Version: 

The powerful, the many, the rich, however, the first, the highest, the best are going to be the last, the lowest, the worst, the worst, the lowest, the least, the best, the highest, the first.

Related Verses: