Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you...for ye devour widows' houses,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

But sadly for you, scholars and elites, actors, the ones devouring the households of the bereaved [like prey] and the ones making themselves offer tedious prayers as a pretense, these are going to get an excessive judgment.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse does not exists in the most authorative texts. It is a variation of Mark 12:40, and Luke 20:47 with the same intro as the surrounding versions. Sometimes, the previous verse, Mat 23:13, is numbered in this place with verse 13 left blank. Since no source exists, the previous verse's intro will be duplicated followed by an analysis of Mark 12:40 vocabulary. However, there is no active verb in this verse, since it is a string of nouns or verbs used as nouns.

"Woe" is from an exclamation of grief, meaning "woe" or "alas." Today we would say "sadly [for you]" or "boo-hoo to you." More about this phrase in this article on Christ's humor, under the subtitle, "exaggeration."

"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.

"Pharisees" is an example of where we use the Greek word as the name of the relitious sect, instead of translating it. In Greek, the word means the "separatists" or "the judgmental," but it is from a Hebrew word meaning "distinguished" or "elite."

The Greek for "the hypocrites" is another 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."

The word translated as "for" introduces a statement of fact or cause. It is not the word normally translated as "for" int the Gospel, but a word normally translated as "that."

"Ye devour" is from a verb acting as a noun that means "to eat up" and "to devour." Christ uses this term as a humorous exaggeration because it refers to animals eating prey. It also means "to corrode" or "to be gnawed." It is no in the second person because this noun form has no "person." It should be translated as "the ones devouring.

The Greek word translated as "house," in Christ's time, was not only the physical building but the whole household, its members, its property, business interests, and position in the community, all connected to the "name" of the head of the house.

The word translated as "widows" more generally means "bereaved."

The Greek word translated as "for a pretense" means "motive" or "pretense." It describes the purpose of the prayer.

"Make...prayers" is from a verb in the form of a noun that means "to offer prayers or vows", "to worship," and "to pray for a thing." Again, this is not a active verb, but a noun introduced by an article ("the ones offering"). It is also in the form of a verb acting on itself, so "the ones making yourselves offer prayers".

The Greek word translated as "long" means "long", "tall", "high", "deep", "tedious," etc. It is in the form of an adjective, but there is no noun that matches its form. However, the "prayers" is understood as part of the verb so "tedious" prayers.

There is no noun for "prayers," but it is understood as part of the verb.

There is no therefor in this source. There is a word that means "these" from a Greek word that means "this", "that", "the nearer." It is in the form of a subject of the sentence.

The word translated as "ye shall receive" primarily means "take." However, it means "receive" in the same sense that we use "get" to mean "receive" and has many different uses as we use "get" in English. Among these are the ideas of "understanding" and "possessing." The form is not the second person ("you shall get") but the third person plural.

The word translated as "greater", it means "extraordinary" "superfluous," "excessive," and "extravagant." The word is an exaggeration.

The Greek word translated as "damnation" doesn't mean "damnation" but "judgment", "decision," and a "legal decision."

 

Greek Vocabulary: 

The Greek below is from a combination of Mat 23:13 and Mar 12:40 since this verse doesn't exist in today's best sources.

Οὐαὶ "Woe" is from ouai, which is an exclamation of pain or anger meaning "woe" or "alas." --

ὑμῖν, (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 (noun pl masc nom/acc/voc) "Scribes" is from 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 "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 (noun pl masc nom/voc) "Pharisees" is from Pharisaios, which means "the separated", "the separate ones", "separatist" and refers to the religious sect. The word comes from the Hebrew, pharash, which means "to distinguish." So the sense is also "the distinguished" or "the elite."

ὑποκριταί, Hypocrites" is from hypokrites, which means "an interpreter", "an actor", "a stage player," and "a dissembler."

ὅτι "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."

οἱ κατέσθοντες (part pl pres act masc nom) "Ye devour" is from katesthio, which means "to eat up" and "to devour." It is a term applied to animals of prey. It also means "to corrode" or "to be gnawed."

τὰς οἰκίας (noun pl fem acc) "Houses" is from oikia, which means "house", "building," and "household." It was also the term that was used to describe a family or clan and the people associated with that family or clan, such as their servants and slaves. -- The Greek word translated as "house," in Christ's time, was not only the physical building but the whole household, its members, its property, business interests, and position in the community, all connected to the "name" of the head of the house.

τῶν χηρῶν (noun pl masc gen) "Of widows" is from chera, which means "widow" and "bereaved."

καὶ (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."

προφάσει [uncommon] (noun sg fem dat) "For a pretense" is from prophasis, which means "motive", "alleged cause", "actual motive", "plea", "falsely alleged motive", "pretext", "pretense", "purpose", "cause", "persuasion," and "suggestion."

μακρὰ [uncommon](noun/adj pl neut acc) "Long" is from makros, which means in length, "long," in height, "tall", "high", "deep," in distance, "long", "far", "remote," generally, "large in size or degree", "great," of Time, "long," and "tedious." As a noun, it means "length." As an adverb, "lengthy."

προσευχόμενοι: (part pl pres mp masc nom) "Make...prayers" is from proseuchomai (proseuchomai), which means "to offer prayers or vows", "to worship," and "to pray for a thing. It is the combination of two Greek word, pros, meaning "towards" or "by reason of," and euchomai, meaning "to pray to God."

οὗτοι (adj pl masc nom) "These" is from houtos, which means "this", "that", "the nearer." As an adverb, it means "in this way", "therefore", "so much", "to such an extent," and "that is why." -- "This" is translated from a Greek word that means "this", "that", "the nearer."

λήμψονται (part pl pres act masc nom) "Shall receive" is from lambano means to "take", "take hold of", "grasp", "seize", "catch", "overtake", "find out", "detect", "take as", "take [food or drugs]", "understand", "take in hand", "undertake", "take in", "hold", "get", "receive [things]", "receive hospitably", "receive in marriage", "receive as produce", "profit", "admit", "initiate", "take hold of", "lay hold on", "seize and keep hold of", "obtain possession of", "lay hands upon", "find fault with", "censure," "to apprehend with the senses", "to take hold of," and "to seize." It is also specifically used to mean "seized with emotion." -- The word translated as "That they might receive" primarily means "take." However, it means "receive" in the same sense that we use "get" to mean "receive" and has many different uses as we use "get" in English. Among these are the ideas of "understanding" and "possessing." It is an infinitive, "to get."

περισσότερον (adj sg masc acc) "Greater" is perissoteros, which is a form of the word perissos, which means "beyond the regular number of size", "out of the common", "extraordinary" "more than sufficient", "superfluous", "useless", "excessive", "extravagant", "over-wise", "over-curious", "abundantly," and "remarkable."

κρίμα. (noun sg neut acc) "Damnation" is from krima, which means "decision", "judgment", "decree", "resolution," and a "legal decision."

Wordplay: 

The beginning is a repeated comedic phrase, "boohoo to you." 

A number of exaggerated words are used including the words "devour," (describing a predictor eating prey),  "tedious," and "excessive." 

Also the idea is expressed that the Pharisees are making themselves pray. 

The Spoken Version: 

(Though this verse was likely not a part of the actual encounter at the time, it fits in so well because it is from Christ's words and well matches the tone of Christ's words here, which was probably why it was included.)

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

The crowd laughed.

"Scholars and elites," he announced and then added dismissively. "Actors!"

"The ones gobbling," he said, making a gesture of bringing a huge chunk of food to his mouth with both hands. "The households of mourners."

The crowd laughed.

"And," he said, holding up a hand until the crowd quieted.

"Creating for yourselves," he continued, drawing out the next word. "Tedious prayers as a justification.

The crowed chuckled and mumurred in agreement.

"These things are going to get you," he said. "A spectacular verdict."

The crowd laughed again.

Related Verses: