Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you...for you pay tithes of mint and anise and cumin,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Sadly for you, scholars and elitists, actors, that take a tenth from [yourselves of] the mint, and the dill, and the cumin, and you let go of the burdens of the traditions: the discernment, and the compassion, and the trust. These, however, are needed to produce those there, not to let [them] go .

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

In this verse, Christ starts with the humorous form in which he began these . The KJV translation disguises some key words, translating the same words differently in different parts of the text. Also hidden here is that idea that virtues are needed to produce the material things we value in life.

"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" in the Gospel, but a word normally translated as "that."

A made-up koined word is translated as "ye pay tithes." It appears only in the Gospels and an uncommon one for Christ. It reverse the meaning of the normal word that means "to take a tenth" by adding the word "from" to it as a prefix. The sense is, "I take a tenth from [myself]."

The following series of spice names all begin with the article "the." This makes the Greek much more entertaining and dramatic than most biblical translations who omit many of the "the's."

The word translated as "mint" is an adjective meaning "sweet smelling," but meaning "green mint" when used as a noun, as it is here. It is a aromatic spice.

The Greek conjunction translated as "and" is repeated here a number of times. Christ uses it as a pausing point for his repetitions, usually in groups of three, as we see here.

The word translated as "anise" means the spice, "dill," and this is the first part of dill's latin name and looks like the English word "anise." Dill is often confused with fennel and anise seed, because the plants all look similar though unrelated. It is a sweet/bitter spice.

The word translated as "cummin" means "cumin" and looks like it, since it is the source of our English word. It is a pungent spice.

"And" appears a fourth time here as a pausing point as Christ changes directions.

The word translated as "have omitted" primarily means "to let go" or "to send away." This same word is usually translated as "leave", "forgive", "suffer," and "let" in the New Testament. The same word appears later in the verse but it is disguised as "leave...undone."

The following series of nouns all begin with the article "the." This makes the Greek much more entertaining and dramatic than most biblical translations who omit many of the "the's."

The Greek word translated as "the weightier" (also uncommon) is an adjective used as a noun that means "heavy in weight", "heavy with age, infirmity or suffering", "grievous", "oppressive", "causing disgust," and many other negative ideas. This negativity comes from the idea that negative things fall to earth and positive ones fly to the heavens. However, here, Christ seems to use it in a positive way, but he is describing his opponents' reaction to these positive ideas in a negative way.

The Greek word translated as "matters of the law" describes the social norms, which can be from "tradition", "common practice," or the "laws." Christ also uses it to refer to the first five books of the OT written by Moses. It is possessive.

The Greek word translated as "judgment" means distinguishing among choices and "separating" things. Christ uses it in a variety of ways, though the KJV usually translates it as "judgment." It also means a "turning point," since it is the source of the meaning of "crisis" has in English. Only secondarily does it means "judgment" as in a court judgment.

Again, all the following nouns, in Greek, introduced by the "the" articles, are separated by the conjunction translated as "and" that Christ uses as a pausing point. This, with "judgment" above makes a second group of three, corresponding to the group of three spices.

The Greek term translated as "mercy" means "good will toward the afflicted." It also means "pity" and "compassion."

The term translated as "faith" was much closer to our general idea of having confidence or trust in people and especially their words rather that the general sense of religious belief.

Not appearing here in the KJV is the conjunction normally translated as "but" that separates this last section from the one above. It appears in today's Greek sources, but not the source used by the KJV.

The "this" is from a pronoun that can mean "this" or "that," the nearer or the further depending on usage. 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.

The Greek word translated as "Ought ye" is from a verb meaning "there is need."

The Greek word translated as "to have done" has the primary meaning of "making" or producing" something or "causing" or "rendering" as service. The reference could to be to the production of the spices, but it could refer to the general idea of "productivity", though this would usually require this form of the word to be introduced by an article, "the."

There is no "and" appearing here in the source.

The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion. The sense is that "you don't want" to do something, not that it isn't done or don't think something that might be true. If it wasn't done or wasn't true, the objective negative of fact would be used.

The word translated as "leave" primarily means "to let go" or "to send away." This same word was translated as "have omitted" earlier in the verse.

The word translated as "the others" is an adjective that highlights its noun as in a specific place from a word that means "there." This actually appears after "produce" and could to indicate the spices discussed earlier. However, it could also refer to the burdens dropped.

Greek Vocabulary: 

Οὐαὶ (exclm) "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."

ἀποδεκατοῦτε [uncommon] (verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Pay tithe" is from apodekatoo, which means to "tithe," "to take a tenth of," or "to pay a tithe." It is only used in the NT and is a combination of two Greek words "apo" ("from") and "dekatoo," ("to take a tenth").

τὸ ἡδύοσμον [uncommon] (adj sg neut acc) "Mint" is from hedyosmon, which means "sweet-smelling," "fragrant," and, as a noun, "green mint."

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."

τὸ ἄνηθον [uncommon] (noun sg neut acc) "Anise" is from anethon, which means "dill."

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."

τὸ κύμινον, [uncommon] (noun sg neut acc) "Cummin" is from kyminon, which means "cumin."

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."

ἀφήκατε (verb 2nd pl aor ind act) "Have omitted" is from 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."

τὰ βαρύτερα [uncommon] (adj pl neut acc) "The weightier" is from barys, which means "heavy in weight", "heavy of strength and force", "heavy with age, infirmity or suffering", "pregnant", "heavy, slow", "heavy to bear", "grievous", "burdensome," "oppressive", "causing disgust", "unwholesome," of persons, "severe", "stern", "wearisome", "troublesome", "overbearing," of sound, "strong", "deep", "bass," of smell, "strong," and "offensive."

τοῦ νόμου, (noun sg masc gen) "Matters of the law" is from nomos, which means "anything assigned", "a usage", "custom", "law", "ordinance," or "that which is a habitual practice." It is the basis of the English words "norm" and "normal."

τὴν κρίσιν (noun sg fem acc) "Judgment" is from krisis, which means "separating", "distinguishing", "judgment", "choice", "election", "trial", "dispute", "event," and "issue."

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."

τὸ ἔλεος (noun sg neut acc) "Mercy" is from eleos, which means "pity", "mercy," and "compassion."

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."

τὴν πίστιν: (noun sg fem acc) "Faith" is from pistis, which means "confidence", "assurance", "trustworthiness", "credit", "a trust," "that which give confidence," and, as a character trait, "faithfulness."

ταῦτα (adj pl neut nom/acc) "These" is from tauta, which is a referring pronoun meaning "these", "this", "that," and "here." It can mean the nearer or the further depending on usage. As an adverb it can mean "therefore" and "that is why."

δὲ Untranslated is 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").

ἔδει (verb 3rd sg imperf ind act) "Ought ye" is from, dei, which means "it is needful for one", "it was fated", "it being needful or fitting", ""there wants," and "there is need of."

ποιῆσαι (verb aor inf act) "To have done" is from poieo, which means "to make", "to produce", "to create", "to bring into existence", "to bring about", "to cause", "to render", "to consider", "to prepare", "to make ready," and "to do."

κἀκεῖνα (adj pl neut acc) "the others" is from ekeinos (kakeinos), which means "the person there", "that person", "that thing", "in that case", "in that way", "at that place," and "in that manner."

μὴ "Not" is from 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. --

ἀφεῖναι. (verb aor inf act) "Leave...undone" is from 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."

The Spoken Version: 

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

The crowd laughed.

"Scholars and elites," he announced as if praising them, and then added dismissively. "Actors!"

The crowd laughed at the familiar refrain.

"Because you that offer a tenth," he said, holding his thumb and forefinger apart to indicate how small the amount was.

"Of the mint!" he exclaimed as if the mint was wonderful, making a gesture of setting over the tiny amount on the ground.

The crowd laughed.

"And..." he said, pausing for the crowd to quiet.

"The dill," he said reverently, making another gesture of setting down a tiny amount next to the first.

Again the crowd laughed.

"And..." he said, pausing again.

"The cumin!" he continued, now screwing up his face as if in pain, while making a gesture of setting down another tiny amount next to the other two.

The crowd laughed.

"And..." he said, pausing again, pantomiming walking under a heavy burden

The crowd laughed again.

"You drop," he continued, using his hands to indicate plopping down something large from his back to the ground. "The burden of our traditional values."

The crowd laughed as he pretended to wipe sweat from his forehead.

"The good judgment," he said with a shrug, pointing at the imaginary burden resting on the ground.

The crowd quieted, noting the sadness in his tone.

"And..." he continued, pointing again. "The compassion."

Some in the crowd began to object.

"And.." he continued, pointing again with a tilt of his head and lifting an eyebrow. "The trust."

"These, however," he said, again indicating the burdens that he had dropped. "Are necessary to produce those there."

At "those there," he indicated the area where he had put down three tiny amounts of spice.

"You don't want to let them go," he concluded sadly, gesturing back to the burdens.

Related Verses: