Matthew 23:25 Woe unto you...for you make clean the outside of the cup

KJV Verse: 

Mat 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Sadly for you, scholars and elitists, actors, you purify the outside the cup and the meat platter. Inside, however, they are overloaded with pillage and rotten meat.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse is much more entertaining in Greek because of the metaphor that it ends with that is completely lost in translation. It starts with some very common words, but ends with uncommon and exaggerated words. This use of uncommon words is common for Christ's use of humor where we have to think about why he chose that word instead of others he uses more commonly. .

"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."

The Greek word translated as "Ye make clean," means to remove dirt. It is used for a lot of specific types of "cleaning" including cleansing a person of leprosy but it also has a general meaning of "purifying" anything.

The word translated as "the outside" is normally an adverb meaning "outside" and "from without." It is the opposite of the Greek word translated later in verse as "inwardly." The difference is the presence of an article, making this "the outwardly."

The Greek preposition translated as "of" means "out of" of "from." In Greek, they use the genitive case instead of a preposition for the types of phrases with usually use with "of."

The word for "cup" means "a drinking-cup", "a wine-cup", "a jar," and "a receptacle" for offerings in the temple. The cup is used by Christ as a symbol for sharing burdens.

The word translated as "platter" is specifically a platter for meat, and it a metaphor for "fresh tastes."

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.

"Inwardly" is from the adverb meaning "inside" and "within." It is the opposite of the word above.

The Greek word translated as "They are full" means "to be full" and, of animals, "to be laden." ​It is usually applied to ships and boats. This is not the word Christ uses frequently in the Gospels to mean described "being full." This word was chosen specifically to create the image of a heavily laden ship wallowing through the water.

The word translated as "of" primarily means "from."

The word translated as "extortion" means "seizure", "robbery," and "rape." However, with the ship metaphor above, the obvious meaning in English would be "pillage" and "piracy" (in the traditional sense of robbery and rape, not simply plagiarism.

The word translated as "excess" means "bad mixture of meat." It also refers to a bad temperature or a bad climate. Note that this corresponds to the meat platter. The sense is spoiled meat.

Greek Vocabulary: 

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, (noun pl masc nom/voc) 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."

καθαρίζετε (verb 2nd pl pres ind act) "Ye make clean" is from katharizo, which means "to clean", "to clear the ground of weeds,""prune away", "to remove dirt", "to purify,"and "to remove impurities." It is also used to describe the removal of the inedible parts from grain (winnowing), clearing weeds from a field, pruning a plant and so on.

τὸ ἔξωθεν (noun sg neut acc) "The outside" is from exothen, which is normally an adverb meaning "from without" and "outward." When used as a noun, "the outside" or "those outside."

τοῦ ποτηρίου (noun sg neut gen) "Cup" is from poterion, which means "a drinking-cup", "a wine-cup", "a jar," and "a receptacle" for offerings in the temple.

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."

τῆς παροψίδος, [uncommon](noun sg fem gen) Platter" is from paropsis, which means "platter on which meat is served." It is a metaphor for "fresh tastes."

ἔσωθεν "Inwardly" is from esothen, which means "from within", "inside", "within," and "inward." This is the adverb that is the opposite of exothen above.

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").

γέμουσιν [uncommon](verb 3rd pl pres ind act) "They are full" is from gemo, which means "to be full" (especially referring to a ship), but generally as well), "to be full of" (w/gen), "to be filled with" (w/dat) and, of animals, "to be laden." ​

ἐξ "Of" is from ek, which means 1) [of motion] "out of", "from", "by", "away from;" 2) [of place] "beyond", "outside of", "beyond;" 3) [of succession] "after", "from;" 4) [of rest] "on", "in," 5) [of time] "since", "from", "at", "in;" 5) [of materials] "out of", "made from." -

ἁρπαγῆς [uncommon](noun sg fem gen)"Extortion" is from harpage, which means "seizure", "robbery", "rape", "the thing seized", "booty", "prey," and "greediness,"

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."

ἀκρασίας. [uncommon](noun sg fem gen) "Excess" is from akrasia, which means "bad mixture" (of meats), "ill temperature," and "unwholesome" climate.

The Spoken Version: 

"Boo-hoo 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 hooted and clapped.

"You purify the outside of the cup," he said, pantomiming polishing the outside bottom of a cup,.

The crowd chuckled.

"And..." he said pausing. "The meat platter!"

Again he patomimed cleaning it bottom and the crowd chuckled.

"Inside, however," he said, taking up the imaginary cup in his right and platter in his left. He looked at their insides.

"They are overloaded," he said staring. Then he widened his eyes, grimaced, and looked at the people standing around.

"With rape and pillage," he said pretending to hold up the cup. Then holding up the platter, he added, "And stinky meat!"

The crowd laughed.