Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

Fruitlessly, however, they are fearful of me, teaching teachings, commandments of men.

KJV : 

Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This is one of the most unusual translations in the KJV because it ignores the line in Isaiah 29:13 that Jesus is quoting. That line is translated in the OT of KJV from the Hebrew as "their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men." If you look at the Greek, you can see how it can be translated the same. The word translated as "worship" primarily means "fear." The word translated as "in vain" also means "falsely" so we easily get "but falsely do they fear me, teaching [my] instructions like human orders." The translation of the full verse of Isaiah, which is quoted in here and in the previous verse (and that we saw before in Matt 15:7-9 in the same Greek) is:

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near [me] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

The point is that religious leaders tend to teach the fear of God rather than the love of God. They think of God's instruction as human laws, which we must obey out of fear of punishment. They don't see them as instructions given to us out of love and a desire for us to have the best lives possible. God is a father offering advice and direction out of love not a policeman or judge threatening us with the law. This is very much in line with Christ's teaching that the Sabbath was made for men, not men for the Sabbath.

In other words, God's instructions are not like the orders of a ruler. They are explanations of how the world works, that is, the universal rule. In a sense, they are the laws of nature. We cannot violate them without suffering the consequences any more than we can walk off a cliff without tangling with the law of gravity. God's instructions are about the nature of things not meaningless lines in the sand that he is forbidding us to cross. The commandments exist not to deprive us of pleasures but to enable us to have better lives.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

μάτην [uncommon] (adv) "In vain" is from the Greek maten which means "in vain", "fruitless", "at random", "idly," and "falsely."

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"). --

σέβονταί ( verb 3rd pl pres ind mp) "Do they worship" is from sebomai, which means "feel awe", "full of awe", "feel fear" or "feel shame," before God, "fear to do", "revere, ""honour", "respect", "approve", and "worship". In Hebrew, the sense of fear is more direct. The single word, yir'ah, which means "fear", "awe," or "fear of God." In the original Hebrew, this line is translated in KJV as saying, that the fear of God comes from the teaching of men, not from God. The Greek could and should be translated this way as well.

με, (pron 1st sg masc acc) "Me" is from eme, which means "I", "me", and "my".

διδάσκοντες (part pl pres act masc nom) "Teach" is from didasko, which means "to teach", "to instruct", "to indicate", "to explain," and "to give sign of."

διδασκαλίας (noun pl fem acc OR noun sg fem gen) "Doctrines" is from disaskalia which means "teachings", "instruction", "elucidation," and "official instruction."

ἐντάλματα (noun pl neut acc) "Commandments" is from entalma, which means "to order". The Greek, entalma, only appears here and in the parallel verse, Mar 7:7. It is a form of entolê which means "injunction", "order," and "command."

ἀνθρώπων. (noun pl masc gen) "Of man" is from anthropos, which is "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate. -- The Greek word for "of man" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in plural.

Septuagint Version

μάτην (adv) "In vain" is from the Greek maten which means "in vain", "fruitless", "at random", "idly," and "falsely."

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"). --

σέβονταί ( verb 3rd pl pres ind mp) "Do they worship" is from sebomai, which means "feel awe", "full of awe", "feel fear" or "feel shame," before God, "fear to do", "revere, ""honour", "respect", "approve", and "worship". In Hebrew, the sense of fear is more direct. The single word, yir'ah, which means "fear", "awe," or "fear of God." In the original Hebrew, this line is translated in KJV as saying, that the fear of God comes from the teaching of men, not from God. The Greek could and should be translated this way as well.

με, (pron 1st sg masc acc) "Me" is from eme, which means "I", "me", and "my".

διδάσκοντες (part pl pres act masc nom) "Teach" is from didasko, which means "to teach", "to instruct", "to indicate", "to explain," and "to give sign of."

ἐντάλματα (noun pl neut acc) "Commandments" is from entalma, which means "to order". The Greek, entalma, only appears here and in the parallel verse, Mar 7:7. It is a form of entolê which means "injunction", "order," and "command."

ἀνθρώπων. (noun pl masc gen) "Of man" is from anthropos, which is "man," and, in plural, "mankind." It also means "humanity" and that which is human and opposed to that which is animal or inanimate. -- The Greek word for "of man" in the singular means "person" and "humanity" and "people" and "peoples" in plural.

καὶ (conj/adv) "And" 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."

διδασκαλίας ( noun pl fem acc OR noun sg fem gen) "Teach" is from didasko, which means "to teach", "to instruct", "to indicate", "to explain," and "to give sign of."

KJV Analysis: 

Howbeit The Greek word translated as "howbeit" joins phrases in an adversarial way. It is usually translated as "but" as it is in the parallel version of this verse in Matthew 15:9. Since this word always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better.

in vain The word translated as "in vain," is an adverb that also means "fruitless", "at random", "idly," and "falsely." This word is only used here and in the parallel verse in Matthew 15:9.

they This is from the plural form of the following verb.

do worship "Worship" is from a verb that means "feel awe", "full of awe", "feel fear" or "feel shame," before God, "revere, ""honor", "respect," and "worship". Notice this word also means "honor" and "revere" echoing the sense of another Greek word used in Mat 15:6 (And he need not honor his father nor his mother) that started this discussion.. This verb is rarely used by Jesus but is used because it is the Greek word used in the Greek Septuagint. Note that its primary meaning is to "feel awe" or "fear," not worship. In original Hebrew, the sense of fear is more direct. The single word, yir'ah, which means "fear", "awe," and specifically, "fear of God."

me, "Me" is the regular first-person pronoun in Greek.

teaching "Teaching" is a verb that means "to teach", "to instruct", "to explain," and "to give sign of." It is in the form of a participle, that is, an adjective form of the verb, so "teaching" or "explaining."

for  These is no Greek for this word. The following word is either the plural object of the verb or a genitive singular, which usually requires an "of."

doctrines "Doctrines" is the noun form of the verb above, so it which means "teachings", "instruction", "explanations," and "official instruction." There is no "for" in the Greek before this word.  This word comes at the end of the verse in the Septuagint version.

the There is no definite Greek article here, but in English we use the definitive article ("the") more commonly from the plural. 

commandments The Greek translated as "commandments" means " is a rare form of another Greek noun that means "injunction", "order," and "command." This form is used only here, in the parallel verse, Matthew 15:9., and in the Septuagint version. While Jesus often uses unusual word for wordplay, he also uses them to be consistent with the original scripture. Except for here, quoting the Septuagint, Jesus always used the common form of this noun.

of men. The Greek word for "of men" means "man", "person" and "humanity" in the singular. In the plural, it means "men", "people", and "peoples". 

Front Page Date: 

Jul 28 2019