Mark 10:31 But many [that are] first shall be last; and the last first.

KJV Verse: 

Mark 10:31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Many, however, are going to be first last and this first last.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse is Jesus's most complete play on words. Both the words translated as "first" and "last" have a lot o different meanings, some contrasting and some the same. For example, both mean "highest." A lot of meaning could be indicated by the gestures Jesus used. However, the phrase clearly doesn't say that "first shall be last." It says "many shall be first." there are no nouns in the sentence. The key words are all adjectives. All the adjectives in the sentence are in the form of subjects so they are all equated to each others, but "many" is the subject. When

KJV Analysis: 

But -- -- The Greek word translated as "but" means "but", "however", and "on the other hand". Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better. 

many -- The word translated as "many" means many in number, great in power or worth, and large in size. This is the first word in the sentence and in the form of a subject,  In Greek, the most important word come first.

that -- This word does not exist in the Greek. It is added to give a certain meaning in translation that is not in the Greek.

are -- This word does not exist in the Greek. It is added to give a certain meaning in translation that is not in the Greek.

first -- The word translated as "first" takes a lot of different types of "first" meanings from its context.  In place, this means "before", "in front," and, as a noun, "the foremost." Of time, it means "former", "earlier," and, as a noun, "the initial." In order, it means "the first." In math, it means the prime numbers. Of rank or degree, it means "superior" or, as a noun, "the highest" or "the best."

shall -- This indicates that the following verb is in the future tense. However, the KJV also uses this word for indicating something might happen. Translation is a little clearer the future tense if we say "are going to be."

be -- The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. This verb appears after the "many" and before the "first." While Greek doesn't uses the "subject > verb > object word order of English, the word order still does create meaning.

last; -- "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." There are a lot of other meanings as well.

and -- The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also"). In a series, is best translated as "not only...but also." After words implying sameness "as".

the -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article. The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

last -- "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." There are a lot of other meanings as well.

first. -- The word translated as "first" takes a lot of different types of "first" meanings from its context.  In place, this means "before", "in front," and, as a noun, "the foremost." Of time, it means "former", "earlier," and, as a noun, "the initial." In order, it means "the first." In math, it means the prime numbers. Of rank or degree, it means "superior" or, as a noun, "the highest" or "the best."

Greek Vocabulary: 

πολλοὶ (adj pl masc nom) "Many" is polys, which means "many (in number)", "great (in size or power or worth)," and "large (of space)." As an adverb, it means "far", "very much", "a great way," and "long."

δὲ (conj/adv) "But" 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").

ἔσονται ( verb 3rd pl fut ind mid ) "Shall be" is eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," of circumstance and events "to happen",  and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

πρῶτοι (adj pl masc nom) "First" is protos. In place, this means "before", "in front," and, as a noun, "the foremost." Of time, it means "former", "earlier," and, as a noun, "the initial." In order, it means "the first." In math, it means the prime numbers. Of rank or degree, it means "superior" or, as a noun, "the highest" or "the best."

ἔσχατοι  (adj pl masc nom) "Last" is 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 (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."

[οἱ] (article pl masc nom) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

ἔσχατοι (adj pl masc nom) "Last" is 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." -- "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." If the context is the previous verse, it can refer to distance or people so it means "furthest" or "meanest". However, clearly, its use is intended for a double meaning, meaning both. KJV English has a double meaning as well, but it is not quite the same. 

πρῶτοι. (adj pl masc nom) "First" is protos. In place, this means "before", "in front," and, as a noun, "the foremost." Of time, it means "former", "earlier," and, as a noun, "the initial." In order, it means "the first." In math, it means the prime numbers. Of rank or degree, it means "superior" or, as a noun, "the highest" or "the best." -- The word translated as "first" takes a lot of different types of "first" meanings from its context. Here, it is technically an adjective but it plays the role of the English adverb "initially."

Related Verses: 

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

The context of this chapter is about human relationships. It starts discussing the exclusivity of marriage and importance of children. It them moves to a discussion about possessions and how the possession of things can be a handicap to our spirits, but the possessions of relationships is not. On the contrary, the spirit gets us more relationships despite the rejection of society.

This idea continues here. While the normal English translation emphasizes the use of these words in terms of order, in the context of relationships, Jesus is talking about social order and who we see as the highest and the lowest. Those with many personal, caring relationships are rich not matter how physically costly such relationships are. Having children may be costly, but they provide the wealth that counts.

Oct 17 2019