Matthew 23:1-12

Matthew 23:1-12
Ordinary A49


Then JesusA said to the crowds and to his disciples,B “The scribesC and the PhariseesD sitE on Moses’F seat;G 

Notes on verses 1-2

A “Jesus” = iesous. From Hebrew Yehoshua (Joshua, the Lord is salvation); {from YHVH (proper name of the God of Israel; the self-existent and eternal one); {from havah (to become) or from hayah (to come to pass, become, be)} + yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue; properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. So, in a causative sense, this is to free someone). This is Jesus or Joshua in Greek – the Lord saves or the Lord is salvation.
B “disciples” = mathetes. From matheteuo (to make a disciple of); from manthano (to learn key facts, gain knowledge from experience; generally implies reflection as part of the learning process); from math– (thinking things through). This is a disciple, learner, or student. It is where we get “mathematics” from.
C “scribes” = grammateus. From gramma (what is drawn or written so a letter of the alphabet, correspondence, literature, learning); from grapho (to write). This is a writer, scribe, or secretary. Within Judaism, it was someone learned in the Law, a teacher. Also used in the Bible of the town-clerk of Ephesus. See Sirach 38:24-39:11 for a lengthier, positive passage about who scribes were and what they meant in society.
D “Pharisees” = pharisaios. From Aramaic peras (to divide, separate) and from Hebrew parash (to make distinct, separate, scatter). This is a Pharisee, a member of a Jewish sect active in the 1st century. Their name meant separate in the sense of wanting to live a life separated from sin. Whereas the Sadducees were part of the priestly line and inherited their religious position and responsibilities, Pharisees were regular people who studied the scriptures and offered guidance to regular folk. Sadducees were often wealthier and willing to sacrifice their identity to rub elbows with Roman society. Pharisees were often more concerned with what it meant to follow God without compromising what made them different as followers of God. Sadducees primarily believed in that which was written down (the first five books of the Bible) and Pharisees believed in the Bible and the traditions of the elders. Pharisees had a very wide range of interpretations and diversity of opinion. Their standard mode of religion engagement was lively debate with one another. To argue religion with another teacher was to recognize that they had something of value to offer.
E “sit” = kathizo. Related to “seat” in v2. Related to kathezomai (to sit down, be seated); {from kata (down, against, according to, among) + hezomai (to sit); {related to hedraios (see note E below)}}. This is to sit, set, appoint, stay, rest.
F “Moses’” = mouses. From Hebrew Mosheh (Moses); from mashah (to pull out in a literal or figurative sense, to draw out) OR from Egyptian mes or mesu (child, son i.e. child of…). This is Moses – the one drawn out from the water, which is to say, rescued. If derived from the Egyptian, his name would share a root with Rameses and Thutmose.
G “seat” = kathedra. 3x in NT. From kata (down, against, according to, among) + the same as hedraios (sitting, well-seated, immovable; figuratively, steadfast, firm, morally fixed); {from hedra (seat)}. This a seat or bench in a literal or figurative sense. This is the root of “cathedral.”

therefore, do whatever they teachH you and followI it; but do not doJ as they do,K

Notes on verse 3a

H “teach” = eiron + poieo. Eiron is to say, answer, speak, command. Poieo is to make, do, act, construct, abide, or cause.
I “follow” = tereo. From teros (a guard or a watch that guards keep); perhaps related to theoreo (gazing, beholding, experiencing, discerning; looking at something to analyze it and concentrate on what it means; the root of the word “theatre” in that people concentrate on the action of the play to understand its meaning); from theaomai (to behold, look upon, see, contemplate, visit); from thaomai (to gaze at a spectacle; to look at or contemplate as a spectator; to interpret something in efforts to grasp its significance); from theoros (a spectator or envoy). This is to guard, observe, keep, maintain, or preserve. It can also be used figuratively for spiritual watchfulness. It is guarding something from being lost or harmed – keeping an eye on it. Contrast the Greek phulasso, which is to guard something so that it doesn’t escape. Also contrast koustodia, which generally denotes a fortress or military presence. This word can mean fulfilling commands, keeping in custody, or maintaining. It can also figuratively mean to remain unmarried.
J “do” = ergon. From ergo (to work, accomplish, do). This is work, task, deed, labor, effort.
K “do” = poieo. Same as “teach” in v3. See note H above.

for they do not practiceL what they teach.M, N 

Notes on verse 3b

L “practice” = poieo. Same as “teach” in v3. See note H above.
M “teach” = lego. This is to speak, say, name, call, command. It is generally to convey verbally.
N Literally “therefore all things, as many as they tell you, keep and observe. But according to their works do not do for they speak and do not act.”

They tie upO heavyP burdens,Q hard to bear,R 

Notes on verse 4a

O “tie up” = desmeuo. 3x in NT. From desmos (a bond, chain, infirmity, impediment, ligament); from deo (to tie, bind, fasten, impel, compel; to declare something against the law or prohibited) OR from desmeo (bind, confine, tie); from desmeuo (see above). This is to put in chains, bind together, chain a prisoner, tie a load.
P “heavy” = barus. 6x in NT. Perhaps from the same as baros (weight, burden in a literal or figurative sense; authority); from the same as basis (foot, step, pace) {from baino (to walk to go). This is heavy, burdensome, oppressive, serious. It is weighty in a literal or figurative sense.
Q “burdens” = phortion. 6x in NT. From phortos (load, cargo); from phero (to bear, bring, lead, make known publicly; to carry in a literal or figurative sense). This is burden, cargo, ship freight. It is an individual’s burden. It can also be the invoice of freight.
R “hard to bear” = dusbastaktos. Perhaps related to “heavy” in v4. 2x in NT. From dus (un- or mis-; with difficulty) + bastaktos (borne); {from bastazo (to lift in a literal of figurative sense; to take up, carry, bear, or remove; figuratively, to declare, endure, or sustain); probably from basis (see note P above)}. This is oppressive, grievous, doubly heavy. It describes something that is difficult or burdensome to carry.

and lay them on the shouldersS of others;T but they themselves are unwillingU to lift a finger to moveV them. 

Notes on verse 4b

S “shoulders” = omos. Perhaps related to “burdens” in v4. Perhaps from phero (see note Q above). This is the shoulder as a place where one carries a heavy load.
T “others” = anthropos. Probably from aner (man, male, husband) + ops (eye, face). This is human, humankind. Used for all genders.
U “unwilling” = ou + thelo. Literally “not willing.” Thelo is to wish, desire, will, or intend. It is to choose or prefer in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean inclined toward or take delight in. It can have a sense of being ready to act on the impulse in question.
V “move” = kineo. 8x in NT.  This is to move, excite, or provoke. It is to stir in a literal or figurative sense. This is where the word “kinetic” comes from.

They do all their deedsW to be seenX by others; for they make their phylacteriesY broadZ and their fringesAA long.BB 

Notes on verse 5

W “deeds” = ergon. Same as “do” in v3. See note J above.
X “seen” = theaomai. From thaomai (to gaze at a spectacle; to look at or contemplate as a spectator; to interpret something in efforts to grasp its significance). This is to behold, look upon, see, contemplate, visit like a spectator. This is the root of the word “theatre.”
Y “phylacteries” = phulakterion. 1x in NT. From the same as phulasso (to guard something so that it doesn’t escape – to watch over it vigilantly; being on guard in a literal or figurative sense); {related to phulaks (military guard, sentry, watcher)} + –terion (suffix of a place). This is phylactery, amulet, or a fortification. A phylactery is small cases that have scripture verses inside (Ex 13:1-10, 11-16; Dt 6:4-9, 13-21) bound to the forehead, arm, and wrist.
Z “make…broad” = platuno. 3x in NT. From platus (wide, spread flat, braod); perhaps from plasso (to form, mold; to create like a potter shapes clay). This is to enlarge, open wide. It can be widen in a figurative sense – to open one’s heart wide.
AA “fringes” = kraspedon. 5x in NT. This is a border – a fringe, edge, or tassel.
BB “long” = megaluno. 8x in NT. From megas (big in a literal or figurative sense – great, large, exceeding, abundant, high, mighty, perfect, strong, etc). This is the same word used in Mary’s song of praise in Luke 1:46 “my soul magnifies the Lord.” This is to make great, increase, extoll, magnify. It is increase in a literal or figurative sense.

They loveCC to have the place of honorDD at banquetsEE and the best seatsFF in the synagogues,GG 

Notes on verse 6

CC “love” = phileo.  From philos (dear, beloved, a friend, an associate; friendship with personal affection, a trusted confidante; love from personal experience with another person). This is friendship love and fondness with personal attachment.
DD “place of honor” = protoklisia. 5x in NT. From protos (what is first, which could be the most important, the first in order, the main one, the chief); {from pro (before, first, in front of, earlier)} + klisia (a place where one reclines; a dining couch or a group of people eating together); {from klino (to slant, rest, recline, approach an end, wear; to bend in a literal or figurative sense – to lay down, a day ending, causing an opposing army to flee)}. This is literally reclining first. It can refer to the chief place or the place with the most honor – highest, preeminent.
EE “banquets” = deipnon. 16x in NT. From the same as dapane (cost or expense); from dapto (to devour). This is a dinner or a feast – a meal in the afternoon or, more commonly, the evening.
FF “best seats” = protokathedria. Related to “seat” and “sit” in v2. 4x in NT. From protos (see note DD above) + kathedra (see note G above). This is sitting first, perhaps in the front row as a chief or most honorable place to sit.
GG “synagogues” = sunagoge. From sun (with, together with, closely associated) + ago (to lead, bring, carry, guide, go, drive). Literally, this is a bringing together, a place of assembly. The term can be used for the people or for the place where they assemble. It is also sometimes used of Christian churches in the New Testament. So, this is synagogue, assembly, congregation, or church. This is where the word “synagogue” comes from.

and to be greetedHH with respect in the marketplaces,II and to have peopleJJ callKK them rabbi.LL 

Notes on verse 7

HH “greeted” = aspasmos. 10x in NT. From aspazomai (to welcome, salute, or greet. It can also be to embrace or acclaim); {perhaps from a (with, together with) + a form of spao (to draw, draw out, pull)}. This is a greeting whether face to face or in a letter.
II “marketplaces” = agora. 11x in NT. From ageiro (to gather). This is assembly, forum, marketplace, town square, thoroughfare. This is where “agoraphobia” comes from.
JJ “people” = anthropos. Same as “others” in v4. See note T above.
KK “call” = kaleo. Related to keleuo (to command, order, direct); from kelomai (to urge on). This is to call by name, invite, to name, bid, summon, call aloud.
LL “rabbi” = rhabbi. 15x in NT – 8x in the Gospel of John. From Hebrew rab (chief); from rabab (to be many, increase, multiply). This is a title of respect for a teacher-scholar. Literally, it means great one or honorable sir. It can also be understood as my master or my teacher.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher,MM, NN and you are all students.OO And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven.PP, QQ 

Notes on verses 8-9

MM “teacher” = didaskalos. From didasko (to teach, direct, instruct, or impart knowledge; in the New Testament, almost always used for teaching scripture); from dao (to learn). This is teacher or master.
NN Literally “for one is your teacher.”
OO “students” = adelphos. From a (with, community, fellowship) + delphus (womb). This is a brother in a literal or figurative sense. It is also used of another member of the Church.
PP “heaven” = ouranios. 9x in NT. From ouranos (air, sky, the atmosphere, heaven; the sky that is visible; the spiritual heaven where God dwells; implies happiness, power, and eternity); {perhaps from oros (mountain, hill)}. This is heavenly or celestial. It can mean in, belonging to, or coming from heaven or the sky.
QQ Literally “for one is your father, who is in heaven.”

10 Nor are you to be called instructors,RR for you have one instructor, the Messiah.SS, TT 

Notes on verse 10

RR “instructors” = kathegetes. Related to “synagogue” in v6. 2x in NT. From kata (down, against, according to, throughout) + hegeomai (to think, suppose, have an opinion; to lead the way, what comes in front or first, initial thought, high esteem or authority; one who commands in an official capacity); {from ago (see note GG above)}. This is a leader, teacher, or guide. It is a master-teacher as in Plato. This same word is presently used in Greek to mean professor.
SS “Messiah” = christos. From chrio (consecrate by anointing with oil; often done for prophets, priests, or kings). Literally, the anointed one, Christ. The Greek word for Messiah.
TT “Literally “since your instructor is one, the Christ.”

11 The greatestUU among you will be your servant.VV 12 All who exaltWW themselves will be humbled,XX and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Notes on verses 11-12

UU “greatest” = megas. Related to “long” in v5. See note BB above.
VV “servant” = diakonos. Perhaps from dia (through, across to the other side, thoroughly) + konis (dust) OR from dioko (to chase after, put to flight; by implication, to persecute or to purse like a hunter after its prey; this can be earnestly pursue or zealously persecute) {related to dio (put to flight)}. This is a servant, minister, waiter, or attendant. It is used for a person who performs a service, including religious service. This is the root of the word “deacon.”
WW “exalt” = hupsoo. From hupsos (height, high position, heaven, dignity, eminence; elevation, altitude; to be exalted); from hupsi (on high, aloft); from huper (over, above, beyond). This is to elevate in a literal or figurative sense. So it could be to raise up or set something in a high place or to exalt or make something great.
XX “be humbled” = tapeinoo. 14x in NT. From tapeinos (low in position, depressed, low in circumstance; fig humiliated, low in spirit). This is bringing someone or something low. Figuratively to humble or humiliate – to depress or abase.

Image credit: “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees” by James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply