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Examining the Greek: Emphatic Negations in Matthew 13 (part 2)

In the last blog post in this series, we introduced Matthew 13 and the importance of perfect passive verbs in the Greek.

The text reveals that at some point in the past, it had been determined to give to these men who were Jesus’ disciples the right, privilege, and ability “to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” with the ongoing result being that they, in turn, would have an eternal relationship with God and would be enabled to communicate the eternal, spiritual truths of God to a lost and dying world whom God was drawing to Jesus (John 6:44).

When Was It Granted?

But the question is, when was it “granted” to them “to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”? The text here does not give an answer to that specifically, but we do find what might be the answer as to when in Ephesians:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
(Ephesians 1:3-14, bold and underline added)

Let me make one thing clear. This study is not necessarily about election and man’s responsibility in responding to the message of the Gospel; however, it is very important to note that the above passage contains all of that truth – God “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world,” and once we accepted Jesus through repenting of our sins and being born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8), “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him (i.e., Jesus).” Thus, it would appear it had “been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” to Jesus’ disciples who were truly His (excluding Judas) before the “foundation of the world,” but they did not come to know and understand these “mysteries” until after they had personally committed their lives to Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus says concerning the others who were not His disciples, “but to them it has not been granted,” which would imply that there were those who would not be accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and consequently, “before the foundation of the world,” their hardness of heart and blindness was fully seen and known by the Lord.

Those Who Would Understand the Parables

This now brings us to the use of οὐ μή (ou mē) with the Aorist Subjunctive in this passage in verse 14. As Jesus is telling His disciples the reason He is speaking in parables to the people, He even further clarifies His purpose by saying, “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 “And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand (οὐ μὴ συνῆτε – ou mē sunēte); and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive (οὐ μὴ ἴδητε – ou mē idēte); 15 for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I should heal them.’” What Jesus is saying, therefore, is that because of hardness and blindness of these people’s heart and mind, they “WILL UNEQUIVOCALLY NOT UNDERSTAND TO ANY DEGREE,” and they “WILL UNEQUIVOCALLY NOT PERCEIVE TO ANY DEGREE” the things of God!

The actual phrases in the Greek for “will not understand” and “will not perceive” are οὐ μὴ συνῆτε (ou mē sunēte) and οὐ μὴ ἴδητε (ou mē idēte), which, once again, in an amplified translation respectively mean, “will unequivocally in no way spiritually, mentally, or intellectually grasp, understand, or comprehend,” and “will unequivocally in no way spiritually, mentally, or intellectually notice, perceive, or be an experiential witness” to “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

Paul further attests to this very important truth in his first letter to the Corinthian believers:

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of
(I Corinthians 2:1-16)

You Must Be Born Again

Thus, apart from one being born again by the Spirit of God, there is NO WAY ANYONE can even begin to understand “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” and Paul clearly states that in verse 14: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” The English word “cannot” comes from the two Greek words, οὐ δύναται (ou dunatia), and the verb δύναται (dunatai) means “to possess the capability and ability to do something.” In addition, the English word “understand” comes from the Greek verb γνῶναι (gnōnai), which means “to know, ascertain, understand, comprehend, perceive, realize, and recognize,” and this verb is what is called an aorist infinitive. The aorist tense emphasizes what is called “punctiliar” action, which means that it simply “states the fact of the action or event without regard to its duration.”

Three Types of Aorist Infinitive

However, there are also different aspects of the aorist that emphasize the various usages of its action, and three of the most common are as follow:

The Constative Aorist. This use of the aorist contemplates the action in its entirety. . . .

The Ingrressive Aorist. The action signified by the aorist may be contemplated in its beginning. . . .

The Culminative Aorist. The aorist is employed in this meaning when it is wished to view an event in its entirety, but to regard it from the viewpoint of its existing results.12

One other important thing to note about the aorist is that even though by itself it does not signify any “duration” of time, when an adverbial modifier is attached to it indicating a time segment (adverbs tell how, when, where, how much, how long, and how often), then the time element is clearly part of how the aorist in that instance with its particular action. Thus, in this instance in I Corinthians 2:14, the aspect of the aorist used here would be the Constative, emphasizing the action as a whole, which would be the totality of one’s life if they are not born again. Thus, from the moment of one’s birth until, or if they are born again, they WILL NEVER BE ABLE OR CAPABLE to know, ascertain, understand, comprehend, perceive, realize, and recognize the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

Therefore, what Jesus is saying in Matthew 13:14 can now be better understood in the light of the Scripture we have looked at above in that apart from a person being born again, no matter how much religion he or she may ingest, HE OR SHE WILL NEVER BE ABLE OR CAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN!