The Meaning of Matthew 21:23 Explained

Matthew 21:23

KJV: And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

YLT: And he having come to the temple, there came to him when teaching the chief priests and the elders of the people, saying, 'By what authority dost thou do these things? and who gave thee this authority?'

Darby: And when he came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, saying, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

ASV: And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

What does Matthew 21:23 Mean?

Verse Meaning

The cursing of the fig tree happened as Jesus and the disciples walked from Bethany to Jerusalem on Tuesday. The disciples" exclamation about the withered tree and Jesus" lesson followed on Wednesday. Jesus and His disciples proceeded into Jerusalem where confrontations with three groups erupted in the temple courtyard that day.
Jesus taught in the temple courtyard or perhaps under one of the colonnades that surrounded it. The chief priests were high officials in the temple. At this time in Israel"s history the Roman authorities appointed these leaders (cf. Matthew 2:4). They constituted part of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council in Judaism. The elders were evidently non-priests who represented leading families in Israel. They also had representation on the Sanhedrin. [1] Matthew described these men in terms of their status, not their party affiliation. His point was that these were high-ranking leaders of Israel.
They inquired about Jesus" authority to drive out the moneychangers and merchants, heal the sick, and teach the people. They were the people with authority to control what happened in the temple area. Authority (Gr. exousia) is the right, and the power that goes with the right, to do something. [2] They wanted to know what authority Jesus had and who had given Him the authority to do what He did since they had not. The validity of Jesus" authority depended on its source. [3] Their question indicated their opposition to what He did.
". . . at the time of our Lord, no one would have ventured authoritatively to teach without proper Rabbinic authorisation [4]. ... "who gave Thee this authority to do these things?" seems clearly to point to their contention, that the power which Jesus wielded was delegated to Him by none other than Beelzebul." [5]
"The real issue in the passage concerns not information about the authority of Jesus but the unbelief and unreceptivity of the Jewish leadership. The latter knew well enough that Jesus would have claimed divine authority for his doings in the temple area. Their question thus reflects not an inquisitive openness but an already established rejection of Jesus and the attempt to gain evidence that could later be used against him." [6]

Context Summary

Matthew 21:23-32 - Authority Which Silenced And Condemned
Our Lord always refused to gratify idle curiosity. When an earnest seeker for truth, like Nicodemus, approached Him to know the way of life, He was willing to give time and thought without stint. But of what use was it to endeavor to satisfy these men who had refused to acknowledge the divine mission of the Forerunner! They would not speak out their inner convictions, because of the effect it would have on their worldly prospects. For such as these Christ has nothing. At all costs, we must be true to the inner light, that is, to God's Spirit within us.
The parable of the two sons teaches that hard hearts may lie under fair words, while those of whom we expect least and whose first greeting is abrupt and disappointing, may later prove to be the most devoted and hopeful disciples. If a man repels the gospel with violence, he is more likely ultimately to be won than he who gives a polite and facile assent. [source]

Chapter Summary: Matthew 21

1  Jesus rides into Jerusalem upon a donkey
12  drives the buyers and sellers out of the temple;
17  curses the fig tree;
23  puts to silence the priests and elders,
28  and rebukes them by the parable of the two sons,
33  and the husbandmen who slew such as were sent to them

What do the individual words in Matthew 21:23 mean?

And having come of Him into the temple came to Him teaching the chief priests elders of the people saying By what authority these things are You doing who to You gave the authority this
Καὶ ἐλθόντος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν προσῆλθον αὐτῷ διδάσκοντι οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ λέγοντες Ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιεῖς τίς σοι ἔδωκεν τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην

ἐλθόντος  having  come 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Participle Active, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: ἔρχομαι  
Sense: to come.
αὐτοῦ  of  Him 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Genitive Masculine 3rd Person Singular
Root: αὐτός  
Sense: himself, herself, themselves, itself.
εἰς  into 
Parse: Preposition
Root: εἰς  
Sense: into, unto, to, towards, for, among.
ἱερὸν  temple 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root: ἱερόν  
Sense: a sacred place, temple.
προσῆλθον  came 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: προσέρχομαι  
Sense: to come to, approach.
αὐτῷ  to  Him 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative Masculine 3rd Person Singular
Root: αὐτός  
Sense: himself, herself, themselves, itself.
διδάσκοντι  teaching 
Parse: Verb, Present Participle Active, Dative Masculine Singular
Root: διδάσκω  
Sense: to teach.
ἀρχιερεῖς  chief  priests 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: ἀρχιερεύς  
Sense: chief priest, high priest.
πρεσβύτεροι  elders 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: πρεσβύτερος  
Sense: elder, of age,.
τοῦ  of  the 
Parse: Article, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
λαοῦ  people 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: λαός  
Sense: a people, people group, tribe, nation, all those who are of the same stock and language.
λέγοντες  saying 
Parse: Verb, Present Participle Active, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: λέγω 
Sense: to say, to speak.
ἐξουσίᾳ  authority 
Parse: Noun, Dative Feminine Singular
Root: ἐξουσία  
Sense: power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases.
ταῦτα  these  things 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Accusative Neuter Plural
Root: οὗτος  
Sense: this.
ποιεῖς  are  You  doing 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 2nd Person Singular
Root: ποιέω  
Sense: to make.
σοι  to  You 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative 2nd Person Singular
Root: σύ  
Sense: you.
ἔδωκεν  gave 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: διδῶ 
Sense: to give.
ἐξουσίαν  authority 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: ἐξουσία  
Sense: power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases.
ταύτην  this 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: οὗτος  
Sense: this.