[Matthew 7:22-23 KJV] 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

[Mat 7:22-23 MGNT] 22 πολλοι ερουσιν μοι εν εκεινη τη ημερα κυριε κυριε ου τω σω ονοματι επροφητευσαμεν και τω σω ονοματι δαιμονια εξεβαλομεν και τω σω ονοματι δυναμεις πολλας εποιησαμεν 23 και τοτε ομολογησω αυτοις οτι ουδεποτε εγνων υμας αποχωρειτε απ’ εμου οι εργαζομενοι την ανομιαν

In English translations it seems Jesus is in some sense contradicting the goats but the word ὁμολογέω has a consistent usage as indicating agreement.

  • Excellent Question!! +1
    – user25930
    Dec 5 '18 at 20:50
  • @DrPeterMcGowan I must "confess" that I lifted it from here: ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/…
    – Ruminator
    Dec 5 '18 at 21:26
  • 1
    The word in question has been translated into the word "profess", because it is the most logical translation given the accumulated meaning of the rest of Jesus' words. Moreover, according to Strongs Concordance that word has never been translated into the word "agree" anywhere else in the Bible, at least not in the King James Version of the Bible. Dec 5 '18 at 23:29
  • Christ's message to the sinners from verse 23 agrees with His earlier thought, expressed two verses earlier, in verse 21; literally and (kai) then (tote) the same (homo) I shall tell (logeso) them (autois).
    – Lucian
    Dec 22 '18 at 3:59
  • @Lucian I'm not seeing where he says those words in verse 21. Did you have another verse in mind?
    – Ruminator
    Dec 22 '18 at 4:02

ομολογησω (homologeso)is the future tense of "homologeo"; and for Greek pedants has a frustratingly wide range of meanings.

Its basic meaning comes from its two components, "homo" (same) + "logos" (word/idea); that is, from the "basic meaning say the same thing" (Analytical Lexicon of the Greek NT, Friber et al). The same lexicon lists five meanings in the NT of:

  1. as binging a speaker to his word (solemnly) promise (Matt 14:7)
  2. confessing that something is true admit, agree (Heb 11:13) acknowledgement of sin confess (1 John 1:9)
  3. in judicial matters make a binding statement, confess, bear witness (Acts 24:14); as making a public acknowledgement of allegiance confess, declare, acknowledge (John 9:22)
  4. In a religious and moral sense, as making a public statement of what one believes profess confess, acknowledge (Rom 10:9, 10)
  5. acknowledging what is due to God praise (Heb 13;15)

BDAG has a similar list to cover the same range of meanings with some greater detail on some (as one might expect) which I will only summarise here.

  1. to commit oneself to do something for someone, promise (Matt 14:7)
  2. to share a common view or be of a common mind about a matter, agree (Acts 23:8)
  3. to concede that something is factually true, grant, admit, confess (Heb 11:13)
  4. to acknowledge something, ordinarily in public, acknowledge, claim, profess, praise (Matt 7:23, Titus 1:16)

Note that BDAG puts the meaning of "homologeo" of Matt 7:23 in category #4 above. This is significant because the same word is used in Titus 1:16 with an interesting twist. Let me set this out for clarity (my translation)

  • Matt 7:23 - then I will declare to them that, "I never knew you".
  • Titus 1:16 - they profess to know God; but their detestable and disobedient works deny Him

Note that in both passages, the context is the righteousness or worthiness of those who claim to be God's people on the basis of what they say but is denied on the basis of what they do. Further, both passages make the knowledge of God, or God's reciprocal knowledge of us the central matter that appears to be the cause of what they (we) do.

Therefore, in Matt 7:23, I would prefer the meaning (as per BDAG) of "profess" or "declare solemnly". I cannot think of, nor find a passage where God confesses something in the common English sense of an apology; here it is a solemn statement of fact that should be known (albeit secretly, or reluctantly) to those to whom it is declared.


What is most remarkable about these two verses is the very feature which makes the verb ὁμολογέω homologeo to stand out in its real meaning in this particular place, for the concept of the word is much broader than we might otherwise ever be aware of and had the OP not posed the question, one might never have considered the word's breadth of scope.

Usually, in the KJV at least, 'confess' is quite adequate and, indeed, preferable, to cover the concept in context. But here, in these particular two verses, Jesus' words are so remarkable that 'confess' is, I would say, so far off-centre from the concept's broad spectrum of meaning that it is actually a poor translation.

Strong (3670) gives the basic, etymological, meaning of 'to speak the same, to agree'. Further down the page is the meaning 'to assent' or 'to acknowledge'.

... the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart ...

So speaks the prophet Samuel, I Samuel 16:7. And here, I think, is seen just how deeply the Lord looks.

Who would ever think that one who casts out demons and does wonderful works in the name of the Lord Jesus, would be anything but welcomed - and that most heartily - through the gates of pearl ?

But the Lord has already said (in 7:20) :

by their fruits ye shall know them.

So the deeds they did demonstrate something. They demonstrate a state of heart that only the Lord can see. Since he alone knows 'I never knew you', he alone knows that their deeds (however marvelous they may appear outwardly) cannot, possibly, be done ...

... for His sake.

Because they do not know him !

Therefore, these deeds, done in the name (only) of the Lord Jesus, are not done within a relationship in which he is involved.

But all their works they do for to be seen of men - Matthew 23:5 (KJV 1769)

It is all selfish. It is all outward. It is all for men to see. It is all spectacular - but pointless.

The Lord speaks in alignment to, in acknowledgment of and in assent according to - their state of heart, not their outward appearance.

They are condemned not for any other thing. No other misdeeds or sins are spoken. Just this one thing - that the Lord never knew them.

No repentance, no faith, no personal relationship. It is all iniquity . . .

. . . depart from me.

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