|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Part two of a three-part series on the New Testament's use of two important Greek words. Read part one.
Clean Cups and Caterpillars
The first word we need to understand is the Greek word morphe (pronounced mor-fay). This word means "an outward appearance that truly represents the inward nature." In other words, what you see is what you get - the outside agrees with what is on the inside.
If a cup that looks clean on the outside is also clean on the inside, we could say that its outward appearance is morphe - an accurate reflection of what's on the inside. When a caterpillar goes into its cocoon and later emerges as a butterfly, we call that metamorphosis, which is from the same word. That literally means "a change of outward appearance without a change of inward nature." In modern English we say that the caterpillar has morphed into a butterfly. But the creature that goes into the cocoon and the creature that comes out of the cocoon are one and the same creature. Both the caterpillar form and the butterfly form reflect the true nature of the insect, even though the outward appearance is different.
Whitewashed Tombs and Hidden Agendas
The second word from the original Greek that we need to understand is schema (pronounced skee-ma). This word means "an outward appearance that does not represent the inward nature." In other words, what you see is not what you get - the outside does not accurately reflect what is on the inside. Schema is the opposite of morphe.
The cup that looks clean on the outside might be filthy on the inside. The Lord Jesus spoke of this when He described the character of the unbelieving religious leaders of His day: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence" (Matthew 23:25). And, "You are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Matthew 23:27). Here the Lord described an outward appearance that is schema - it doesn't reflect what's on the inside.
As the old saying goes, "Looks can be deceiving." When we talk about a scheming person - which is from the same root word - we usually mean someone who is crafty, conniving, or tricky. We sometimes say that a person like that has a "hidden agenda." What that person says and does outwardly often does not reflect his true intentions, the inward reality.
So morphe means that the outside appearance agrees with what's on the inside. It is the truthful picture of things. Schema means that the outside appearance does not agree with what's on the inside. It is a deceiving picture of things.
With those two words in mind, let's look at five passages together.