"Offended", "Stumbling Blocks", and "Scandalize"

Jesus may have invented the word that eventually became, in English, “scandalize.” He invented it because it was funny. Is it translated as humorous? Of course not. It is made as bland as possible. I say that Jesus invented it because the verb does not appear in any Greek texts before Jesus. There is a noun form that appears only in the Greek Old Testament, but the verb form originates in Jesus’s words.

The word is a verb, skandalizo (σκανδαλίζῶ) which is most commonly translated in the KJV as "offend" and in more recent English version as "fall down" and "stumble."  “Stumble” is actually pretty close, but it is not as funny as “tripped up,” which is the word’s specific meaning, at least as Jesus uses it.

Old Testament Use

It comes from the noun skandolon (meaning a "trap," "snare," or "stumbling block." this noun isn’t very common. It is first used to translate the Hebrew word, mikshowl (מִכְשׁוֹל). It first appears in a commandment in Leviticus 19:14:

KJV: Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.

Now, I can easily imagine Jesus reading this verse and seeing the humor in it. The idea of cursing the deaf, who cannot hear your curses is funny. Putting a stumbling block before the blind is something people, well, teenagers and drunks anyway, only do for a laugh. Actually, it is hard to read this verse without thinking that the LORD has a sense of humor.

Milkshow is translated in the KJV as "stumbling block" or "putting or laying a stumbling block" (8 times) , "offence" or "offend" (3 times), "ruin" (twice), and "fall" (once), but skandalon is only used three times in the Greek Septuagint to translated it in Lev 19:14, 1Sa 25:31 (offense), and Psa 119:165 (shall offend). Another Hebrew word, moqesh, which is always translated into English as "snare," "trap," or "ensnare." This word is only translated into skandalon three times as well, in Josh. 23:13 ("trap"), Judges 2:3 ("snare"), and Psalm 106:36 ("snare").

The Greek

This Greek noun was used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word for snare. Supposedly, skandolon is a Greek Koine word "snare for an enemy; cause of moral stumbling." According to Strong's, it is the stick that is placed to trigger a trap. However, it is not a word I can find any use of in Greek literature except for the Septuagint. Supposedly, a word from the same root, skandelthron is used, but I cannot find it or how it is used. The Greek root, kamptō, κάμπτω, which is the Greek verb that means "to bend" and an adjective that means "flexible."  It is said to refer to the stick bent to set a snare, but it could also refer to the trip itself. We know that this noun existed before Jesus because the Septuagint was written about a hundred years before his borth.

This noun appears twenty-five times in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, and fifteen in the NT. The noun skandolon appears appears 15 times in the New Testament in 12 unique verses according to Strong's Concordance. It is used six times by Jesus in Matthew 13:41, Matthew 16:23, Matthew 18:6, Matthew 18:7, Matthew 18:8 and Luke 17:1, the parallel of Matthew 18:7. All of these verses are in statements appear to be humorous. Three of the four contain the word translated as "woe" in the KJV which is in the spoken version here becomes "boo-hoo." This is very unlikely a coincidence, but it strongly indicates that both words reflected a certain state of mind.

New Testament Use

The verb form, skandalizo, appears in Jesus’s words in the Gospels twenty times. The noun is changed to a verb by adding the verb ending, izo, which used very much like we add "ize" to a noun to make it a verb.Jesus uses this verb the most often, but his followers used it a few times as well, in Matthew 15:12, Matthew 26:33 and, its parallel, Mark 14:29. Matthew, the Gospel writer uses it once in Matthew 13:57. Mark uses it to describe what people are saying about Jesus in Mark 6:3. It is also used three times in the epistles of Paul. Does this mean it was original to Christ? We cannot know. It may have been in common use but, clearly, Christ used it more than others.

People also found its use memorable. All four Gospels have Jesus using it. The quotes appearing in Matthew, Mark, and Luke are often parallels of each other. Matthew and Mark duplicate almost all of each other's uses. Most of the verses are among Christ's most extreme, which is to say, most humorous or gruesome, depending on how you want to see Jesus.

Jesus uses this word as a humorous introduction to serious subjects. It is often used with the comic exaggeration that Jesus used to make real dangers seem more light-hearted. This word comes up when Jesus is talking about things such as lopping off hands and plucking out eyes.

Matthew 5:29

KJV: And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Literal: If, however, that eye of yours, the right one, trips you up, pick it out and toss away from you! Because it gets you together when it destroys itself, one of those members of yours, and you don't want your whole body tossed in a trash heap.

Notice how this verse reverses the original Old Testament use of the noun, about putting a stumbling block in front of the blind. We should become half-blind to avoid stumble. Or course, this could be a coincidence.

The verb also works well in the parable of the seeds, describing seeds on rocky ground in Matthew 13:21

KJV: Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

Literal; He does not have, however, root within himself so it is temporary. But coming under pressure or harassment because of the message, he immediately trips himself up.

A man without roots is easily tripped. Makes sense to me. The “trips up” here is actually the punchline and in a form that means “trips himself up,” that is, they are doing this to themselves. This was clearly meant to be amusing.


If you don’t think that Jesus communicated in a light-hearted way, it is easy to see this word in a dark way. It appears in so many dark verses, but many of these verses are so exaggerated. He usually uses it in the beginning to lighten the message for the dark stuff that comes at the end.

However, when I imagine these verses being spoken, and write about them in my novel. I imagine Jesus acting them out. Starting with a comic stumble to set the proper tone for the message. Of course, I also see his “tossing into fire” catchphrase as being acted out as well.