Who is greater and who is least? Jesus is puzzling when he says, “Among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
I did some research to see if the Greek and Aramaic words that allude to greater and least might be of help. You’ll have to decide that for yourself.
The Greek word is meizōn and means “larger” as in physical magnitude. It might also mean loud – great, large, properly of physical magnitude, but also great in force and intensity; hence, of the voice, loud. That’s an interesting thought – nobody was louder than John the Baptist? Or more bold, forceful, intense.
The Aramaic word for greater is yatira and it means “more abundant, having further consequences.”
Taking these definitions into account, maybe the middle of the road would be to say that no one has arisen with more influence than John the Baptist.
Are we supposed to take that literally? I think Moses had more influence than JB, and maybe Abraham, and maybe King David. We have to remember how much Jesus used overstatement and give him some leeway. I think Jesus was naming a high profile prophet of the day so that people could easily relate to his next statement.
“Yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Least in Greek refers to something that is small, as in little children, or those who have no rank or influence. So this phrase may have something to do with how much influence a person has or tries to have on others.
I’m finishing my next book about the kingdom of heaven and have given it a new definition based on my research. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” is what Jesus said. In a nutshell, the kingdom of heaven is the harmonious working together of all things…now. The explanation is in the book.
“Among those born of women no one has arisen with more influence than John the Baptist; but now the one who has no rank or influence in the harmonious working together of all things brings more abundance than he.”
That’s a scary thought. It means leaders and high profile self-marketers aren’t going to make the world a better place to live — that it’s on your shoulders and my shoulders. It’s up to those of us who have no rank or influence to change the world and make it a better place. We can’t wait for someone else to do it for us.