Corn or grain? KJV or NIV in Matthew 12:1


       Corn or maize (Wikipedia)       Oats, barley & food products from cereal grains (Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

In Matthew 12:1, the KJV states that Jesus and his disciples went “through the corn”. The NRSV and NJB use “cornfields”. The NIV translates as, “through the grainfields” on the Sabbath. The ESV, NET, NLT, and NASB agree with the NIV’s “grainfields”. Which is it? Corn or grain?

There was a discussion of this on Christian Forums. One poster came across this difference in translation between KJV and NIV:

I don’t think that the KJV is the best translation. I just came across this verse today.

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred (sic), and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. (Matthew 12:1 King James Bible, Cambridge Edition)

Corn was discovered in the western hemisphere and brought back to the eastern hemisphere. Corn was not grown in Israel. Other translations say “grain” which is more accurate. The greek word is stachuas[1] and means “the heads of grain”.[2]

A KJV-only supporter responded,

Nope. Corn and grain are the same thing. Always have been just like wheat, barley, and oats are also grain.
Def; grain – A small, dry, one-seeded fruit of a cereal grass, having the fruit and the seed walls united: ( it even includes sugar according to the Free Dictionary definition). [3]

[4]When we seek a definition of a NT word, we do not go to for an English definition. We go to the Greek language. The word used for “the corn” (KJV) and “the grainfields” (NIV) is stopimos in the plural. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek Lexicon tells us that:

  • The etymology of the word is “sown”, i.e. that which is sown;
  • The meaning is “standing grain, grain fields”.[5]

So the meaning is NOT corn, but the generic grain fields. Therefore, the NIV is the more correct translation. The word is also used in Mark 2:23.
In Mt. 12:1ff, the context tells us that when the journey by the disciples through the grain fiends was made, it happened during or shortly before harvest time as they “began to pick some ears of grain” (NIV). It is literally, “began to pick ears [of grain]”.


[1] This is the word for “head” and not “grain”.

[2] Christian Forums, Christian Scriptures, ‘King James Version why the best?’, Timothew #72, available at: (Accessed 11 July 2012).

[3] Martyrs44 #73, ibid.

[4] The following information is my response as OzSpen #78, ibid.

[5] Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[5] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House), p. 770.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.