Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Scripturing the Presence of God

Below is a rough translation of Matthew 5:21-37, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for Sunday, February 16, 2014. This is a very long text, so my verse-by-verse comments run dry after v.26.

There is, however, one observation that I would make regarding the six antitheses of vv. 27-37. Jesus is quite willing (and Matthew is quite willing – that is uber-important to me) to take the Scriptures and to re-cast them for a new moment. Neither Jesus nor Matthew can be accused of being biblical fundamentalists when one reads this text. Quite the opposite, really. And I believe what compels Jesus and Matthew to take up the scriptural tradition and revise it is not that they lack respect for the Scriptures, but that they believe strongly in the real, ongoing presence of the God of the Scriptures.

The hermeneutical question that Jesus’ and Matthew’s hermeneutics raises for me is “What does it mean to be faithful to the Scriptures?” Jesus’ radical re-interpretation – with the words “You have heard … But I say to you” demonstrates that faithfulness to the Scriptures does not mean “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” In fact, I suspect Jesus would say, “The point is not to be faithful to the Scriptures, but to be faithful to the living God who continues to be present among us.” I even wonder if the point is to move “the Scriptures” from being a noun to thinking of “scripturing” as a verb – a witness to how God’s is really present among God’s people. The accounts of creation, the Ten Words on Mt. Sinai, the stories of the people of Israel, Psalms, proverbs, and prophetic utterances are all ways of “scripturing” God’s presence in differing times and contexts. It is not the written accounts themselves, but the real incarnation of God’s word through God’s people that is the point. “Scripturing” is the act of giving witness to that presence. As such, Jesus’ words here do not signify the ‘final revision’ of old Mosaic laws. They signify a way of “scripturing” God’s presence.

Now I have to go back and read Paul Ricoeur’s Figuring the Sacred because I’m fairly sure that whatever I’m trying to say he has already said better.

21 Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις, Οὐ φονεύσεις: ὃς δ' ἂν φονεύσῃ, 
ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει. 
You have heard that it was said to the ancients, “You will not murder; and whoever might murder will be liable to the judgment.”  
Ἠκούσατε: AAI 2p, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf
ἐρρέθη: API 3s, εἶπον to utter with the mouth, to say, speak
φονεύσεις: FAI 2s, φονεύω, 1) to kill, slay, murder  
φονεύσῃ: AASubj 3s, φονεύω, 1) to kill, slay, murder 
ἔσται: FMI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. It seems a bit odd that the command “You will not murder” is in the future indicative and not the imperative mood. Matthew is following the LXX rendering in Exodus 20:15.

22 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς  ὀργιζόμενος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει: ὃς δ' ἂν εἴπῃ τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ, Ῥακά, ἔνοχος ἔσται τῷ 
συνεδρίῳ: ὃς δ' ἂν εἴπῃ, Μωρέ, ἔνοχος ἔσται εἰς τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός. 
But I say to you that each one who is angry toward his brother will be liable to the judgment; and whoever might say to his brother, “Raca!” will be liable to the Sanhedrin; and whoever says, “Fool” will be liable to the gehenna of fire.
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ὀργιζόμενος: PMPart nms, ὀργίζω to make οργή to be or become wroth.
ἔσται (3x): FMI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
εἴπῃ (2x): AASubj 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
1. This verse has several terms, the full meanings of which may be lost in translation. I recently had a conversation with a British friend over whether ‘to sneak’ or ‘to stealth’ was worse. The same kind of colloquial meanings seem at work here, where our translations only capture a definition but perhaps not a full meaning or import.
Ῥακά and Μωρέ are in the vocative case, as a way of naming others. According to greattreasures.org,  Ῥακά is a term of contempt based on the Hebrew רק, denoting an empty, vain, worthless person. And Μωρέ is the vocative form of a fairly common term μωρός, meaning foolish.
- συνεδρίῳ Is the dative form of συνέδριον (Sanhedrin). We know of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem from Jesus’ trial in Mt. 26:59, but the term can referto any assembly that is convened to pass judgment or adjudicate between contending parties.
- γέενναν: (Gehenna) is often assumed to be “hell,” but that strikes me as a development of the term rather than its original use. The common explanation of the term is that it was originally based on the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where trash and animal carcasses deposited and burned.  

23ἐὰν οὖν προσφέρῃς τὸ δῶρόν σου ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον κἀκεῖ μνησθῇς 
ὅτι  ἀδελφός σου ἔχει τι κατὰ σοῦ, 
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there might be reminded that your brother has something against you,
προσφέρῃς: PASubj 2s, προσφέρω, 1) to bring to, lead to 
μνησθῇς: APSubj 2s, μιμνήσκω 1. mindful of, to think much of a thing, to remember
ἔχει: PAI 3s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold
1. τὸ θυσιαστήριον  can refer to an altar in general, or the altar in the court of the priests in the temple at Jerusalem. Matthew refers to it twice here and four more times in c.23.
...gift to the altar,
...gift before the altar,
...swear by the altar,
...gift, or the altar that sanctifies
...swear by the altar
...temple and the altar

24 ἄφες ἐκεῖ τὸ δῶρόν σου ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου, καὶ ὕπαγε πρῶτον 
διαλλάγηθι τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, καὶ τότε ἐλθὼν πρόσφερε τὸ δῶρόν σου. 
Leave your gift there in front of the altar of sacrifice, and first go be reconciled to your brother, and then having returned bring your gift.
ἄφες: AAImpv 2s, ἀφίημι,v  1) to send away  … 1c2) to leave,
ὕπαγε: ὑπάγω, PAImpv 2s 1) to lead under, bring under 2) to withdraw oneself, to go away, depart
διαλλάγηθι: APImpv 2s, διηλλάγην; 1. to change: τὶ ἀντί τινος 2. to change the mind of any one, to reconcile; Pass. to be reconciled, to renew friendship.
ἐλθὼν: AAPart nms, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 
πρόσφερε: PAImpv 2s, προσφέρω, 1) to bring to, lead to 
1. It seems that ἄφες (leave) and πρόσφερε (bring) are opposites. Of interest – but I do not have the wherewithal to pursue it at the moment – is how these terms relate to συμφέρω (bring together, or profitable) in vv. 29 and 30.
2. Acc. to greattreasures.org, this is the only NT use of διηλλάγην (reconcile).

25 ἴσθι εὐνοῶν τῷ ἀντιδίκῳ σου ταχὺ ἕως ὅτου εἶ μετ' αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ, 
μήποτέ σε παραδῷ  ἀντίδικος τῷ κριτῇ, καὶ  κριτὴς τῷ ὑπηρέτῃ, καὶ εἰς 
φυλακὴν βληθήσῃ: 
Be agreeing to your adversary quickly while you are with him on the road, lest the adversary hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the magistrate, and you will be thrown into prison.
ἴσθι: PAImpv 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
εὐνοῶν: PAPart nms, εὐνοέω, 1) to wish (one) well  2) to be well disposed, of a peaceable spirit
ἕως  1. till  as adverb, until, as long as, marking the continuance of an action up to the time of another action.  ... (c) with ὅτον (hoton) until when. (d) with the Genitive (as a preposition) until, unto, marking the “terminus ad quem”, and spoken both of time and place
ὅτου: gms, ὅστις, 1) whoever, whatever, who 
εἶ: εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
παραδῷ: AASubj 3s, παραδίδωμι, 1) to give into the hands (of another)

26 ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃς ἐκεῖθεν ἕως ἂν ἀποδῷς τὸν ἔσχατον 
κοδράντην. 
Truly I say to you, you will not be released [from] there until you have paid off the last penny!
ἐξέλθῃς: AASubj 2s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs
ἀποδῷς: AASubj 2s, ἀποδίδωμι, 1) to deliver, to give away for one's own profit what is one's  own, to sell  2) to pay off, discharge what is due

27 Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη, Οὐ μοιχεύσεις. 
You have heard that it was said, “You will not commit adultery.”
μοιχεύσεις: FAI 2s, μοιχεύω, 1) to commit adultery

28 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς  βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν 
ἤδη ἐμοίχευσεν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ. 
But I say to you that anyone looking at a woman to lust for her has already adulterated her in his heart.
βλέπων: PAPart nms, βλέπω, 1) to see, discern, of the bodily eye  1a) with the bodily eye: to be possessed of sight,  have the power of seeing 
ἐπιθυμῆσαι: AAInf, ἐπιθυμέω, 1) to turn upon a thing  2) to have a desire for, long for, to desire  3) to lust after, covet  3a) of those who seek things forbidden
ἐμοίχευσεν: AAI 3s, μοιχεύω, 1) to commit adultery

29εἰ δὲ  ὀφθαλμός σου ὁ δεξιὸς σκανδαλίζει σε, ἔξελε αὐτὸν καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ 
σοῦ: συμφέρει γάρ σοι ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν τῶν μελῶν σου καὶ μὴ ὅλον τὸ 
σῶμά σου βληθῇ εἰς γέενναν. 
Yet if your right eye scandalizes you, extract and cast it from you; for it is profitable for you in order that one of your body parts be destroyed and not your whole body to be cast into gehenna.
σκανδαλίζει: PAI 3s, σκανδαλίζω, 1) to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which  another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend
ἔξελε: ἐξαιρέω, 1) to pluck out, draw out, i.e. root out  2) to choose out (for one's self), select, one person from many  3) to rescue, deliver
βάλε: AAImpv 2s, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls 
συμφέρει: PAI 3s, συμφέρω, 1) to bear or bring together  2) to bear together or at the same time 2a) to carry with others  2b) to collect or contribute in order to help  2c) to help, be profitable, be expedient
ἀπόληται: AMSubj 3s, ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy  1a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin 
βληθῇ: APSubj 3s, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls 

30καὶ εἰ  δεξιά σου χεὶρ σκανδαλίζει σε, ἔκκοψον αὐτὴν καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ 
σοῦ: συμφέρει γάρ σοι ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν τῶν μελῶν σου καὶ μὴ ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου εἰς γέενναν ἀπέλθῃ. 
And if your right hand scandalizes you, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is profitable for you in order that one of your body part be destroyed and not your whole body go into gehenna.
ἔκκοψον: AAImpv 2s, ἐκκόπτω, 1) to cut out, cut off  1a) of a tree  2) metaph. to cut off occasion
βάλε: AAImpv 2s, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls 
συμφέρει: PAI 3s, συμφέρω, 1) to bear or bring together  2) to bear together or at the same time 2a) to carry with others  2b) to collect or contribute in order to help  2c) to help, be profitable, be expedient
ἀπέλθῃ: AASubj 3s, ἀπέρχομαι, 1) to go away, depart  

31 Ἐρρέθη δέ, Ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ, δότω αὐτῇ ἀποστάσιον. 
Yet it was said, “Whoever divorces his wife, give her a bill of divorce.”
ἐρρέθη: API 3s, εἶπον to utter with the mouth, to say, speak (relating to the words, rather than the sentiment, which is λέγω
ἀπολύσῃ: AASubj 3s, ἀπολύω, 1) to set free  2) to let go, dismiss, (to detain no longer) 4) used of divorce, to dismiss from the house, to repudiate.
δότω: AAImpv? 3s? δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone  2a) of one's own accord to give one something, to his advantage  2a1) to bestow a gift 

32 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς  ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ παρεκτὸς λόγου 
πορνείας ποιεῖ αὐτὴν μοιχευθῆναι, καὶ ὃς ἐὰν ἀπολελυμένην γαμήσῃ 
μοιχᾶται. 
Yet I say to you that any one who divorces his wife, except for a matter of illicit sex, makes her to adulterate, and whoever marries a divorced wife adulterates himself.
ἀπολύων: PAPart nms, ἀπολύω, 1) to set free  2) to let go, dismiss, (to detain no longer) 4) used of divorce, to dismiss from the house, to repudiate.
μοιχευθῆναι: APInf, μοιχεύω, 1) to commit adultery
ἀπολελυμένην: PPPart afs, ἀπολείπω, 1) to leave, to leave behind  2) to desert or forsake
γαμήσῃ: AASubj 3s, γαμέω, 1) to lead in marriage, take to wife
μοιχᾶται: PMI 3s, μοιχεύω, 1) to commit adultery

33 Πάλιν ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις, Οὐκ ἐπιορκήσεις, ἀποδώσεις δὲ 
τῷ κυρίῳ τοὺς ὅρκους σου. 
Again you have heard that it was said to the ancients, “You will not swear falsely, but you will pledge your oaths to the Lord.”
ἐπιορκήσεις: FAI 2s, ἐπιορκέω, 1) to swear falsely, forswear one's self 
ἀποδώσεις: FAI 2s, ἀποδίδωμι, 1) to deliver, to give away for one's own profit what is one's  own, to sell  2) to pay off, discharge what is due  2a) a debt, wages, tribute, taxes, produce due  2b) things promised under oath 
ὅρκους: amp, ὅρκος, 1) that which has been pledged or promised with an oath

34ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν μὴ ὀμόσαι ὅλως: μήτε ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὅτι θρόνος ἐστὶν 
τοῦ θεοῦ: 
Yet I say to you do not swear at all; neither in the heaven, because it is the throne of God:
ὀμόσαι: AAInf, ὀμνύω, 1) to swear  2) to affirm, promise, threaten, with an oath  

35μήτε ἐν τῇ γῇ, ὅτι ὑποπόδιόν ἐστιν τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ: μήτε εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, ὅτι πόλις ἐστὶν τοῦ μεγάλου βασιλέως: 
Nor in the earth, because it is the footstool of his feet: Nor into Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great king:

36μήτε ἐν τῇ κεφαλῇ σου ὀμόσῃς, ὅτι οὐ δύνασαι μίαν τρίχα λευκὴν ποιῆσαι  μέλαιναν. 
Nor swear in your own head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black.
ὀμόσῃς: AASubj 2s, ὀμνύω, 1) to swear  2) to affirm, promise, threaten, with an oath  
δύνασαι: PMI 2s, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability and  resources
ποιῆσαι: AAInf, ποιέω, 1) to make

37 ἔστω δὲ  λόγος ὑμῶν ναὶ ναί, οὒ οὔ: τὸ δὲ περισσὸν τούτων ἐκ τοῦ 
πονηροῦ ἐστιν.
Yet let your word be yes yes, no no: Yet anything beyond these is out of the evil one.
ἔστω: PAImpv 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
πονηροῦ: πονηρός, 1) full of labours, annoyances, hardships  1a) pressed and harassed by labours  1b) bringing toils, annoyances, perils; of a time full of  peril to Christian faith and steadfastness; causing pain and  trouble  2) bad, of a bad nature or condition  2a) in a physical sense: diseased or blind  2b) in an ethical sense: evil wicked, bad. 

4 comments:

  1. I love the image of scripture as a verb and not a noun. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. Marie wrote: I'm really intrigued by your translation of not swearing "in" the heavens/the earth/Jerusalem/your own head. This makes sense to me (well the swearing in your own head part) but I'm wondering what in the Greek encouraged this translation, and whether you think it is significant.

    My response:
    Hi Marie,
    (I was trying to remove your first comment and accidentally removed both of them. I apologize.)
    Since this is a 'rough' translation, I am trying to use the most common (as far as I can tell) use of words unless, for some reason, a secondary or tertiary use seems clearly intended. The word ἐν in the phrase "ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ" and the others is commonly translated as "in" although a legitimate option - used by most translations - is "by."
    In a refined translation I think I would end up using "by" as well, but only after thinking through whether the common translation of "in" might express something that we would be overlooking if we go with "by."
    So, that makes me curious about your comment. What does "in the heavens," "in the earth," and "in your own head" suggest to you that using "by" does not?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Really, swearing "in" the heavens or earth or one's own head seemed to give locality or presence to the swearing, as if the location somehow made it better or worse. Obviously it really doesn't, as the point of it is not to swear at all. But it brought me to a fascinating question about swearing "in my own head", as in making promises to oneself that then discourage active listening to the spirit. Case in point, saying to yourself "I swear I'm going to get this done or so help me." Here the swear or promise is to yourself and by your own volition, but it doesn't leave any room for God's Will or the Spirit--you are just swearing to do what YOU want to do, and nothing else will stop you or change your mind. Perhaps that's the problem with swearing/promising in general--you are saying that you'll do it on the honor or power of God's footstool, or heaven, or name, or whatever, but that power is utterly beyond you. Even swearing "on" your own head is useless,because while you might control what's in the content of your thoughts, you can't make one hair black (unless you use Clairol).

    Really, it just got me thinking about the swearing aspect as opposed to merely speaking plainly and truthfully. Just one of those translation quirks that, while it might not really go anywhere, opened up a fruitful thought.

    I hope that makes some sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It makes great sense. And it's got me thinking in that direction as well.
      Thanks.

      Delete

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