Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Will This Be on the Test?

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding Matthew 4:1-11, the gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent, 2014. This story of Jesus’ tests follows immediately after the baptism story, where Jesus is baptized as a way to “fulfill all righteousness,” the spirit comes down to Jesus as a dove, and a voice from the heavens declares Jesus the beloved son. This story also follows – in the lectionary – after another mountain story from Matthew 17 where, again, Jesus is declared the beloved son. These intertextual connections are on my mind as I translate this story.

1 Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀνήχθη εἰς τὴν ἔρημον ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος, πειρασθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου.
Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the spirit, to be tested by the devil.
ἀνήχθη: API 3s, ἀνάγω, 1) to lead up, to lead or bring into a higher place  2) of navigators: launch out, set sail, put to sea
πειρασθῆναι: APInf, πειράζω, 1) to try whether a thing can be done  1a) to attempt, endeavour  2) to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining  his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself 
1. The story makes it clear from the beginning that “the spirit” was the agent by which Jesus was led to the wilderness for this ordeal of temptation.
2. Perhaps this story is drawing on a familiar tradition of religious persons or heroic persons who not only contend with maintaining their integrity in the face of human opposition, but first must undergo an ordeal to prove themselves before being ready to perform their task. 
3. Translations are a bit inconsistent when it comes to translating πειράζω. Sometimes they say “tempt,” especially when it is associated with the devil, and other times “test.” On the whole, I think “test” is a better translation for Matthew’s use.
Mt. 16:1 - … Sadducees came, and testing …
Mt. 19:3 - … Pharisees came to him, testing him …
Mt. 22:18 - … [Jesus] said, ‘Why test me, you hypocrites …”
Mt. 22:35 - … A lawyer asked him a question to test him …
3. The devil’s role in this story seems akin to “Satan’s” role in the story of Job. In Job, Satan is more like a prosecutor that acts with God’s permission than the embodiment of all things evil. Likewise, here, the devil is testing, but the spirit has brought Jesus in for the test, so the devil’s role is subservient to the spirit’s intentions.
Outside of this story, Matthew mentions the devil on two other occasions. In Mt. 13:39, during the explanation of the wheat and weeds, Jesus says the weeds are the children of the evil one and the devil is the one who sowed the weeds. In Mt. 25:41, Jesus says that the eternal fire has been prepared for “the devil and all of his angels.”

2 καὶ νηστεύσας ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα καὶ νύκτας τεσσεράκοντα ὕστερον ἐπείνασεν.
And having fasting forty days and forty nights afterward he hungered.
νηστεύσας: AAPart nsm, νηστεύω, to fast, to abstain from eating
ἐπείνασεν: AAI 3s, πεινάω, 1) to hunger, be hungry 

3 Καὶ προσελθὼνπειράζων εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰπὲ ἵνα οἱ λίθοι οὗτοι ἄρτοι γένωνται.
And having come the tester said to him, “Since you are a son of the God, speak in order that these stones might become breads.”
προσελθὼν: AAPart nsm, προσέρχομαι, 1) to come to, approach 
πειράζων: PAPart nsm, πειράζω, 1) to try whether a thing can be done  1a) to attempt, endeavour  2) to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining  his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
εἰπὲ: AAImpv 2s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
γένωνται: AMSubj 3p, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
1. The devil is now called “the tester” a participial phrase using the same verb as in v.1.
2. Paul Achtemeier has argued (related to a different text, but with the same words) that Εἰ … εἶ should be translated, "Since you are” not “If you are ....” because the Εἰ is followed by an indicative and not a subjunctive verb. Says Achtemeier, “What is at issue is not whether Jesus is really God's son; even the devil is willing to concede that. The temptation has to do with how God's son should act.”
3. Bread is in the nominative case, but γίνομαι is one of those verbs that takes a predicate in the nominative case, rather than the usual accusative case. Bread is also plural. I think this is to be in sync with ‘stones,’ and indicates multiple ‘loaves of bread’ rather than several different types of bread.

4 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Γέγραπται, Οὐκ ἐπ' ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ἀλλ' ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι ἐκπορευομένῳ διὰ στόματος θεοῦ.
Yet having answered he said, “It has been written, ‘Not by bread alone will the human live, but by every word that comes from a mouth of God.’”
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Γέγραπται: PerfPI 3s, γράφω, 1) to write, …  2) to write, with reference to the contents of the writing 
ζήσεται: FMI 3s, ζάω, 1) to live, breathe, be among the living
ἐκπορευομένῳ: PMPart dsm, ἐκπορεύομαι, 1) to go forth, go out, depart
1. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, which is part of a very interesting text. The immediate context of the quote is a reference to the 40 years of Israel’s wandering in the desert, which I cannot help but think is absolutely being echoed in this entire pericope, therefore making this pericope entirely appropriate for the 40 day journey of the season of Lent.
2. Deuteronomy 8 is also interesting in its own right. See v.10 note 1.

5 Τότε παραλαμβάνει αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν, καὶ ἔστησεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ,
Then the devil takes him into the holy city, and placed him on the peak of the temple,
παραλαμβάνει: PAI 3s, παραλαμβάνω, 1) to take to, to take with one's self, to join to one's self 
ἔστησεν: AAI 3s, ἵστημι, 1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set

6 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ, Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, βάλε σεαυτὸν κάτω: γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι Τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε, μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου.
And says to him, “Since you are a son of the God, cast yourself down; for it has been written ‘His angels he will command concerning you and in hands they will keep you, that you may not strike your foot to a stone.’”
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
βάλε: AAImpv 2s, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls
Γέγραπται: PerfPI 3s, γράφω, 1) to write, …  2) to write, with reference to the contents of the writing 
ἐντελεῖται: FMI 3s, ἐντέλλομαι, 1) to order, command to be done, enjoin 
ἀροῦσίν: FAI 3p, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up 
προσκόψῃς: AASubj 2s, προσκόπτω, 1) to strike against 
1. The devil is quoting Psalm 91:11-12, “For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” I find it interesting that the devil quotes scripture as a way of putting God to the test.
2. Angels will indeed appear in this story, but not until after the testing is over. I wonder if there is a theological dispute in play about whether or how God is present in adversity. Is relying on a Scripture like Ps.91:11-12 an act of faith or is it a manner of testing God? Do God’s angels prevent the foot from dashing against a stone or do they show up afterwards and minister to the one who has undergone an ordeal? I think there are questions of theodicy and theo-presence that underlie this story, which were vivid in Matthew’s day and continue to be.

7 ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Πάλιν γέγραπται, Οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου.
Jesus was explaining to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not test the Lord your God.’”
ἔφη: IAI 3s, φημί, 1) to make known one's thoughts, to declare
γέγραπται: PerfPI 3s, γράφω, 1) to write, …  2) to write, with reference to the contents of the writing 
ἐκπειράσεις: FAI 2s, ἐκπειράζω, 1) to prove, test, thoroughly. 
1. Matthew breaks from the usual word for “says” (λέγω) and uses φημί, the root of which is φάω, meaning “to bring forth into the light.” The idea is to enlighten, not just to speak, so I am using “was explaining” to show that Jesus was engaging thoughtfully here, not just verbally jarring. This is a real question on this test!
2. The word ἐκπειράζω has the root πειράζω (test, tester in vv.1 and 3). I am not sure what the significance of the prefix ἐκ (typically ‘out’) lends to the verb.
3. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 in answering this test. More below.

8 Πάλιν παραλαμβάνει αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν λίαν, καὶ δείκνυσιν αὐτῷ πάσας τὰς βασιλείας τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν,
Again the devil takes him into a mountain very high, and shows to him all of the kingdoms of the world and their glory,
παραλαμβάνει: PAI 3s, παραλαμβάνω, 1) to take to, to take with one's self, to join to one's self 
δείκνυσιν: PAI 3s, δεικνύω, to show, exhibit
1. We’ve gone from the wilderness to the peak of the temple to a very high mountain. I’m thinking there’s some great significance in these locations, but I got nothing so far.
2. This is an interesting use of the word “glory.” It’s not just a religious/God term. Matthew typically uses the term along with words like “throne” or “power.”

9 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ταῦτά σοι πάντα δώσω ἐὰν πεσὼν προσκυνήσῃς μοι.
And said to him, “All these I will give to you if you having bowed worship me.”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
δώσω: FAI 1s, δίδωμι, 1) to give
πεσὼν: AAPart nsm, πίπτω, 1) to descend from a higher place to a lower 
προσκυνήσῃς:  AASubj 2s, προσκυνέω, 1) to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence  … 3) in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make  obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication 
1. Here we to have an “if” clause, with ἐὰν followed by a subjunctive (which is conditional, unlike the devil’s phrases). Whether Jesus will bow down is the question, not whether Jesus is the son of God.

10τότε λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Υπαγε, Σατανᾶ: γέγραπται γάρ, Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις.
Then Jesus says to him, “Go, Satan; for it has been written, ‘The Lord your God will you worship and to him alone you will serve.”
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Υπαγε: PAImpv 2p, ὑπάγω, 1) to lead under, bring under  2) to withdraw one's self, to go away, depart
γέγραπται: PerfPI 3s, γράφω, 1) to write, …  2) to write, with reference to the contents of the writing 
προσκυνήσεις: FAI 2s, προσκυνέω, 1) to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence  … 3) in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make  obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication 
λατρεύσεις: FAI 2s, λατρεύω, 1) to serve for hire  2) to serve, minister to, either to the gods or men and used  alike of slaves and freemen
1. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 in answering this test. All of his answers have come from Deuteronomy cc.6-8, which caution Israel against losing faith after their 40 year ordeal in the wilderness and when they are getting ready to enter the Promised Land, where they will no longer be dependent on God’s provisions of manna, but will eat of their own crops and drink from their own cisterns. In their prosperity, God says “Do not forget the Lord your God.” The test of being children of God comes in many ways, including hunger, provisions with limits (i.e. manna), and prosperity.
2. My lexicons say that the word ὑπάγω (Go) is originally associated with the act of harnessing horses, so it signifies a way of diving direction. Maybe it was a 1st century version of “Heel!” that one says to a trained dog. Maybe? At any rate, it seems to signify here that Jesus is calling the test to an end by decisively choosing to worship God over receiving all the glories of all the kingdoms in the world.

11Τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄγγελοι προσῆλθον καὶ διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.
Then the devil leaves him, and behold angels came and were ministering to him.
ἀφίησιν: PAI 3s, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away 1a) to bid going away or depart
ἰδοὺ: AMImp of εἶδον, a form of ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes 
προσῆλθον: AAI 3p, προσέρχομαι, 1) to come to, approach 
διηκόνουν: IAI 3p, διακονέω, 1)) to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon  1a) to minister to one, render ministering offices to 
1. The word ἀφίημι is incredibly versatile, including meaning ‘forgive’ or ‘divorce.’
2. Matthew says “Behold, angels came …” I wonder if that’s Matthew’s way of showing how one ought to interpret the promises of Psalm 91.


7 comments:

  1. Mark,

    First of all, thank you so much for your ministry in this blog. I check in here for insight almost every week and whether it incorporates into my sermon or not, it certainly provides additional space for reflection. Particularly this week, i was struck by your comment on the transition of locations from wilderness to temple to mountain. Perhaps it depicts a transition from general lost-ness then to self-righteous religious piety and finally to a true encounter with God along with the temptations that seem to follow us on that journey?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good food for thought, Anonymous
      !

      Delete
    2. Good food for thought, Anonymous
      !

      Delete
  2. This rounding out of the Greek is so helpful. To look upon the 'devil' as 'tester' improves the image that Jesus is the one in charge. It reminds me of ordination exams rather than temptation and more in keeping with the rabbinical discussion and tests. The notation of Deut. 6-8 as a the preparation for entrance into the Promised Land makes for a way of bring the 40 days back into focus for Lent. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for your insights! I am puzzling over the use of ἀφίημι. (again) I wish that we had a better equivalent in English to use! Could the Devil "forgive" Jesus? Just seems like a strange reversal of roles to think of translating it that way. I do like the translation of "leave" but "divorce" would be interesting as well, as it would signify the end of the entire relationship, not just the encounter. Definitely an interesting word.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Perhaps there is a relationship between the mountain of the Transfiguration last week, when the focus was on the glory of God, Now, Jesus is with Satan, and the focus is on all that Jesus could possess if he were to "switch teams." Now there is no light, no glory and no God.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you all for your excellent comments. It is a joy journeying with you as we explore the depths of these texts and listen closely to them.

    ReplyDelete

If you want to leave a comment using only your name, please click the name/url option. I don't believe you have to sign in or anything like that by using that option. You may also use the 'anonymous' option if you want. Just be nice.

Blog Archive