Sunday, February 19, 2017

Anxiety and Power

Below is a rough translation and some comments on Matthew 6:24-34, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for the 8th Sunday after Epiphany, which is often omitted because that same Sunday falls just before the season of Lent, so he Transfiguration story is substituted instead. (If you are looking for my comments on the Transfiguration story, entitled “Transforming Vision,” click here.)

24 Οὐδεὶς δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν:  γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν 
ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει,  ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει: οὐ 
δύνασθε θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ.
No one has the power to serve two lords; For either he will hate one and love the other, or he will embrace one and disdain the other; You do not have the power to serve God and mammon.
δύναται: PMI 3s, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability and  resources
δουλεύειν: δουλεύω, 1) to be a slave, serve, do service 
μισήσει: FAI 3s, μισέω, 1) to hate, pursue with hatred, detest 
ἀγαπήσει: FAI 3s, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly 
ἀνθέξεται: FMI 3s, ἀντέχομαι, 1) to hold before or against, hold back, withstand, endure. In the ΝΤ only in middle voice to keep one's self directly opposite to any one, hold to him firmly, cleave to, paying heed to him
καταφρονήσει: FAI 3s, καταφρονέω, 1) to contemn, despise, disdain, think little or nothing of
δύνασθε: PMI 2p, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability and  resources
1. The verb δύναμαι is a bit of a challenge to translate. As the definition shows, it can mean ‘to be able’ or ‘to have power.’ I have some discomfort with the NRSV, NIV, ESV, and KJV, who translate it as “can.” With that choice, the last phrase becomes “You cannot serve God and Mammon,” which sounds like a command, rather than a continuation of the thought that it is simply not doable.
2. It sounds like Jesus is setting up two different either/or possibilities: either hate or love a lord; and either embrace or disdain a lord – as if Jesus is simply saying the same thing in two different ways. But, grammatically, the ἢ … ἢ or “either … or” is contrasting the hate/love with the embrace/disdain.
3. This is the only use of “mammon” in Matthew’s gospel. Luke uses it three times, all in the same pericope that parallels this one (16:9, 16:11, 16:13).  
4. It seems a bit odd that, since serving Mammon is the antithesis to serving God, this is the only direct mention of Mammon in Matthew’s gospel. Perhaps that is too simplistic, because one could make the argument that Mt. 5:19-21 says the same thing in other terms, and so might many other verses.
5. For the sake of this pericope, I am trying to see the relationship between this verse and the matter of “worrying” in the following verses.

25Διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν, μὴ μεριμνᾶτε τῇ ψυχῇ ὑμῶν τί φάγητε [ἢ τί πίητε,] 
μηδὲ τῷ σώματι ὑμῶν τί ἐνδύσησθε: οὐχὶ  ψυχὴ πλεῖόν ἐστιν τῆς τροφῆς 
καὶ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ἐνδύματος; 
Therefore I say this to you, do not be anxious for your soul, what you might eat [or what you might drink] nor for your body what you might wear; Is not the soul more than the food and the body (more) than the clothes?
μεριμνᾶτε : PAImpv 2p, μεριμνάω, 1) to be anxious  1a) to be troubled with cares
φάγητε: AASubj 2p, ἐσθίω, 1) to eat  2) to eat (consume) a thing  
πίητε: AASubj 2p, πίνω, 1) to drink
ἐνδύσησθε: AMSubj 2p, ἐνδύω, 1) to sink into (clothing), put on, clothe one's self 
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. Here is the imperative: Do not be anxious. (I really wish there were a good transitive verb for anxiety that stays in the family, like ‘to anx’ or something. As it is, in order to keep the word “anxiety,” which I think has more volume to it than “worry,” one must make this “be anxious.” It is permissible grammatically, but seems to lose some of its bite that way. If only “angst” were a verb!)
2. Most translations are translating ψυχῇ as “life” and not “soul.” ψυχῇ is transliterated into English as “psyche” and whenever the word “soul” is found in Matthew (as in 10:28. 11:29, 12:18, and 22:37 in the NRSV) it is the same Greek term. Either translation is permissible, but I wish for consistency, especially because of the connotations that “soul” has taken on over time.
3. This use of the word “soul” refers to that which is sustained by eating and drinking, which can suffer from a lack of eating and drinking, and yet is more than eating and drinking. This verse posits a distinction but not a dualism of soul and body. At the very least, we can say that, in this verse, the soul/psyche is not some ethereal part of us, disconnected with all things fleshly. On the contrary, the soul/psyche relies on food and drink. 
4. Here’s an attempt to align vv. 24 and 25: The soul/psyche needs food and drink, just as the body needs clothes. Yet, neither of these needs should be a cause for anxiety, because we can only either love God and hate money or cling to God and disdain money. Hmm…
5. The phrase “or what you might drink” is not found in some of the older manuscripts.

26 ἐμβλέψατε εἰς τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὅτι οὐ σπείρουσιν οὐδὲ θερίζουσιν 
οὐδὲ συνάγουσιν εἰς ἀποθήκας, καὶ  πατὴρ ὑμῶν  οὐράνιος τρέφει αὐτά: 
οὐχ ὑμεῖς μᾶλλον διαφέρετε αὐτῶν; 
Gaze at the birds of the heaven that they neither sow nor reap nor gather into a granary, and your heavenly father feeds them; are you not of greater value than they?
ἐμβλέψατε: AAImpv 2p, βλέπω (see) with the prefix ἐν (in or on): to look upon, view with steadfastness and attention
σπείρουσιν: PAI 3p, σπείρω, 1) to sow, scatter, seed 
θερίζουσιν: PAI 3p, θερίζω, 1) to reap, harvest  2) proverbial expression for sowing and reaping
συνάγουσιν: PAI 3p, συνάγω, 1) to gather together, to gather  1a) to draw together, collect
διαφέρετε: PAI 2p, διαφέρω, 1) to bear or carry through any place
1. I know that the phrase “birds of the air” has taken on a life of its own outside of this verse, so it is tempting to keep it. But, οὐρανοῦ is the term translated “heaven” practically everywhere else in the NT, so why not here?
2. Not to belabor the point, but if birds are fed by God, they are creatures with “souls,” at least in the way that Jesus is speaking of the soul in v.25.
3. Taking this verse strictly seems like we’re being called out of the domestication of crops and back into being gatherers for our food and drink. Some ascetic and voluntary poverty groups seem to have taken this verse to that extent – although living off of the kindness of people who are sowing, reaping, and storing seems to be a bit different than living off the land as birds do.

27 τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν μεριμνῶν δύναται προσθεῖναι ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλικίαν αὐτοῦ 
πῆχυν ἕνα; 
Yet who out of your anxieties has the power to add one hour to your lifespan?
δύναται: PMI 3s, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability and  resources
προσθεῖναι: προστίθημι, 1) to put to  2) to add 
τὴν ἡλικίαν: afs, ἡλικία1) age, time of life  1a) age, term or length of life
1. This verse has some real challenges. One is whether it should read, “Yet can any one out of you” or “Yet who out of your anxieties.” The “you” (ὑμῶν) is plural and genitive; so is “anxieties” (μεριμνῶν). The question is whether the “you” accompanies “anxieties” or “anyone” (τίς) – whether it is “who, out of your anxieties” (my translation) or “who out of you … anxieties” (everybody else).
2. The second issue here is whether we are talking about adding time to a lifespan or adding height to a stature. τὴν ἡλικίαν can go either way. It is translated as a temporal term by the NRSV, NIV, ESV, YLT. The KJV uses the word “stature.”
Argument for translating τὴν ἡλικίαν as “stature”: While this is the only use of the term in Matthew, it is the same word that is found to describe Zacchaeus in Luke 19:3 and Jesus growing up in Luke 2:52.  Likewise, the phrase πῆχυν ἕνα (one cubit) is typically a term measuring length (about 25 inches, I read). See John 21:8 or Rev.21:17. Again, this verse is the only use of πῆχυν in Matthew.
Argument for translating τὴν ἡλικίαν as “lifespan”: In John’s gospel, the parents of the man born blind do not want to answer for him, arguing that he is “of age” (9:21 and 9:23). If one sees τὴν ἡλικίαν as “lifespan,” however, one must translate πῆχυν ἕνα from a measure of length to a metaphor for time.
3. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Verses 26-27 are elaborations of the imperative in v.25, not to be anxious about the soul/psyche, what to eat or drink. Verses 28-30 will be elaborations about the imperative of v.25 not to be anxious about what to put on the body. 

28 καὶ περὶ ἐνδύματος τί μεριμνᾶτε; καταμάθετε τὰκρίνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ πῶς 
αὐξάνουσιν: οὐ κοπιῶσιν οὐδὲ νήθουσιν: 
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider lilies of the field how they grow; they neither toil nor spin;
μεριμνᾶτε: PAI 2p, μεριμνάω, 1) to be anxious  1a) to be troubled with cares
καταμάθετε: AAImpv 2p, καταμανθάνω, 1) to learn thoroughly, examine carefully  2) to consider well
αὐξάνουσιν: PAI 3p, αὐξάνω, 1) to cause to grow, augment 

29 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδὲ Σολομὼν ἐν πάσῃ τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ περιεβάλετο ὡς ἓν τούτων. 
Yet I say to you that Solomon in all of in his glory was not arrayed like one of them.
περιεβάλετο: AMI 3s, περιβάλλω, 1) to throw around, to put around  1a) to surround a city with a bank (palisade)  1b) of garments, to clothe one 
1. Warren Carter argues that the “Yet I say to you” is an indicator that Solomon is a negative example of how to be clothed. It is the phrase that Jesus uses in the six antitheses, from “you have heard … but I say to you …” Phrases like this are frequent in Matthew (5:18, 20, 22, 26, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44; 6:2, 5, 16, 25), where the phrase sets up a contrast. “’Solomon in All His Glory’: Intertextuality and Matthew 6:29” JSNT 65 (1997).
Carter’s argument is important because Solomon is typically remembered for his request for wisdom above anything else (I Kings 3). But, that is only part of his story. He was a harsh and luxuriant tyrant (I Kings 3-4). He should have aspired to be the kind of king described in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Instead, Solomon fulfilled the warning that Samuel gave the people in I Samuel 8:10-18.
2. The point would be that God provides arraignment for the totally receptive lilies of the field that was better than the harsh power and luxury of Solomon.

30 εἰ δὲ τὸν χόρτον τοῦ ἀγροῦ σήμερον ὄντα καὶ αὔριον εἰς κλίβανον 
βαλλόμενον  θεὸς οὕτως ἀμφιέννυσιν, οὐ πολλῷ μᾶλλον ὑμᾶς, 
Yet if God so dresses the grass of the field, which exists today and tomorrow is thrown into an oven, will [God] not much more [dress] you, little of faith?
ὄντα: PAPart ams, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present.
βαλλόμενον : PPPart ams, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls  1a) to scatter, to throw, cast into
ἀμφιέννυσιν: ἀμφιέννυμι, 1) to put on, to clothe
1. The subject and verb of this sentence (God dresses) come rather late, so most translations have moved it earlier. (YLT does not: And if the herb of the field, that to-day is, and to-morrow is cast to the furnace, God doth so clothe -- not much more you, O ye of little faith?] The words that I have in green are one long participial phrase.
2. Non-essential matters of adorning the body also are places where God provides. This is important, it seems to me. Even if the body is more than clothing and even if grass is here today, cooked tomorrow, God provides beauty there.
3. Matthew uses the term ὀλιγό/πιστοι (little of faith) four times (here, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8). The only other use in the NT is Luke 12:28, a parallel to this verse.

31 μὴ οὖν μεριμνήσητε λέγοντες, Τί φάγωμεν; ἤ, Τί πίωμεν; ἤ, Τί 
Therefore may you not be anxious saying, “What shall we eat?” or, “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we array ourselves?”  
μεριμνήσητε: AASubj 2p, μεριμνάω, 1) to be anxious  1a) to be troubled with cares
περιβαλώμεθα: AMSubj 1p, περιβάλλω, 1) to throw around, to put around  1a) to surround a city with a bank (palisade)  1b) of garments, to clothe one 
1. Instead of a repeat of the imperative “Do not be anxious” from v.25, the verb here is a subjunctive (the mood indicating possibility) “May you not be anxious.” Some translations blur the distinction.

32 πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα τὰ ἔθνη ἐπιζητοῦσιν: οἶδεν γὰρ  πατὴρ ὑμῶν  
οὐράνιος ὅτι χρῄζετε τούτων ἁπάντων. 
For the Gentiles seek about these things; for your heavenly father knows that you need them all.
ἐπιζητοῦσιν: ἐπιζητέω, 1) to enquire for, seek for, search for, seek diligently 2) to wish for, crave 3) to demand, clamor for 
χρῄζετε: PAI 2p, χρήζω 1) to need, have need of, want.

33 ζητεῖτε δὲ πρῶτον τὴν βασιλείαν [τοῦ θεοῦ] καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ, 
καὶ ταῦτα πάντα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν. 
Yet seek first the reign [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
ζητεῖτε: PAImpv 2p, ζητέω, 1) to seek in order to find  1a) to seek a thing  
προστεθήσεται: FPI 3s, προστίθημι, 1) to put to  2) to add  2a) i.e. to join to
1. Here is the other imperative of this pericope, in addition to the “Do not worry” that we saw earlier. “Seek first the reign [of God]”
2. The ταῦτα πάντα (all these things) picks up on the ἁ/πάντων (all) of v.32 and the matters of what to eat, drink, and wear in v.31.

34 μὴ οὖν μεριμνήσητε εἰς τὴν αὔριον,  γὰρ αὔριον μεριμνήσει ἑαυτῆς: 
ἀρκετὸν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ  κακία αὐτῆς. 
Therefore may you not be anxious about the morrow, for the morrow will be anxious about itself; sufficient to the day the evil in itself.  
μεριμνήσητε: AASubj 2p, μεριμνάω, 1) to be anxious  1a) to be troubled with cares
μεριμνήσει: FAI 3s: μεριμνάω, 1) to be anxious  1a) to be troubled with cares
1. There is no verb in this last phrase: “evil sufficient in itself to the day.” Instead, it is comprise of three different cases for the nouns/adjectives, an implied verb and a nominative predicate: sufficient (nominative adj) to the day (dative) the evil (nominative) [is: implied verb] in itself (genitive). Of course, in a refined translation, this would come out something like what all the translations have.

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