Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Scripturing the Presence of God

Below is a rough translation of Matthew 5:21-37, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for the 6th Sunday after Epiphany.  

These verses contain the first four of what are called “the six antitheses,” where Jesus will posit what has been said or written (from the law), and then answer with, “but I say to you …” The theses are in verses 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, and 43 and the antitheses begin in the next verses. The last two antitheses are part of next week’s reading.

The question that these antitheses collectively raise for me is “What does it mean to be faithful to the Scriptures?” Jesus’ radical re-formulation – 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, Jesus treats the Scriptures, not as an ending point that “settles it,” but as a beginning point for re-forming the meaning of the text.  

I would argue that Jesus is changing the emphasis from “the Scriptures,” as a noun, to “scripturing” as a verb – giving testimony to God’s real among God’s people. The accounts of creation, the Ten Words on Mt. Sinai, the stories of the people of Israel, Psalms, proverbs, prophetic utterances, and Jesus’ own words are all ways of “scripturing” God’s presence in differing times and contexts. As such, Jesus’ words here do not signify a ‘final revision’ of old Mosaic laws into new Christian doctrines. They signify a way of “scripturing” God’s presence.

If this line of thought is intriguing enough for you to read on, please see me article on the “Politics of Scripture” blog, at

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’s interesting that Jesus does not say, “It is written,” as he did in response to the devil’s temptations in Matthew 4:4, 6, and 7. Instead, he says, “You have heard it was said to the ancients.”
2. The first part of this reference, of course, is from the Decalogue in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17. The second part seems to be from Leviticus 24:17, “Anyone who kills a human being shall be put to death.” That is the same section in Leviticus from which the “eye for an eye” reference comes.

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 the 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.
- τῇ κρίσει Because the word “judgment” is preceded by the definite article, we might assume that there is only one judgment and we know exactly which one it is. But, I am cautious about assuming that a definite article in Greek carry quite the same meaning as a definite article in English. In this sentence we have “the judgment” “the Sanhedrin” “the gehenna” and “the fire.” I’m not sure the article intends, in each case, to signify “the one and only.” 
-  Ῥακά and Μωρέ are in the vocative case, as a way of naming others. According to,  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. It has the same root at the word μωραίνω, which we saw last week in Matthew 5:13, referring to salt that had lost its saltiness. My sense here is that this is a public accusation of someone’s incompetence, as well as a public shaming that could be ruinous for someone’s life and family. (I’m remembering a student in a Sunday School class I once taught who responded to a classmate with, “You’re not supposed to call somebody a ‘fool’ you idiot!” Sigh.)
- 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 refer to any assembly that is convened to pass judgment or adjudicate between contending parties. Again, the definite article might mislead us into thinking this is a specific, rather than a more general reference.
- 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 referred to a place in the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where trash and animal carcasses were continually 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. Again, with reference to the definite article, 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 “the altar” twice here and four more times in c.23. to the altar, before the altar,
...swear by the altar,, 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, 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, διαλλάσσω; 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, this is the only NT use of διαλλάσσω (reconcile). The more familiar form, such as in II Corinthians 5:18-20, is καταλλάσσω. 
3. Contrary to what we might derive from the later development of the church as it moved out of Israel and spread among Gentiles, this is quite an affirmation of the temple/synagogue practice of making a gift at the altar – provided that the liturgical act is built on a relational act.

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
εἶ: εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
παραδῷ: AASubj 3s, παραδίδωμι, 1) to give into the hands (of another)
1. The word εὐνοέω (agreeing), only found here in the NT, literally means “good (εὐ) minding (νοέω).”
2. Adversary (ἀντι/δίκῳ) is a great word – anti-justice. I Peter 5:8 uses it to describe the devil, but here, Lk. 12:58 and Lk. 18:3 it means human adversaries.
3. The phrase “while you are with him on the road” seems to imply two persons on their way to the judge, so it would be the last chance to reach a settlement out of court.

26 ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃς ἐκεῖθεν ἕως ἂν ἀποδῷς τὸν ἔσχατον 
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.
1. It is a little difficult to know what to make of this teaching in vv.25-26. On the one hand, it seems like fairly strategic advice, to reach an agreement before a matter gets into the courts and the debt is strictly enforced. The assumption here is that the listener does indeed owe the adversary money or had committed a grievance that can be settled with a payment. My guess is that it is more the latter than the former, because on the other hand, this is still a part of the way that Jesus is addressing the command “Do not murder.” The command does not simply imply capital offenses that are punished by execution, but also implies making public accusations of someone’s worthlessness, and pursuing acts of reconciliation before finalizing the offering at the altar of worship or approaching the courts of justice.

27 Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη, Οὐ μοιχεύσεις. 
You have heard that it was said, “You will not adulterate.”
μοιχεύσεις: FAI 2s, μοιχεύω, 1) to commit adultery
1. This prohibition is found in Exodus 20:24 and Deuteronomy 5:18.
2. I know “adulterate” sounds dumb but here’s my reason, which probably would not hold up in a refined translation: The next verse uses the term with “her” as the direct object. Most translations will say “commit adultery with her,” making “her” the indirect object. Since I’m using “adulterate” in v.28 to keep the direct object, I want to use it here for consistency.

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
1. The word ἐπιθυμέω (lust) is often used to express the desire for food (in Luke, the starving wayward son longs for the pig’s food, the beggar longs for bread crumbs and Jesus longs to eat the last meal with his disciples.) This is the word that the LXX uses in Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet … your neighbor’s wife (among other things).” I read this as more than strong attraction and as an act with intention.

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 
1. Remembering that we are still talking about the law prohibiting adultery, the eye and the hand will come into play as components of looking on a woman with evil intent. 
2. The word σκανδαλίζω is often translated as “stumbling block,” but I like to use the transliteration of it as “scandalize.” Besides, the references to “stumbling block” seem to refer to one’s actions causing a problem for another, where this particular reference is reflexive, “If your right eye scandalizes you.”
3. The idea of ‘my eye’ or ‘my hand’ offending ‘me’ raises the question, who is the ‘me’ that ‘my eye’ or ‘my hand’ is offending?  Which is the real me, the one who is lusting with intent or the one who is willing to self-mutilate in order to quit lusting with intent? The answer seems to be some form of a paradox, that we are both the unitary sum of our parts and the conflicted complex of them. In some ways, I think the imagery of ‘cutting off one’s right hand’ may be a way of bringing this paradox to light, since presumably the right hand that needs removal would be the dominant hand with which one typically cuts things off.

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
1. This is the third reference to gehenna in this pericope. I still maintain that it is a reference to a burning site, where animal carcasses and other manner of unclean things were disposed of. To be buried there would indicate that one is dishonorable and not even allowed to be buried with dignity.   

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 
1. This thesis begins differently from the others, and for good reason. First, it is a permission, not a prohibition. Second, the OT allusion here is Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The thing is, those four verses do not introduce this permission directly, but refer to it as something that is already established. The point of those four verses is not really whether or not one has permission to write a bill of divorce, but something else entirely (prohibiting re-marrying a woman who had subsequently been married to and divorce from another.)

32 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς  ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ παρεκτὸς λόγου 
πορνείας ποιεῖ αὐτὴν μοιχευθῆναι, καὶ ὃς ἐὰν ἀπολελυμένην γαμήσῃ 
Yet I say to you that any one who divorces his wife, except for a matter of illicit sex, makes her to be adulterated, 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
1. I would like to know more precisely what Jesus means by the verb “adulterate.” To be sure, he is expanding the command prohibiting adultery to matters pertaining to patriarchal practices of divorce. From what I read and hear, many assumptions that we have regarding the biblical view of adultery and divorce come from this periciope, which, in turn, we use to interpret this pericope. I’m not convinced that we have found the gem we’re looking for yet.  

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
1. We’re back to the formulation of the first two antitheses with this fourth antithesis. The OT reference may be a way of stating the prohibition in the Decalogue found in Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:20, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Or, it may refer to swearing falsely more generally, as prohibited in Leviticus 19:12.

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
1. This is a great set of locations and ways of defining those locations: The heavens are God’s throne; the earth is God’s footstool;  Jerusalem is the city of the great king; and one’s own head is mortal. I don’t really have a feel for what it means to “swear by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, or my head.” But, I can attest that there I have no control over the coloration of my hair, beyond buying products.

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. 
1. With the verb – the imperative form of ‘to be’ – coming as the first word, this translation could be varied. Maybe “Let your word yes be yes.” Or, “Your word must be yes, yes.”


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

  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?

  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.

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

  4. Should moicheuthanai grammatically be rendered with the passive and not the middle deponent? According to BDAG there is a middle deponent (moichasthai) version of moicheuo.

    Also how would this change the translation?


    1. Hi RP,
      Since it is an infinitive, I'm not sure how different it would be as a middle deponent. Can you tell me what you're thinking the difference might be? I'm curious.
      Thanks for the note,

  5. ISTM that the swearing part fits with Hebrew oath forms - Joshua 24:25-27. This fit the suzerainty treaty form, with consequences for oathbreaking. Jesus' comments seem to imply that taking oath by these elements is meaningless, since failing to fulfill the oath would not cause a change in the heavens, the earth, etc. God doesn't play the game of a thump on the head for screwing up. So just say what you mean, and mean what you say, because such claims don't add anything to it? Or is this too 'rational'...?

    1. William, I don't see where your approach is too rational at all. Seems quite simple, actually, until we bump into real life and how people often use words for anything except to express what they mean.
      Thanks for your input. MD

  6. Just a few questions about the 'exception' phrase of v32:

    1. Do we have to assume that the phrase refers to the woman and not the man?

    2. Literally, its 'word (logos) of porneia', that is, a 'porneia-word/logos'. So, is this about something said rather than done?

    3. It seems to be a translation of the Hebrew phrase meaning 'an indecent matter'; and picks up on Deut 24:1. What constituted such a matter? Incest has been suggested. Is it also possible that a marriage to a gentile would fall into that category? Was it porneia? What about sterility or some sexual/genitalia issue with the woman or with the man for that matter? In other words, why is it commonly assumed to be sexual infidelity/unchastity on her part? Is there another option?

    1. Hi Rick,
      Pardon my delay. I've been in Nicaragua for a time and have been unable to get things updated.
      My response:
      1. I'm not sure which phrase exactly you're referring to, but I'm guessing you're thinking about λόγου πορνείας. It's not gender specific, I guess, but it seems that it refers to a reason why a man might divorce his wife. Hmm.. it seems like a bit of a stretch to go the other way, but might you be suggesting that it's okay for him to divorce her if he wants to commit adultery himself? That seems out of character for the way the sentence is unfolding. I may be misunderstanding your point.
      2. I wonder about 'a word of porneia' also. I think it may be a reference to the accusations that are substantiated by the mouths of two or three witnesses. In cases of adultery, unless one is actually caught in the act, perhaps rumor itself was strong enough evidence to ruin the honor of the marriage.
      3. Those are great questions, but I don't have any answers at this point.
      Thanks for the note.

  7. Striking that Matthew has Jesus using 'fool' - 'moros' later on in the text (Matt 23: 17 & 19) against the Pharisees. Do as I say, not as I do ?

  8. (Um, I entered a 'grin' emoji after that but it didn't come through...

    1. I'm grinning back atcha.
      But, the NT is so keenly aware of power dynamics. Mary gets to ask "How" but Zachariah gets muted for it. People can't declare someone insane and take away their livelihood, but you can do so to an impudent power abuser.
      That's why I chose to be snarky in my book Left Behind and Loving It. I don't always thing humor is appropriate, but it is a very powerful way to deflate inflated egos.


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