Matthew Chapter 7:1-12

So we begin Chapter 7. This is still the Sermon on the Mount.

1 Μὴ κρίνετε, ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε:

2 ἐν ᾧ γὰρ κρίματι κρίνετε κριθήσεσθε, καὶ ἐν ᾧμέτρῳ μετρεῖτε μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν.

 Judge not, lest you be judged. (2) For in the judgement you judge, you will be judged, and in the measure you measure (with), you will be measured.

This feels new. What we are seeing here is the introduction of a certain amount of balance, a cosmic balance, as it were. We are stepping into a realm where there is measure and proportion; he who judges is judged and one is measured the way one measures others. This sort of thinking will, in 1100 years, lead us to Dante and The Inferno. Such proportionate punishment, or where the punishment fits the crime is often described as Dantesque. But then, the idea of “an eye for an eye” has been around for a while, and it may seem that the sentiment here is nothing much beyond that. That does miss the point somewhat, however. Once we get past the actual words, I think there is an underlying admonition to be concerned, perhaps, with mercy rather than with justice. The latter is, without question, “an eye for an eye”. Mercy, OTOH, has a broader purview. Mercy considers extenuating circumstances. Matthew is suggesting that we look upon our fellow humans with mercy, rather than justice, forefront on our minds.

1 Nolite iudicare, ut non iudice mini;

2 in quo enim iudicio iudi caveritis, iudicabimini, et in qua mensura mensi fueritis, metietur vobis.

3 τί δὲ βλέπεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου, τὴν δὲ ἐν τῷ σῷ ὀφθαλμῷ δοκὸν οὐ κατανοεῖς;

Why do you look at the chaff in the eye of your brother while being unaware of the beam in your own eye.

This is another way of expressing what I was trying to get at in the comment to the previous verse. This illustrates the difference between justice and mercy, but in a very metaphorical way. But it’s also the example of how the measure we use matters. All I’m trying to say is that, at either some very fundamental, or some highly abstract level, these concepts intersect and make the same point.

3 Quid autem vides festucam in oculo fratris tui, et trabem in oculo tuo non vides?

4 ἢ πῶς ἐρεῖς τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, Ἄφες ἐκβάλω τὸ κάρφος ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σου, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἡ δοκὸςἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σοῦ;

5 ὑποκριτά, ἔκβαλε πρῶτον ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σοῦ τὴν δοκόν, καὶ τότε διαβλέψεις ἐκβαλεῖν τὸ κάρφος ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦσου.

Or why do you say to your brother, “Give me leave that I may cast out the chaff from your eye”, and not see the beam in your own eye? (5) Hypocrites, first cast out from your eye the beam, and then look to cast out the chaff from the eye of your brother. 

The verb that I rendered as “cast out” is the same verb Mark used for expelling demons. The literal meaning is “throw from”, or “throw out”. As for the content, I’m not sure there’s much more to say about this. Why this runs to three verses when the meaning is clear after one, and certainly after two, is a bit beyond me. Verse 5 is simply redundant, IMHO.

4 Aut quomodo dices fratri tuo: “Sine, eiciam festucam de oculo tuo”, et ecce trabes est in oculo tuo?
5 Hypocrita, eice primum trabem de oculo tuo, et tunc videbis eicere festucam de oculo fratris tui.

6 Μὴ δῶτε τὸ ἅγιον τοῖς κυσίν, μηδὲ βάλητε τοὺς μαργαρίτας ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν χοίρων, μή ποτε καταπατήσουσιν αὐτοὺς ἐν τοῖς ποσὶν αὐτῶν καὶ στραφέντες ῥήξωσιν ὑμᾶς.

Don’t give what is holy to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls in front of pigs, so that in time they trample under their feet and turning, tear you.

The last bit is still governed by the pigs; they are the actors that will trample the pearls under their feet and then turn on you, on people. I’m not sure if everyone is aware that pigs are fairly dangerous creatures. Wild boars are extremely dangerous, but even domesticated swine will attack humans under the proper circumstances. I mention this because the sentence, as I translated, may not immediately make a lot of sense; I did check against other translations and I did get it right, but it takes a bit of mental adjustment to make it fall into place.

Now, what does this have to do with beams in your eye? Again, something of a non sequitur here, two thoughts that don’t really go together. And yet, Matthew’s organization of all this is brilliant beyond belief. Only a crank or a madman would dare mess with this, and since Luke was neither, it’s obvious that he had never read Matthew. Otherwise, why on earth would he have broken up this ever-so-tightly constructed piece of writing?

Seriously, this is one of the main arguments for why Luke didn’t use Matthew: because Luke broke up the material gathered into these three chapters and spread it around in two or three other places in Luke’s gospel. And one reads such arch comments about how risible it is even to suggest that Luke would ever even think of committing such a heinous offense against literary standards. But I’m also serious that this really feels like an unrelated collection of sayings; which, IMO, is a much better argument for Q than the ridiculous notion that of course, Luke would never do such a thing.  

6 Nolite dare sanctum canibus neque mittatis margaritas vestras ante porcos, ne forte conculcent eas pedibus suis et conversi dirumpant vos.

7 Αἰτεῖτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: ζητεῖτε, καὶ εὑρήσετε: κρούετε, καὶ ἀνοιγήσεται ὑμῖν.

8 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ αἰτῶν λαμβάνει καὶ ὁζητῶν εὑρίσκει καὶ τῷ κρούοντι ἀνοιγήσεται.

Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. (8) And for the one asking receives all, and the one seeking finds all, and to the one knocking it will be opened.

A quick note the nifty grammar of Verse 8. The “all” occurs just once, the first word of the verse, but it gets distributed to both of the clauses. It’s sort of like in the equation 5(6+8), the five is multiplied with both the six and the eight.

And again, we’ve gone from beams to pearls before swine to knocking and having doors opened. My apologies, but I do not see a theme connecting the three segments there.

As for content, the asking and receiving is a bit like the expression “the squeaky wheel gets oiled”. That is, complain enough and you get what you want. Suffer in silence, and you get nothing. Is that what I’m getting out of this? OK, a bit facetious. It seems to me that this ties back to “let tomorrow worry about tomorrow”; the idea is that if we ask for what we need, if we seek what we need–not what we want, but what we need–we will have our needs cared for. Just as God cares for the lilies, or the sparrows mentioned back in Chapter 6. But this, IMHO, brings up the question: why not put these two verses back there, instead of separating them by a dozen or more verses? If this were truly a tightly- constructed piece of writing, shouldn’t we expect these two verses to follow those other? I say this because, at first glance, I didn’t see a connection to anything here. It seemed like another non sequitur, something with little connection to anything else we’ve read. 

I have to say, I’m really boxing myself into a corner here by expatiating on the the grab-bag nature of these three chapters. 

7 Petite, et dabitur vobis; quaerite et invenietis; pulsate, et aperietur vobis.
8 Omnis enim qui petit, accipit; et, qui quaerit, invenit; et pulsanti aperietur.

9 ἢ τίς ἐστιν ἐξ ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος, ὃναἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ἄρτον μὴ λίθον ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ;

10 ἢ καὶ ἰχθὺν αἰτήσει μὴ ὄφιν ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ;

11 εἰ οὖν ὑμεῖς πονηροὶ ὄντες οἴδατε δόματα ἀγαθὰ διδόναι τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς δώσει ἀγαθὰ τοῖς αἰτοῦσιν αὐτόν.

12 Πάντα οὖν ὅσα ἐὰν θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς: οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται.

Or what person among you whose son asks for bread, instead gives him a rock?  (10) Or who to (a son, understood) asking for a fish gives a snake instead? (11) Therefore if you being wicked know to give good gifts to your children, how much better will your father in the heavens give good things to those asking him? (12) So in all things, howso you wish people will do for you, also in this way you do for them; for this is the law and the prophets.  

9 Aut quis est ex vobis homo, quem si petierit filius suus panem, numquid lapidem porriget ei?
10 Aut si piscem petierit, numquid serpentem porriget ei?
11 Si ergo vos, cum sitis mali, nostis dona bona dare filiis vestris, quanto magis Pater vester, qui in caelis est, dabit bona petentibus se.
12 Omnia ergo, quaecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines, ita et vos facite eis; haec est enim Lex et Prophetae.

First, I’ve translated “anthropos” as “person/people” rather than as “man”. In both Greek and Latin, there are two words that, technically, mean “man”. In Greek, it’s “anthropos” and “aner”; in Latin its “homo” and “vir”. The second word in each language means “manly man”, or something like this. The former word in each group is much more generic, and in aome ways “person” catches the nuance more effectively; at least, it catches the nuance in our 21st Century attempts to write in a more gender-neutral manner.

Second, I’ve lumped these into a single translation, but I’m not sure that they’re really all part of the same topic.  Deciding where and when to break the sections, and how to group within the sections seems to have become more arbitrary in these past few chapters.  A decent case could be made that Verses 9 & 10 could have been joined to the previous section about asking and seeking. Or maybe all five verses should have been one section.

Third, let’s take a step back for a moment and take a look at the overall picture here. There is a degree of thematic coherence, if we think about all of this in terms of the kind of treatment we can expect from our father in the heavens. And this ties back to the idea of storing treasure in heaven. So there is a thread running through here, but that thread seems to dive under the rest of the weave from time to time, to resurface more than a few verses later.  Whatever. The point is that Matthew is driving home the point of a loving, caring God that will love and care for us. Of course this is an appealing thought, a comforting thought, especially if we are talking to a crowd of the downtrodden, those for whom some comfort would be a novel, as well as appealing, prospect.

Can we be certain that this is the target audience? One of the reasons that later Graeco-Roman critics disparaged Christianity was that it appealed to exactly the downtrodden. Class snobbery in the ancient world was extreme, probably to a degree we can’t really grasp. So here’s a question: did we get the sense from Mark that this was the audience he was writing for? I can’t honestly say that I did. Mark talked about wealth, not in a flattering way, a few times. But that was largely a negative attitude: wealth is a hindrance. What is missing from Mark is the positive message: that being poor in spirit is a good thing, that God will provide the comfort that the downtrodden have been lacking in their lives. 

So the point to be drawn here, I think, is that this is a new element, one that wasn’t present before, grafted onto the message being preached. What does that imply? More, if this is what becomes the central core message of Christianity, how is it that was missing from Mark? You see, it’s not just the Q material, that it seems to be a collection of the things Jesus taught; it’s that it’s the whole point of what Jesus taught. At least, in theory. If this is the core message of Jesus, how was Mark unaware of it? That is a huge question, and it’s one that the Q folk do not even attempt to answer. They can’t answer it; they do not even acknowledge that it even exists. There is a tacit understanding that Mark was unaware of Q, but I have yet to see any sort of theory to explain it. As I said, the Q theorists have very adeptly made the Q hypothesis so mainstream, that they assume that it is incumbent on the anti-Q crowd to prove that there was never any document like Q.



About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on January 24, 2015, in gospel commentary, gospels, Matthew's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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