Feb. 23, 2014 Gospel Lection; Matthew 5:38-48; Comments on the Greek text

Feb. 23, 2014 Gospel Lection

Matthew 5:38-48

Mt 5:38 Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη· Ὀφθαλμὸν ἀντὶ[A] ὀφθαλμοῦ καὶ ὀδόντα ἀντὶ ὀδόντος. You heard that it was said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
Mt 5:39 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν μὴ ἀντιστῆναι τῷ πονηρῷ[B]· ἀλλ’ ὅστις σε[C] ῥαπίζει εἰς[D] τὴν δεξιὰν σιαγόνα, στρέψον αὐτῷ καὶ τὴν ἄλλην· But I tell you not to oppose the evil one, but whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him also the other [one].
Mt 5:40 καὶ τῷ θέλοντί σοι κριθῆναι καὶ τὸν χιτῶνά[E] σου λαβεῖν, ἄφες[F] αὐτῷ καὶ τὸ ἱμάτιον[G]· And to the one who wants to go to court with you and to take your tunic, allow him also the cloak.
Mt 5:41 καὶ ὅστις σε ἀγγαρεύσει[H] μίλιον ἕν, ὕπαγε μετ’ αὐτοῦ δύο. And whoever compels you [to go] one mile, go with him two.
Mt 5:42 τῷ αἰτοῦντί[I] σε δός, καὶ τὸν θέλοντα ἀπὸ σοῦ δανίσασθαι μὴ ἀποστραφῇς.[J] Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away the one seeking to borrow from you.
Mt 5:43 Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη· Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου. You heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and you shall hate your enemy.”
Mt 5:44 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε[K] τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς· But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Mt 5:45 ὅπως γένησθε[L] υἱοὶ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς, ὅτι τὸν ἥλιον αὐτοῦ ἀνατέλλει ἐπὶ [M]πονηροὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς καὶ βρέχει ἐπὶ δικαίους[N] καὶ ἀδίκους. So that you may become sons [and daughters] of your father who is in [the] heavens.  Because he causes the sun to rise on [the] wicked and [the] good, and he sends rain on [the] righteous and unrighteous.
Mt 5:46 ἐὰν γὰρ ἀγαπήσητε[O] τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς, τίνα μισθὸν ἔχετε; οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ τελῶναι τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν; For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same thing?
Mt 5:47 καὶ ἐὰν ἀσπάσησθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς ὑμῶν μόνον, τί περισσὸν[P] ποιεῖτε; οὐχὶ[Q] καὶ οἱ ἐθνικοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν; And if you greet only your brothers [and sisters], what are you doing [that is] remarkable?  Do not even the gentiles do the same thing?
Mt 5:48 Ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι[R] ὡς ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος τέλειός ἐστιν. Therefore, you shall be complete, as your heavenly Father is complete.

[A] Literally “in place of.”

[B] Ambiguous in the Greek alone as to whether this is The Evil One, or just someone who is evil.

[C] Note the prominence of the singular “you” throughout this text, which focuses here on the individual response.

[D] Literally “strikes you into the right cheek.”

[E] The bottom layer worn against the skin

[F] The focus here is not so much on active giving as on non-resistance.

[G] An outer garment.

[H] Cf. Matt 27:32, where the same verb occurs.

[I] Should we emphasize the present tense (“give to the one who continually asks you”)?

[J] One form for prohibitions in Greek is μὴ + the aorist subjunctive, as we see here

[K] Note both imperatives in this verse are present tense, indicating continuous, repeated, or habitual action that is commanded.  Note also that from this point onward, we have commands using you-plural, rather than the singular, as in the earlier verses.

[L] “Be” or “become” here?  Is love for enemies the means by which we become children of God, or the means by which our identity as children of God is made evident?  The Greek could be translated either way, though the verb is stronger than the regular form of the verb “to be” (εἰμί).

[M] The absence of definite articles gives a generalizing force here.

[N] Or “just and unjust.”

[O] Love in the sense of devotion and loyalty.

[P] Literally, “What more are you doing (than anyone else)?”

[Q] And the expected answer, of course, is “yes.”

[R] Not easy to translate, but “perfect” doesn’t quite do it.  The focus is not on the absence of defect, but rather on the full actualization  of all that is required.