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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A post about Matthew 5:28

Update: This post has been renamed

Rick Mansfield: Understanding Matthew 5:28

I disagree with Rick's conclusions in his post but there are many interesting translation principles that come up. How do we define words? How do we apply hyperbolic pronouncements?

Rick spends a lot of time trying to figure out what kind of πρὸς we have here. That's an unfruitful quest in my opinion. Especially when we are trying to move from grammatical analysis to a major ethical application like he does here. And also, I think it's unfortunate to dismiss several major translations as "wrong" when they are doing no more than disagree with our own interpretation.

Well, check out Rick's post and decide for yourself who is right on this issue.


At Wed Sep 03, 03:47:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

David, I disagree. Rick's only problem is that he has not gone far enough. But see the comments, in which I find Don Carson slipping on a whole series of banana skins.

At Wed Sep 03, 03:59:00 PM, Blogger David Ker said...

What are you disagreeing with?

I thought your comments at Rick's place were great. Grammars and dictionaries are treacherous!

At Wed Sep 03, 10:35:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Let me leave grammatical issues aside for the moment.

First, I don't believe there's any hyperbole in 5:28, but there is in 5:29-30.

Second, because there are two different ways to translate πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν (plus a third not-taking-sides median position), that is, "looking with lust" vs. "looking to lust," obviously one has to be correct and the other incorrect.

If the translations that say "looking with lust" are correct, then our stray thoughts are sin. If Jesus was tempted in every way as we are (Heb 4:15), did he also have stray thoughts and are we going to call them temptation or sin? I'd opt for the former.

However, if "looking to lust" is correct, it's the entertaining of the stray thought that becomes the sin. Or better yet it's the deliberate premeditated sin that will get us: "I'm going to buy the November 1996 issue of Playboy to read Carter's interview, and since I'm there anyway, I guess I'll check out the "nekid" seventies babes." That's intent, and undeniably sin.

Further, I find it interesting that the idea of "looking WITH lust" is fairly recent. Good ole King Jimmy had it right to begin with. Further, the 1971 NASB had "looking to lust" (purpose), but it changed in the 1995 edition. But it may be a case where the NASB 95 translators were following the NRSV (gasp!).

I don't know how and why it changed, but perhaps with the ESV, HCSB, and NET Bibles (all 21st century versions) going back to a purpose rendering, translations will start to move back to what was probably the correct rendering to begin with.

See also the comments on my post in which it is pointed out that the Spanish Reina-Valera (1960) also communicates the idea of purpose/intent.

At Wed Sep 03, 11:24:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I'll be quite honest. I am having trouble seeing the difference.

Clearly the Greek says "looking" as in "gazing at" and not "looking to" as in "having intent."

"Gazing at someone in order to lust after them."


"Gazing at someone and lusting after them."

What it the difference? This must be guy thing.

At Thu Sep 04, 04:51:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

David, what I disagree with is your disagreement with Rick's conclusions. For more details see my comments on his post.

I also disagree with the shameless way in which you have renamed this post, originally "Rick slips on a grammatical banana peel", in order to increase its readership - and to make meaningless the last part of my first comment.

At Thu Sep 04, 04:59:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Rick, I strongly object to your statement

because there are two different ways to translate πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν (plus a third not-taking-sides median position), that is, "looking with lust" vs. "looking to lust,"

Here you are presupposing that the only possible ways to translate this phrase in involve the concept of lust. The way you have introduced this with "because" makes it sound like a generally agreed position when it is not. My objection is that this has simply been assumed, by Carson as well as yourself, and is in fact false, at least if "lust" is taken in its primary modern sense (which I quote from the box on your blog) "very strong sexual desire". See my comments on your post.

At Thu Sep 04, 07:03:00 AM, Blogger David Ker said...

Peter, I was contacted by two people who were offended by the title of this post. I'd rather interact with Rick's ideas than worry about the title.

Rick, thanks for replying here. I look forward to studying this more (Email has priority today, however)

At Thu Sep 04, 10:05:00 AM, Blogger Scripture Zealot said...

Susan, just based on the English examples I was thinking exactly the same thing.
Jeff, a guy

At Thu Sep 04, 11:05:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

David, I hope you didn't think I was really offended by the middle title of three. Perhaps I should have added a smiley. The only problem I have with the word you used (and which is good enough for most Bible translations so should be good enough for a blog) is that Matthew 5:28 is nothing to do with it.

At Thu Sep 04, 11:23:00 AM, Blogger David Ker said...

No, I got the joke. But did feel bad about messing up your comment.

At Thu Sep 11, 08:57:00 PM, Blogger E said...

Is there any merit to the fact that from an Old Testament perspective, adultery was dependent on the marital status of the woman, not the man? I.e., a married man having sex with an unmarried or unbetrothed woman was not committing adultery according to the Ten Commandments. David Noel Freedman points this out in his book The Nine Commandments (pp. 124ff.). And since the word for "woman" is the same as the word for "wife," is Jesus perhaps saying that whoever looks at a wife - i.e., someone who BELONGS to another man - to lust for her (to covet her) has committed adultery with her in his heart? I.e., this is saying nothing about a man lusting for an unmarried or unbetrothed woman, because "adultery" doesn't apply in such a situation (at least not per the Old Testament definition of adultery), and fornication is different from adultery.

At Fri Sep 12, 04:13:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

E, I think you are right. I don't think this verse is talking about lust at all, but about trying to get someone else's wife. The same kind of point comes up in 5:32, which it seems to me is intended to outlaw wife-swapping agreements.

At Fri Sep 12, 06:54:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

However, E and Peter, Jesus really didn't say the ambiguous Greek phrase "γυναῖκα" (a woman / a wife) as his object. This is Matthew's translation of Jesus's Aramaic hyperbole. Our English translations, then, take Matthew's ambiguous Greek in all kinds of different directions. Why try to lock it down to THE singular interpretation?

At Fri Sep 12, 09:25:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, Kurk, what did Jesus say, in Hebrew or Aramaic? I strongly suspect that he used the same words for "covet/desire" and "woman/wife" as in the tenth commandment, as in Greek. Anyway it is the Greek NT which is authoritative for us as Christians, not a speculative reconstruction of Aramaic. But why don't English versions use the same words as in the commandment?

At Fri Sep 12, 09:42:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Peter, Great questions! Are you asking rhetorically? What do you think about this? My take is always that Jesus is most humble, giving his words away to followers to translate them. And every translation is an interpretation, no? Doesn't mean, to me anyway, that anything goes off down the slippery slope of absolute relativism. Instead, there's something absolutely important about what we today call 'application' of the scriptures, a most personal thing indeed. But your questions. Sincerely, Peter, I'll be thinking about them for a long time! Thanks!

At Fri Sep 12, 12:39:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

"Are you asking rhetorically?" Is that a rhetorical question? I think I will take it as one! Please keep thinking. Yes, every translation is an interpretation, and in this case mine is the right one! ;-)

At Fri Sep 12, 01:38:00 PM, Blogger David Ker said...

Yippee! This thread sprung up again. I continue to agree with Peter's interpretation although I think in general that these are hyperbolic statements meant to show the extreme justice (and grace) of the new kingdom.


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