Sunday Morning Greek Blog

February 21, 2011

Matthew 7

Filed under: Biblical Studies,Greek,Matthew Gospel of,New Testament — Scott Stocking @ 4:55 pm

From January 9, 2011.

Wow, a great morning in Matthew 7. Here are just a few things I discovered.

Jesus speaks of “the narrow gate” (τῆς στενῆς πύλης, tēs stenēs pulēs) in Matthew 7:13-14. Verse 14 is where things get interesting, however. Jesus uses the same words to describe the gate in vs. 14, but the NIV, TNIV, and, surprisingly, the NAS all cloud the issue here. Additionally, those three versions shift the translation “narrow” to a different word (a verb), θλίβω (thlibō), in vs. 14. That word means “to be hard pressed or persecuted.” I think the ESV, which tends to be more literal, gets closer to the sense: <span>”Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.</span><span> For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” “Hard” still seems a bit too soft, however (note the irony), but I suppose if the translators had said, “the way that leads to life is persecuted,” we would be less inclined to read our Bibles.

The next passage about the tree and its fruit has some interesting features as well. The NIV, TNIV, and NAS all repeat the words “good” and “bad” as if Jesus spoke the same Greek/Aramaic words for their respective occurrences. But when Jesus speaks of the “good” tree, he uses the word ἀγαθός (agathos), which typically, but not always, means “good” with moral implications in the NT. The word used to describe the “good” fruit is καλός (kalos), which can have a moral sense to it, but also has aesthetic implications as well (e.g., “beautiful”). So I would say a good translation of the first part of vs. 17 is, “The tree that has been properly tended produces healthy, delicious fruit.” 

The second part of that verse has similar issues with the word “bad.” Of the tree, Jesus uses the word σαπρός (sapros), which implies “rotten” or “unwholesome” (see Eph 4:29 for the latter). But of the fruit, Jesus uses the typical word for “evil,” πονηρός (ponēros). There is another word for “bad” in the Greek (κακός, kakos) that seems to be an antonym for agathos, but it is not found in this passage. So the latter half could read, “The rotten tree produces evil fruit.” Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush (or the tree) with this one. He jumps straight to judgment of those who aren’t producing healthy fruit.

Matthew 12:33-34 adds to this teaching as well. In a similar passage there, Jesus uses kalos and sapros to speak of both the tree and the fruit, but in 34, when he applies the analogy to his listeners, he uses agathos and ponēros to describe them.

Scott Stocking

1 Comment »

  1. […] prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). We show our faith by the fruit we bear (Matthew 7:15–20; John 15:1–16; Romans 7:4). We demonstrate our faith by what we do (Romans 4; James […]

    Pingback by Redemption and Faithfulness « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — August 14, 2011 @ 5:09 pm | Reply

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