Better maimed than eternal fire (Mt 18:8-18:8)

“If your hand

Or your foot

Causes you to sin

Or stumble,

Cut it off!

Throw it away!

It is better for you

To enter life maimed

Or lame

Than to have

Two hands

Or two feet

But thrown

Into the eternal fire.”

 

Εἰ δὲ ἡ χείρ σου ἢ ὁ πούς σου σκανδαλίζει σε, ἔκκοψον αὐτὸν καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ· καλόν σοί ἐστιν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν κυλλὸν ἢ χωλόν, ἢ δύο χεῖρας ἢ δύο πόδας ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον.

 

This saying about better to be maimed than sin can also be found in Mark, chapter 9:43-45, with some minor changes.  Matthew also has something similar in chapter 5:30.  In a rather harsh statement, Jesus said that if your hand (Εἰ δὲ ἡ χείρ σου) or your foot (ἢ ὁ πούς σου) causes you to stumble or sin (σκανδαλίζει σε), cut them off (ἔκκοψον αὐτὸν)!  Throw them away (καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ·)!  It would be better for you to enter life maimed or lame (καλόν σοί ἐστιν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν κυλλὸν ἢ χωλόν) than to have two hands (ἢ δύο χεῖρας) or two feet (ἢ δύο πόδας) but thrown into the eternal fire (ἔχοντα βληθῆναι εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον).  Whatever, the temptation, stumbling block, or snare is, get rid of it, even if it is one of your hands or feet.

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The sinning right hand (Mt 5:30-5:30)

“If your right hand

Causes you to sin,

Cut it off!

Throw it away!

It is better

For you

To lose

One of your members

Than for your whole body

To be thrown into hell.”

 

καὶ εἰ ἡ 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.

 

Matthew continued with his emphasis of Jesus talking about a loss of a limb that was considered like a martyrdom.  Once again, Matthew was dependent on Mark, chapter 9:43-48, and repeated this in chapter 18:8-9 of this work.  This time it is the right hand (καὶ εἰ ἡ δεξιά σου χεὶρ) that is causing you to stumble or sin (σκανδαλίζει σε,).  Then you should cut it off (ἔκκοψον αὐτὴν) and throw it away (καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ).  Just like in the preceding verse the reasoning was the same.  This self-mutilation was better for you (συμφέρει γάρ σοι).  It was better to lose one of your member parts (ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν τῶν μελῶν σου) than have your whole body be thrown into Gehenna or hell (καὶ μὴ ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου εἰς γέενναν ἀπέλθῃ).  There is a different Greek verb used here that means to be thrown or cast into hell.  The Greek word for hell “γέενναν” or the English Gehenna was based on the Hebrew word Gehinnom that was the name of the valley south of Jerusalem where burning child sacrifices would take place.  You were better off with one hand and a whole body than being in the fires of hell.  Notice the emphasis on the right side, obviously a right-handed society.  Perhaps the right hand was the hand that did violence to others, as in killing.

The desolation of Mount Seir (Ezek 35:7-35:9)

“I will make

Mount Seir

A waste.

I will make it

A desolation.

I will cut off

From it

All who come,

All who go.

I will fill

Its mountains

With the slain.

On your hills,

In your valleys,

In all your water streams,

Those killed

With the sword

Shall fall.

I will make you

A perpetual desolation.

Your cities

Shall never be inhabited.

Then you will know

That I am Yahweh.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that he was going to make Mount Seir a wasteland and a desolation. He was going to cut it off from all other countries, so that no one would be able to come or go into it. He was going to fill its mountains with all their fallen dead bodies, whether in the hills, in the valleys, or in the water streams. Mount Seir was going to become a perpetual desolation. Its cities would never be inhabited again. However, they would finally know that Yahweh was God.