The unforgiving servant slave (Mt 18:28-18:30)

“But that same slave,

As he went out,

Came upon

One of his fellow slaves.

He owed him

A hundred denarii.

He seizing him.

He started choking him.

He said.

‘Pay what you owe.’

Then his fellow slave fell down.

He pleaded with him.

‘Have patience with me!

I will pay you.’

But he refused.

Then he went.

He threw him in prison

Until he would pay the debt.”

 

ἐξελθὼν δὲ ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος εὗρεν ἕνα τῶν συνδούλων αὐτοῦ, ὃς ὤφειλεν αὐτῷ ἑκατὸν δηνάρια, καὶ κρατήσας αὐτὸν ἔπνιγεν λέγων Ἀπόδος εἴ τι ὀφείλεις.

πεσὼν οὖν ὁ σύνδουλος αὐτοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν λέγων Μακροθύμησον ἐπ’ ἐμοί, καὶ ἀποδώσω σοι.

ὁ δὲ οὐκ ἤθελεν, ἀλλὰ ἀπελθὼν ἔβαλεν αὐτὸν εἰς φυλακὴν ἕως ἀποδῷ τὸ ὀφειλόμενον.

 

This parable about the unforgiving servant slave is unique to Matthew.  Just as this servant slave was leaving his master (ἐξελθὼν δὲ ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος) after having a $15,000,000 debt forgiven, he ran into a fellow slave (εὗρεν ἕνα τῶν συνδούλων αὐτοῦ).  This fellow slave owed him a hundred denarii (ὃς ὤφειλεν αὐτῷ ἑκατὸν δηνάρια), about $150.00.  He seized him or took hold of him (καὶ κρατήσας αὐτὸν).  He started to choke him by the throat (ἔπνιγεν) and told him to pay what he owed (λέγων Ἀπόδος εἴ τι ὀφείλεις).  Obviously, he was using strong arm tactics to intimidate his fellow slave.  This fellow slave responded by using the same routine and words as he had just done to the king.  Then his fellow slave fell down (πεσὼν οὖν ὁ σύνδουλος αὐτοῦ).  He pleaded with him (παρεκάλει αὐτὸν λέγων) to have patience with him (Μακροθύμησον ἐπ’ ἐμοί) because he was going to pay it back to him (καὶ ἀποδώσω σοι).  However, the result was completely different.  Instead of forgiving his fellow slave, he refused to do that (ὁ δὲ οὐκ ἤθελεν).  He threatened him (ἀλλὰ ἀπελθὼν) and put him in jail or prison (ἔβαλεν αὐτὸν εἰς φυλακὴν) until he would pay off his debt (ἕως ἀποδῷ τὸ ὀφειλόμενον).

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The unique perspective of Joseph

The Gospel of Matthew presented the infancy story of Jesus from the perspective of Joseph, unlike the Gospel of Luke that presented the same story from the perspective of Mary. What do they have in common and what is unique. Mary and the child Jesus play a secondary role in this narration, since it was all about Joseph, the son of Jacob, the father of the child. There were certain things in common with the Luke story. Both Joseph and Mary were troubled by this pregnancy. Both had an angel come and explain that the child was from the Holy Spirit. Both were told that the name of the child would be Jesus. In both stories, the child is born in Bethlehem. Beyond that, there were some unique things to the story of Joseph in Matthew. He almost divorced Mary. He had a number of angelic dreams. He was told to go to Egypt, which he did. He then returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth in Galilee. In between, there was the strange story of King Herod and the magi. Matthew used 5 different Old Testament Hebrew prophecies to show that Jesus was truly within the Jewish prophetic tradition. Clearly, in these two opening chapters, Matthew was a Jewish scripture scholar with his use of 1 Chronicles in the genealogy and the various prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, and Judges. Whatever sources he used for this unique perspective on the birth of Jesus, they were clearly Jewish based. Joseph was a righteous Jewish man. After this presentation, Joseph seemed to drift off the center stage in the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.

A third dream for Joseph (Mt 2:19-2:19)

“When Herod died,

An angel of the Lord

Appeared in a dream

To Joseph,

In Egypt.”

 

Τελευτήσαντος δὲ τοῦ Ἡρῴδου, ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος Κυρίου φαίνεται κατ’ ὄναρ τῷ Ἰωσὴφ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ

 

When King Herod died (Τελευτήσαντος δὲ τοῦ Ἡρῴδου) around 4 BCE, the angel of the Lord again appeared (ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος Κυρίου φαίνεται) to Joseph (τῷ Ἰωσὴφ) for the 3rd time in a dream (κατ’ ὄναρ), while he was still in Egypt (ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ). God, the Father, was continuing to communicate with Joseph via the angel of the Lord, God, in dreams.

Another dream for Joseph (Mt 2:13-2:13)

“Now after the Magi

Had left,

An angel of the Lord

Appeared to Joseph

In a dream.

He said.

‘Get up!

Take the child

With his mother!

Flee to Egypt!

Remain there

Until I tell you!

Herod is about

To search for the child.

He wants to destroy him.’”

 

Ἀναχωρησάντων δὲ αὐτῶν, ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου φαίνεται κατ’ ὄναρ τῷ Ἰωσὴφ λέγων Ἐγερθεὶς παράλαβε τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ φεῦγε εἰς Αἴγυπτον, καὶ ἴσθι ἐκεῖ ἕως ἂν εἴπω σοι· μέλλει γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ζητεῖν τὸ παιδίον τοῦ ἀπολέσαι αὐτό.

 

After the magi had departed (Ἀναχωρησάντων δὲ αὐτῶν), once again, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream (ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου φαίνεται κατ’ ὄναρ τῷ Ἰωσὴφ), just like he had before when Joseph accepted Mary as his wife in chapter 1:20-24.  This time, the angel told Joseph to get up (λέγων Ἐγερθεὶς).  He was to take his child with the child’s mother (παράλαβε τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ) in order to flee to Egypt (φεῦγε εἰς Αἴγυπτον), the typical place in the Old Testament, where people fled to avoid problems.  They were supposed to stay there in Egypt (ἐκεῖ ἕως ἂν εἴπω σοι), until this angel of the Lord told them it was okay to return.  The main reason for this trip to Egypt, without saying a specific place, was to avoid King Herod who was trying to find and destroy Joseph’s child (μέλλει γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ζητεῖν τὸ παιδίον τοῦ ἀπολέσαι αὐτό).  Just like the infant Moses, in Exodus, chapters 1:15-2-10, Jesus would be saved from death as an infant also.

The dream of Joseph (Mt 1:20-1:20)

“But just when he resolved

To do this,

An angel of the Lord

Appeared to him

In a dream.

Saying.

‘Joseph!

Son of David!

Do not be afraid

To take Mary

As your wife.

The child conceived

In her is

From the Holy Spirit.”

 

ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐνθυμηθέντος ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος Κυρίου κατ’ ὄναρ ἐφάνη αὐτῷ λέγων Ἰωσὴφ υἱὸς Δαυείδ, μὴ φοβηθῇς παραλαβεῖν Μαρίαν τὴν γυναῖκά σου, τὸ γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ γεννηθὲν ἐκ Πνεύματός ἐστιν Ἁγίου·

 

Joseph had resolved (αὐτοῦ ἐνθυμηθέντος) to put away Mary, instead of taking her as his wife. Then an angel of the Lord (ἄγγελος Κυρίου) appeared to him in a dream (ὄναρ ἐφάνη αὐτῷ). This is somewhat reminiscent of Joseph in Egypt, who interpreted dreams, but said that only God could tell them what they meant in Genesis, chapters 40-41. The various Israelite prophets often got their oracle messages in dreams. Notice that it is an angel of the Lord, “Κυρίου.” There will be no mention of Yahweh in the New Testament, since the Greek Old Testament had translated “Yahweh” into “Lord.” However, the sense was that this was God, the Father, the God of the Old Testament. Angels were the messengers of God, especially in the Book of Tobit, chapter 5, where the angel Raphael appeared to him. This angel goes unnamed here, not like the angel Gabriel of Luke, chapter 1. This angel told Joseph, the son of David, not to be afraid (μὴ φοβηθῇς) to take Mary (παραλαβεῖν Μαρίαν) as his wife (τὴν γυναῖκά σου). He had nothing to be worried about. Thus, God, via his angel, was trying to reassure Joseph that everything would be alright. This angel then told Joseph that the child that had been conceived in her (ἐν αὐτῇ γεννηθὲν) was from the Holy Spirit (ἐκ Πνεύματός ἐστιν Ἁγίου). In a somewhat awkward phrasing, this text said the conception was from a Spirit that is holy rather than a Holy Spirit as earlier in this text. This shows a developing sense of the divine Holy Spirit.

Joseph and his father (Mt 1:16-1:16)

“Jacob was

The father of Joseph.

He was the husband

Of Mary,

Of whom Jesus was born,

Who is called the Messiah Christ.”

 

Ἰακὼβ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωσὴφ τὸν ἄνδρα Μαρίας, ἐξ ἧς ἐγεννήθη Ἰησοῦς ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός.

 

The end of this genealogy is Joseph (Ἰωσὴφ) with his father Jacob (Ἰακὼβ).  Perhaps the names of Jacob and Joseph were an attempt to connect Jesus with the great Joseph, the son of Jacob, who brought the sons of Jacob to Egypt.  However, compared to the text in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 3, there is a difference.  Luke has Joseph called “the son of Heli,” not “the son of Jacob.”  The Greek text used the term “begat” (ἐγέννησεν) to represent the relationships between Jacob and Joseph.  It seems perfectly acceptable to simply call him the father, instead of saying “he fathered him.”  This Joseph was the husband of Mary (τὸν ἄνδρα Μαρίας), so that there was no doubt that he was the legal father of Jesus (Ἰησοῦς) and the legal husband of Mary.  The term ἄνδρα could mean man or husband, but the context here is clearly as a husband of Mary.  Instead of begetting (ἐγέννησεν) Jesus, Jesus was born (ἐξ ἧς ἐγεννήθη) into Mary.  Lest there be any question who this Jesus was, he was the one called the anointed one (ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός), the Messiah, the Christ.