Pray in secret (Mt 6:6-6:6)

“But when you pray,

Go into your room!

Shut the door!

Pray to your Father,

Who is in secret.

Your Father,

Who sees in secret

Will reward you.”

 

σὺ δὲ ὅταν προσεύχῃ, εἴσελθε εἰς τὸ ταμεῖόν σου καὶ κλείσας τὴν θύραν σου πρόσευξαι τῷ Πατρί σου τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ· καὶ ὁ Πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ ἀποδώσει σοι.

 

This is another saying of Jesus, only found in Matthew, that carries on with the theme of secrecy, but this time it is about prayer.  When the followers of Jesus were to pray (σὺ δὲ ὅταν προσεύχῃ), they should go into their room (εἴσελθε εἰς τὸ ταμεῖόν σου) and shut the door (καὶ κλείσας τὴν θύραν σου).  They were to pray to their Father (πρόσευξαι τῷ Πατρί σου) in secret (ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ).  Like in the almsgiving, their Father would be able to see them in secret (καὶ ὁ Πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ).  Thus, he would also reward them (ἀποδώσει σοι), so that their reward would be in heaven, not here.  Why all this secrecy?  Were they afraid of being persecuted for something?

Public prayer (Mt 6:5-6:5)

“When you pray,

Do not be

Like the hypocrites!

They love to stand.

They pray

In the synagogues,

And at the street corners.

Thus,

They may be seen

By other men.

Truly,

I say to you,

They have received

Their reward.”

 

Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε, οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί· ὅτι φιλοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν πλατειῶν ἑστῶτες προσεύχεσθαι, ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.

 

This is another saying of Jesus, only found in Matthew, that carries on with the theme of the hypocrites.  However, this time it is about prayer.  When the followers of Jesus went to pray (Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε), they should not be like the hypocrites (οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί) who love to stand praying in the synagogues and the street corners (ὅτι φιλοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν πλατειῶν ἑστῶτες προσεύχεσθαι).  Just as they had done with their almsgiving, these hypocrites wanted to be seen by other men (ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις).  Certainly, there was the common times for prayer of the faithful Jews.  The Greek word for hypocrites “οἱ ὑποκριταὶ” originally meant actors or someone who sought praise, while acting deceitfully.  According to Matthew, these hypocrites were usually the enemies of Jesus.  Just as about almsgiving, Matthew has Jesus give a solemn saying (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) concluding that these men who sought human appeal have already received their reward (ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν).  Is this a repudiation of public prayer?

Almsgiving (Mt 6:2-6:2)

“Thus,

Whenever you give alms,

Do not sound a trumpet

Before you,

As the hypocrites do

In the synagogues

And in the streets.

Thus,

They may be praised

By other men.

Truly,

I say to you!

‘They have received

Their reward.’”

 

Ὅταν οὖν ποιῇς ἐλεημοσύνην, μὴ σαλπίσῃς ἔμπροσθέν σου, ὥσπερ οἱ ὑποκριταὶ ποιοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς ῥύμαις, ὅπως δοξασθῶσιν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.

 

This is another saying of Jesus, only found in Matthew, that carries on with the same theme of not showing off your good righteous actions.  The followers of Jesus were not to give charity or alms (Ὅταν οὖν ποιῇς ἐλεημοσύνην) with a trumpet blast leading them (μὴ σαλπίσῃς ἔμπροσθέν σου).  Apparently, the hypocrites were doing this in the streets and in the synagogues (οἱ ὑποκριταὶ ποιοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς ῥύμαις).  Actually, there is no indication that any Jewish or Christian person ever did this, but certainly there was a strong emphasis on giving charity in late Second Temple Judaism.  This Greek word for hypocrites “οἱ ὑποκριταὶ” originally meant actors or someone who sought praise, while acting deceitfully.  According to Matthew, these hypocrites were usually the enemies of Jesus.  They wanted glory and praise from other men (ὅπως δοξασθῶσιν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων·) for their good works.  However, Matthew has Jesus give a solemn saying (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) concluding that these men who sought human appeal have already received their reward (ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν).  Charitable giving should be done quietly without any fanfare.

Piety (Mt 6:1-6:1)

“Beware!

Of practicing

Your piety

Before other men,

In order to be seen

By them.

Then you will have

No reward

From your Father

In heaven.”

 

Προσέχετε δὲ τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν μὴ ποιεῖν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς· εἰ δὲ μήγε, μισθὸν οὐκ ἔχετε παρὰ τῷ Πατρὶ ὑμῶν τῷ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

 

This is a unique saying of Jesus, only found in Matthew, that begins with a warning (Προσέχετε).  The followers of Jesus were not to practice religious piety or righteousness (δὲ τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν μὴ ποιεῖν) before other people (ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων), in order to be seen by them (πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς).  If you did this pompous action, you were not going to have a reward (εἰ δὲ μήγε, μισθὸν οὐκ ἔχετε) from your heavenly father (παρὰ τῷ Πατρὶ ὑμῶν τῷ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς).  Although righteousness and religious piety were good things, Jesus’ disciples were not to parade it before others, because their Father in heaven would not reward them.  The theme of the heavenly Father appears over and over again.

Perfect love (Mt 5:46-5:48)

“If you love those

Who love you,

What reward do you have?

Do not even the tax collectors

Do the same?

If you greet only

Your brothers and sisters,

What more are you doing

Than others?

Do not even the gentiles

Do the same?

Therefore,

Be perfect,

As your heavenly Father

Is perfect.”

 

ἐὰν γὰρ ἀγαπήσητε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς, τίνα μισθὸν ἔχετε; οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ τελῶναι τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν;

καὶ ἐὰν ἀσπάσησθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς ὑμῶν μόνον, τί περισσὸν ποιεῖτε; οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ ἐθνικοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν;

Ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι ὡς ὁ Πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος τέλειός ἐστιν.

 

Once again Matthew and Luke, chapter 6:32-34, are almost the same, perhaps a slightly different use of the Q source.  If you only loved those who loved you (ἐὰν γὰρ ἀγαπήσητε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς), what kind of reward would you get (τίνα μισθὸν ἔχετε)?  Even the Roman tax collectors (οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ τελῶναι τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν) love those who love them.  If you only just greet your brothers (καὶ ἐὰν ἀσπάσησθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς ὑμῶν μόνον), the members of your own family, what is the big deal or so extraordinary (τί περισσὸν ποιεῖτε)?  Even the gentiles or non-Jewish people (οἱ ἐθνικοὶ), since almost all the followers of Jesus were Jewish, did that (οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ ἐθνικοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν).  If they wanted to be perfect (Ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι), like their heavenly Father (ὡς ὁ Πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος τέλειός ἐστιν), they had to love and greet everyone.  Only Matthew has this emphasis on perfection, completeness, or maturity (τέλειός).

Love your enemy (Mt 5:43-5:44)

“You have heard

That it was said.

‘You shall love

Your neighbor!

You shall hate

Your enemy!’

But I say to you.

Love your enemies!

Pray for those

Who persecute you!’”

 

Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου.

ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς·

 

Luke has something similar to this in chapter 6:33, but Matthew is more forceful here.  Once again, Matthew begins by asking them to recall what they have heard said (Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη) about loving their neighbors (Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου), based on the holiness code in Leviticus, chapter 19:18.  However, the next phrase, about hating your enemies (καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου), cannot be found in any Hebrew biblical texts.  However, the reading of the psalms, and the general attitude prior to the exile indicates that the Israelites did not generally wish well on their enemies.  They often asked Yahweh to come and destroy their enemies.  Hate was not encouraged, it was just there.  Then Matthew has this solemn strong announcement from Jesus (ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν), without ambiguity.  They were to love their enemies (ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν) and even pray for those who were persecuting them (καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς).  Perhaps, many of the followers of Jesus at the time of Matthew’s writing were actually being persecuted.  In fact, the Byzantine text added here a couple of phrases to elaborate on this.  These followers of Jesus were asked to bless those cursing them (εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς).  They were to do good to those who were spitefully accusing them, hating them, and persecuting them (καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς, καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς, καὶ διωκόντων ὑμᾶς).  These early Christians were asked to be generous to their enemies and persecutors.

Unusual kindness (Mt 5:40-5:42)

“If anyone wants

To sue you,

If they want

To take your tunic coat,

Give your outer cloak as well!

If anyone forces you

To go one mile,

Go also the second mile!

Give to everyone

Who begs from you!

Do not refuse anyone

Who wants

To borrow

From you!”

 

καὶ τῷ θέλοντί σοι κριθῆναι καὶ τὸν χιτῶνά σου λαβεῖν, ἄφες αὐτῷ καὶ τὸ ἱμάτιον·

καὶ ὅστις σε ἀγγαρεύσει μίλιον ἕν, ὕπαγε μετ’ αὐτοῦ δύο.

τῷ αἰτοῦντί σε δός, καὶ τὸν θέλοντα ἀπὸ σοῦ δανίσασθαι μὴ ἀποστραφῇς

 

Once again, these sayings can be found in Luke, chapter 6:29-30, perhaps from the Q source.  Matthew indicates that the followers of Jesus should be kind people.  We might even call these activities unusual acts of kindness.  If someone wished to sue you (καὶ τῷ θέλοντί σοι κριθῆναι), not only should you give him your inner tunic coat (τὸν χιτῶνά σου λαβεῖν), but also your outer cloak as well (ἄφες αὐτῷ καὶ τὸ ἱμάτιον).  This seems like you would give all the clothes off your back, since most people did not own more than 2 coats.  If someone, probably a Roman soldier, forced you to go a mile with them (καὶ ὅστις σε ἀγγαρεύσει μίλιον ἕν), then go with them a second mile (ὕπαγε μετ’ αὐτοῦ δύο), since Roman soldiers could order people to carry their stuff for only a mile.  If anyone begs from you, give him something (τῷ αἰτοῦντί σε δός).  If someone wished to borrow money from you, you should not refuse them or turn away from them (καὶ τὸν θέλοντα ἀπὸ σοῦ δανίσασθαι μὴ ἀποστραφῇς).  These were tough difficult recommendations, but actually based on the Torah.  People were expected to give charity and at the same time offer interest free loans.

Offering your gifts at the Temple (Mt 5:23-5:24)

“When you are offering

Your gift

At the altar,

If you remember

That your brother

Has something

Against you,

Leave your gift there

Before the altar!

Go away!

First be reconciled

To your brother!

Then come!

Offer your gift!”

 

ἐὰν οὖν προσφέρῃς τὸ δῶρόν σου ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον κἀκεῖ μνησθῇς ὅτι ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἔχει τι κατὰ σοῦ

ἄφες ἐκεῖ τὸ δῶρόν σου ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ ὕπαγε πρῶτον διαλλάγηθι τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, καὶ τότε ἐλθὼν πρόσφερε τὸ δῶρόν σου.

 

Matthew alone continued to point out to these Jewish listeners that they should reconcile with their brothers or sisters, before they presented their gift offerings at the Temple.  This would seem to indicate that the followers of Jesus were still offering sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple.  This also would assume that the Temple was still standing.  Very clearly, these followers of Jesus, or early Christians, were offering their gifts at the altar (ἐὰν οὖν προσφέρῃς τὸ δῶρόν σου ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον).  If they remembered that their brother had something against them (κἀκεῖ μνησθῇς ὅτι ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἔχει τι κατὰ σοῦ), they should leave their gift offerings there (ἄφες ἐκεῖ τὸ δῶρόν σου ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου).  Then they should go and be first reconciled with their brother (καὶ ὕπαγε πρῶτον διαλλάγηθι τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου), which was a common Jewish custom.  Then they could come back to the Temple and offer their gifts.  All’s well that ends well.  There was no reconciliation with God without being reconciled with your brother first.

The eighth beatitude on persecution (Mt 5:10-5:10)

“Blessed are

Those who are persecuted

For righteousness’ sake,

Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

μακάριοι οἱ δεδιωγμένοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

 

The happy, blessed, and fortunate ones (μακάριοι) would be those who were being persecuted for the sake of righteousness (οἱ δεδιωγμένοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης). The followers of Jesus would be persecuted. The reward for these righteous ones would be the kingdom of heaven (ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν). After each blessed action, there was a reward. Righteousness, like in the Old Testament, was a key characteristic for those who would enter the kingdom of heaven. Acting right, following the law, was at the center or the heart of being a just or righteous person.