Different kind of eunuchs (Mt 19:11-19:12)

“But Jesus said to them.

‘Not everyone can accept

This teaching.

But only those

To whom it is given

Can accept it.

There are eunuchs

Who have been so

From birth.

There are eunuchs

Who have been made eunuchs

By other men.

Then there are eunuchs

Who have made themselves eunuchs

For the sake

Of the kingdom of heaven.

Let anyone accept this

Who can.’”

 

ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Οὐ πάντες χωροῦσιν τὸν λόγον τοῦτον ἀλλ’ οἷς δέδοται.

εἰσὶν γὰρ εὐνοῦχοι οἵτινες ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς ἐγεννήθησαν οὕτως, καὶ εἰσὶν εὐνοῦχοι οἵτινες εὐνουχίσθησαν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ εἰσὶν εὐνοῦχοι οἵτινες εὐνούχισαν ἑαυτοὺς διὰ τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν. ὁ δυνάμενος χωρεῖν χωρείτω.

 

This section about eunuchs is unique to Matthew.  Jesus seems to imply that there is a place for eunuchs in the kingdom of heaven.  Are these eunuchs a metaphor for celibates or are they really castrated men?  Ancient societies had castrated male eunuchs in important positions.  As Jesus pointed out, some were born that way, others were made that way, or others decided to be that way.  Jesus said to them (ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς) that not everyone can accept this word, statement, or teaching (Οὐ πάντες χωροῦσιν τὸν λόγον τοῦτον), only those who had received this gift can accept it (ἀλλ’ οἷς δέδοται).  First. there were eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb (εἰσὶν γὰρ εὐνοῦχοι οἵτινες ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς ἐγεννήθησαν οὕτως).  Then there were the eunuchs made so by other men (καὶ εἰσὶν εὐνοῦχοι οἵτινες εὐνουχίσθησαν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων).  Finally, there were the eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs (καὶ εἰσὶν εὐνοῦχοι οἵτινες εὐνούχισαν ἑαυτοὺς).  Why would they do that?  Jesus said that they did it for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (διὰ τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν).  Then Jesus threw down the gauntlet and said that anyone who could, should accept this teaching (ὁ δυνάμενος χωρεῖν χωρείτω).  Jesus seemed to imply that they should make themselves eunuchs or celibates for the kingdom of heaven.

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The birth of Solomon (Wis 7:1-7:6)

“I also am mortal.

Like everyone else,

I am a descendant

Of the first-formed child of earth.

In the womb of a mother,

I was molded into flesh,

Within the period of ten months,

Compacted with blood,

From the seed of a man,

Within the pleasure of marriage.

When I was born,

I began to breathe the common air.

I fell upon the kindred earth.

My first sound was a cry,

As is true of all.

I was nursed with care

In swaddling clothes.

No king has had a different beginning of existence.

There is for all

One entrance into life.

There is one common way out.”

This author proclaims the human male mortality (ἄνθρωπος) of Solomon in the first person singular (ειμι). He was a mortal child of the earth like everyone else. He became flesh (σὰρξ) in his mother’s womb (κοιλίᾳ μητρὸς), where he had been 10 months since they used the lunar 28 day month calendar. He came from the seed of a man (ἐκ σπέρματος ἀνδρὸς) within a marriage. After birth, he began to breathe the common air (ἀέρα) that we all breathe. He was on the same ground and nursed in the same swaddling clothes like everyone else. A king (βασιλεὺς) does not come to exist in a different kind of way than everyone else. Everyone has the same entrance (εἴσοδος) and the same exit (ἔξοδός) to life.

Planting seeds (Eccl 11:4-11:6)

“Whoever observes the wind

Will not sow.

Whoever regards the clouds

Will not reap.

Just as you do not know

How the breath comes to the bones

In the mother’s womb,

So you do not know

The work of God

Who makes everything.

In the morning,

Sow your seed.

At evening,

Do not let your hand be idle.

You do not know

Which will prosper,

This or that,

Whether both alike will be good.”

If you wait for the perfect wind or the perfect clouds, you will never sow or reap. You have no idea how breath comes to bones in a mother’s womb. So too you have no idea how crops grow. Qoheleth reminds us that God made everything. In the morning, you sow your seeds, but you should not be idle in the evening. You are not sure which seeds will prosper, this one, that one, or both, only God knows.

Lost wealth (Eccl 5:13-5:17)

“There is a grievous evil ill

That I have seen under the sun.

Riches were kept

By their owners

To their hurt.

Those riches were lost

In a bad venture.

Even though they were parents of children,

They have nothing

In their hands.

As they came

From their mother’s womb,

They shall go again.

They are naked

As they came.

They shall take nothing

For their toil

That they may carry away

With their hands.

This also is a grievous ill.

Just as they came,

So shall they go!

What gain do they have

From toiling for the wind?

Besides,

All their days

They eat in darkness,

In much vexation,

In much sickness,

In much resentment?”

Now Qoheleth tells the story of evil and illness here on earth. Some rich owners got together in a bad venture. The result was that they had nothing left for their children. Thus, they would be, as they left their mother’s womb, naked. They had nothing that they could carry away for all their labor. In other words, just as they came into this world with nothing, they were going to leave it the same way, with nothing. What did they gain from all their hard work? They were chasing the wind to no avail. Thus all their days, they would eat in darkness, be troubled, sick, and resentful.

Job prays to Yahweh (Job 1:20-1:21)

“Then Job arose. He tore his robe. He shaved his head. He fell upon the ground. He worshiped. He said.

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb.

Naked shall I return.

Yahweh gave.

Yahweh has taken away.

Blessed be the name of Yahweh.’”

Job tore his clothes and shaved his head, as these actions were the rituals of mourning.  He fell on the ground and prayed to Yahweh, even though he was not an Israelite. As an upright man in this story, he would have worshipped Yahweh, if he knew about him. Nevertheless, the author of this work has him refer to God as Yahweh. He came into the world naked and so he would leave this earth without anything. He seemed to make a parallel between his mother’s womb and mother earth, where he came from and where he is going. Thus the earth was both womb and tomb. Yahweh gave him wealth and now Yahweh has taken it away. Blessed be Yahweh, with or without wealth. This is the great wisdom thought, that wealth was not that important. However wisdom was important.