For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 7:1-6; Judging Others (Rhetorical Influences)

posted by Mike Nappa

It would’ve been hard to be a Pharisee sitting in the audience of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Again and again Christ seemed to deliberately antagonize any religious leaders listening to his teaching—singling them out, calling them unflattering names, and mocking them with increasingly absurd insults.

Matthew 7:3-5 records another example of this kind of rhetoric. Teaching on proper judgment, Jesus addressed Pharisees directly, expressing incredulous hyperbole at their individual and collective arrogance: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (verse 3).

That line would have elicited a few chuckles and raised a few eyebrows in the crowd on the mountainside. Christ’s words were a harsh attack, a satirical insult that openly mocked the highest leaders in the Jewish nation. Pharisees of that time denounced all kinds of minor failings in others, yet turned a blind eye to the major moral flaws of their own religious elite. Jesus accused them of being both blind and stupid, and even worse, play-actors in a religious game (i.e, “You hypocrite…” in Matthew 7:5).

How could a Pharisee not be offended by that kind of sermon? Wouldn’t you be angry if your pastor spoke that way about you?

It’s difficult to understand why Jesus chose this scorched-earth rhetorical approach toward his enemies among the religious elite. After all, he demonstrated profound grace and patience toward other sinners. Yet it was the appropriate choice at the appropriate time, likely winning common people to his cause and also prompting the Pharisees to move forward the machinations of his atoning execution. In other words, Jesus knew what he was doing, and why.

The temptation for us today is to assume we too have Jesus’ divine authority to insult and verbally demean any we view as our enemies. Before we try to imperfectly emulate the harsh rhetorical style that Jesus was able to use perfectly, we’d be wise to heed his rebuke to the Pharisees:

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye…”

 

Works Cited:

[IB8, 125-126]

 

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About: Mike Nappa

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Matthew 7:1-6; Judging Others (Word Study)

posted by Mike Nappa

“Do not judge…”

These words of Jesus that open Matthew 7 have been a source of confusion—and antagonism—for centuries. The problem seems to be that many of us misunderstand the distinctions between similar Greek terms that mean different things.

Anakrinō (“to discern”) is a general term that means “to investigate…to examine, scrutinize, question.” It’s a verb that happens outside of a courtroom, a search for truth that may be in preparation for a trial, but also happens when no formal, legal proceeding is imminent. This type of discerning effort is lauded in the Bible. For instance, Paul prayed for Christians in Philippi to grow “in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern [anakrinō] what is best” (Philippians 1:9-10). Additionally, Acts 17:11 praises the people of Berea because they “examined [anakrinō] the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Unsurprisingly, then, anakrinō is NOT the term Jesus used in Matthew 7:1.

Krinō (“to judge”) is the word Jesus used in Matthew 7. This is a verb that means “to pronounce judgment” and “to assume the office of a judge.” It’s a specific term that refers to a courtroom-style setting where a defendant is either convicted or exonerated. It carries with it both the ability to act (“pronounce judgment”) and the legal authority to enforce the action (“the office of a judge”). In Jesus’ context, it refers to the coming eternal judgment of a person’s soul.

Speaking primarily to the practices of Pharisees and overbearing religious leaders, Jesus condemned a hypocritical attitude of judgment (krinō) toward others that exceeded the otherwise praiseworthy attempts at discernment (anakrinō). He railed against anyone presuming to have authority to “assume the office” of Judge over the souls of his creation. As God incarnate, Christ alone holds that authority—and he intends to keep it.

In practical terms, then, we are to anakrinō our hearts out, seeking to know and understand truth as it relates to our daily lives of service—but we are never to assume that gives us the right to krinō our fellow sinners to hell or other spiritual punishment. We’d be wise to follow the Apostle Paul’s wisdom in 1 Corinthians 4:4-5:

“My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.”

 

Works Cited:

[VCE, 171, 336]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 6:25-34; Do Not Worry (Word Study)

posted by Mike Nappa

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…” Jesus told his hearers on the mountainside (Matthew 6:33). This command was both a promise of freedom (from worry) and a promise of daily provision. So what does it mean to “seek” God’s kingdom and righteousness? The Greek word used here is zeeteo, and it entails a few important concepts.

First is the most obvious: Zeeteo means “to search for, to try to find or obtain.” Each day we have the privilege to begin anew that search for God’s kingdom wherever it may be found. We search for it in the words of the Bible. We try to find it in our own attempts pray and to listen in prayer. We try to obtain it by paying attention to the inner whisper of Christ’s Holy Spirit who guides us each day. We search for it in the relationships found in our churches and communities of believers, and also in the daily re-creation of lives filled with integrity and service. We search for it in a constant effort simply to know Jesus better in personal, intimate, honest ways.

Seek also implies time and effort invested in our search. As theologian R.T. Kendall explains, “It is a way of living…In the ancient Hellenistic world, this Greek word (zeeteo) referred to a philosophical investigation that could mean a lifelong pursuit. It means making an effort…It is a pursuit.”

Interestingly, the word zeeteo in Matthew 6:33 is used reciprocally elsewhere in the New Testament, often associated with God seeking people, not vice versa. For example, Luke 19:10’s commentary on Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus reveals, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” As such, it could be said that Jesus’ real promise in Matthew 6:33 is the same as that of James 4:8, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

After all, it’s in his presence alone that we find true freedom and provision, no matter what our daily circumstances may be.

 

Works Cited:

[SOM, 318]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 6:25-34; Do Not Worry (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

A few random thoughts about Matthew 6:25-34…

  • In Jesus’ time, poverty was the norm, not the exception. Add to that vagaries of crops and crime and war and more, and you can see why people would worry about what they would eat or drink or wear from day to day.
  • Most laborers worked on a day-to-day basis, earning wages one day at a time and starting each new morning freshly unemployed. There was no such thing as vacation pay or sick days. In that cultural context, provision of basic necessities (food, water, clothing) for tomorrow was always uncertain.
  • Jesus’ statement, “add a single hour to his life,” (verse 27) is actually an idiomatic expression in Greek that’s hard to understand with exactness. The literal translation is “add one forearm length [cubit] to his age.” In other words, Jesus basically said, “Worrying can’t add 18 inches to your lifespan.” What?
  • During his Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus said “See how the lilies of the field grow…” (verse 28), it’s likely that lilies were actually growing all around him and his audience at that exact moment. Kind of cool, if you ask me.
  • When Jesus spoke about grass being “thrown into the fire,” that was reference to a common frugality among ancient Israelites. Unlike today, cut grass was a useful source of fuel for many homes. People would cut the green grass of spring, let it dry, then wrap it into bundles (kind of like little logs). They’d burn those bundles in fire ovens for cooking and heating. Pretty smart!
  • Jesus’ observation that “Each day has enough trouble of its own” was apparently a maxim he invented, as there is no exact parallel to this statement recorded before he said it.

 

Works Cited:

[ZP1, 49-50; JHT, 75]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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