Thursday, July 7, 2011

Matthew 13:1-9;18-23

This passage occurs in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year A, most recently July 2014.  Since the two sections have similar vocabulary, I will focus my comments on one section, namely 18-23.

Summary:  What is this parable about?  The soil?  The seed?  In the parable, certain individuals endure hardship, survive temptation and finally bear fruit.  Well, how is that going to happen?  How will get the deep soil?  As Jesus says, the parable is about the sower, the sower who constantly comes to us again and again, sowing the seed that we might finally be at a point in our lives where the soil is deep, that we might repent, turn and be healed (13:15), that we will bear fruit.

Key words: 
σπειραντος ("the one who sows", participle of σπειρω; 18)  There is nothing distinct about this word, but it is worth pointing out that Jesus says the parable is about this, namely, the one who throws his seed, even into wasteful places!
παντος ("all"; 19)  The Greek here reads literally, "Everyone hears the word and does not understand it."  There is a sense of the impenetrable nature of God's Word in chapter 13!  I think the translators do a fair job of moving this word "all" to "anyone" because grammatically the rest of the paragraph lines up this way, but there is just a little suggestion here that all hear and don't understand.
καρδια ("heart"; 19)  Interestingly, this word never refers to the actually beating heart inside the body in the NT!  Hebrew and Greek map the whole heart-brain-feelings-thoughts a bit differently, but the basic point is that the heart here is not the Hallmark center, but the core of who we are, including our thoughts.
ακουω ("hear"; multiple times)   Warning:  Overly pietist comment coming up:  Hearing the word is not sufficient.
σπειρος  ("seed"; multiple times; also see 13:38)  In Greek the word "seed" is actually a participle made into a noun, literally "The thing that is sown."  It is worth point out that in verse 38 the good seed are the sons of the kindgom.  Moreover, the in this parable, the seed does not refer to the word, but consistently refers to the people who receive or do not receive the word.  Again, I think most times we view ourselves as the field and the word as the seed, but in Matthew 13, we are the seeds.
σκανδαλιζεται ("stumble"; 21)  This means "scandalize"; how does the word scandalize you?
απατη ("deception"; 22)  An interesting side note on this word.  It closely sounds like "agape" which Christian communion meals were often called.  2 Peter 2:13 plays on this a bit a condemns the "apate" at the communion meals.

Grammar Review:  Substantive participles
In Greek, you can make "substantive" participles very easily.  They are also easy to translate.
They follow the following pattern:  "The one who does X/Y/Z"  In English, this idea is accomplished with a relative pronoun clause:  I like the woman who married me.  Greek also has relative clauses, but the substantive participle is common.  Here we have a nice one:
ο τον λογον ακουων
Step one:  Identify it as a substantive participle.  How?  Well, you have a "the" (ie a definite article:  ο) and you only have one, otherwise it would be an adjectival.
Step two:  Get the participle:  ακουων
Step three:  Translate the basics under the formula "the one who does X":  The one who hears
Step four:  Correct for voice and tense:  Don't have to hear.
Step five:  translate the other stuff:  "The one who hears the word."  Greek will often sandwich important stuff for the substantive participle clause in between the article and the particple

Give it a try, with the last five words of verse 19...

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