Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Matthew 21:1-11

This passage occurs for Palm Sunday, year A.
Summary:  When I first wrote this blog post, there had been a large earthquake in Japan; hence the word "εσεισθη" (shook, akin to seismic) caught my attention.  The events of Holy Week shake the city.  They still shake our world today, perhaps even causing a fair amount of disruption, if not sadly violence, in our world.  Call it good, call it bad, but the events of Holy Week make every person ask the haunting question:  "Who is this man?"

Key Words:
απεστειλεν ("sent" in 21:1 and 3; aorist form of αποστελλω)  This is a well known verb to Greek students.  I find the particular use interesting -- Jesus sends the disciples to get a donkey.  A reminder that often times, our "missional" or "apostolic" calling can be very mundane, but serve a tremendously amazing purpose.

συνεταξεν ("commanded" in 21:6; aorist form of συντασσω)  Ah, the "syntax" of discipleship.  This would mean obedience to particular commands.  Okay, its Holy Week.  I am not going on a diatribe, but it is worth noting, especially for us Lutherans, that the disciples display here the syntax of discipleship:  hearing specific tasks and doing them.  Or to put it another way, the proper syntax of discipleship is "hearing, being sent and then obeying..."

οχλος vs πολις ("crowd" in 21:8 and 11 and "city" in 21:10).  The events of Holy Week force each of us, whether disciple, distant follower or outsider, to confront the question facing the whole city:  "Who is this?"  Also, the same crowds that cheer him now will vote for his death...

ὠσαννα ("Hosanna" in 21:9).  Here is the "NET" commentary:  Hosanna, literally in Hebrew, "O Lord, save" in the quotation from Ps 118:25-26 was probably by this time a familiar liturgical expression of praise, on the order of "Hail to the king," although both the underlying Aramaic and Hebrew expressions meant "O Lord, save us." In words familiar to every Jew, the author is indicating that at this point every messianic expectation is now at the point of realization. It is clear from the words of the psalm shouted by the crowd that Jesus is being proclaimed as messianic king. See E. Lohse, TDNT 9:682-84.

εσεισθη  ("shake" in 21:10; aorist form of σειω)  This word comes into English as "seismic."  The events of Holy Week shake the city and their aftershocks still continue to reverberate around the world two millenia later.

Often times participles are stacked near other participles and verbs, which can make them seem more difficult to translate.  Here are two examples: 
21:1  λυσαντες αγαγετε μοι
The verbs (and pronoun!) should be fairly familiar:  "loose/free", "lead", "me"
Let's translate this rather methodically.  First, let's do the non-participle parts:
"[participle] lead to me"
Now, let's go back and add in the participle, in this case, some form of "free."  The first thing to do is NOT worry about person, gender or any of that, but simply stick the verb in with an "ing"
"Freeing, lead to me"
Okay, now we need to check out the tense and voice.  In this case it is active voice, so we don't have to fix anything.  Tense wise, it is aorist.  An aorist participle occurs before the other verb.  So, we get:
"Freed, lead to me"
Yuck.  Let's put this back in the "under the circumstances" machine:
Under the circumstances of having freed, lead to me."
What makes this hard is that you don't have an object.  Let's add one in for clarity:
"UtC of having freed the donkey, lead it to me."
Now we simplify:
"After you freed/untied the donkey, lead it to me."
Next one is 21:9
ευλογημενος Ὁ ερχομενος εν ονοματι κυριου
Again, translate what you know here:
"[participle] the [participle] in the name of the Lord.
[Technical point:  In Hebrew, you don't have articles in expressions like "name of the Lord"  It is just assumed that it is all definitive:  "the Name of the Lord."  The Greek translators just left them out but we ain't talking about any Lord, here, but YHWH!  Which leads always to the question of, how do you translate this name?  Simply LORD using all caps??]
In this case, the second participle: ερχομενος is a lot easier.  It is a substantive:  You simply put in the "The one(s) that/which do X" formula.  You get:  "The one who comes"  What makes this a little tricky is the "μεν" in the middle of the participle which might make you think this is passive, but no, this is simply a deponent verb! 
But the first one...ευλογημενος...tricky.
Stick in the word+ing
"blessing the one who comes in the name of the Lord."
Now we check tense and voice.  Voice is passive, so we have to reverse the language:  "Blessed be" or "blessed is."  The tense is perfect which means the action, having occurred in the past, still has an implication for today.
"Blessed and still is blessed the one who comes in the name of the Lord."