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the anthropology of Jesus in Matthew


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#1 jkgayle

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 08:34 AM

The lead up to the famous Golden Rule in the Sermon on the Mount seems not to connect to it at all. Verses 7-11 of chapter 7 of Matthew's gospel seem to have no bearing on verse 12, that is, unless we get the anthropology of Jesus here. As a human, he's talking to other human beings and is using images like specks and logs and dogs and pigs before Matthew has him explicitly referencing people. Matthew has him saying the rhetorical phrases ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος and ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι.
 
There it gets even more personal, when Jesus refers to them (and to himself perhaps?) as ὑμεῖς πονηροὶ. They are put, by Jesus, in the category of evil, of evil humans able to give children good things. And so Jesus next is able to establish both a contrast and a connection to another giver of good things, and to put them in another human category, with another one: ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. The theology, the notion of a god, the One God, is put here in human terms. A poppa, a father of humans, of these humans listening to that human on the mountain there, teaching them. He's referring to somebody above them, a daddy, their Dad. At the very least, as a paternal figure, this one is the one responsible for their existence. But Jesus is making this God like them; he's a responder to his children, a giver of goodness upon request.
 
And then comes the great Golden Rule, the sum of The Torah, the law, and of The Nevi'im, the prophets. The Golden Rule repeats the notion of "wishes," of things that would be requested and petitioned for. We might translate in English.

"In conclusion, if there's any little thing you might wish for yourself to be done for you by another human being, any other human being down here with you as another child of a good giving father, then that's what you need to do for that other human being and exactly how you ought to do it for them. Now, that's the conclusion of the Law and of the Prophets of our scriptures."

Because Matthew is in Greek, then we immediately think of the Pentateuch of the LXX and of the Greek translation of the Nevi'im. The writer of the gospel has been quoting from these. But I also think of Plato, putting Greek words in the mouth of his teacher, Socrates. In the Cratylus, he has him exploring the etymologies of the Greek terms for human beings and for gods. The latter, he says, run. The divine ones run on courses. They are not only movers, but in contrast to what Aristotle later would claim, the Supreme God is actually a "moved" mover, a good responder. And Plato's Socrates opines about where the word ἄνθρωπος comes from. It's old and ancient Greek, he says, that means "beings who look up, who gaze up above themselves." Matthew's Jesus puts himself and those he's teaching in that position. They're looking up to the moved mover. And they're desiring things, with permission. Then they're to give what they desire too, as fellow humans to fellow humans.
 
7 αἰτεῖτε καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν, ζητεῖτε καὶ εὑρήσετε, κρούετε καὶ ἀνοιγήσεται ὑμῖν· 8 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ αἰτῶν λαμβάνει καὶ ὁ ζητῶν εὑρίσκει καὶ τῷ κρούοντι ἀνοιγήσεται. 9 ἢ τίς ἐστιν ἐξ ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος, ὃν αἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ἄρτον, μὴ λίθον ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ; 10 ἢ καὶ ἰχθὺν αἰτήσει, μὴ ὄφιν ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ; 11 εἰ οὖν ὑμεῖς πονηροὶ ὄντες οἴδατε δόματα ἀγαθὰ διδόναι τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς δώσει ἀγαθὰ τοῖς αἰτοῦσιν αὐτόν.
 
12 πάντα οὖν ὅσα ἐὰν θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς· οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται.

PS - Since I'm posting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the USA, here's a pertinent quotation:

"the authority of the Golden Rule is not that Jesus proclaimed it. On the contrary, its authority lies in the fact that it has received raison d'être in the experiences of life. Of course, that Jesus uttered it, and more because he lived it, enhances our moral estimate of him."

Edited by jkgayle, 15 January 2018 - 08:34 AM.

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#2 Abram K-J

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 04:06 PM

 And Plato's Socrates opines about where the word ἄνθρωπος comes from. It's old and ancient Greek, he says, that means "beings who look up, who gaze up above themselves." 

 

 

Do you have easy access to the Greek/English relevant portions of that work that you could paste here? I'd never heard that before, but it's really interesting, and I'm fascinated by your juxtaposing it with Jesus's words. 

 

Also fascinating to wonder: did Jesus have knowledge of Plato and other Greek philosophy? 

 

Finally, are there are sources that agree/disagree with the etymology of ἄνθρωπος? Partly I'm asking because it makes for such a brilliant sermon illustration for something I'm already preaching on, but I'm also curious. :)


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#3 ukfraser

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 04:40 PM

 
Also fascinating to wonder: did Jesus have knowledge of Plato and other Greek philosophy? 
 


I think it depends on how you see jesus, as a carpenter or as an educated man? (Eg John 1:19 and 1:26)
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#4 דָנִיאֶל

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Posted 16 January 2018 - 04:57 PM

I would be interested in what http://dictionaries....nline.com/greekmight say about this.

 

Thx

D


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#5 jkgayle

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 08:07 AM

"Do you have easy access to the Greek/English relevant portions of that work that you could paste here?" 

 

Yes, Abram. Here's from Harold N. Fowler's English translation of Plato's Cratylus (followed by Plato's Greek, which he puts in the mouth of his teacher, Socrates): 

 

soc. Something of this sort, then, is what I suspect: I think the earliest men in Greece believed only in those gods in whom many foreigners believe to-day—sun, moon, earth, stars, and sky. They saw that all these were always moving in their courses and running, and so they called them gods (θεούς) from this running (θεῖν) nature; then afterwards, when they gained knowledge of the other gods, they called them all by the same name. Is that likely to be true, or not?

ΣΩ. Τοιόνδε τοίνυν ἔγωγε ὑποπτεύω· φαίνονταί μοι οἱ πρῶτοι τῶν ἀνθρώπων τῶν περὶ τὴν Ἑλλάδα τούτους μόνους τοὺς θεοὺς ἡγεῖσθαι, οὕσπερ Dνῦν πολλοὶ τῶν βαρβάρων, ἥλιον καὶ σελήνην καὶ γῆν καὶ ἄστρα καὶ οὐρανόν· ἅτε οὖν αὐτὰ ὁρῶντες πάντα ἀεὶ ἰόντα δρόμῳ καὶ θέοντα, ἀπὸ ταύτης τῆς φύσεως τῆς τοῦ θεῖν θεοὺς αὐτοὺς ἐπονομάσαι· ὕστερον δὲ κατανοοῦντες τοὺς ἄλλους, πάντας ἤδη τούτῳ τῷ ὀνόματι προσαγορεύειν. ἔοικέ τι ὃ λέγω τῇ ἀληθείᾳ ἢ οὐδέν;

 

soc. Now it appears to me that the name of men (ἄνθρωπος) underwent a change of that sort. It was a phrase, but became a noun when one letter, alpha, was removed and the accent of the last syllable was dropped.

 

her. What do you mean?

soc. I will tell you. The name “man” (ἄνθρωπος) indicates that the other animals do not examine, or consider, or look up at (ἀναθρεῖ) any of the things that they see, but man has no sooner seen—that is, ὄπωπε—than he looks up at and considers that which he has seen. Therefore of all the animals man alone is rightly called man (ἄνθρωπος), because he looks up at (ἀναθρεῖ) what he has seen (ὄπωπε).

 

ΣΩ. Τούτων τοίνυν ἓν καὶ τὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ὄνομα πέπονθεν, ὡς ἐμοὶ δοκεῖ. ἐκ γὰρ ῥήματος ὄνομα γέγονεν, ἑνὸς γράμματος τοῦ ἄλφα ἐξαιρεθέντος καὶ βαρυτέρας τῆς τελευτῆς γενομένης.

 

ΕΡΜ. Πῶς λέγεις;


ΣΩ. Ὧδε. σημαίνει τοῦτο τὸ ὄνομα ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ὅτι τὰ μὲν ἄλλα θηρία ὧν ὁρᾷ οὐδὲν ἐπισκοπεῖ οὐδὲ ἀναλογίζεται οὐδὲ ἀναθρεῖ, ὁ δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἅμα ἑώρακεν—τοῦτο δ᾿ ἐστὶ2 ὄπωπε—καὶ ἀναθρεῖ καὶ λογίζεται τοῦτο ὃ ὄπωπεν. ἐντεῦθεν δὴ μόνον τῶν θηρίων ὀρθῶς ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἄνθρωπος ὠνομάσθη, ἀναθρῶν ἃ ὄπωπε.

 

If you're going to preach using this, then I'd urge you to read the whole of it first. It's full of such fun musings about Greek etymologies, as Plato presents them as from Socrates himself.

"are there are sources that agree/disagree with the etymology of ἄνθρωπος? Partly I'm asking because it makes for such a brilliant sermon illustration for something I'm already preaching on, but I'm also curious.  :)"

Yes, there are. You have to continue on reading Plato's student Aristotle. I don't mean to be snarky with that grand suggestion. It's just Aristotle in some ways tries to undo and to redirect the teachings of Plato's Socrates (and the method of Socrates and so the method of Plato too). But you should easily be able to find contemporary critics railing against what you get from Socrates in the Cratylus. One point I'll make is that when Plato has Socrates here speculating about old and ancient and un-dis-coverable etymologies, then how does anybody get away with precisely and absolutely refuting them? This is not the work of a sophist. Nonetheless, the etymologies are meant, I think, to be imaginative. So please read the whole work, for preaching and for curiosity's sake too.

"Also fascinating to wonder: did Jesus have knowledge of Plato and other Greek philosophy?"

Agreed. Reading Luke, and Paul, it's clear some New Testament writers and rhetors knew Aristotle's conceptions of Rhetoric. Whether it's direct knowledge (as if somehow they could have been disciples of disciples who walked around learning from Aristotle in his Peripateo) or indirect (since the impact on little Alexander the Great, tutored by Aristotle, was a grand impact on Egypt and on the Jews in Alexandria - as we see in the LXX), who can say?

Reading Matthew's Jesus here and considering the meanings Platos' Socrates assigns to 
ἄνθρωπος and to θεούς suggests not that Jesus somehow read or heard the old Greeks. Rather it suggests that as the Greek world was in constant dispute over word uses and origins, there is a clear play of words in the Sermon on the Mount, where the rhetor/preacher is trying to get spectators/audience to play nice with one another.  And so there is the explicit references to them that they are each an ἄνθρωπος  and that among the θεούς the one God of the Jews is really like a good human, like their very human father.


Edited by jkgayle, 18 January 2018 - 08:08 AM.

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#6 Abram K-J

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 05:04 PM

All excellent. Thank you!


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