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Full text of "A Conjecture on Matthew XI, 12"

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NOTES 

A CONJECTURE ON MATTHEW XI, 12 

The very multiplicity of the attempts which have been made to 
solve the exegetical problem presented by the difficult Logion of St. 
Matthew 11, 12 is in itself a strong indication that no one of the prof- 
fered interpretations can claim for itself a pre-eminent position; and 
inasmuch as all the thought that has been expended upon the Saying 
has not succeeded in discovering in it a meaning that by its inherent 
probability compels us to accept it as the true interpretation, it is 
inevitable that we shoidd wonder whether some error can have crept 
into the text. 

The manuscripts and versions, it is true, are singularly unanimous 
in their support of the traditional text; nevertheless I venture to 
submit a conjecture which has, as I think, the merit of giving to the 
Logion a much more intelligible meaning than any that has hitherto 
been proposed. 

The evidence of the papyri and kindred sources agrees with the 
testimony of the literary sources in showing that it is permissible to 
take jStdferai either as middle or as passive. Whichever voice is 
adopted the clause in which the word occurs plainly speaks of violent 
opposition between the Kingdom and some opposing force, and the 
second clause, xai /Stao-ral dpxdfouo'tJ' avTrjv, taken in conjunction with 
the preceding words, can scarcely bear any other meaning than that 
the Kingdom is being worsted in the conflict. Herein lies the real 
difficulty of the Logion, and most of the current interpretations are 
attempts to expound the words without looking this obvious difficulty 
in the face. We cannot of course think that Jesus would speak of the 
Kingdom of Heaven as being worsted in any encounter, and the pur- 
pose of this Note is to suggest that the kingdom spoken of in the 
Logion as being hard pressed is not the Kingdom of Heaven at all. 

The Gospel records leave us in no doubt that our Lord shared the 
conception current among His contemporaries that over against the 
Kingdom of God, in constant and violent opposition to it, stood a 
Kingdom of Evil. In the Beelzeboul discourse he speaks of it as the 
Kingdom of Satan: xai el 6 'Saravas t6v 'Lo.rava.v ^K/SdXXei, k(t>' iavrbv 
itiepMif irois ovv (TTadriaeTat. fj fiaaiKila avTOv; (Matt. 12, 26). 

Now is it possible that in the Logion which we are discussing Jesus 
is speaking of the Kingdom of Satan? If we could substitute rod 



376 HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 

Daraya for tu>v ovpavoiv all the obscurity would at once disappear; we 
could then take fiia^erai as passive and find in the Logion the state- 
ment that ever since the days of John's ministry the Kingdom of 
Satan was being hard pressed, and that those who were storming it 
were getting the upper hand. But why and how did rS>v ovpavcov 
replace tov "LaTava? Is it possible to suggest any reasonable explana- 
tion of the substitution of the one for the other? It seems hopeless 
to discover any reason why in the Greek the words tuv oiipavSiv should 
have supplanted a more original tov Sarova. But could the substitu- 
tion have been effected before the words of our Lord had been trans- 
lated into Greek — while they were still being reported and written 
in their original Aramaic? In Aramaic the Kingdom of Heaven 
would be N''DBn Kni3?D, while the expression corresponding to the 
Kingdom of Satan would be NJDBH Nfliai'D; and the two expressions 
are sUflSciently alike graphically to make confusion easily possible. 

That the initial letter of the Hebrew word for kingdom is shin 
while that of the word for Satan is sin is no proof that in Aramaic the 
former would be spelt with E' and the latter invariably with D. It is 
true that the Hebrew fc* is more usually represented in Aramaic by D, 
but in every period of Aramaic the interchange of ^ and D is common. 
In the particular case of the word Satan the Targums and Talmudic 
literature show both forms NJDE' and XJOD in common use. The latter 
is rather more frequently used, but the former is quite usual.' 

It will be noticed that in modern Square Hebrew the letters which 
are not identical in the two words which, as we suggest, were con- 
fused (namely the letters 'D and Jts) are not very dissimilar; but the 
possibility has to be borne in mind that they may not have been so 
much alike, and that consequently confusion would be less probable, 
in the script employed when our Lord's sayings were first written in 
Aramaic. Our knowledge, however, of the precise form in which the 
Logia were current in his day and later is so meagre that it is not 
safe to be dogmatic. It is highly probable that the old Square Hebrew 
(see Column v, page 71 of Hastings's Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. I) 
was in use in the hfetime of Jesus,^ and in that script it was by no 
means impossible for the error suggested in this Note to have arisen. 

As to the Aramaic underlying the words /Staferat and /Staorat, it 
would not be diflicult to suggest expressions which would be in har- 

' For some of these facts I am indebted to my friend and colleague. Professor S. H. 
Hooke. 

= See Hastings's DictioTiary of the Bible, Vol. I, p. 74a (Taylor), and Vol. IV, p. 
949a (Kenyon). 



NOTES 377 

mony with what we conceive to have been the original meaning of 
the Logion. For example, Dalman's rendering of the two words, 
which makes D3K its starting-point, would suit our emendation of 
the text quite as well as it suits Dalman's own interpretation.' 

When we remind ourselves of the frequency with which the phrase 
' the Kingdom of Heaven ' occurred in the reports of the Master's 
discourses, we realize how easy it would be for some early scribe to 
mistake a chance occurrence of words in some measure similar for 
just another instance of the great phrase that so frequently reciu-red. 

It is significant, as affording some corroboration of our hypothesis, 
that in Matt. 12, 29 Jesus uses the verb Apiraf&j of plundering the 
goods of the Strong Man — the very verb employed in our Logion, 
as we interpret it, to describe the successful onset of the new forces 
of righteousness upon the Kingdom of Satan. 



J. Hugh Michael. 



VlCTOIOA CoLIiEaEI, 

ToBONTO, Canada. 



THE TEXT OF LUKE 11, 22 

This verse contains a textual problem which has perplexed editors 
of the New Testament since the days of Erasmus and the Compluten- 
sian edition. The question is. What pronoun should be read after 
Kadapiaftov? — aircoj', or airov, or avrijs? 

AiiTui' is attested by NABLWrAII etc., by nearly all the minuscules, 
by the Peshitta, the Harclean, and the Palestinian Syriac, and by 
three minor ancient versions (Ethiopic, Armenian, and Gothic). 
The Arabic Diatessaron also has the plural pronoun, agreeing with 
the Peshitta at this point. Origen found avrSiv in his text of the Gos- 
pel, and, so far as is known, he was acquainted with no other reading 
in this place. He quotes Luke 2, 22 in his Fourteenth Homily on 
Luke, which deals with the Circumcision and Purification, and he 
discusses the difficulty involved in the plural avrciv without mention- 
ing any variant reading. If he had known of such, he would certainly 
have made some reference to it. The Homiliae in Lucam were written 
at Caesarea, after Origen's withdrawal to that city from Alexandria 
in the year 231. We may therefore assume that aiiruv formed part of 
Luke 2, 22 in the text current at Caesarea and Alexandria in the early 

a The Words of Jems (English Trandation), pp. 141, 142.