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Evil Eye in Matthew 20

In our September 20th Gospel reading (Mt. 20:1-16) there is a mentioning of Evil Eye (v. 15 - ESV puts it as "do you begrudge my generosity?"). It was (and in some places still IS) a deep rooted cultural construct in the Ancient World. I'll give you just a few examples where it is mentioned in the Bible: Deut. 15:9,10; Pr. 23:6 [ESV stingy - lit. whose eye is evil], Mt. 6:22-23. 

In this connection I need to refer to one name: Rev. Dr. John H. Elliott is Professor Emeritus of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco. He published the 4 vols. on "Beware the Evil Eye: The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World", Cascade Books, Eugene, Oregon (2016). His third volume is "the Bible and related sources", where he spent 30 pages (pp. 168 - 198) on our text from Matthew. His observations are based on variety of sources - Biblical, rabbinical, Greek Ancient philosophy, Church Fathers etc.

To boil down his conclusion: (1) the reference to the Evil Eye should not be dismissed or substituted in translation due to it's importance as a "technical term"; (2) there is a very strong connection between Evil Eye and  envy [envy itself should not be mistakenly take as jealousy - two very different things]; (3) reading the parable (of the owner and the workers in the vineyard) with connection to Evil Eye helps to see the stability in the structure of the story as a whole presented by Jesus; (4) the story presents God's generosity as something that fights and overtakes not only "spiritual" shortcomings  of human existence, but social and psychological as well.             


Structure of the Gospel of Matthew

Going through some material I recently came across this structural analysis of the Gospel of Matthew as a whole. It is done by H.C. van Zyl - a South African theologian who published his article in Neotestamentica (Van Zyl, H C. “STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW 18.” Neotestamentica, vol. 16, 1982, pp. 35–55. JSTOR, Accessed 10 Sept. 2020.). 

To provide a macrocontext for his understanding of Mt. 18 his presents the work of Lohr, Ellis and Vorster who believe that Matthew composed his Gospel following way:   

A. 1-4, Narrative: birth and beginnings 

 B. 5-7, discourse: beatitudes, entry into the kingdom

  C. 8-9, narrative: authority and invitation 

   D. 10, discourse: mission 

    E. 11-12, narrative: rejection by this generation

     F. 13, discourse: parables of the kingdom 

    E'. 14-17, narrative: recognition by disciples

   D'. 18, discourse: church order

  C'. 19-22, narrative: authority and invitation

 B'. 23-25, discourse: "woe to" sayings, coming of the kingdom

A'. 26-28, narrative: death and "rebirth" (resurrection)

I believe it is very helpful tool that can help Bible students to grasp the plot and the flow of the Gospel.  

Gen. 50-15-20

This is one of those times when consideration of the structure of the passage might reveal important truths. 

A. v. 15, Brothers "see father" dead and say to Joseph (double action)

  B. v. 16, they send a message* 

    C. v. 17a, Please forgive servants of God.     

      D. v. 17b, Joseph wept*

    C'. v. 18, Brothers: we are your servants.

  B'. v. 19-21a, Joseph's response to "father's" message

A'. v. 21b, He comported them and spoke kindly (double action).  


* Joseph weeps 7 time throughout the story (Gen. 37 - 50): 

1. 42:24 - 1st time seeing brothers

2. 43:30 - 2nd visit - banquet with brothers

3. 45:2 - "I am Joseph" 

4. 45:14 - Joseph weeps over Benjamin 

5. 45:15 - Joseph weeps over his brothers

6. 50:1 - Death of Jacob

7. 50:17 - Brothers try to trick him to forgive them. 

Rev. Thomas Whitelaw, D.D. puts it this way: "[Joseph weeps] pained that they for single moment have entertained such suspicions against his love". (The Pulpit Commentary, Genesis, Funk & Wagnalls Company, London and New York, 1944, p. 539).  

Rom. 3:23

We all know Rom. 3:23 - some of us probably know it by heart - "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". 

There is a device in speech or writing called palindrome. Palindrome is a set of words or even sentences that can be read forward and backwards the same way. On of the most basic examples would be a word "racecar". 

Yet recently I saw an amazing theologically based palindrome - I am happy to share it with you: 

Dennis, Nell, Edna, Leon, Nedra, Anita, Rolf, Nora, Alice, Carol, Leo, Jane, Reed, Dena, Dale, Basil, Rae, Penny, Lana, Dave, Denny, Lena, Ida, Bernadette, Ben, Ray, Lila, Nina, Jo, Ira, Mara, Sara, Mario, Jan, Ina, Lily, Arne, Bette, Dan, Reba, Diane, Lynn, Ed, Eva, Dana, Lynne, Pearl, Isabel, Ada, Ned, Dee, Rena, Joel, Lora, Cecil, Aaron, Flora, Tina, Arden, Noel, and Ellen sinned.

Yes, even those who's name are not on the list have sinned too - that's why we have a Great Redeemer who died for everyone. But isn't this beautiful - 63 words, 263 letters - perfect palindrome that depicts a deep theological truth!   



Children in the Worship

Ran across an interesting article that gives a helpful tips how to help children to get used to a "worship behavior" :)

The only thing I can add is kids WILL test your boundaries - they WILL do thing that you forbade them to do. Just - be prepared! As adults you might wanna discuss beforehand HOW are you going to react if this or that happens. Also, it is very helpful for you as a family when mom and dad present a "united front". Then kids will be less tempted to manipulate one of the parents into his/her "great ideas".     

Structure of the Book of Job

Structure of the Book of Job (David Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: a commentary on Genesis - Malachi, p. 170)

A. ch. 1-2, Prologue 

  B. ch. 3, Job's challenge

    C. ch. 4-27, Job and 3 "friends" 

      D. ch. 28, Wisdom

    C'. ch. 29-37, Job and one more "friend" 

  B'. ch. 38-42:6, God's answer to Job's challenge 

A. ch. 42:7-17, Epilogue  

Structure of Matthew 14:1-13a

Structure of Matthew 14:1-13a

A. v.1, Herod heard (about events of ch. 12 and 13)

 B. v. 2, John the Baptizer is raised from the dead.

  C. vv. 3-4, John the Baptizer is seized. He accused Herod about his wife. 

   D. v. 5, Herod wants him to be dead, but is afraid

    E. v.6, Herod's step-daughter dances and pleases him

     F. v. 7, He makes a promise 

    E'. v. 8, Herod's step-daughter, prompted by her mother, makes a request 

   D'. v. 9, King is sorry - he does NOT want John the Baptizer to be killed, but is "ashamed" and does it anyhow

  C'. vv. 10-11 John the Baptizer is beheaded. Head goes to the wife

 B'. v. 12, Disciples bury John the Baptizer

A'. v. 13a, Jesus heard (that Herod heard).      

Two observations: 

1. Connecting A and A' helps us to see that Jesus withdrawal was a result of the fact that Herod heard about an opposition to Jesus's ministry, it is not directly related to the death of John the Baptizer.    

2. The structural analysis helps us to understand that the pivotal point is in the v. 7 - when Herod makes an oath. As the background of this statement we need to remember that there is a possibility to revoke this oath (basically - any oath) according to Lev. 27. The fact that Herod doesn't use it might signify that he either doesn't know or he doesn't want to use it. But the reaction we are given in v. 9 might indicate that he actually was looking for an escape but was not aware of the route. This leads us to an important conclusion. Any king in Israel should be taught the Law (Torah) - Deut. 17:18-20. So, apparently, he was poorly taught. Along with this we know (from Mark's account of the same event in ch. 6) that he invited only civil and military "nobility" to his birthday party, which - most likely - would exclude the priestly class. As a result - lack of spiritual guidance led to John the Baptizer's death.