Saturday, February 10, 2007


“Wisdom is justified…”


In both of the gospels of Matthew (at 11:19) and Luke (at 7:35), Yeshua is quoted as saying “Wisdom is justified from her deeds (or children).” But, what exactly did Yeshua mean by this?


First of all, I will briefly say that the word translated by both Matthew and Luke as "children" (Gr teknon) is either a mistranslation of the Aramaic word bnyh, which comes from the child root bna "to build," or a correct translation of the same word from the primary root bn "son." The yh suffix (with the dropped a for the root bna) denotes femenine possession. Thus the word should be translated as either "her building" or otherwise "her son." In either case, as we will see, the meaning remains the same.

This passage is not as mysterious as many make it out to be. Luke preserves the thought better than Matthew does.


What Yeshua is doing is comparing the "generation" or "lineage" of the current, unjust Jewish elite class to the generation of the poor, but just, working class. Proverbs 24:3 says:

b'khak'mah yibaneh bayiT uvit'vunah yit'covnan - or -
"With wisdom is built a house and by understanding it is set out."
Pro 9:1 says: khak'movt ban'tah baytah - or -
"Wisdom has built her house."

These wisdom riddles do not, of course, refer to the construction of a real "house," but to the building or siring of a family, clan or lineage. It is clear from these riddles that Wisdom's "building" was her "sons."


Luke writes (7:29-30) “And all the people and the tax collectors, baptized with the baptism of John, hearing, justified God. 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers, not baptized by him, set aside God's counsel for themselves.

Now, "hearing" is "doing" or "obeying."

In other words, Yeshua is saying that the humble sinners heard God’s wisdom (as espoused through Yeshua) and acted on it by doing what was asked--namely teshuva (repenting) and rakhetset (bathing or baptism). Conversely, the self-righteousness scribes and Pharisees, heard God’s wisdom and, rather than acting upon it, stood around and endlessly debated with each other, considering whether they, as righteousness men, needed to do teshuva and whether they needed to submit to baptism.


Of importance is the word translated as "wisdom" - Khokmah. While this word is commonly translated by the Greek sophia and the english "wisdom," it is better understood to mean "conscience" - the inner knowledge of right and wrong. Khokmah was believed to be transmitted via the spirit Khokmah from God to men.


This Lukan passage highlights a few items, 1) the use of the Greek word dikaioos (normally translated “justified”) applied here to God (whom one would not normally think of as being “justified.”) and the word atheteo (to lay aside) as its opposite. The word dikaioos appears twice in the passage. Once referring to the "justification" of God and at Luke 7:35 “…wisdom is justified from all her deeds.” Clearly from this context the word dikaioos (in the aorist – edikaiosan) means “bore out,” or “proved to be right.” It was the action of the sinners (teshuva, rakhetset) that “bore out” the truth of the wisdom of God. Also, of note is the fact that although the passage says that the sinners "justified God," it is clear from the next sentence that it is "God's counsel" that is "justified."


Now, let’s look closer. Yeshua was a Khokmah, "a wise man," a sage (or a "man of conscience"). In this role, he was dedicated, as all sages were, to dividing (sifting through) the Khokmah of the law and the prophets to divine “the way of equity” (which we often call “paths of righteousness”)--in simple words, “the right way." The Hebrew people believed that “the right way” is hidden from the self-professed “wise” men (priests, etc.,), but was revealed to the humble sage in the form of conscience.

Matthew 11:25 “… I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and of earth, because You hid these things from the sophisticated and cunning and revealed them to babes.”



And further that “good behavior” is demonstrated as a result of this wisdom


Jam 3:13 "Who is wise and knowing among you? Let him show his works by his good behavior, in meekness of wisdom."


The role of the humble khokmah was to divide the word of God, taking up the “true knowledge”, and laying aside (atheteo) that information with which it was hidden. Of course taking up "true knowledge" also led to proper behavior in accordance with this conscience. In this way, he justified, vindicated, bore out, or proved (dikaioos), by means of his behavior, the knowledge as “wise.”


After Luke’s preamble (7:29-30), Yeshua begins his statement by comparing the current generation in a simple parable or riddle (at Luke 7:31)

“And the Master said, ‘Then to what shall I compare the men of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in a market and calling to one another.”


Although both Matthew and Luke add “saying” to this quote, the quote should actually end here. Both Luke and Matthew misunderstood the meaning of this passage and thought that the words following it were quotations of these so-called “children sitting in the market.” But this is not correct. Yeshua, by this statement was referring to the common practice of the khokmah (sage) of standing in the market and calling out (proclaiming, preaching) his wise words. This, John did as well as Yeshua. In this passage, Yeshua is simply saying to the Pharisees and Scribes, that they are like children, playing a game, pretending to be sages, but instead of conscience, spouting gibberish.


Next, Yeshua says


“We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed to you, and you did not weep.”


By this, Yeshua means that he and John approached from two different means. One, (John) proclaimed the woe of their sinful state and the ultimate outcome (“we mourned to you”). The other (Yeshua) was the opposite (“we piped to you”), he proclaimed the liberty of living a life of equity. Yeshua follows this up by repeating the same thought differently. (Luke 7:33)

“For John the Baptist has come neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, He has a demon. 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, Behold, a man, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners."


A better paraphrase of Luke would reorder it in this way: Luke 7:29-35

The Master said, “Then to what shall I compare the men of this generation?" And, "to what are they like?" "They are like children sitting in a market and calling to one another.” Also (he) said, “We piped to you, and you did not dance (For, the son of man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'). We wailed to you, and you did not weep. (For John the Baptist has come neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He is deranged.'). And all the people (including the tax collectors) obeying, baptized with the baptism of John, vindicated [the counsel of] God, But the Pharisees and the lawyers, not baptized by him, set aside God's counsel for themselves. Therefore, wisdom was vindicated from all she built."


2 comments:

Jason Standridge said...

Marc,

Insightful article. I also noticed that there is a major problem with the Greek translation of Mat 11:12. It is translated many [incorrect] ways in modern translations, in part due to the failure to understand the idiom "from the days of the Baptist until now", which really just means "from now on."

This is the NKJV:

Mat 11:12-13 "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John."


Here is the correction:

Mat 11:12-13 "From now on, the kingdom of heaven forges ahead, but those who guide it are snatched away suddenly, just as all the Prophets and the written law prophesied."

In addition, the children in the marketplaces were showing approval probably through whistling (REF: Old Syriac definition on CAL).

Please see an alternate translation of the entire paragraph:

“Truly I tell you, among all mankind ever in existence, none greater than John the Baptist has arisen before; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is still greater than him. From now on, the kingdom of heaven forges ahead, but those who guide it are snatched away suddenly, just as all the Prophets and the written law prophesied. And if you are willing to accept it, know that John is Elijah, who was prophesied to return. He who has ears, let him hear.

"To what can I compare this generation? They are like children who sit around in the public squares, whistling loudly and applauding each other.
“But when we played the flute, you would not dance; so we tried singing a sad song, yet you would not mourn. Because John fasted and did not drink wine, they said, 'He has a demon.' Then when the Son of Man came along eating and drinking they declared, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is vindicated by her actions."

Marc Thomas said...

Thank you Jason, I see the corrected version flows well with the thought of vindication through teshuvah. In a world ruled by force, teshuvah is a great survival mechanism. God loves "doers of Shalom" (peacemakers).

Your comments, in full, are published as comments to the above article, but if you wish to cast it in the form of a stand-alone article, I will post it in the main blog.