Saturday, 28 June 2014

Jesus on Prayer Part One Keep it in your room!

Matthew 6: 5- 6

(I'll be commenting in that whole section on prayer over several posts)

first the word for word word translation from the UBS Greek text

and when(ever) you pray, not will be (esesthe from esomai) like the hypocrites,
that love on the syngogues and in the corners of the streets ( plateia wide broad main streets)
standing (note perfect participle of histeemi) to pray (infinitive)
so that they should be seen by all people (phavoosin Aorist Subjunctive of phainoo)
Note Phainoo not just be seen but be conspicious !
Truly I say to you, they receive their reward.

You and (note the de links this to the sentence with kai) whenever you pray go into your room
(a tameion is basically an enclosed space it could be a closet store room bedroom or any room with a door that closes it off) and having closed the door of yours pray to the father of you in secret. And the father of you who is seeing in the secret gives to you.

There are several forms of the verb προσεύχομαι in this passage to note.

Another aspect is the emphasis on privacy?

Is public prayer a good idea? Is private prayer better?

Some believe public prayer as a form of protest or to open a ceremony is valid but perhaps the issue here is purpose? Again a reminder not to vaunt righteousness?

Middle week I continue my series on Iconography and the relationship of pagan to Christian art.

Next weekend repetition of prayers when is it a valid practice? 

Saturday, 21 June 2014


No Trumpets! Matthew 6: 2 – 4 Jesus on How to give.

Literal translation

When(ever) therefor you make (aorist subjunctive in greek) almsgving,
not you will trumpeting before you, like the pretenders (actors) making
in the assemblies ( synagoogee means a place of meeting) and the streets,
so that they (aorist passive subjunctive) should be glorified by the people.
Truly I say to you they receive their reward (apoekhoo have back).

You conjunction while making almsgiving not (let) know (gnootoo is aorist imperative)
the left (hand) of you what makes the right (hand) of you.

So that it should be (aorist subjunctive) the almsgiving in the
kruptos means secret private hidden Greek uses a definite article
where we would not in English or use an adverb.
And the Father of you (who is) seeing (blepoon is a participle) in the secret
will payback / reward you.

This is one of those sections where Greek syntax varies from English though the meaning is straightforward.

Don't use Acts of Charity for Self Promo.

I think its okay if you mention you tithe or will be donating if you think that will encourage some one else to donate too or buy a product that does help a cause but even in that situation don't let the promotion become self promotion. Don't sound your trumpet!

A salipigs was more shaped more like a horn than a modern trumpet.

The word hupokritees originally meant actor or pretender.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Apollo and Mithras

Apollo and Mithras
A strange relationship

A couple of weeks back some one described my Judeo-Christian deity  as being just another near eastern solar god. I politely pointed that that was incorrect for several reasons. anyway I started thinking about the rayed halo iconography and its origins and did some googling to find the latest views on that.

A lot of people believe the rayed halo was borrowed from either the Mithras cult or or some other sun god like Apollo.

Now the odd thing is that Apollo with a rayed halo or any halo is only depicted with one from the late Hellenistic era onwards.

Some scholars used to believe the Kouros images of archaic Greek art were Apollo like this one.

Greek Classical art depicted Apollo like this :

Either dressed as a musician or shown as an archer or nude always with long hair and young. Frequently you can see where a hand holding a bow was broken off.

Now these Hellenistic Imperial era images.

First sign of the rayed halo motif!
Though this may be Helios driving the sun chariot!
The later Greeks seem to have confused the two in popular art.

Images of Mithras a maybe Persian god. 

Maybe a persian god? The first shows Mithras with a Hellenistic Greek King Antiochus and the second is Persian. 

Now the Mithras cult is odd. Said to have come from Persia there are very few artifacts within the Persian and Parthian cultural sphere showing Mithras. 

Given the Mithras cult peaks during the Roman era is it possible there was a separate Anatolian Mithras cult incorporating solar imagery from both Greek and Near Eastern art . Mithras changed from a minor deity to a separate syncretistic cult.

A lot of Roman art copies and adapts earlier Greek art.

Here's a mosaic from Roman Africa.

Who used the rayed halo first? Apollo or Mithras. Given Hellenistic cultural contact with the Parthians its not impossible the rayed halo idea moved from west to east? 

By the way that sun god thing in relation to images of Christ? The earliest images of Christ tend to to stress the Good Shepherd image without HALOS.

But thats a topic for a separate post.

Apollo and Mithras. What was the ultimate source for the rayed halo?

I've given you images to think about. Enjoy.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Alms and Mercy


What do Alms and Acts of Charity have to do with mercy.

Before I discuss the next section of Chapter 6 I want to take an in depth look at one key word.


Pity Mercy Compassion

the feeling that may move you to be kind to someone in a wretched pitiable condition

Related words are ἔλεος and λεω

This word was borrowed into Late Latin as eleemosina and then via Old French or directly into Old English the e changed to an a and the rest of the word shortened to aelmysse and then alms.

In Attic drama these group of words and other related terms are often used to encourage the audience to feel sympathy of the sufferings of characters.

Remember apart from the bread rations in some ancient cities there was very little organised charity. A disabled person with no job or family support would be reduced to being on the streets or markets or hoping to receive scraps from wealthy householders if the slaves or livestock didnt get them first.

Paid jury duty in cities like Athens was a form of welfare in some ways.

Donations were often person to person. Pity was not merely piety but acts of mercy towards the truly unfortunate.

How do we do it so the benefit is to others? That's what Jesus talks about next.

An apology to readers I had meant to blog about Apollo midweek but couldnt find the last couple of images I needed to describe how the iconography the ways Apollo was depicted were linked to other cultural memes like Sol Invictus and the development of halos.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Matthew 6:1 Justice and Giving

Matthew 6: 1 Justice and Giving.

This is one of those verses that really demonstrate why its important to think about the Greek version. Compare this verse and the following section also to Matthew 23:5

Here's the original version in Greek:

Προσέχετε τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν μὴ ποιεῖν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς.
εἰ δὲ μή γε, μισθὸν οὐκ ἔχετε παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ ὑμῶν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς

Beware or take heed Προσέχω the righteousness of yours not make before people to be seen Aorist Infinitive Passive of θεάομαι by them dative agent
if and / but not !!! reward not yours from the father of yours the one in the heavens
Now if you own more than one Bible or have access to them online or in a library compare the RSV to the NJV, the KJV or EV Rieu's 4 gospels, or the Douai translations.

EEK one says virtues another piety yet another charitable deeds an another alms.
Yet the Greek says righteousness and the Latin uses Attendite Iustitiam!

Now the next 3 verses talk about alms so how does righteousness of public actions go with alms giving? Almsgiving is an action what we would call donating to charity.

Righteous actions in front of others made to be seen could be things like say a politician who only visits a veterans' or other public or chairty hospital or clinic when an election is due or the media will be there and NEVER visits or donates at any OTHER time. Another example might be only donating to a charity because its popular or trendy or attending a charitable fund raiser and ignoring other charities also in need of help? A third example could be someone “volunteering” simply to get out of doing something at home or for a relative or to fulfil a business or welfare requirement and doing a half hearted barely adequate job.

Why do I offer those examples. Note which verb of seeing is used of the several used in Greek.

Θεάομαι the stem of this verb is also used to make words like theatre and spectacle or show.

Its not just being seen by others its making a show that draws attention for personal benefit?

When was the last time you saw a politician or celebrity sneak into say a soup kitchen the back way and beg people to turn off their phones so he or she could get on with cooking or cleaning without the media being aware. It does sometimes happen but not often?

Charity isn't about you being seen to do the right thing it's doing the right just thing.