Yeshua’s Use of “Good Eye”

Fellow blogger Derek Leman has a short post on his Yeshua in Context blog site about Yeshua’s teaching on the eye as the “lamp of the body” in Matthew 6:22-23. Although I commented on his post & gave some of this information, I thought it would be good to post a more complete version of my thoughts here.

Good Eye, Bad Eye, Lamp of the Body

Matthew 6:19-24 is one of the first passages I point out to people who want to know why it’s important to understand Yeshua’s teachings from its original context, particularly the Hebrew idioms & terminology behind his words. Let’s look at this entire passage. I’ve used the NKJV, and left the headers from the translators to show the misunderstanding even at the level of scholarly translation.

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The Lamp of the Body
22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
You Cannot Serve God and Riches
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

I begin by having the person read verses 19-21 and then interpret Yeshua’s message. Then I do the same with verses 22-23, which often results in a confession of not knowing what he is talking about. Then I have them read verse 24, and they are able to interpret this just as easily as verses 19-21. Then I point out the theme of the three sections of this passage as such:

  • Verses 19-21: Money, things & stuff
  • Verses 22-23: Unclear
  • Verse 24: Money, things & stuff

From there, they usually see a pattern, and that verses 22-23 “should” fit back into the context.

They are then able to realize why it is so important is that we know the intended meaning of his teachings. It is easy for them to see how we will totally miss the point of what he is trying to convey if we don’t understand the original sense of the message, which hinges upon a Hebraic . And without this information, we will invariably make up a meaning that has absolutely nothing to do with his original teaching. For generations, Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 6:22-23 has been interpreted in ways that are completely unrelated to the context of his subject, and stripped of its context (even at the pashat level).

Often this text is used as a prooftext for moral purity and guarding the eyes. Although this is indeed a principle that Yeshua advocates (cf. Matthew 5:28), it is not at all what he is talking about here. However, this passage, if understood as being Hebraic in nature, fits completely within the context of the surrounding verses (19-24). And, unlike many instances of passages found within the Apostolic Scriptures, we do not have to turn to an outside source (such as non-canonical or rabbinic works), Scripture actually illuminates this passage itself.

Put it back in Hebrew

First, we need to put this passage back into Hebrew. From there we can begin comparing it to other Scriptures in the Hebrew Bible, the Tanach (or the “Old Testament”). The Bible Society in Israel translates the phrase “your eye is good” in Matthew 6:22 as “עֵינְךָ טוֹבָה”, (ein’ka tovah) literally corresponding to our English (some texts translated the eye as being “single” or “clear” verses “good”). When we focus on the phrase “your eye is good” and we come across a passage in Proverbs.

In Proverbs 22:9, we have almost this exact phrase in the form of, “טֹֽוב־עַיִן” (tov eiyn) or “good eye.” Since this passage is being translated by Hebrew linguists, all dynamic English translations understand the meaning of this quite easily. Why? Because it is obvious in the Hebrew. However, when we are presented with a Greek text, such as the Apostolic Scriptures (the “New Testament”), translators try to impose a Greek understanding of the text, since it has been delivered to us in the Greek language. But this approach fails, as we will clearly see in this passage. But back to our correlation in Proverbs. The NASB translates this verse as follows:

He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9)

From here we can see it is obvious that the one with a “good eye” is a generous person. Now, let’s put this new terminology & understanding back into Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew and remove the last two inserted headers (modifications in bold italics):

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The lamp of the body is generosity. If therefore you are generous, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if you are miserly, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

With our new understanding in place, it completely changes our understanding of the words of our Master. Rather than three separate teachings, we see a cohesive unit of teaching by which he warns against being attached to wealth and the “things” of this world and encourages us to create spiritual “wealth” in its place. This reading completely fits the context of verses Matthew 6:19-24, telling us this is indeed the intended meaning of Yeshua’s words.

Look for my upcoming post, “Yeshua’s Use of ‘Righteousness’” which will give another example of insights gained from looking at the Hebrew beneath the Greek skin of the NT. It will elucidate more of Yeshua’s teachings, and expound upon many of the things discussed in this post.

Upcoming Resource

Do you want a resource to help you see these things in the Apostolic Scriptures?

One is on its way. Have you heard of the new, DHE (Delitzsch Hebrew English) translation of the Apostolic Scriptures from Vine of David (First Fruits of Zion)? Vine of David is in the process of taking Delitzsch’s Hebrew text of the Apostolic Scriptures and putting them into English for the first time. Here is some brief info on the project. I will be posting more thoroughly on this project soon:

Franz Delitzsch (1813 – 1890) was known as a “Christian Hebraist” he was a pioneer in the area of Jewish studies of the New Testament. Delizsch was a prolific writer, translator, and biblical commentator. His greatest and most noted work was is his New Testament translation into Hebrew. Deliztzsch re-contextualized the Gospels back into their Hebraic foundations. He understood and revealed the Hebrew / Jewish underpinnings of the Gospels. He devoted his entire life to restoring Yeshua back his people. The primary goal of this translation was to create “an edition of the Gospels that is sensitive to and reveals the Jewish essence of the teachings of the New Testament is vital to helping God’s people connect with the Jewish foundations of the Christian faith.”

Bart Ehrman vs. Craig Evans

I came across a debate between Bart Ehrman (biblical skeptic & author of Misquoting Jesus) and Craig Evans (New Testament scholar & author of Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels) on YouTube. I’m not sure when this took place. It looks as if it were at the beginning of the year. They are debating over the authenticity of the Gospels, specifically addressing the question, “Does the New Testament Misquote Jesus?” And although I haven’t watched / listened to it all, I thought I would share it. It’s bound to contain some nuggets.

It’s interesting to see how vehemently opposed to the Gospels and the Gospel message Bart is, and how he seethes with anger as he speaks.

Soncino Babylonian Talmud Full Text In English

For those who don’t mind looking through multiple PDF documents, I recently ran across the complete text of the Soncino Babylonian Talmud in English as a series of free downloads. I thought I would post the link here for anyone who has been looking for an electronic source of this complete work, as I have in the past. I’m not sure who is responsible for this sight, I certainly appreciate the work that they’ve done to create it. They also have a few links to other resources (mostly in Hebrew/Aramaic) for things such as the Mishnah, Tosefta, Hebrew versions of both the Bavli & Yerushalmi, etc. Check it out when you have time:

http://www.halakhah.com/

Taking the Jewish Jesus to Church

Last night I had a wonderful opportunity to speak to a church in Little Rock. It’s a new home-style church, filled with a young, diverse, and forward-thinking individuals and families bent on making a difference in central Arkansas. The pastor is a friend and former employee of mine who has been around me long enough to know that understanding the Jewish Jesus is not just a hobby of mine, but a passion.

About a month ago, they started a three-month study on Jesus. They began the first week looking at the incarnation. The second week they discussed the social and political climate around the first century, setting the stage for the coming of Jesus. The third week they looked at God’s interaction with man throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (the Garden, Abraham, Sinai, etc.). They asked me to speak on week #4 regarding the Jewishness of Jesus, and how that should affect the life of every Believer. I think it took me 0.02 seconds to agree. :-)

So… last night was the big night and I thoroughly enjoyed it. They gave me total freedom and I held no punches. There was good interaction and there seemed to be positive response. In a nutshell this is what I shared:

Introduction

When asked who Jesus was, people mostly speak in terms of his divinity. However, this misses the mark completely to be able to look at his earthly mission, and blinds us as to our relationship of discipleship with our rabbi.

His Heritage

I spoke of his Jewish genealogy and his parents’ Torah observance as evidenced through the Gospels. I also brought up his speaking Hebrew (and Aramaic & possibly Greek) to illustrate why we often miss his Hebraic message when it is disguised in Greek.

His Name

I related how his original Hebrew name (& Aramaic counterpart) actually had meaning (unlike the transliterated “Jesus”) and pointed to his mission.

His Education

I spoke about how the Gospels really don’t give us much information as to his education, but yet it does give us a clue. When Jesus was in discussion with the sages at the ripe old age of 12, we can know within a reasonable amount of certainty that his educational path was somewhat similar to that laid down in the Mishnah (Avot 5:25) for Jewish boys. I emphasized that his Bible was the Tanach, and that his worldview was through the lens of Torah.

His Worship

I emphasized that his life was a life of prayer and study, and it included spending Sabbaths in the synagogues and the Holy Days in the Temple. His worship included obedience to the Torah, and it was evident in every area of his life, including the way he dressed.

His Message

I focused on his Kingdom message (and breaking it down) and why it was so important for us to understand this as believers. I also spoke on how he was constantly upholding the Torah, pointing people back to the Torah, properly interpreting Torah and returning the foundation of the commandments to love.

Summary

My summary statement was as follows:

Jesus was not a token Jew, or a Jew by default. He was THE Jew who loved the Torah of his Father and lived it out perfectly through the power of the Holy Spirit (rather than his divinity), modeling a life of righteous for his people.

Thanks, Eikon, for the opportunity.