Matthew 6:22a: What is the subject and why?

John Milton

Well-known member
All very good observations, and it sounds like you have thought this through carefully (as is right when writing an article!). I was a bit casual in my response,
I'm still on the fence about it. A cursory internet search says it's possible that I could add to the discussion, but I expect that will change once I dive into the literature. We'll see.

I certainly won't cast a stone at you when I have already recognized my own culpability in the matter.
and it's really a function of context when both nouns are articular to determine which one is intended to be the actual subject. That they may be grammatically interchangeable does not mean that they are seen to be so semantically or contextually.
That's what I suspected you meant. On a humorous note, I was in a casual conversation once discussing the possible semantic features of the parable of the sower, and I was accused of "playing in the weeds."
 

John Milton

Well-known member
The proper word order is what the speaker had in mind for the subject.
I don't think anyone disagrees with this. I think it is also fair to say that if you understand the author's main point, you can often find reasons (though they may not be the reasons) why the author structured a text in a particular way.
If your interest is what Jesus meant, then you won't want to ignore Luke 11:33-34.

The two gospel writers conveyed Jesus' dominical sayings slightly differently at times. Whether they were the same instance or on two different occasions they need to be harmonized in my view.
My major concern here is to think about the ways we might determine the author's intended subject, and/or the reasons the passage was written the way it is. Some, if not most, of these things will be speculative. I don't think it can be helped.

I don't think you fully understand how difficult this passage is. While it is easy enough to come away with a serviceable understanding of what Jesus intended, it is another thing altogether to try to grasp its fullness. I certainly don't claim that I have, and I don't think there are many others who are able to read the Greek that will claim that they do. Gryllus? (Table/Bank? Who says context doesn't matter.)

It is worth looking at the parallel in Luke's gospel, but that's not the aim here. It has some of the same features, with a different informational structure. Harmonization has its place, but my two cents is that it is generally not as helpful.
In Luke 12:34 the lamp is picked up from verse 33 and is most naturally the subject.

In this view the phrase ends with 'eye' and is picked up with eye as the subject in the next clause.

The same is true in Mathew, we just don't see the equivalent of Lk 11:33 because the account starts with the saying.
I don't think that is a reasonable explanation at all for Luke 12:34. (Just a bit of humor; I know what you meant. ;)) Just out of curiosity, how would you explain what is happening in Matthew if you didn't have Luke?
For the same reason the subject of John 1:4 is clear as described by linguists Levinsohn and Buth.

Before I read them, I would have merely called this 'context', but they leverage the use of the correlative και so it's a grammatical (structural) argument.

Proper exegesis considers structural before semantics.
There's another thread for this.
 

Roger Thornhill

Well-known member
I don't think anyone disagrees with this. I think it is also fair to say that if you understand the author's main point, you can often find reasons (though they may not be the reasons) why the author structured a text in a particular way.

My major concern here is to think about the ways we might determine the author's intended subject, and/or the reasons the passage was written the way it is. Some, if not most, of these things will be speculative. I don't think it can be helped.

I don't think you fully understand how difficult this passage is. While it is easy enough to come away with a serviceable understanding of what Jesus intended, it is another thing altogether to try to grasp its fullness. I certainly don't claim that I have, and I don't think there are many others who are able to read the Greek that will claim that they do. Gryllus? (Table/Bank? Who says context doesn't matter.)

It is worth looking at the parallel in Luke's gospel, but that's not the aim here. It has some of the same features, with a different informational structure. Harmonization has its place, but my two cents is that it is generally not as helpful.

I don't think that is a reasonable explanation at all for Luke 12:34. (Just a bit of humor; I know what you meant. ;)) Just out of curiosity, how would you explain what is happening in Matthew if you didn't have Luke?

There's another thread for this.


> Just out of curiosity, how would you explain what is happening in Matthew if you didn't have Luke?

After reflection I believe I can. The word “lamp” is articular. It identifies a known concept to the audience. The oil lamp was put on a lampstand so that it's light would reach the area that needed illumination.

This known concept is used to describe the figurative “eye.” It's new information and requires what the reader knows about the literal lamp, the previous subject to be applied.

A key is ἁπλοῦς of which BDAG says is “pert. to singleness of purpose.” A lamp is used to focus it’s light where it is needed. Literal eyes also need to focus on something, in this case the right thing.

I see that this theme is developed by introducing a subject (lamp) drawing a parallel (eye) and then developing the parallel (eye) as the new subject for rhetorical effect.
 
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