Scholars do not agree about its etymology, but it is theorized that Mammon derives from Late Latin mammon, from Greek "μαμμωνάς", Syriac mámóna ("riches"), Aramaic mamon ("riches, money"), a loanword from Mishnaic Hebrew ממון (mamôn) meaning money, wealth, or possessions; although it may also have meant "that in which one trusts". The word is unknown in Old Testament Hebrew, but has been found in the Qumran documents.
According to the Textus Receptus of the New Testament, the Greek word translated "Mammon" is spelled μαμμωνᾷ in the Sermon on the Mount at Matt. 6:24, and μαμωνᾶ (from μαμωνᾶς) in the parable of the Unjust Steward at Luke 16:9,11,13. The 27th edition of the popular Critical Text of the New Testament has μαμωνᾶ in all four places with no indication of any textual variances, thereby ignoring the Textus Receptus reading at Matt. 6:24. The Liddell and Scott Lexicon has a listing for each spelling, indicating that each occurs only in the New Testament, nowhere else in ancient and Hellenistic Greek literature. The spelling μαμμωνᾷ refers to "a Syrian deity, god of riches; Hence riches, wealth"; μαμωνᾶς is transliterated from Aramaic [ממון] and also means "wealth." The Authorised Version uses "Mammon" for both Greek spellings; John Wycliffe uses richessis.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible explains it as "a Semitic word for money or riches". The International Children's Bible (ICB) uses the wording "You cannot serve God and money at the same time".
Christians began to use mammon as a pejorative, a term that was used to describe gluttony, excessive materialism, greed, and unjust worldly gain.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.—Matthew 6:19–21,24 (KJV)
In the Bible, mammon is mentioned in Luke 16:13 and Matthew 6:24, the latter verse repeating Luke 16:13. In the Greek, Luke 16:9 and Luke 16:11.
During the Middle Ages, Mammon was commonly personified as the demon of wealth and greed. Thus Peter Lombard (II, dist. 6) says, "Riches are called by the name of a devil, namely Mammon, for Mammon is the name of a devil, by which name riches are called according to the Syrian tongue." Piers Plowman also regards Mammon as a deity. Nicholas de Lyra, commenting on the passage in Luke, says: "Mammon est nomen daemonis" (Mammon is the name of a demon).
Albert Barnes in his Notes on the New Testament states that Mammon was a Syriac word for an idol worshipped as the god of riches, similar to Plutus among the Greeks, but he cited no authority for the statement.
No trace, however, of any Syriac god of such a name exists, and the common literary identification of the name with a god of covetousness or avarice likely stems from Spenser's The Faerie Queene, where Mammon oversees a cave of worldly wealth. Milton's Paradise Lost describes a fallen angel who values earthly treasure over all other things. Later occultist writings such as Jacques Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal describe Mammon as Hell's ambassador to England. For Thomas Carlyle in Past and Present, the "Gospel of Mammonism" became simply a metaphoric personification for the materialist spirit of the 19th century.
Mammon is somewhat similar to the Greek god Plutus, and the Roman Dis Pater, in his description, and it is likely that he was at some point based on them; especially since Plutus appears in The Divine Comedy as a wolf-like demon of wealth, wolves having been associated with greed in the Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas metaphorically described the sin of Avarice as "Mammon being carried up from Hell by a wolf, coming to inflame the human heart with Greed".
In various countries
- "Mamona" (sometimes "Mamuna") is a synonym for mammon among Slavs. Currently, the word "mamona" is used figuratively and derogatorily in Polish as a synonym of money.
- The word "mammona" is quite often used in the Finnish and Estonian languages as a synonym of material wealth.
- In German, the word "Mammon" is a colloquial term for "money".
- In Arabic, the word amaana means a "financial or material trust held for someone else". Its triliteral root is /aleph – mim – nun/ and so it is likely a cognate with Syriac mámóna. In the Quran, a person named Qaroon is mentioned along with the name "Pharaoh" on six occasions in two Surahs, 28:6; 28:8; 28:38; 29:39; 40:34; and 40:36. Muslim tradition identifies Qaroon as a person of incredible wealth.
In popular culture
Various characters and demons are named Mammon in books, film, TV, anime, and video games.
- Christian demons in popular culture
- Christian views on poverty and wealth
- Evangelical counsels
- Jewish views of poverty, wealth and charity
- Prosperity theology
- Seven deadly sins
- Vow of poverty
- Hastings, James, ed.; New York, Scribners, 1908–1921, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Volume 8:374
- Webster's Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged: Publishers International Press, New York, 1977.
- John Parkhurst, Edition 5, 1809, Oxford University, A Greek and English lexicon to the New Testament. To this is prefixed a Greek grammar, p414 (Aramaic = Chaldee)
- Michael Sokoloff, JHU Press, Jan 3, 2003, A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic of the Talmudic and Geonic Periods, p.682
- Translation and definition "ממון", Dictionary Hebrew–English online (Modern Hebrew)
- Howard H. Covitz, PhD, March 30, 2000, Shabbos and Proper Nouns: "When scriptural translators chose not to translate ממון (mammon), this common Babylonian-exile word for money, they effectively neutered the Galilean’s admonition against idolizing riches, against wealth-worship, by thus-making scripture resonate with proscriptions against another transgression, against the worship of strange Gods."
- Fernandez, Miguel Perez (1999). An Introductory Grammar of Rabbinic Hebrew. Brill. p. 5. ISBN 978-90-04-10904-9.
- R. T. France, "God and Mammon" in The Evangelical Quarterly, Vol. 51 (Jan.–Mar. 1979), p. 9
- Joseph A. Fitzmyer (1 December 1997). Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 169–. ISBN 978-0-8028-4845-1.
- F.H.A. Scrivener, ed., The New Testament in Greek (London: Cambridge University Press, 1949)
- Barbara and Kurt Aland et al, eds., Novum Testamentum Graece (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006)
- Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, compilers, London, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889, A Greek-English Lexicon (15 May 2015)
- Bible – Revised Standard Version (RSV), footnotes p6 NT Mt 6:24, Melton Book Company, 1971
- International Children's Bible p. 482 Mt 6:24 (Word Publishing, 2003)
- Brian S. Rosner (28 August 2007). Greed as Idolatry: The Origin and Meaning of a Pauline Metaphor. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 23–. ISBN 978-0-8028-3374-7.
- "Matthew 6:24 Commentaries: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth". Biblecommenter.com. Retrieved 2014-03-20.
- The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Discipline, Doctrine, and History of the Catholic Church, C. G. Herbermann, E. A. Pace, C. B. Pallen, T. J. Shahan, and J. J. Wynne, editors, pg. 580, "Mammon" by Hugh Pope. The Encyclopedia Press, New York, 1913.
- Select Notes on the International Sabbath School Lessons, F. N. Peloubet, W. A. Wilde and Company, Boston, 1880.
- "Mammon" (in German). Berlin: Bibliographisches Institut GmbH. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
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