- The light of the body is the eye: if
- therefore thine eye be single, thy
- whole body shall be full of light.
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
- “The lamp of the body is the eye.
- If therefore your eye is sound, your
- whole body will be full of light.
For a collection of other versions see here: Matthew 6:22
By lamp, this verse may mean that the eye is a metaphorical window by which light enters the body. Alternatively the lamp might not be meant as a source of light, but rather as a guide through darkness, just as the eye is a guide through life. In this case the verse is almost certainly speaking of a spiritual eye rather than the literal organ. Fowler feels that in this verse eye is a metaphor for the conscience and moral vision of the individual, both of which serve and guiding lights.
What is meant by the word translated as single in the KJV and sound in the WEB is uncertain. The Greek word is ἁπλοῡς/haplous. This term can mean generous, and its opposite in the next verse clearly means miserly. This verse can thus mean one is "full of light" if one's eye, i.e. conscience, is generous. This wording links this verse to the idea of the evil eye, which was often termed the "ungenerous eye". By this interpretation the good spiritual eye is one that is generous and can perceive God, and thus allows illumination into the entire body. However, in the LXX haplous is used to translate the Hebrew term for "singleness of purpose." If the author of Matthew was using this translation this verse would be extolling the eye that is solely focused on one thing, i.e. God. This second interpretation links closely with the neighbouring sections where Jesus is warning his followers not to deviate from their focus on God by concerning themselves with worldly things. Both Fowler and France speculate that this ambiguity is deliberate, and that the verse is speaking about both generosity and single mindedness, as both ideas are discussed in this part of Jesus' sermon.
According to Hill some scholars feel the metaphor of being filled with light is a reference to the soul, but he notes that this was not a standard metaphor for the soul in Jewish literature of the period.
- Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968
- France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
- Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981
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