Matthew 6:2

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Matthew 6:2 is the second verse of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This verse continues the discussion of how even good deeds can be done for the wrong reasons.

In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a
trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the
synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory
of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

Therefore when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a
trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the
synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from
men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward.

For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 6:2

There were three main displays of piety in Jesus' era: alms giving, prayer, and fasting. All three are discussed in Matthew 6, with this verse beginning the discussion of alms giving, though some translations have Matthew 6:1 also reference alms rather than general righteousness. The term translated as "merciful deeds" in the WEB refers explicitly to alms giving. Alms giving was a religious act, one commanded in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 15:11 and other places. In this era all were expected to contribute alms, and services for the needy were funded through them.[1]

In this verse Jesus condemns the hypocrites who give to charity for their own glory rather than for pious reasons. In Classical Greek a hypocrite was simply an actor who pretended to be another person on stage. By the time the Septuagint was written, the word had gained the negative connotations that it has today, and it in the Gospel of Matthew the word is clearly a pejorative one.

For many centuries the blowing of trumpets during alms giving was taken literally, with Cyril of Alexandria being perhaps the first to interpret the verse this way.[2] Modern scholars mostly disagree.

There is no evidence that the Pharisees, and others seen as hypocrites, actually blew upon trumpets to publicize their giving, and Fowler feels it is unlikely they would have been so brazen.[3] Lewis thinks the reference might be to the autumn public fasts, which would have been accompanied by the blowing of horns.[4] Lachs considers this improbable as there is no direct connection to the period of fasting and alms giving.[5] Schweizer speculates that when the list of donors were read off in the Temple that especially large ones may have been accompanied by horns.[6] Hendriksen thinks it unlikely that this would have been allowed.[7] Lachs agrees that such acts were improbable. There is no historic evidence for such displays, and rabbinic writings from this period were just as critical of boastful giving. There was also no understanding of trumpeting as boasting in the contemporary literature, an expression that has developed in English perhaps as a result of this verse.[8]

Lachs supports the theory that the verse does not actually refer to trumpets, but instead to the alms-boxes, known as sophar chests. The meaning would thus be to put your donation in the chest quietly, so those around cannot hear.[9] The two words are similar, and a transcriber who did not known the unusual word for the boxes may have replaced it with the more common one for the horn. Davies and Allison reject this theory, arguing that the context seems to make clear that a musical instrument is meant, and that there is no textual evidence for a mistranslation. They do note that the author of Matthew could be making a pun based on the two similar words.[10]

The verse mentions the synagogues and the streets. Fowler notes that some scholars argue that synagogue cannot here refer to the religious building, as charity was not distributed there. Synagogue might thus be being used in its more general sense of any meeting place.[11] Hendriksen feels the reference to streets, or alleys, is included because that is the place where the poor would have gathered.[12]

Fowler argues that this verse is arguing that one's piety cannot be both to impress God and to impress other people; rather true piety must be dedicated to God and God alone. While those who make public displays of charity may receive praise and adulation from their fellows, this is the only reward they will receive as God will ignore such crassly motivated generosity.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
  2. ^ Lachs, Samuel Tobias. "Some Textual Observations on the Sermon on the Mount." The Jewish Quarterly Review, 1978 pg. 103
  3. ^ Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968
  4. ^ Lewis, Jack P. The Gospel According to Matthew. Austin, Texas: R.B. Sweet, 1976.
  5. ^ Lachs, Samuel Tobias. "Some Textual Observations on the Sermon on the Mount." The Jewish Quarterly Review, 1978 pg. 103
  6. ^ Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
  7. ^ Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Matthew. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976
  8. ^ Lachs, Samuel Tobias. "Some Textual Observations on the Sermon on the Mount." The Jewish Quarterly Review, 1978 pg. 103
  9. ^ Harrington, Daniel J. The Gospel of Matthew. Liturgical Press, 1991 pg. 94
  10. ^ Davies, W.D. and Dale C. Allison, Jr. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Edinburgh : T. & T. Clark, 1988-1997.
  11. ^ Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968
  12. ^ Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Matthew. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976
  13. ^ Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968


Preceded by
Matthew 6:1
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 6
Succeeded by
Matthew 6:3