Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

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thomas.hagen
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Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

Post by thomas.hagen » August 13th, 2014, 5:38 am

I have a question about Matthew 6.8:

"μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς, οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν."

"Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him."

(This new question is actually linked to my previous query about "daily bread" in Matthew 6.11.)

I am particularly interested in the phrase: "πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν". I have a commentary of the Greek text which states that the use of the aorist infinitive indicates that Jesus is talking about requests which actually do not need to be made (or perhaps should not be made). As I tend to think that this is what Jesus implies in "μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς", I would appreciate knowing B-Greek members' opinions on this.

Thank you -
Thomas
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 13th, 2014, 9:00 am

thomas.hagen wrote:I have a commentary of the Greek text which states that the use of the aorist infinitive indicates that Jesus is talking about requests which actually do not need to be made (or perhaps should not be made).
Which commentary is this?
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » August 13th, 2014, 2:16 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote: Which commentary is this?
I would also like to know which commentary to avoid at all costs.
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » August 13th, 2014, 2:26 pm

The aorist is treated like a semantic "wild card" (a joker) in exegetical works of dubious merit.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

Post by Jonathan Robie » August 13th, 2014, 2:59 pm

thomas.hagen wrote:I am particularly interested in the phrase: "πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν". I have a commentary of the Greek text which states that the use of the aorist infinitive indicates that Jesus is talking about requests which actually do not need to be made (or perhaps should not be made). As I tend to think that this is what Jesus implies in "μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς", I would appreciate knowing B-Greek members' opinions on this.
I think you have heard that now ;->

I'm not sure how much of that construction you grasp. Two things are worth noting:

1. This is an example of πρὸ + τοῦ + genitive infinitive, which basically means "before". πρίν + the infinitive also means "before".

2. This is an example of the more general pattern described here by Funk:
836.1 The articular infinitive appears with prepositions in temporal clauses as follows: ἐν τῷ and the infinitive are used of contemporaneous time, μετὰ τό for subsequent time, πρὸ τοῦ for previous time, ἕως τοῦ of future time, all in relation to the time of the main verb. Bl-D §§402-404.
(24) μετὰ δὲ τὸ παραδοθῆναι τὸν Ἰωάννην ... Mk 1:14
Now after John was arrested ...
(25) ἐν τῷ ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς οἶκον τινος
τῶν ἀρχόντων ... Lk 14:1
When he went into the house of one of the rulers ...
(26) πρὸ τοῦ ἐγγίσαι αὐτὸν ... Acts 23:15
Before he draws near ...
(27) ἕως τοῦ ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς Καισάρειαν ... Acts 8:40
Until he came to Caesarea ...
3. Infinitives can be either present or aorist. The difference is aspect, described well here by Micheal Palmer:
The aorist infinitive does not express progressive aspect. It presents the action expressed by the verb as a completed unit with a beginning and end.

Ἡρῴδης θέλει σε ἀποκτεῖναι
Herod wants to kill you (Luke 13:31)

Here the aorist infinitive is appropriate because the author is not saying Herod wanted to go on an indefinite killing spree, but that he wanted to commit one specific act of killing.

ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ σου δεῖ με μεῖναι
It is necessary for me to stay in your house (Luke 19:5)

In this statement, Jesus is presented as stating his desire to spend the night at Zacchaeus' house, not a request to take up residence there for an indefinite time.
The phrase πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν pictures asking once, not asking again and again over a period of time.

I have no idea why your commentary says this involves "requests which actually do not need to be made (or perhaps should not be made)". You can search around for other examples of this construction, and I think you will find some involve things that really should happen. For instance, consider Galatians 3:23: Πρὸ τοῦ δὲ ἐλθεῖν τὴν πίστιν ὑπὸ νόμον ἐφρουρούμεθα [a]συγκλειόμενοι εἰς τὴν μέλλουσαν πίστιν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι. Surely Paul thought the coming of faith was a good thing that was supposed to happen!

I do wonder what commentary you are using. If this is typical of the commentary, then I'd suggest ...
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

Post by Stephen Hughes » August 14th, 2014, 1:45 am

Matthew 6:8 wrote:μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς, οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν.
thomas.hagen wrote:I am particularly interested in the phrase: "πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰῆσαι αὐτόν". I have a commentary of the Greek text which states that the use of the aorist infinitive indicates that Jesus is talking about requests which actually do not need to be made (or perhaps should not be made). As I tend to think that this is what Jesus implies in "μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς", I would appreciate knowing B-Greek members' opinions on this.
Without the ὑμᾶς (a subject), I think that the infinitive in πρὸ τοῦ ... αἰῆσαι αὐτόν could be referring to the action in an abstract sense, but with the ὑμᾶς, πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰῆσαι αὐτόν refers to someone actually doing it. But there is no implication that the action itself should not be done.

Another way to look at it is to paraphrase a bit...

If we think of an alternative construction in the aorist imperative, μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς, αἰτήσασθε χωρὶς πολυλογίᾶς / ἅπαξ / ἁπλῶς ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε, ὅτι ἤδη οἶδεν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε, and compare how that could be different. Obviously a direct command to do something would mean that it should be done, but doesn't really imply that it needs to be done. My addition of χωρὶς πολυλογίᾶς / ἅπαξ / ἁπλῶς all of course are based on the previous verse.
Matthew 6:7 wrote:Προσευχόμενοι δὲ μὴ βαττολογήσητε, ὥσπερ οἱ ἐθνικοί· δοκοῦσιν γὰρ ὅτι ἐν τῇ πολυλογίᾳ αὐτῶν εἰσακουσθήσονται.
Having expanded the sense out like that, we can ask whether that properly expresses the intended sense of the πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν, or whether the sense of the πρό could / should actually be taken to imply that my construction αἰτήσασθε ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε is wrong, and we should understand it as μὴ αἰτήσασθε ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε. To answer that we need to understand the use of πρό better

A πρό seems to usually imply a simple marking of sequence order, rather than have the sense of a prohibition. For example,
John 1:48 wrote:Λέγει αὐτῷ Ναθαναήλ, Πόθεν με γινώσκεις; Ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Πρὸ τοῦ σε Φίλιππον φωνῆσαι, ὄντα ὑπὸ τὴν συκῆν, εἶδόν σε.
Here Jesus knowing Nathaniel's name, before it was spoken out by Philip, did not stop or reduce the need for Philip to say it with the context of the greeting. (Nathaniel also knew his own name, so Philip didn't need to repeat it over and over again).

Another way of paraphrasing might be like
John 13:19 wrote:Ἀπ’ ἄρτι λέγω ὑμῖν πρὸ τοῦ γενέσθαι, ἵνα, ὅταν γένηται, πιστεύσητε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι.
καὶ οἶδεν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν, ἵνα, ὅταν προσεύχησθε, μὴ (πολλάκις) αἰτεῖσθε, ἀλλὰ (ἅπαξ) αἰτήσασθε. That of course raises the question of range of meaning (semantic domains) of προσευχή and αἴτησις.

In regard to semantics, the implication of the commentary that you are reading is that αἴτησις is not part of the meaning of προσευχή. (Jesus is saying that we should pray, and not request) In my thinking, that is an unsustainable. It is my opinion that προσευχή is an umbrella term, and αἴτησις (along with εὐχή, δοξολογία and αἴνεσις) is one of the things that it could refer to at any time it is used, i.e. αἴτησις is a type of προσευχή.
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thomas.hagen
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Re: Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

Post by thomas.hagen » August 14th, 2014, 5:11 am

I wish to thank all of the contributors for your enlightening comments. I don't know if the work I referred to would be considered a commentary. It is a four-volume presentation of the gospels published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana (1988). A certain Gianfranco Nolli gives an explanation of the form of each word in the Greek text which is accompanied by the Vulgate and a translation in Italian. My phrase that Jesus "is talking about requests which actually do not need to be made (or perhaps should not be made)" was an attempt to explain the original Italian comment which literally goes like this: "the aorist underlines that this does not happen, not even once" (my emphasis).

However, I must say that Jonathan Robie's explanation
The phrase πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν pictures asking once, not asking again and again over a period of time.
has raised a doubt in my mind which might save Mr. Nolli's reputation. In my use of this commentary, I have come across a number of typographical errors (calling an indicative a conjunctive, an active passive, etc. - all results of poor proofreading). Now I'm wondering whether Mr. Nolli's original comment might have been: "the aorist underlines that this happens only once." Hasty print composition and sloppy - or no - proofreading could fairly easily change this into the comment which is actually in the book. And this idea of asking only once perfectly fits the context of verses 7 and 8.

Well, I'll just have to try to contact Mr. Nolli, if he's still around. In the meantime, maybe we can give him the benefit of the doubt and blame the publishers for misguiding people like me! I have found this "commentary" quite useful as a first step in identifying the form of words in the Greek text, although I have also learned that I have to be careful and verify things which seem problematic - as you have helped me do this time!

Once again, many thanks. I'll be back soon.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 14th, 2014, 5:43 am

Some of us can read Italian. Feel free to post that.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

Post by Barry Hofstetter » August 14th, 2014, 7:36 am

I also would not go quite so far as Jonathan's humorous suggestion. Sometimes a commentary may have an egregious mistake or two, but still have lots of other helpful information. As with everything, we read with discernment. Your instinct to ask about it is a good sign that you are learning some Greek.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Matthew 6.8 "before you ask him"

Post by Jonathan Robie » August 14th, 2014, 7:46 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:I also would not go quite so far as Jonathan's humorous suggestion. Sometimes a commentary may have an egregious mistake or two, but still have lots of other helpful information. As with everything, we read with discernment. Your instinct to ask about it is a good sign that you are learning some Greek.
Oh, I agree. Even in my humorous suggestion, I said "If this is typical of the commentary, then I'd suggest ...", a few mistakes are to be expected.

And asking about these things really is good. Specific questions about grammatical usage texts is one of the most helpful ways to use the beginner's forum.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

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