λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

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Lee Moses
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Lee Moses » February 18th, 2012, 1:29 pm

For every effect there must be an adequate cause, and I fail to see how Joseph would believe that divorcing Mary would prevent αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι. This context would suggest that λάθρᾳ modify ἀπολῦσαι.

As for the divorce being public, that is a good point. However, it could still be seen as λάθρᾳ relative to Deut. 22:13ff, et al.

Also, while it could accurately be said that ἰωσὴφ ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ, it seems a little redundant.
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cwconrad
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by cwconrad » February 18th, 2012, 2:41 pm

Lee Moses wrote:For every effect there must be an adequate cause, and I fail to see how Joseph would believe that divorcing Mary would prevent αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι. This context would suggest that λάθρᾳ modify ἀπολῦσαι.

As for the divorce being public, that is a good point. However, it could still be seen as λάθρᾳ relative to Deut. 22:13ff, et al.

Also, while it could accurately be said that ἰωσὴφ ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ, it seems a little redundant.
We do all seem to be examining what's in Joseph's mind, don't we. Sure, IF Joseph could divorce Mary without telling anybody, then he might conceivably avoid scandalizing her, BUT could he divorce her without giving a reason? I don't know; the Dt 22 passage suggests one reason that might be offered for divorce, but this doesn't seem to be what Joseph would want. So the question remains just what λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι is supposed to mean: it is already evident that the fiancée is pregnant. Joseph wouldn't need to say one word about his reasons for breaking the engagement.

The examples adduced by Louis Sorenson are interesting, but several of them don't involve forms of βούλεσθαι but rather of συμβουλεύειν or ἐπιβουλεύειν -- we can readily understand conspiring and plotting against someone as stealthy actions. But the examples cited with βούλεσθαι all involved explicitly or implicitly a complementary infinitive, and so they don't really resolve the question of whether λάθρᾳ may properly used as a modifier of βούλεσθαι itself.

And yes, Mark is spot on about Aristotle: if Jimmy Carter has some unspoken notion of divorcing Rosalynn, he's already as guilty as you know what.

My sense of the evangelist's intended sense of this text is this: Joseph was a good and decent man; he really didn't want to make a spectacle of Mary. If he could divorce her without publicity, he would do so, but -- damn it all! -- the girl was manifestly pregnant. He wanted, oh yes, he really did want, to divorce her without publicity. But he had not yet acted upon that wish, and this is when the dream vision comes to him.

I've convinced myself that βούλεσθαι λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν is a unitary statement of the dilemma. He is Hamlet contemplating, not suicide, but divorce. "To divorce, or not to divorce, that is the question!" Et voilà: the angel appears to him and trips the balance toward "not to divorce." I think that λάθρᾳ underscores Joseph's intent and the fact that his intention remains at this point unrealized.

I'm reminded of the passage in Aeschylus' Choephoroe where Electra asks the chorus what she should pray for; when the Chorus replies that she should pray for revenge against her mother (who has murdered her father), Electra asks, "is that a righteous prayer?" Aeschylus does portray such moments of prayer at crucial moments before people proceed to carry out momentous decisions. I think that's the kind of moment we have portrayed in the words of this phrase.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 18th, 2012, 3:09 pm

Lee Moses wrote:For every effect there must be an adequate cause, and I fail to see how Joseph would believe that divorcing Mary would prevent αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι. This context would suggest that λάθρᾳ modify ἀπολῦσαι.
This suggests that the alternative is between a public divorce and a secret (λάθρᾳ) divorce. Well, what if the contemplated alternative is to put her on trial for adultery and stone her? For example:
Lee Moses wrote:As for the divorce being public, that is a good point. However, it could still be seen as λάθρᾳ relative to Deut. 22:13ff, et al.
Yes, here the man is not seeking to divorce her but to execute her (Deut 22:21 "then they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father's house and the men of the town shall stone her to death"). So I think stating ἀπολῦσαι is sufficient to distinguish over Deut 22.
Lee Moses wrote:Also, while it could accurately be said that ἰωσὴφ ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ, it seems a little redundant.
This could just mean that, while he was mulling this over (v.20), he did not discuss it with anyone and thereby bring her to shame by disclosing that the child is not is.

Part of what's getting me is the ambiguity does not even seem apparent to many interpreters and they don't seem to appreciate that they are putting a lot of pressure on the meaning of the term λάθρᾳ to make the reading work, without considering other options. Here's an example:
Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (1st ed. 1977; new upd. ed.; ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1993), 128. wrote:quietly. It is not clear what this means or how Joseph hoped to accomplish it. According to the practice known from later rabbinic writings, a totally secret divorce was not possible, since the writ of repudiate had to be delivered before two witnesses (St-B, I, 304–5). Nor could Joseph have kept Mary’s shame hidden indefinitely; for, no matter what reason he alleged in the divorce proceedings, Mary’s pregnancy would eventually have become a matter of public knowledge, and her neighbors would have concluded that adultery was the real reason for the divorce. Probably, all that Matthew means is that in the divorce Joseph was not going to accuse Mary publicly of adultery and thus not going to subject her to trial. (If Num 5:11–31 was still effective in NT times, a trial by ordeal was the procedure when there were no witnesses to the adultery.) To avoid the accusation of adultery, Joseph could have offered less serious grounds, as acknowledged by the Pharisees of the school of Hillel. (Jewish debates between the followers of Hillel and Shammai about the grounds for divorce are in the background of the question raised in Matt 19:3.) Thus, “to divorce quietly” may mean to divorce leniently.
Here, Raymond Brown appropriately senses the difficulty of λάθρᾳ in this context and struggles with it, but a syntactic resolution to the difficulty is not even on the radar screen.
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Louis L Sorenson
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Louis L Sorenson » February 18th, 2012, 3:29 pm

Is it possibly for λάθρα to mean 'quietly'?
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Mark Lightman
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Mark Lightman » February 18th, 2012, 3:41 pm

Carl wrote: (Has anybody read W. H. Auden's For the Time Being, in particular the section entitled, "The Temptation of St. Joseph"? -- you can scroll down at http://www.archive.org/stream/religious ... p_djvu.txt and find it there.).
I’m not sure if Auden supports Stephen’s take or not:
W.H. Auden wrote

Joseph, you have heard
What Mary says occurred;
Yes, it may be so.
Is it likely? No.
but I agree with Carl that it is hard to read Joseph's mind. He actually never speaks a word in the NT (like a good Jewish husband.) I always assumed his plan was ship Mary off to relatives, but I don't know how much of an option that was at the time.
Stephen wrote: Here, Raymond Brown appropriately senses the difficulty of λάθρᾳ in this context and struggles with it, but a syntactic resolution to the difficulty is not even on the radar screen.
Hi, Stephen,

I thank you (and Mr. Wackernagel) for putting this on the radar screen, but radar often sees things that aren't there. Your take is novel and clever and worthy of consideration, but I can only say, Yes, it may be so. Is it likely, no.

δυνατὸν μὲν, πιθανὸν δ’ οὔ.

ἔρρωσο!
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Lee Moses
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Lee Moses » February 18th, 2012, 3:50 pm

Louis L Sorenson wrote:Is it possibly for λάθρα to mean 'quietly'?
Not that I can tell, but it seems the meaning of "secretly," "by stealth," or "clandestinely" would much better modify an action than the thoughts of one's mind.
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cwconrad
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by cwconrad » February 18th, 2012, 3:52 pm

Louis L Sorenson wrote:Is it possibly for λάθρα to mean 'quietly'?
Yes, I think so. I don't see a dime's worth of difference between λάθρα, λάθρᾳ, and λάθρῃ.
So, I would think that the Epicurean motto, λαθὲ βιώσας, must mean not so much "Live your life without being seen," but rather, "Live your life privately, outside of the public eye."
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

timothy_p_mcmahon
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » February 19th, 2012, 1:57 am

David Instone-Brewer in Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible understands that Joseph was planning to use a Hillelite 'any matter' divorce, which "required no public trial, no evidence brought by witnesses, and very little fuss... a quiet and relatively private procedure" (p.115). If λαθραῖος can mean 'without obvious cause', would it not be possible that λάθρᾳ could refer to the Hillelite 'any matter' ('any cause') divorce here? Joseph could divorce Miriam with no public showing of cause for his action.

Is it also possible that δικαιος here has the sense that Joseph 'was a good egg' or 'was a decent guy' rather than that he was 'righteous' in a religious sense?
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » February 19th, 2012, 4:32 am

timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:David Instone-Brewer in Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible understands that Joseph was planning to use a Hillelite 'any matter' divorce, which "required no public trial, no evidence brought by witnesses, and very little fuss... a quiet and relatively private procedure" (p.115). If λαθραῖος can mean 'without obvious cause', would it not be possible that λάθρᾳ could refer to the Hillelite 'any matter' ('any cause') divorce here? Joseph could divorce Miriam with no public showing of cause for his action.
Craig Keener is well know for his information on historical background. He has written "And Marries Another: Divorce and Remarriage in the Teaching of the New Testament" and couple of commentaries on Matthew. In his "The IVP Bible Backround Commentary: New Testament" he basically is in agreement with Instone-Brewer, although he doesn't speak about 'any matter divorce', only about divorce involving or not involving public trial.

This is really out the limits of this forum, but because others have already taken backround information, I feel free...
Is it also possible that δικαιος here has the sense that Joseph 'was a good egg' or 'was a decent guy' rather than that he was 'righteous' in a religious sense?
Can you give an example from Jewish writings (or from anywhere else) where the word would have meant anything else than 'morally good'? And Jews didn't make any distinction between religously good or otherwise good person. Modern Christians may also confuse 'righteous' with 'justified'. Jews didn't have such distinction - morally good person was righteous in God's eyes.
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cwconrad
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by cwconrad » February 19th, 2012, 9:57 am

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:... This is really out the limits of this forum, but because others have already taken backround information, I feel free...
Yes, it's background, and it's questionable whether we'll reach any consensus on the matter, but it's still the range of possible understandings of the Greek text as a Greek text that we're discussing, i.e. just what is this evangelist trying to tell us about Joseph and his decision-making process? What does he mean by telling us that Joseph was δίκαιος and that he seeks to avoid publicity, whether in his deciding or in his ultimate action?
timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:]Is it also possible that δικαιος here has the sense that Joseph 'was a good egg' or 'was a decent guy' rather than that he was 'righteous' in a religious sense?
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:Can you give an example from Jewish writings (or from anywhere else) where the word would have meant anything else than 'morally good'? And Jews didn't make any distinction between religously good or otherwise good person. Modern Christians may also confuse 'righteous' with 'justified'. Jews didn't have such distinction - morally good person was righteous in God's eyes.
Matthew's Greek phrasing provides us with not insignificant clues. The adjective δίκαιος is found 17x in Mt (1:19; 5:45; 9:13; 10:41; 13:17, 43, 49; 20:4; 23:28–29, 35; 25:37, 46; 27:19), the noun δικαιοσύνη 7x (3:15; 5:6, 10 -- twice in the Beatitudes --, 20; 6:1, 33; 21:32), and some of these are especially significant:

5:6 μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσονται.
5:10 μακάριοι οἱ δεδιωγμένοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.
5:20 Λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ περισσεύσῃ ὑμῶν ἡ δικαιοσύνη πλεῖον τῶν γραμματέων καὶ Φαρισαίων, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν.

Thus, it would seem that the description of Joseph as δίκαιος marks him as more than an ordinary nice guy; rather he is, as Jesus in John's gospel says of Nathanael, ἀληθῶς Ἰσραηλίτης ἐν ᾧ δόλος οὐκ ἔστιν. Moreover, another of those Matthean dominical sayings about δικαιοσύνη is this:

Matt. 6:1 Προσέχετε [δὲ] τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν μὴ ποιεῖν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς

I think that these "background" factors concerning the δικαιοσύνη of Joseph do add some dimension to the use of the word λάθρᾳ in Mt 1:19.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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