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Matthew 25.40

Posted: June 19th, 2015, 3:52 pm
by thomas.hagen
Hello again. I have greatly appreciated your explanations and comments in the past. This time I have a question about Matthew 25.40:

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐρεῖ αὐτοῖς Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐφ' ὅσον ἐποιήσατε ἑνὶ τούτων τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν ἐλαχίστων, ἐμοὶ ἐποιήσατε.

and particularly the translation of the words: ἑνὶ τούτων τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν ἐλαχίστων.

Most English versions translate these words as: “to one of the least of these my brethren (brothers / brothers and sisters)”

In this case, the “least” form a subgroup of the “brethren”; not all the brethren are the “least”.

From the very little I have read and from the other cases I have seen of this construction of the adjective (with the article repeated), it would seem that the most natural translation would be something like: “to one of my brethren, the least / to one of my brethren, who are the least / to one of the least, who are my brethren”.

In this case the “brethren” and the “least” are one and the same group; all the brethren are the least.

Are both of these ways to translate these words possible or is only one correct? Or is there still another way which is preferable?

In addition, if it lies within the scope of the Forum, I would be interested in knowing your opinion of Jeremias’ assertion that “τούτων” in this verse represents a superfluous demonstrative in Aramaic and should not be translated. (Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1972, 2nd revised edition, p. 207)

Thank you for any ideas you can share with me.

Thomas Hagen

Re: Matthew 25.40

Posted: June 20th, 2015, 7:06 am
by Barry Hofstetter
It refers to a particular subgrouping of brethren, all of whom are described as "least." :lol:

τῶν ἐλαχίστων is simply the adjective in the attributive position. The repetition of the article with the adjective lends a certain weight of emphasis, particularly when separated out as in 25:40: "to one of these, my brethren -- the least." Terrible English, but it brings out a bit of the emphasis, well in line with the formal style of the declaration. As for Jeremias, I should let an Aramaic expert like Randall Buth answer, but my sense of it is that it makes perfect sense in the Greek and should be retained. Jeremias was writing at a time whe "the original Aramaic" was a big deal, and people were churning out retroversions right and left to prove what Jesus really meant. An interesting exercise, and sometimes helpful, but not determinative for exegesis.

Re: Matthew 25.40

Posted: July 17th, 2015, 6:00 am
by thomas.hagen
Thank you for this explanation. It helped me understand the construction, which I had found somewhat puzzling. And thanks again to everyone for the Forum which I find very stimulating.

T. Hagen

Re: Matthew 25.40

Posted: July 21st, 2015, 4:49 am
by Iver Larsen
In my view the context is important for understanding the intention of the grammar used.

In v. 40, the king is speaking to those at his right side, the believers. He commends them for having helped people in need and he describes those who have been helped as "one of these my least significant brothers". Therefore, it ought to be a subgroup of the believers, those who had a need that the other believers have met.
In v. 45 the king speaks to the other group who are not "brothers". The words are the same except that "my brothers" is not used. This other group to the left may well have considered all of those on the right as "least significant" or despised, but it could also still be a subgroup, those who had an obvious need that was not being met. I think the demonstrative is used to refer to people present as if the king is pointing to the group at the right side.