Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Matthew 6:5-6, Shining with the Wrong Light

Μαθθαῖον 6·5 Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε, οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί, ὅτι φιλοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν πλατειῶν ἑστῶτες προσεύχεσθαι, ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.  6 σὺ δὲ ὅταν προσεύχῃ, εἴσελθε εἰς τὸ ταμεῖόν σου καὶ κλείσας τὴν θύραν σου πρόσευξαι τῷ πατρί σου τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ· καὶ ὁ πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ ἀποδώσει σοι. 
And whenever you pray, you will not be like the hypocrites that love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners, so that they may be seen by men.  Truly I am saying to you, they are receiving their reward in full.  But whenever you pray, go into your inner room and shut your door to pray to your father who is unseen.  And your father, who is seeing what is hidden, will reward (give back to) you.  Matthew 6:5-6
This is a fun one.  The verb φανῶσιν (they may be seen) can also mean “they may shine”.  It is the same verb that John uses in John 1:5*.
5 καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.
and the light is shining in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t understand it. John 1:5
Matthew doesn’t use this verb just to mean “to see”.  He uses a common “to see” verb in verse 6 (βλέπων).  So, he is using φανῶσιν to express an idea and drive a point home about hypocrites.  In this case, he is expressing an idea that hypocrites “showboat” while praying.  By using this verb, the author (in my opinion) is having a little fun with some sarcasm.  The author is obviously trying to put into words that hypocrites are trying to draw attention to themselves.  It is also very clear that the only reward that the hypocrites will receive is that attention!  This passage could be translated like this, 
So that they may shine before men.
Have you ever heard a phrase like, “Stand up!  It’s your time to shine!”?  Of course we have.  We use it as an idiom all of the time.  You don’t want “to shine” like those folks in verse 6:5!
*I wrote about this in my very first blog.


  1. And they tend to shine in the darkness and disappear when the sun rises.

  2. That's bad Mr. Brown, that's bad! LOL