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Did Jesus say do not swear oaths (Mt 5:33-37)?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.

Re: Did Jesus say do not swear oaths (Mt 5:33-37)?

Postby John2 » Sat Oct 17, 2015 6:56 pm

I also just found this book by Holmen with a good section on swearing (pg. 170-187). Regarding the above quote, he says:

"In describing the Essene avoidance of swearing, Josephus perhaps means use of the name of God and its substitutes when making oaths. For, Josephus tells us, the Essenes, too, used oaths to seal covenantal-like commitments. Still, they were discriminating even in the use of these" (pg. 173).

https://books.google.com/books?id=SPS4t ... es&f=false
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Re: Did Jesus say do not swear oaths (Mt 5:33-37)?

Postby Michael BG » Sun Oct 18, 2015 3:44 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
andrewcriddle wrote:FWIW I tend to think it more likely that Clement knew Q or oral tradition rather than written Matthew or Luke.


I tend to agree (with the possible substitution of "catechetical materials" for "Q"). This was the conclusion in The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers of 1905, and the recent reevaluation of that book by Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett concludes with respect to 1 Clement (page 157 of The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers):

Wider discussions notwithstanding, it seems certain on the basis of the internal evidence of his letter that the author of 1 Clement used 1 Corinthians, and very likely indeed that he used Romans and Hebrews. He appears also to have drawn on Jesus traditions, but not in the form preserved in the synoptic gospels. Thus there are no substantial amendments to be made to the conclusions presented by Carlyle and the other members of the Oxford Committee in 1905.

Ben.

I have looked at The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers with regard to 1 Clement 46:8 Lk 17:1-2 and Mk 14:21c and Mt 26:24c and the Committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology state, “We have here the combination of the words spoken by our Lord with regard to Judas, recorded by Matthew and Mark, with a saying which is recorded in another connexion in the three Synoptic Gospels. It is not impossible that Clement, quoting from memory, might have combined some words from one context with the more general saying, and that he may thus be quoting from one or other if the Gospels. But it is just as probable that we have here … a quotation from some form of catechetical instruction in our Lord’s doctrine.”

However they do not discuss the text but leave each reader to decide which is more likely. The Greek of “Woe to-the man that” and “better were-it to-him if not was-born” is exactly the same as in Mark 14:21 minus the “but”, but the Greek of the rest is not a close match to either Luke or Mark, but still there is the issue of the movement of “my chosen” being at the end as in Luke and being a change from “little ones” which is likely to be the earlier text. Therefore it still seems to me that Clement was written after Luke was written because it includes his editorial move and then changes the group to Christians from children.

You do not state if Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett examine this text in more detail that the Oxford Committee when they agreed with the Committee’s conclusion.

John2 wrote:This saying is different in the (Shem Tov) Hebrew Matthew. Nehemia Gordon explains the significance of this difference better than I can in his book The Hebrew Yeshua vs. The Greek Jesus but I don't have it at the moment. Howard also notes the difference in his Hebrew Gospel of Matthew (pg. 213) and translates the passage this way:

"Again you have heard it said to those of long ago: You shall not swear by my name falsely, but you shall return to the Lord your oath. But I say to you not to swear in vain by anything, either by heaven ..."

And he says, "The difference between the Greek and the Hebrew is striking. In the Greek, Jesus appears to revoke the law: In the Hebrew ... he does not revoke it ... In the Greek, Jesus forbids all swearing. In the Hebrew, he forbids only vain swearing."

The Shem Tov Hebrew Matthew was added to a book written c. 1380 in Spain and exits in many variant copies but I am not sure if the text existed in the first century and it could be a later translation of the Greek text amended by a Jew. If it is a Jewish version then it is possible that the differences are because of this and not because it is an early more reliable version of the Greek text.

John2 wrote:That's interesting, Ben, thanks. It's also perhaps worth pointing out that the Essenes did not swear according to Josephus:

"... whatsoever they say also is firmer than an oath; but swearing is avoided by them, and they esteem it worse than perjury for they say that he who cannot be believed without [swearing by] God is already condemned" (War 2.8.6).

My university tutor provided this when discussing this Matthean text. He also provided
Shebu’oth 36a
“R. Eleazar said: No is an oath; Yes is an oath.”

It therefore seems that Jesus was not unique in stating that only a no or a yes is needed and not an oath by something.
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Re: Did Jesus say do not swear oaths (Mt 5:33-37)?

Postby Ben C. Smith » Sun Oct 18, 2015 5:23 pm

Michael BG wrote:You do not state if Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett examine this text in more detail that the Oxford Committee when they agreed with the Committee’s conclusion.


Yes, on pages 134-135a Andrew Gregory (who is penning this particular article in the composite work) gives a full Greek synopsis of 1 Clement 46.7-8 and its synoptic parallels, followed by a discussion on pages 135b-137

I have looked at The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers with regard to 1 Clement 46:8 Lk 17:1-2 and Mk 14:21c and Mt 26:24c and the Committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology state, “We have here the combination of the words spoken by our Lord with regard to Judas, recorded by Matthew and Mark, with a saying which is recorded in another connexion in the three Synoptic Gospels. It is not impossible that Clement, quoting from memory, might have combined some words from one context with the more general saying, and that he may thus be quoting from one or other if the Gospels. But it is just as probable that we have here … a quotation from some form of catechetical instruction in our Lord’s doctrine.”

However they do not discuss the text but leave each reader to decide which is more likely. The Greek of “Woe to-the man that” and “better were-it to-him if not was-born” is exactly the same as in Mark 14:21 minus the “but”....


And possibly the ἦν, which is not present in all manuscripts of Mark. Also, of course, 1 Clement has no parallel for the intervening phrase in Matthew and Mark, δι᾽ οὗ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται, or the shorter version in Luke, δι᾽ οὗ παραδίδοται (Mark according to D is similar to this curtailed form).

...but the Greek of the rest is not a close match to either Luke or Mark, but still there is the issue of the movement of “my chosen” being at the end as in Luke and being a change from “little ones” which is likely to be the earlier text.


You again seem to be operating in a world in which the number of possible texts is limited virtually to what we have on hand. You note Luke making a change in the order of elements in a saying; then, if you see a similar change of order in some other text (1 Clement, in this case), you immediately suspect that the other text has picked up on Lucan redaction. That world of limited texts is not the one that appears to have been the case, however, in those first two or more centuries.

Furthermore, the actual state of affairs is that 1 Clement has the element in question twice, once each in conjunction with both parts of the saying (which the synoptic tradition has as two separate sayings, found in entirely different contexts): good he were never born than that he scandalize one of my elect ones, and better that a millstone be hung round his neck and he be flung into the sea than that he turn aside one of my elect ones. This way of putting it is so natural as to defy the need for any explanation as to the position of the phrase. Nobody needs Luke as a model for putting it in this way.

Your assumptions skip right past a host of other possibilities that ought at least to be explored before you declare a simple move as Lucan redaction. For example, what if Luke is preserving the order of the original source (Q?) here, whereas either Mark or Matthew has made a change and the other has followed the first? What if 1 Clement made the move first, and one of the editors of Luke copied that order from 1 Clement? And so on. But for the life of me I cannot find a single indicator in this pericope that 1 Clement has to be related to the synoptics by anything other than oral transmission of the same basic saying.

Therefore it still seems to me that Clement was written after Luke was written because it includes his editorial move and then changes the group to Christians from children.


Well, "elect ones," to be exact, not Christians by name. (It is worth mentioning that at least two manuscripts of 1 Clement have μικρῶν μου σκανδαλίσαι instead of ἐκλεκτῶν μου διαστρέψαι; the latter is clearly the better reading, as the former would be an easy harmonization with Luke.)

I am quite ready to imagine "elect ones" as a later development than "little ones." That seems right to me. But I also suspect that the synoptic application of this saying to Judas (completely absent from the Clementine version) as the betrayer of Jesus is also quite secondary. In other words, all of the extant versions are secondary. They all go back, in that confusing mixture of oral and written transmission so characteristic of this period, to a saying that has been modified to new circumstances.

For ease of reference:

Matthew
Mark
Luke
1 Clement
-
-
26.24 Ὁ μὲν υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὑπάγει
καθὼς γέγραπται περὶ αὐτοῦ,
οὐαὶ δὲ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ δι᾽ οὗ
ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται·
καλὸν ἦν αὐτῷ εἰ οὐκ ἐγεννήθη
ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος.
18.6 Ὃς δ᾽ ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ
ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων
τῶν πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ,
συμφέρει αὐτῷ
ἵνα κρεμασθῇ μύλος ὀνικὸς
περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ
καὶ καταποντισθῇ ἐν τῷ
πελάγει τῆς θαλάσσης.
-
-
-
-
14.21 Ὅτι ὁ μὲν υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὑπάγει
καθὼς γέγραπται περὶ αὐτοῦ,
οὐαὶ δὲ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ δι᾽ οὗ
ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται·
καλὸν αὐτῷ εἰ οὐκ ἐγεννήθη
ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος.
9.42 Καὶ ὃς ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ
ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων
τῶν πιστευόντων [εἰς ἐμέ],
καλόν ἐστιν αὐτῷ μᾶλλον
εἰ περίκειται μύλος ὀνικὸς
περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ
καὶ βέβληται εἰς
τὴν θάλασσαν.
-
-
-
-
22.22 Ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου
κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον πορεύεται,
πλὴν οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ δι᾽ οὗ
παραδίδοται.
-
-
-
-
-
17.2 Λυσιτελεῖ αὐτῷ
εἰ λίθος μυλικὸς περίκειται
περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ
καὶ ἔρριπται εἰς
τὴν θάλασσαν
ἢ ἵνα σκανδαλίσῃ τῶν
μικρῶν τούτων ἕνα.
46.7b ...μνήσθητε τῶν λόγων τοῦ
κυρίου Ἰησοῦ. 46.8. εἶπεν γάρ·
-
-
Οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ·
-
καλὸν ἧν αὐτῷ εἰ οὐκ ἐγεννήθη,
-
ἢ ἕνα τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν
μου σκανδαλίσαι·
-
κρεῖττον ἦν αὐτῷ
περιτεθῆναι μύλον
-
καὶ καταποντισθῆναι εἰς
τὴν θάλασσαν,
ἢ ἕνα τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν
μου διαστρέψαι.

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Re: Did Jesus say do not swear oaths (Mt 5:33-37)?

Postby Michael BG » Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:01 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Michael BG wrote:...but the Greek of the rest is not a close match to either Luke or Mark, but still there is the issue of the movement of “my chosen” being at the end as in Luke and being a change from “little ones” which is likely to be the earlier text.


You again seem to be operating in a world in which the number of possible texts is limited virtually to what we have on hand. You note Luke making a change in the order of elements in a saying; then, if you see a similar change of order in some other text (1 Clement, in this case), you immediately suspect that the other text has picked up on Lucan redaction. That world of limited texts is not the one that appears to have been the case, however, in those first two or more centuries.

Lots of people like to raise the possibility of the existence of different lost texts and I am not very convinced by these arguments. Some people say that Q never existed but I think the evidence for its existence is good, because it explains why sometimes Matthew and sometimes Luke have what is likely to be the more primitive version. However if it did not do this then I would be sceptical about whether we can talk of Q or maybe Qs. It has been said that there might be a written text behind Mark’s passion and resurrection narratives and I have not rejected it. It has been suggested that Mark used a Jewish text for some of his chapter 13 and I think it is a good theory. It has been suggested that Luke had some John the Baptist stories that he re-worked for his birth narratives and I think that is a good theory.

However if someone says Matthew didn’t use Mark and Q but he used another text that does not exist I would be very sceptical. So when considering if a text we have and is known or another text we don’t have is the basis for something written in a text without the source being specified I will always consider the text we have as being the more likely and only if the text we have could not be the source would I consider a hypothetical text. So you make a valid criticism of my methodology, which I am not going to change.

Ben C. Smith wrote:Furthermore, the actual state of affairs is that 1 Clement has the element in question twice, once each in conjunction with both parts of the saying (which the synoptic tradition has as two separate sayings, found in entirely different contexts): good he were never born than that he scandalize one of my elect ones, and better that a millstone be hung round his neck and he be flung into the sea than that he turn aside one of my elect ones. This way of putting it is so natural as to defy the need for any explanation as to the position of the phrase. Nobody needs Luke as a model for putting it in this way.

You are correct I have gone for the simplistic solution. You are correct that adding the Judas saying makes a lot of sense and I have not looked at how likely that this saying was created by Mark. The changing from “little ones” to “my elect ones” also makes sense. However I was taught that if you see the redaction work of one document in another document this is strong evidence for the second document to have known the first document. If we accept that 1 Clement was written c 96 CE then the author is very likely to have known Mark’s gospel. If Matthew and Luke were written c 80 CE then he could also have known them. We are not certain when 1 Clement was written and we are not certain when Luke’s gospel was written, but it is possible that Clement knew Luke’s gospel and I am happy with that conclusion.

Ben C. Smith wrote:Your assumptions skip right past a host of other possibilities that ought at least to be explored before you declare a simple move as Lucan redaction. For example, what if Luke is preserving the order of the original source (Q?) here, whereas either Mark or Matthew has made a change and the other has followed the first? What if 1 Clement made the move first, and one of the editors of Luke copied that order from 1 Clement? And so on. But for the life of me I cannot find a single indicator in this pericope that 1 Clement has to be related to the synoptics by anything other than oral transmission of the same basic saying.

You are correct I have ignored the issue of Q, so I will try to address the issue of Q now.

Lk 17:1-2

[1]And he said to his disciples, "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!
[2] It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.

Mt 18:6-7

[6] but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
[7]"Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!

Mk 9:42

[42] "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

It seems to me that Luke’s “hung” is from Mark, but Matthew’s “fastened” might be Q. I think maybe Matthew’s longer “drowned in the depth” is more likely to be Q than Luke’s “cast”. Also I prefer Matthew’s verse 7 to Luke’s verse 1.

So the Q text might have been:

"Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!
it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Therefore it still seems to me that Clement was written after Luke was written because it includes his editorial move and then changes the group to Christians from children.


Well, "elect ones," to be exact, not Christians by name. (It is worth mentioning that at least two manuscripts of 1 Clement have μικρῶν μου σκανδαλίσαι instead of ἐκλεκτῶν μου διαστρέψαι; the latter is clearly the better reading, as the former would be an easy harmonization with Luke.)

I am quite ready to imagine "elect ones" as a later development than "little ones." That seems right to me. But I also suspect that the synoptic application of this saying to Judas (completely absent from the Clementine version) as the betrayer of Jesus is also quite secondary. In other words, all of the extant versions are secondary. They all go back, in that confusing mixture of oral and written transmission so characteristic of this period, to a saying that has been modified to new circumstances.

I think “elect” might be a word favoured by Clement as he uses it 14 times.

If you see the Marcan “woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (14:21) as secondary, then if this addition has been created by Mark, then that is where Clement gets it from.

However we should not forget why 1 Clement was raised in the first place. It was raised to date the Epistle of James as too early for the writer to have known Matthew. It is possible that 1 Clement knew Matthew and there is no convincing evidence to deny this possibility, even if we can’t agree on Clement’s use of Luke. The independent dating of 1 Clement makes it possible that he knew Matthew. We haven’t investigated whether Clement did know the epistle of James or the tradition the author of James used.

andrewcriddle wrote:IMO the letter of Clement to the Corinthians (1 Clement) alludes to James (e.g. references to being double minded). If so it is 1st century, though maybe late 1st century, which makes use of Matthew improbable.

Andrew Criddle

The Committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology in The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers considers Clement’s use of James 5:20 which is about “a multitude of sins” alongside his use of 1 Peter 4:8 and conclude “it is possible that Clement is quoting the passage from 1 Peter”. They don’t consider anything else from James.

Andrew could be referring to James 1:8 “For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.” However it has been suggested that the allusions in 1 Clem 23 make the link here. Perhaps someone would like to make these links because I am just not seeing them unless it is to do with growing plants. 1 Clem 23 reminds me of the parable of the fig tree with the branches putting out leaves (Mk 13:28-29).
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Re: Did Jesus say do not swear oaths (Mt 5:33-37)?

Postby Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:14 pm

Michael BG wrote:If you see the Marcan “woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (14:21) as secondary, then if this addition has been created by Mark, then that is where Clement gets it from.


I see only the first half of that quote as secondary, the half about Judas. The other half does not necessarily have to pertain to Judas, as the quote from 1 Clement shows.

However we should not forget why 1 Clement was raised in the first place. It was raised to date the Epistle of James as too early for the writer to have known Matthew. It is possible that 1 Clement knew Matthew and there is no convincing evidence to deny this possibility, even if we can’t agree on Clement’s use of Luke. The independent dating of 1 Clement makes it possible that he knew Matthew. We haven’t investigated whether Clement did know the epistle of James or the tradition the author of James used.


I came in after that point, and for different reasons, though I did read it in the thread.

The matter of our different approaches to how many ancient Christian texts survive versus how many have been lost to us seems to be our main point of contention. Further debate on that matter ought to step back into that more general sphere of argumentation, since that is what is determining how we approach the specifics. Also, I should probably add that I used to be more of a minimalist like you are. Gradually my minimalism has eroded, and you can see more or less where I stand now. So I can appreciate the urge to keep the textual interrelations as simple as possible.

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Re: Did Jesus say do not swear oaths (Mt 5:33-37)?

Postby Michael BG » Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:20 pm

My problem was the translation of 1 Clement I was using. Lightfoot’s translation has:

“1Clem 23:2
Therefore let us not be double-minded, neither let our soul indulge in
idle humors respecting His exceeding and glorious gifts.

“1Clem 23:3
Let this scripture be far from us where He saith Wretched are the
double-minded, Which doubt in their soul and say, These things we
did hear in the days of our fathers also, and behold we have grown
old, and none of these things hath befallen us.”
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